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Archive for the ‘7 Quick Takes’ Category

— 1 —

A couple of field trips this week -one documented here – to Moundville.  The other, yesterday, was to Horse Pens 40, just about 40 minutes away.  It’s a privately-held park, campground and event space high atop a mountain.  The great attraction is an excellent boulder field (others around here that we’ve enjoyed have been at Moss Creek Preserve and Cherokee Rock Village.) These formations have made the place a favored refuge for various groups and communities over the centuries.  The name?

 

    A young couple named John and Hattie Hyatt finally settled on this land during the late 1800’s. The story is that he came from Georgia with his ‘stolen wife’ (whatever that meant), a horse, and all his earthly possessions in a flour sack. Looking for a place of refuge, the Horse Pens was a natural choice. Years later, he filed on the property, referring to it as “the home 40, the farming 40, and the horse pens 40, each tract containing 40 acres of land”. This is how Horse Pens 40 got its name. This is one of the last homesteads filed in the state of Alabama. The land patent and original title was actually signed by the President of the United States. (Actually, the signatures of two U.S. presidents turned up on documents pertaining to the property during the title search)

No one around here actually “boulders” – yet.  But who knows…

— 2 —

Movies watched over the past week: The Road to Morocco, The Road to Utopia and The Man Who Knew Too Much.  (Remake of the latter – which Hitchcock himself said was better than the first version)

It had been years since I’d seen any of the Road movies, so I did (of course) research to see what The Internet told me would be the best to start with.  The general conclusion seemed to be that Morocco was best, followed closely by Utopia.  Well, I think Utopia was far better than the other – the premise wasn’t quite as lame, Hope and Crosby’s enjoyment of each other’s company is palpable and fun, and I thought the jokes were much sharper, although I had to pause the movie several times to explain 60-year old pop culture references, and that final visual joke, while hysterical and perfect, is…awkward.

The boys were totally absorbed by The Man Who Knew Too Much, perhaps in part because it involved a little boy in peril.  As for me, I was absolutely impressed by Doris Day’s performance – it’s very strong and warm – and that scene where she sits at the piano and starts belting out Que Sera Sera at the top of her lungs so her little boy, imprisoned somewhere in the embassy, would hear her…gosh, my contacts are bothering me. Give me a minute, will you?

— 3 —

A couple of excellent reads on education:

First, a match made in heaven: Andrew Ferguson writing about Common Core:

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

From The New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.”   Even if that’s not an option or choice for you, the article is well worth a read as it dissects the thankless, soul-sucking and time-gobbling hamster wheel that high school and college have become for would be “high achievers” everywhere.

 

— 4 —

I usually find several podcasts from BBC radio worth listening to in the course of a week (although, tragically, In Our Time is on its summer hiatus until September…), and exceptional this week were:

Food Programme episode on food and opera.  It was less than thirty minutes long, but boy, did it pack a punch, employing the gifts of Fred Plotkin, opera-and-food-and-Italy writer.  I loved it.

Also the program on World War I: Cradle of Jazz might seem to waste our time, focusing on such a topic instead of the more serious aspects of World War I, but of course there is plenty of attention being given to the more fundamental aspects and will be over the next four years.  This program was actually quite absorbing, detailing the development of early jazz, the impact of the war and the   work of mostly African-American jazz musicians in Europe before and right after the War.

 

— 5 —

Today I thought we might go to Tuskegee, to the Tuskegee Airmen Museum and the George Washington Carver Museum, but then I realized it was 2 hours away and I was sort of done with driving around Alabama for the week, so after I finished writing my Living Faith Lent devotion assignment that was due today, we moseyed out to the new big Latino-food centered supermarket called Mi Pueblo.  It’s enormous – as large as or larger than the Publix down the street.  According to the linked article, it’s the largest Hispanic grocery store in Alabama, the second in the area (the first is way down in a community south of here called Pelham) and a third is planned.  It’s a great store.  A huge variety of foods, quite inexpensive produce, amazing meat counter(including goat, pig and cow heads if you like), in-house tortilleria, a counter offering fruit concoctions, a bakery and a restaurant, where we ate a great lunch from the buffet.  None of the meats on the buffet were labeled, so that was probably a good thing – they ate pretty bravely in Mexico, but still they weren’t given pause by the possibility of eating goat or pig cheeks.  It’s not near my house, but it is on the route for some activities, so it will definitely become a regular stop.

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And then the rest of the afternoon at the pool, which I realized we hadn’t been to in a while, not only because of travels but because one of the boys had a bout of swimmer’s ear about a month ago – the first any of my kids have ever had.

— 6 —

Oh, I finally sold – as in closed and signed off on – the other house.  I was sad to see the bungalow go, even though I haven’t lived in it for a year and  I really love my not-quite-mod but still mid century place, its yard, and on behalf of the boys, the basketball goal.  Someday, I’ll live the Bungalow Life again.  Just not now.

— 7 —

Just a few more weeks and Adventures in Assisi will be published – look for more on that soon!

 

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— 1 —

We returned home from running errands and dinner, and we could have hunkered down for the evening inside, doors closed, air conditioning humming, but instead we drifted outside.  For our trouble we saw huge lovely woodpeckers and a slew of bats sweeping overhead and I heard a steady stream of most interesting information on members of the animal kingdom who dwell from the deepest points of the ocean to the most arid desert.

— 2 —

The boys watched Napoleon Dynamite for the first time  a couple of weeks ago.  I hadn’t seen it in years, and of course it lost none of its oddness during that time.

Nor had it lost any of its quotability.  Every day, I hear at least one ND callback:

Make yourself a dang kay-sa-dilla, Napoleon!

IDIOT!

How long did it take you to grow that mustache? About 2 days. 

They don’t, however, quote my favorites, which are:

Do the chickens have large talons?

and

I caught you a delicious bass. 

 

— 3 —

As I mentioned on Twitter, we watched North by Northwesthe other night and I’d forgotten how racy it is.  Awkward!  Love the Van Damme house in all its Mid Century glory.

Not complaining about Cary Grant in that towel, either.

Aside from the greatness of the film itself, what I found fascinating was the snapshot of American style, from New York westward, in the late 50’s.

But the greatest, most mesmerizing scene has nothing to do with constructed style – it’s those minutes in the midwestern (actually California) cornfield – and not just the iconic Cary Grant-chasing-crop duster.  From the moment the bus drops him off..watch the whole scene.  A human being alone, without any of the resources his position and status might afford him.  He’s dressed, but he’s stripped and he’s alone in that expanse, in the world.

What will he do? What can he do?

 

 

— 4 —

While I was in New York, I saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which one the Tony for Best Musical this year, and is based on the same early 20th century novel as the Alec Guinness classic, Kind Hearts and Coronets.  For copyright reasons, they can’t make any sort of connection between play and film explicit though.

It was enjoyable – if nihilistic, but of course, we can’t blame that on the 21st century because it’s in the source material.  The main attraction, as it was in the film, is the fact that a single actor plays all the murder victims, in this case, the amazing Jefferson Mays, who was quite entertaining to watch.  If we are going to compare film and play, well…the play wins for having a far more compelling actor to play the murderer, but the film wins for the ending, which I much preferred. In both productions, the villain, it’s clear, will not get away with his crimes, but in the film it’s a subtler and grabbier, if that’s a word, which it isn’t, but too bad.  I was told, however, that in order to make the distinction between play and film quite clear (again, for copyright reasons), the endings couldn’t be the same.

— 5 —

Hmmm…about that novel.  It’s called Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal and what intrigues me is that is seems to be, in part, a satire of Edwardian anti-Semitism.  Looks like I may have to add it to the list…..

If I EVER finish No Name.   It’s FREAKING ENDLESS.  But  – I must say..I am enjoying it immensely.  It’s definitely a page-turner, and I will report when finished.  So set your calendars for March 2015.

— 6 —

Last Thursday morning, in my NYC wanderings, I wandered Chelsea.

My hotel was on west 37th – just a couple of blocks from Penn Station – and for some reason I had it in my head that Chelsea was down in Lower Manhattan – even though I’ve walked the High Line before and done some gallery strolling with Ann.  But when I was trying to figure out how to structure that day, I finally came to some comprehension of basic Manhattan Geography, and saw that I could do some Chelsea wandering, return to my hotel, check out, check my luggage with them, and then go down to lower Manhattan for the rest of the day, and make it work.

I had done a bit of research as to what was happening in the Chelsea galleries and saw that the installations at the Pace Gallery might be interesting.

They were.

Tara Donovan is the artist. 

Now, first.

I am interested in all sorts of art, from any and every era and perspective, because I’m mostly interested in human beings and the world.  I’m interested in what the world really is and how human beings live in that world, perceive it and navigate it.  Art is an expression of that, and it is what it is.  We who live out of a spiritual context might look at much of contemporary (the last century or so) art and scoff because it seems so shallow to us, so superficial.  And perhaps it is (or isn’t).  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to understand it or we should close ourselves off from.  On the contrary. If this is how people think, so be it, and we have to understand it – or at least try.

All that is to say…if you make it, I’ll look at it, and try to understand it, and perhaps take a shot and understanding you in the process.

So that Thursday morning, I walked into the Pace, greeted the Straight-From-Central-Casting-Gallery-Vassar-Grads in their black shift dresses, then walked into the first gallery:

 

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I was mesmerized.  They are constructed of note cards, they are supposed to make me ponder issues of accumulation, and they did, but they also reminded me, quite strongly, of the tent rocks and hoodoos of New Mexico. 

And then you turn the corner into the next gallery and:

 

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It was the most astonishing sight.  The sculpture is made of thousands of acrylic rods, but the effect is…fuzzy.  Isn’t it?

I stayed for a while, me and the two chatty security guards, but I could have stayed longer, thinking about why spend so much time, piling up tiny bits of life in order to make something else, and how beautiful those things can be.

Why indeed.

— 7 —

My daughter is living and working  in southern Germany for a while.  She bought a drindl because, as she says, you see them everywhere.  She sees women wear them to Mass and at the festivals (which are frequent), not wearing one pretty clearly marks you as a tourist..and we can’t have that!

 

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— 1 —

Almost back from NYC – perhaps by the time you read this, I will be safely back in Alabama.

Speaking of Alabama, it occurred to me today in walking around Manhattan that, even taking it proportionally, the number of men I’ve seen walking around shirtless in the middle of Alabama towns pales to the number I’ve seen in Manhattan. Today.

— 2 —

I would post a map of my walking over the past three days, but it would be nothing but a blur of blue lines over a map of the island.  I try to walk five miles a day back home for part of my exercise, and I don’t think I’ve failed to meet my quota this week.

— 3 —

The boys haven’t been with me. They have been with their Florida family.  I have been of two minds about this all week.  It’s been pleasant to be able to eat what I want without concerns about the more selective palates of other members of my family, and it’s also been good to just..wander on my own. Not going to lie about that.

But I realized early on that I missed them.  Not only did I miss them just because I missed them, but I guess I am so deep in my Travel Guide/Educator/Facilitator mode at this point in my life that I actually found it a bit difficult to adapt to solo sightseeing.  What is there to see when I don’t have someone else to show things to? It was quite revealing to me, and gave me much to think about regarding my own instincts and motivations.  I need very much to see life on my own, but also to tell others about it and help them see as well…and then more time alone to process it all.  Then it’s a complete experience.

— 4 –

Museum highlights:

The New York Historical Society. Interesting exhibits all around, but of special interest is their Bemelmans/Madeline exhibit – very sweet, in one respect, and inspiring in another.  I love to learn about the creative process, whether the creators be artists, writers, scientists or builders.  I find the dynamic of inspiration and creativity endlessly fascinating.  The exhibit on the European-born but ultimately New York-based Bemelmans took three rooms in the museum, with a generous selection of original artwork, manuscripts and some of his earlier work, and much about his life in New York – most of which concerned hotels for one reason or another.  As a person who grew up with Madeline and who has read it aloud so many times over the past thirty years that she has most of the first book memorized, this was a lovely treat.

Related – the New York Pubic Library’s exhibit on children’s books.  Well done with some omissions.  Of course, not a religiously-oriented book in sight (lest you think I’m being picky, they did feature various educational books for children, and what books have educated more children up to the 20th century that religious, mostly Bible-related books?) and, I realized after I left, no mention of N. C. Wyeth.  I responded to myself that, well, this mostly about picture books, and Wyeth illustrated mostly novels for older children and teens,  but I have to say that there was one wall – pictured below – dedicated to Edward Stratemeyer, the originator of the syndicate that produced the vast majority of super popular series books for children and teens from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift – look at the number of series (each square represents one).

So..yes..I think Wyeth should have been given a case!

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http://www.nypl.org/

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Finally, the Museum at Eldridge Street – a gorgeous Orthodox synagogue built in 1886, essentially abandoned by the 1950’s, rediscovered in the 1970’s and restored over the past twenty years.  It’s so deep in Chinatown that I kept walking and walking, convinced that Google Maps had done me wrong once again – but then there it was, standing tall between the noodle shops and foot massage services.  I was led on a mostly individualized tour by a sweet intern named Luna, who adjusted her talk down a notch when she learned I wasn’t Jewish, explaining to me what the Torah was, and such.  That was okay – I appreciated her enthusiasm.

She emphasized over and over again the poverty of most of the congregants who contributed to build this lovely place of worship and community – that it was an expression, not only of their devotion to the Lord, but also of their own strength and sense of community, as they worked hard to construct something beautiful and lasting.

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One corner is left unfinished, not only to show the restoration process, but also as a reminder of the Temple.

 

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The bimah, from which the Torah is read, faces the Ark, which holds the Torah scrolls. Faces east.

— 5 —

Speaking of such things, I made a particular effort to visit all three of the churches in the current controversy involving potential closures of certain NYC parishes: Holy Innocents, St. Francis and St. Michael’s.  I was at Holy Innocents Tuesday evening during Adoration, then today during the noon Mass, St. Francis yesterday and St. Michael’s today.  More on that tomorrow, when I’m not quite so tired.

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St. Michael’s on 34th.

— 6 —

Also Old St. Patrick’s today:

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— 7 —

Food:

Lunch Tuesday: Tapas at Boqueria

Dinner Tuesday: Hospitality hour at my hotel – they are working really hard because they just opened, and it was substantial!

Lunch Wednesday: Grazing at Broadway Bites: Arancini, Empanadas and summer rolls.

Dinner Wednesday: Gennaro’s

Breakfast Thursday: Pain au Raisin from Eric Kayser.  Eric Kayser is one of the more chi-chi bakeries in Paris.  I only went to one once, just to try the bread, which was said to be THE BEST – it was fine, but I was content to stick with one of the three normal, not-chi-chi but truly excellent bakeries on my block when we were in Paris.  BUT – I do adore Pain au Raisin – it was my favorite pastry during that month.  So of course, when I saw that Kayser had crossed the Atlantic, I had to go – and yes, it was just the same, and was wonderful.

Lunch Thursday: Fantastic Falafel at Taim, consumed a park across the street from the tiny restaurant, a park where children played on the climbing bars and in the water spraying from the ground, where a crew of old men played dominoes, where another man slept on a bench and a young woman, seated and wrapped in a proper salon cape, was getting her hair cut and styled by another young woman there under the trees.  An excellent slice of life. I thought, “Why don’t I live here?” But then I thought, “Because it costs a zillion dollars and they have winter.”

Thursday gelato – at the famed and trendy il laboratorio di gelato. It was nice, but nothing spectacular.  In particular the rosemary was so subtle as to be almost undetectable.  Yes, you would have to be careful, but I once made a rosemary lemon sorbet that was a knockout, with the rosemary coming through loud and clear, but still softly.

Dinner Thursday: Cafe Sabarsky with Ann.  \We did not see Yoko Ono, whom Ann had seen there at a previous visit a couple of months ago..

And after dinner, a stroll down Madison down to the Hotel Carlyle with, appropriately enough, a drink in the Bemelmans Bar – a charming (and expensive) place – the walls all painted by Bemelmans himself. It was really the perfect way to wind up the week.

One more food related take: One of the oddest things I saw over the past few days was today in Chinatown.   A woman at an outdoor food market was crouched in front of a tub of water, which was in turn, teeming with live eels.  Her purse and shopping bag next to her, she had a plastic bag sheathing her hand, with which she was reaching into the bin of eels.  She worked for several minutes, but in the time I stood there watching her – probably about five – she could never actually get one.  I thought at first she was simply being selective and trying to find the eel that was just right, but I don’t think that’s what it was – she just couldn’t grab one, proving that “slippery as an eel” is more than a metaphor.

 

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— 1 —

That trip is done – we returned home about 6 this evening, relieved to see that Rocky was still with us.

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No, he wasn’t left loose while we were gone. He’s just chillaxin in his freedom.

(When you watch videos related to “my snake won’t eat” as I have been doing lately, you see how many snake owners keep their ball pythons in nothing more than Sterilite plastic drawers with torn up National Enquirers for bedding, so you think, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t worry…”  But you still do.  Because he’s growing on you and you have NO BLOODY IDEA what you’re doing.)

(Speaking of snakes, my exercise podcast this evening was almost a parody of BBC earnestness, which is like NPR earnestness but far more charming and far less pompous.  It involved a woman accompanying a herpetologist who was going to show her adders that live in Scotland.  So they tramp about the moors or what have you looking for the adders – which he knows are here because this is where they live – but without seeing them.  It’s fifteen minutes of two Brits, in hushed tones, breathlessly talking about how lovely the adders will be when they finally come out.  It was, indeed….breathtaking. But perhaps not in the way they intended…)

(Yes, they finally saw an adder, but the buildup was something else.)

— 2 —

We last left the merry party in St. Louis.  The next day found them till in St. Louis, at the City Museum:

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For those of you who don’t know about it, the City Museum is an extravagant, lush, stimulating play space that encourages exploration and daring.  The place is full of tunnels and mazes, and chances to (safely) climb to great heights.

If you are within five hours of this place…it’s totally worth it.  Your kids will thank you, love you and be super grateful.  For five minutes before they resent you again.

I knew we would spend a good deal of time there on Tuesday….I didn’t anticipate it being all day – from just past opening to almost closing time.

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Yes, you can climb in the planes.

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Very Gaudi-esque, I thought.

 

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Even the aquarium is quirky.

— 3 —

After we left the City Museum, we stopped at the St. Louis Science Center, just blocks from our hotel, and advertised as free.  We’ll go for free, especially if we just have an hour to kill before that closes.

Well…yes…free admission…but with a $15 parking fee.

Oh, well.  We’re on vacation.   We took it in anyway, and at that point, an hour was just about right. As far as those damn places go, it seemed okay.   They played around with some structures, but what amazed me was the fact that they spent probably 20 minutes on math puzzles.  I mean, they’re both sort of mathy – but I didn’t think they were that mathy.

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Finally.

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— 4 —

The next day, we hit the zoo, also “free.” Yes…”free” because of yet another $15 parking fee. (You could park on the road in Forest Park of course…but then you’d have to walk a mile by the time we got there…..). The St. Louis Zoo also has several attractions that cost money – a stingray petting tank, the children’s zoo…so “free” goes out the window pretty quickly.   (We didn’t do any of that stuff, anyway.)

It was a good zoo, albeit with a confusing layout.  The highlights for us were hippos, one o which slipped in the water and spent several minutes masticating a fish, without much success, as well as the reptiles.  Of course.

(I learned that Marlin Perkins – he of MUTUAL OF OMAHA’S WILD KINGDOM! fame had been director of herpetology at the zoo back in the ’20’s.  They had a huge python that refused to eat, so they had to force feed it, and they did so publicly, drawing thousands to the spectacles.  

That story gave me an odd sort of hope for our Rocky, who has yet to eat for us….)

The Herp building was old, classic and gorgeous.

9-year old Michael, the animal lover in our group, did remark on the way to the zoo, though, “You know…now don’t think I don’t want to go because I’m saying this, but sometimes..well, sometimes I feel sorry for the animals in the zoo.  They say it’s good for them because it saves endangered species, but I don’t know…I still feel bad for them.”

And who can disagree?

— 5 —

In my preplanning, I’d thought we would hit the art museum after the zoo.  But then I looked at the museum’s holdings and thought…I don’t know if it would be worth it at that particularly juncture in time with this party.  So then I thought we’d do the history museum, partly so we could visit the exhibit on the 1904 fair and by doing so, do some sort of homage to our own Vulcan.   

But the zoo took longer than I’d expected, we were all a little weary and were going to be moving on to Memphis afterwards, so I made an executive decision that we needed a different sort of space before we hit the road again, and so we went to the Basilica instead:

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— 6 —

Now, some of us have done one or all of these St. Louis sites before.  We went to St. Louis about 9 years ago – both boys were born, I know – and we went to the City Museum then, but Joseph, who would have been 4, didn’t remember any of it.

The time before that, as I mentioned in my last post, occurred when Joseph was a tiny baby and I was speaking at the St. Louis Eucharistic Congress.  The three of us were touring the Basilica, and as we reached the area behind the altar, we encountered a Cardinal.  I don’t remember who it was, but he was European, and must have been there for the Congress.  I think it must have been Schotte.   And so there we were, Mike and me with our two-month old, and the Cardinal stopped, said hello, and blessed the baby.

Yesterday, I walked behind that altar again, Joseph, now 13 at my side, and another Michael. I paused and told Joseph the story, and felt a slight twinge, but not a terrible one. Mostly I felt gratitude and hope, because if I didn’t, what was the point of being there?

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— 7 —

Our meals improved during those last two days, thank goodness:

Lunch on Tuesday at Rosalita’s Cantina down the street from the City Museum was good, higher end Tex-Mex.  There was a statue as well as an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the wall at the front door, with a big plastic box affixed, inviting donations to St. Cecilia parish.   Invitation accepted!

Dinner that night was on The Hill – Anthonina’s Tavern, mostly because I told the boys they had to have toasted ravioli if they were in St. Louis.  They were doubtful (because they always are), but actually loved  and devoured it.

Wednesday lunch was the Courtesy Diner after the zoo – it’s right across the interstate – a diner experience is always fun with kids.

Wednesday night in Memphis, we walked down to Beale Street, just because that’s What You Do – there was some sort of motorcycle convocation which was interesting but deafening.  We made it quick at the Blues City Cafe which was nothing special, but nothing awful either.

Thursday lunch, also in Memphis, was at Central Barbecue, right across from the Lorraine Motel, which was kind of odd, but I guess okay…


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(And don’t even scold me about not finding the perfect Memphis BBQ…I do what I can where I am with the people I’m with….)

More on Memphis in the next post…

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— 1 —

Random things cooked this week, some old, some new:

Plentiful and cheap tomatoes mean that I do this a lot. 

The twist that I’ve added this year is to do the initial roasting in the evening and then leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight.

Like candy. 

I had “roasted tomatoes” as part of an antipasto in a fancy-shmancy restaurant in these parts a couple of weeks ago , and I tell you they had nothing on mine. They seriously just tasted like stewed tomatoes…out of a can, even.

Harrumph.

— 2 —

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Made Spanish Romesco sauce (or at least this version of it) the other day – a new thing for me, and really good.  I used roasted red peppers that I’d done myself.  I probably won’t do anything fancy with it – I’ll just use it as a spread/dip for myself.

— 3 —

Also…

The usual Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, which I make regularly now, and throw in a cinnamon cake.  Peaches and blueberries are coming in strong, so time to start in on them…..

And pizza. Always pizza.  It’s nine o’clock at night, and I think, “I really don’t want to make pizza dough right now…”

But then I do, dragging out the mixer and the flour, pulling it all together and then pulling it apart into six firm little discs of dough, and then the next day at noon I’m so glad I did because I can answer the question “What’s for lunch?” in a very exciting way.

— 4 —

To balance out the food, the past couple of week’s exercise podcasts have included some In Our Times that are worth mentioning not only because of their quality, but because they took religion seriously and without the usual American narrative voice which reflexively dismisses religious conviction and the spiritual dimension of human life.

One was on the 17th century scientist Robert Boyle, often regarded as one of the fathers of modern chemistry and, like most of his contemporaries, a very religious man.   It was interesting to me that Melvin Bragg kept pushing the question of the connection between Boyle’s faith and his scientific pursuit, which the panel generally affirmed, but not specifically enough for Bragg until one of them finally made the fascinating connection between Boyle’s interest in casuitry and self-examination and his scientific method.  Really interesting – and observations made by Michael Hunter on the connections between Boyle’s “practical religious life and practical scientific life,”  the author of a book called Boyle: Between God and Science.so that makes sense.

The program on the Bluestockings – a salon-type movement among British women - also took for granted these women’s religiosity – although I wish it had gone a bit more into it.

There’s another BBC4 show called The Food Programmewhich had a recent episode on “Holy Food” – it wasn’t the most thorough treatment of the very rich subject of the connection between monasteries and food and drink, but it was good for what it was.  One of the subjects interviewed was Madeleine Scherb, the author of a book called A Taste of Heaven and a blog called The Hungry Pilgrim. 

This week’s In Our Time is on Hildegard of Bingen – haven’t listened yet, but I’m trusting the tradition of decent treatment of religion will continue….

— 5 —

This week I read Penelope Lively’s Judgment Day which I picked up for ten cents at a library book sale.  It had its moments, but as a whole was too episodic and without much depth.  I’m continuing to read Collins’ No Name, which astonishes me because I read and read and read and the Kindle Ticker is telling me that I’ve still only made it through twenty percent of the thing.  It must be a thousand pages long.  But it’s a good, melodramatic, 19th century beach read, and although there’s no beach nearby right now, I’m enjoying it.

— 6 —

This is Rocky.

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Yes, me – the person who never had a pet as a child and has only allowed thirty years’ worth of children to own 1) some hamsters for a couple of months and 2) some fish for about the same amount of time – for some reason got all crazy and bought a snake at a reptile show.

A snake. 

My youngest is reptile-mad, we were at a reptile show, and so the next day we went back and bought Rocky. We won’t be traveling as much as we have been over the next year, and besides, snakes can go a week (they say) by themselves…

He’s fine.

I’d say he even has sort of a nice face, don’t you think?

I have no problem with snakes and I’m surprised to say that so far, he seems low-maintenance.

It’s kind of crazy, though. When you see snakes in the wild, the pattern is for both you and the snake to scoot, both as fast as you can.  These ball pythons are relaxed creatures.  They loll around, they curl and climb, but never too fast, and yes, we may be crazy but it does seem that Rocky has a special affection for his keeper.  Well, not affection.  But a comfort level that’s readily apparent.

It’s ironic, though, that his brother and I read this Ambrose Bierce story, “The Man and the Snake,” earlier this year.  I admit I think about it sometimes when Rocky’s snaking around….

(Was the photo a “trigger” for anyone?  Sorry.  I worked for a principal once who had such a morbid fear of spiders and snakes she had to clip together pages of books that had pictures of either so she wouldn’t accidentally open up to them. She was a science teacher, so this was a bit of a challenge for her.)

(The name “Rocky” happened because they saw the movie just a couple of days before the snake came into our house, and it just seemed right.)

— 7 —

Rectify continues to absorb.  As with a novel, it’s hard to pass judgment this soon – being only two chapters in.  But what I’m seeing so far is the continued weaving of complex themes of culpability, honesty and consequences as well as that intriguing and fairly accurate depiction of an individual’s spiritual life – in this case, Daniel’s sister-in-law, Tawney.  In one stressful, but well-done and sensitive scene she confesses and works through her confusion about  spiritual and emotional motivations.  Another scene depicts a women’s small group – meeting outdoors around a fire pit – I do wonder about Georgia evangelicals breaking open the wine during small group, but I’ll just assume that they’re part of a church where the pastor sports jeans, hipster glasses and a soul patch and we’re good.

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A quick rundown of recent…learning?  Or attempts.  The Chicago and Mexico trips were major “teachable moment” blocks, but we’re back, with no major trips planned until July, probably, so..no more excuses!

(Although there will be the usual raft of staycation roadschooling things.  My daughter will be home for a few weeks before her next adventure begins, and I want to try to see things like the Tuskegee sites related to the Tuskegee Airmen, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver,  the Montgomery sites we missed last time, and some Nature of one sort or another.  We also have a short Charleston trip in mid-May.)

 

 

We’ve let Latin slide at the moment because we’ve had to go hard core with Spanish for the 13-year old.  Why? Well…because he’s going to school next year.  He won’t be going back to his old school, but to another one, run by Nashville Dominicans.  We didn’t enroll them there when we first moved here almost six years ago for various reasons, but now it just makes sense – it’s an excellent little school, 8th grade is confirmation year in this diocese, and doing it through this school would be more fruitful, I think, than through a parish program, plus he has a friend who has transferred over there.  We’ve done the tour, he shadowed for a day and really liked it.  He’s ready to go back and hang with other kids Who Are Not His Family.  The then-fourth grader will stay and do his unschool thing at home, though.  He’s a natural unschooler, and while we won’t have the freedom to travel we did over the past two years, it will be fine..we’ll still be able to do a lot.

(We were at the library yesterday and passed the “Used books for $1 cart.”  He immediately spied a college biology textbook and requested it.  Sold. That  – plus the rabid interest in All Things Mayan, plus reptiles, plus….well, that’s what I mean.)

Oh, and so the Spanish?  They have an excellent middle school Spanish program at this school that prepares them to start with Spanish II  – most of them in honors – in high school…so we need to catch up.   We’ll be working at home with their texts, online resources, with some tutoring, but unfortunately not from this fellow:

(It works…we all know the days of the week in Spanish now…without even trying…)

  • Keyboarding every day, as well as cursive practice.  Just fifteen minutes or so.
  • The zoo/science center classes have been winding down, but there have been a few – on microscopes, conservation, the water cycle and such.  Our routine is that they go to the class, and the next day they present to the rest of us (all two) what they learned.
  • If American school children know anything cold, I’m convinced, it’s the water cycle.  And rainforests.  The water cycle and rainforests.
  • Art classes for the 9-year old continue apace.  Plus, there’s your random art festival children’s area.

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As I stood/sat there for fifteen minutes watching him make his very detailed Dalek (upper left), I said, “You know, we do have buckets of markers and lots of poster board and paper at home.  Any time you want, you could spend your afternoon making Daleks.”  He shrugged.  Maybe if I set up a table in the back yard and sell three dollar cokes?

 

The best children’s section I ever encountered was at a festival down in the Tampa Bay area.  Someone had a station featuring the Japanese art of making prints from fish.   Real, dead fish that you ink up.  I thought it was fantastic (as did my kids) and I’ve often wondered why I’ve never seen it anywhere else….

  • Still watching the Great Course on Roman architecture.  Watched the first episode of Eyes on the Prize , which includes material on the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • Read-aloud is Tom Sawyer.  This is a second go-round, but the first time was probably three years ago, so it might as well be the first.
  • 13-year old is reading, for his “assigned” reading, To Kill a Mockingbird.   We discuss it and use various random resources for related writing prompts.
  • We are working our way through Hamlet.  This is going to take a while.  We’ve read a couple of story-type re-tellings, and now we’re sort-of-reading through it.   We’re going to watch scenes from lots of different productions as we go along, and at some point this week, we’ll watch this:

 

(The fact that there’s a version starring David Tennant is very helpful - even though it apparently has problems…nothing like Harry Potter or Doctor Who faces to keep a certain viewer’s attention.)

 

  • religion? The usual – daily prayer which includes the Mass readings if we’re not going to daily Mass.  Discussion of the saint of the day, anything interesting in said Scripture readings.  Plus we are still working through the super-dooper The Mass Explained app.
  • Various local activities, like today:

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It was an “Artbreak” at our (wonderful) Birmingham Museum of Art, tying in our Delacroix exhibit to Chopin.  The speaker told the interesting tale of the connections between Delacroix, Chopin and Georges Sand.  We were the youngest people there, naturally, (and I mean “we”), but they’re used to that at this point.   The material was a little above their heads, but not too much, and at least they heard words like “Romanticism” and the names of these folks and a couple of memorable stories, plus the 9-year old, in particular, appreciated the music.  He is very attentive to live music.

  • There’s been quite a bit of camping activity – the 13-year old was on campouts three of the weekends of April, including a two-night backpacking trip up in Tennessee, and the 9-year old on one.  Lots of learning there! Including mom learning for the first time how to remove a tick!
  • Meterological education was not neglected, as in the two hours in front of the television last night following tornadoes ….
  • I think we’ll go see The Barber of Seville in the ATL this weekend - this review indicates that it’s a good production, and, as I wrote once before, it was my entry-level opera (way back in Mad Men days..probably 1969 or so – the Kansas City Opera)…so..let’s go!  And…hit the library tomorrow for some books on opera….
  • I have a couple of art projects in mind, and I think I’ll order a cow’s eye for dissection for when my daughter is here – she would have fun doing that with them….and that’s about it, I think.  Math, Spanish, Shakespeare and some teachable moments/events and travels…plus lots of time outside, as per usual.  Yes, it’s spring!

Summer is already filling up.  Older son is going for a week of sleepaway Scout camp.  Then there’s a local basketball camp he enjoys, and he’s said that this year he wants to do two weeks of that, instead of just one.   The younger one doesn’t want to do the bb camp this year, but will be doing a sort of higher-level music camp.  There are, of course, no lack of camps – science museum, art museum, and so on..but what he have at this point is enough.  More than enough…

 

 

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If you didn’t notice, the other day I mentioned that our new book will be coming out in August:

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Adventures in Assisi is unlike any other St. Francis-book-for-children out there.   I’ll talk more about it as the release date approaches, but know for now that it was inspired by the trips both Ann Engelhart and I have made to Assisi and a desire to bring St. Francis to children in a way that goes a little deeper than peace-animals-creche – as wonderful as all that can be.

 

— 2 —

Homeschooling has slowly revived.   Math has happened, lots of religion, conversations about the trip, music, science museum class, art class, To Kill a Mockingbird, reviewing some of our Shakespeare, gearing up for next week…Holy Week..think we’ll start Hamlet, too….

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Reteaching what he learned in science center class.

— 3 —

Good exercise podcasts, thanks to In Our Time, my favorite.  I’ve listened to:

  • 1848 revolutions - very good.
  • The Concordat of Worms - puts present Church/State conflicts in perspective
  • Robinson Crusoe - I have never read it, but had read something years ago about how contemporary editions generally edit down the religious content.  This program gave Dafoe and the book a thorough, honest treatment and attention to his religious motivations.
  • The history of radio.  I love learning about the history of technology/industry/products/science.  I find the cumulative, aggregate effect of human understanding mesmerizing.
  • Kama Sutra – in general, one of the reasons I love In Our Time is because I find it refreshingly free of any kind of cant – ideological or academic.  In most contemporary contexts, any historical discussion these days are almost always framed in terms of some overriding contemporary concern.   This discussion on the Kama Sutra (a work which is about more than sex, mind you) actually didn’t deviate from that excellent track record, but found myself unsatisfied (so to speak) in the listening because kept saying to myself…but…isn’t this an elitist kind of work about elitist concerns? What did this have to do with the lives of most people in India who weren’t  the aristocratic men who were its audience? 

— 4 —

I have started that little blog on our Mexican trip.  Here it is so far…not much, but hopefully I’ll have it all done by next week some time.  

— 5 —

Binge-rewatching season 6 of Mad Men.  It’s certainly enjoyable television, but that 70% that is really good is violently hauled down by the 30% that is either pointless or evidence that there is currently no one in Matthew Weiner’s circle whose job is it to read scripts or sit next to him in the edit bay and say, “Um…no.  I mean…no one cares about Betty Goes To The Village and everyone will fast forward through it on the rewatch. Promise. “

— 6 —

Currently reading Gringos by Charles Portis.  It’s set in Merida, where I just was, so I’m finding it really entertaining. 

— 7 —

Reminder:  First Communion/Confirmation/RCIA/Mother’s Day books?  I’ve got some choices….

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The new zipline at the Birmingham Zoo has just opened and was free to members this week…it was a good value for free, but sorry to say, it wouldn’t be worth the normal 20-25 bucks….

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— 1 —

We’re back.  We’re very glad to be back, too – it was an excellent trip, but you know, it’s always nice to get home, sleep in your own bed, walk around in your own house, drink recklessly from the tap, flush toilet paper without fear of destroying the plumbing of an entire region,  and shop without awkwardness at your own Publix.

Spoiled!

— 2 —

I have two deadlines over the next four days, but after that, I think I’m going to pull together a separate mini-blog about the trip.  It was that good, and it’s that close and it’s that relatively inexpensive (I couldn’t have done Florida theme parks for a week for what I did Mexico for ten days. If I wanted to do Florida theme parks, that is. Which I don’t. Sorry, not sorry.) I want to have a website out there with all the details on our trip that might just serve the purpose of encouraging folks – individuals, friends, couples and families – to go to Mexico.  Plenty of you do, and I met and saw plenty of Americans every where we traveled, but I just want to do my part to encourage more.

And we’re not done, either.  It won’t happen in the next few weeks or even months, but this trip did not exactly satiate the Maya-Mad One, so I see Palenque and related sites in our future, definitely.  And Costa Rica or bust, Colleen !!!

(We flew in and out of Cancun and spent very little time there, but I’ll say that it held no interest for me.  I found the run of huge resorts on the coast between Tulum and Cancun so weird. Be brave. Go beyond the all-inclusive and cruise ship excursion!)

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Excellent Gran Museo de Mundo Maya in Merida – rich exhibits and quite a bit of interactivity.

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— 3 —

Because it’s interesting, fun and safe. Safe, people.  I – a single woman with two children – drove all around the Yucatan, walked in cities at night, and never felt anything but perfectly safe and comfortable (Except when I was about to run out of gas, that is.) There are parts of Mexico I wouldn’t venture into alone, certainly.   Border areas, other places known for conflict. There are parts of the US I wouldn’t wander about alone, either.  But the Yucatan isn’t one of them, and it’s very accessible to the US, and very educational and culturally rich.

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University of the Yucatan in Merida

\

— 4 —

There are, indeed, as you hear, frequent police checkpoints on the roads – mostly at the borders of states and in and out of towns.  I probably encountered fifteen of them.  I always met the law’s eye with a direct look, a smile and a nod,  was glanced at and waved through.

(I also always stuck slavishly to the speed limit. Never, ever went over.)

They were also doing selective breathalyzer tests on the road out of Progreso (beach town) last Saturday but, oddly enough, I was not targeted.

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A soccer team doing some training on the beach in Progreso

— 5 —

I stayed in some great places.   Specific shout-outs to the Pickled Onion B & B and the Cascadas de Merida B & B.  Both were excellent, and the latter, in particular, is a model for a small hotel/Bed and Breakfast.  As an introvert, I may not seem like the natural constituency for the relatively close quarters of a B & B, but honestly, when I am traveling to an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language, I value the intimacy of a B & B – I need the assistance and advice that the owner can give, and I also appreciate the opportunity to bounce my observations of the day’s touring off of another adult over a glass of wine.

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By the way….if you’re a watcher of House Hunters International, you’ve heard of Merida.  It’s where I first heard of it and became aware of the amazing way in which those relatively plain facades  can conceal surprising interior spaces.

(Other stays were, in order, and for one night each: Mayaland Bungalows, the Plaza Colonial in Campeche, and the last night, the Marriott Airport Courtyard in Cancun. On points!)

— 6 —

Speaking of pickled onions…I didn’t know they were one of the National Condiments of the Yucatan.  I loved them – I’ll be making them myself soon!

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No pickled onions, but, you know…food.

— 7 —

Oh, and speaking of food – everyone stayed healthy throughout the trip.   We were super careful about the water, of course.  Bottled, purified water the whole way, including during teeth-brushing.  We ate plenty of just normal low-end restaurant, street and market food, and did just fine.

Some of the best food of the trip?  Here.  In Progreso. Three big plates – 1 fish and 2 chicken – small plate appetizers set out the way they do (ceviche, pumpkin seed spread, octopus, pico de gallo and something else, along with fried tortillas), four soft drinks, all for 190 pesos, which is about 14 bucks, and crazy.

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Now to those deadlines…..

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— 1 —

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Had a great most-of-the-week in Chicagoland.  First part pleasure, second part business, which was not unpleasant.  The only negative? You guessed it -

COLD.

The high Sunday was 22.  We got to our hotel – a Residence Inn just north of the river on Dearborn – around 4, stretched our legs and relaxed, finished watching Florida win the SEC title (big surprise) and then…well…the sun was still shining.  So why not?  Out we went.  And honestly, it wasn’t too bad. (This post’s photos are from that day.)

— 2 —

We have been to Chicago many times, before, of course, but the last was, I realized, almost six years ago.  It was the summer before we moved to Birmingham, and I took the little boys and my daughter over for one last fling.

really like Chicago.  I love the architecture and the layout of the city.  I don’t love the cold weather, though.  Oh, I remember the one Christmas we went over there to see all the pretty Big City Christmas Decorations. Brutal.

Living in Florida (as I once did)  means living among Snowbirds, many of whom have left their nice old, solid, vintage homes, and their lives behind up north, in order to live in one of the thousands of manufactured housing units or “villas” that range over the Florida landscape.  I remember thinking, “How could you do that?  How could you leave everything and everyone behind for Florida, which has its charms, but also has horrible traffic, and, if you’re in the interior, oppressive heat and not much of interest to look at besides pink-and-aqua trimmed strip malls?”

Well, after our first winter in Fort Wayne, I said, to Mike, “Yeah, I get it now.  I get how you could live in this for 60 years and then, when you retire and have the chance, leave it all behind without a second thought. I absolutely get it.”  No more window-scraping or sidewalk-shoveling, and never again another depressing early March where everything’s either muddy or still frozen and they’re STILL predicting snow next week…..

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(Really.  I got home this afternoon, immediately set the coat aside for the dry cleaner’s.  Tossed the  worn-out boots in the “donate” pile.  JOYFULLY.)

— 3 —

Since it was, indeed, so cold, this was a museum trip.  The Field and the Art Institute on Monday, and then the Museum of Science and Industry on Tuesday.  The fantastic thing was that because of our science center membership, we didn’t have to pay admission to either the Field or MSI.  How much did we save?  Maybe close to $120?  Yup.  Plus, the Art Institute doesn’t charge admission for children, so score there, too – three major museums for a total of $23 for the three of us. Sweet.

— 4 —

As jaded as I am about “science” museums…yes, MSI impressed me.  I thought the “Science Storms” wings was really fantastic.  What really set it apart from others – even the Exploratorium in San Francisco – was the fact that the hands-on exhibits almost all necessitated more than one step of engagement.   You couldn’t, in other words, just run about slamming buttons.  For anything to happened, you are required to make predictions and form hypotheses.  Very good.

And the U-505?  Amazing.  I don’t remember seeing it on our previous visit.  Perhaps we thought you had to pay to even see the exterior – you don’t, of course – that’s only for the interior tour.  The vessel is enormous  – the largest sub I’ve ever seen – and the story of the engagement, capture and retrieval of the sub is fascinating and extremely well told.

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So, the cynic gives Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry a big thumbs-up.

— 5 —

When we purchased our ticket to the Art Institute, the sweet man behind the counter eyed the boys and said, “The Arms and Armour exhibit is in gallery 236…”

So of course, we went in search of it.

Well…let’s just say that two boys who have been through the insane collection of the same at Les Invalides were sort of….puzzled at the..what…3 suits of armor at the Art Institute?

Oh well, that wasn’t their main interest, anyway.  Michael, who has been taking art classes, found one of the several versions of the  Van Gogh he spent three weeks copying…a big thrill for him…

(Sadly for me…Nighthawks is on loan….)

(12-year old had to photograph this.)

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And…food?  Well, I introduced the boys to Potbelly, and they LOVED it.   The first night, we hit Eataly – I had no idea there was an Eataly in Chicago (I went to the NYC Eataly last summer with Ann) – and that was fun.  Pizza that was surprisingly no more expensive than “artisanal” pizza here in the ‘Ham, and good gelato.  Thanks, Mario!

"amy welborn"

— 6 —

We were riding the Red Line somewhere…perhaps down to the Field. Yes, that was it.  On Monday morning. I kept up a constant, lively stream of conversation with the boys so they wouldn’t overhear the young man at the door loudly talking to his companion, a young man who wished his friend, “Save me some p—sy!” as he got off at his stop.

But then everyone shifted around, and there were seats, so we sat down, the three of us in a row.

At this same stop, an older man pushed through the door, lurched down the aisle and stood near us for a while.  He sported a hat that had “JUDGMENT DAY” appliqued in felt around it, and a vest with another word – I don’t remember what.  He carried some signs which I couldn’t read because he held the printed sides together.  He was shabby, and the couple of teeth he still had were gold.

He repeated himself endlessly. Perhaps, if you ride the Red Line, you know him.  I’m guessing he’s a familiar sight.

You all think you’re so important. But you’re spending money on nothing. You’re throwing your money away.  You’re no better than anyone else.  Every family is a royal family.  But you just throw everything away and someday you’ll have to answer for it. You spend your money on nothing. 

The boys squeezed in tight against me, but then they always do.  I never made eye contact with the fellow, until it was our turn to disembark.  I walked past him, our eyes met, I smiled,  and he said, “Your family is a ROYAL family!”

As per usual in that kind of situation, all the boys had to offer as we walked away was a nervous, “That was weird.”  Remembering the most important things I learned from Mike, and remembering my determination to pass it all on, somehow, I shrugged.  Something (or someone) pushed me to keep talking, striding down Michigan Avenue.  “Not really.  That man might have problems, but he wasn’t dangerous.  And everything he said was true.  We do spend money on nothing.  We will have to answer for it.  And God does love us.  Every second, through every person, we can hear God reaching out to us, if we listen.”

— 7 —

And then today.

In O’Hare, in the security line, the TSA agent, for some reason, started talking about the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Table that she’d just enjoyed the previous night – as had we (in a different place, of course!).  She went on and on and on, enthusiastically and joyfully, in front of this group of about twenty….

#evangelizationeverywhere

Oh…..okay…not much In Our Time this week, since trudging through Chicago and its museums was my exercise.  But in case you want to understand the War of 1812…this episode will do the trick for you!

Also….. books? For sale?  If you order on Friday, I can get them off for you, but then no more orders can go out until April 4…

Wait, what?

105

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Where we’ve been. Not where we’re going

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— 1 —

Another day, another quarry….

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(And probably another today, if the weather holds….)

That was last Sunday.  The 12-year old went on a hike with friends down at Oak Mountain State Park, so the 9-year old and I headed to his Happy Place, Ruffner Mountain.  He loves it, and his brother gets bored with it, so it was good to have a chance to hang out there.

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It’s a great spot, and 15 minutes from my house.

— 2 —

School?   Yes, it happened this week, although there was nothing that notable about it, as I recall.   the 12-year old is just about done with his Pre-Algebra book.  He’s on the counting chapter, and is surprising me both by his aptitude for it and his interest.  Once he finishes it, we’ll probably do a lot of review using material from other Pre-Algebra books, as well as doing Alcumus from the AOPS website and reading in and around other mathy things, like this.

9-year old, in 3D of Beast Academy , is working on estimation.

— 3 —

Books being read include Narnia books, Redwall and The Seven Wonders series (2 published so far.) and, aloud, still Young Fu.   The 12-year old will start To Kill a Mockingbird for his literature/writing study next week.

One science class – on the digestive system – for the 9-year old.  The 12-year old did some science/history by reading this entire issue of Calliope, which is about Marie Curie, and then reporting on it.  Which led to various rabbit holes related to Poland, radiation and the Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately, we are missing Pi Day celebrations tomorrow, because we have something else planned elsewhere…bummer, sort of.  Although what we’re doing (two different things) will be good, too….

— 4 —

Copywork has been mostly copying sections of The Lorica, otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  I just handed them copies, we talked about it, and then they could choose whatever parts of it they wanted to copy for the past few days.

We have continued working through The Mass Explained, and we’re just getting to the Liturgy of the Word.

Random rabbit holes related to vocabulary, both English and Latin, have been pursued.

We knocked off passage 9 in How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

We’ll go see Taming of the Shrew next weekend at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

— 5 —

Aside from that, we’re doing mostly Roadschool Prep of one sort or another…

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Hmmmmm……

— 6 —

Listened to the usual slew of excellent In Our Time podcasts.

Simone Weil – a good, fair introduction. 

The Ontological Argument - beginning with Anselm, naturally, but taking through to the present day and other philosophers’ use of it.  Interesting because, once again, it was treated objectively and not dismissed out of hand. (If it were, where would the program be?)

The Borgias – honest, balanced.

Decline and Fall – an entire program on Waugh’s novel.  It was really excellent, and prompted me to re-read the book.  Long overdue.

So, if you listen to any of these programs, I’d suggest the last – it went into a single subject with a great deal of depth, explored by people who appreciate Waugh, and who have slightly different perspectives (one scholar seeing it as rather Catholic, even though it’s pre-conversion, and another saying it was anything but, for example.)

This week’s episode was on the Trinity – phew.  I won’t get to that until Saturday, I expect.

— 7 —

This week, I read Sorrow Builds a Bridge.  I picked this old Image paperback in a Mobile bookstore.  (And I sure didn’t spend $27.00 on it!)  It’s the story of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, or Mother Alphonse, foundress of the Hawthorne Dominicans, whose apostolate is to the cancer-afflicted poor.  When I started reading it, I thought, “Wait. Is this a novel?”  The writing is creative – perhaps is creative non-fiction? – creating little scenes and conversations that I doubt were ever recorded (although she does clearly weave letters and journal entries into some scenes).  But no, it’s not fiction – it’s a biography, and although the style is a little looser than I’d normally want from a biography, I shrugged and read through it, and I’m glad I did.  I think I should just be constantly reading a life of a saint, all the time.

A couple of random tidbits

  • Rose and George’s only child, Francis (who died as a toddler), was baptized in a Catholic church before his parents were even seriously considering converting.  As Burton relates it, Rose decided she wanted him baptized, and her time living in Rome as a child had convinced her that the Catholic approach to the sacrament was the most meaningful.  So the parents took the child to the nearest Catholic parish and he was baptized.   Worth pondering when we debate current sacramental practices, for history is always more complicated than we expect.
  • Rose – Mother Alphonse – composed a regular newsletter for benefactors of her apostolate.  It was called Christ’s Poor.   Wouldn’t that make a worthy volume for contemporary reading?  A selection of her writings are available in this, but a book of that title focused on those newsletters would be of interest, as well, I’d think. 

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