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Archive for the ‘7 Quick Takes’ Category

— 1 —

Not much reading this week. In fact, I didn’t crack a book open at all.  Yikes.  Traveling, plus a work deadline which occupied me until this morning.  Well, I did start reading Jane Eyre, as promised.  Just got one chapter in before other concerns took over, though. I’ll get back to that, as well as a couple of books I checked out earlier this week, including Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle. It’s a subject that interests me not only as a writer, not only as a Catholic writer who was told she had to get ICEL’s permission to have the text of the Hail Mary and the Our Father in a book (to be fair, the fellow at ICEL’s response was the polite written equivalent of, “Er….sure. Wait, what?”, but also as the former editor of the Loyola Classics series.  One of my responsibilities in that was researching and obtaining permissions, a task I really enjoyed for some odd reason.  Librarian and researcher genes, I guess.

— 2 —

We saw a really excellent production of The Music Man this evening at one of our local theaters."amy welborn" Mostly great cast, including a Harold Hill who echoed Robert Preston rather brilliantly without slavish imitation.  Not that referencing Preston is necessary, but it’s probably a challenge to skirt his influence completely, since the identification between actor and part is so close in this case.  That imbalance between first and second act, though, in which the first act is stuffed full of non-stop great music, while the second act must pause and Do Plot so all can be resolved – it’s in The Music Man and almost every other musical I can think of.  Are there exceptions?

— 3—

It brought back a couple of memories – first, my daughter’s 8th grade class doing a “junior” version of the play (she was one of the Pick-a-Little ladies), and then at some point in middle school, I think, one of my older sons had to learn “Rock Island” for music class – I think all the boys had to do it or something, maybe? I was actually impressed with the assignment. And it’s certainly an improvement over the sight (and sound) of struggling through those high notes in “Both Sides Now,” which is one of my more vivid memories of grade school music class. That and the controversy aroused by having us sing “One Tin Soldier.”  Oh, the 60’s and 70’s. Much controversy.  And honestly, even reconstructing it in my hazy memory makes me laugh.  Imagine a bunch of ten year olds pounding out “Go ahead and hate your neighbor! Go ahead and cheat a friend! Do it the name of Heaven! You can justify it in the end!” Imagine some teacher who thought it was awesome and he was such an brave iconoclast.

People. So crazy.

— 4 —

Speaking of school memories, twice this week I’ve had the chance to share the Fun Fact that in my high school in the 70’s – a Catholic high school in the South – we had a smoking pit.  It was a corner of sidewalk where those of age – mostly seniors  – could smoke.  Of course, for most of us today, it’s difficult to imagine a time in which anyone could smoke indoors in any public space, but the concept of having a sanctioned area for high school students to smoke during school seems especially bizarre, doesn’t it?

Anyone else experience that?

(And no, I never smoked.  My father was a lifelong, heavy smoker, it killed him, and I always hated it.)

— 5 —

I had a strange spike in blog hits today.  I discovered that it was because  Fr. Blake linked to my years-old report of a visit to his parish, a visit I was fortunate enough to make during a longish layover at Gatwick. He offered the link as a response of sorts to a ridiculous, agenda-laden Ship of Fools report on the parish.

— 6 —

Today is one of my days in Living Faith. Look for another on July 5.

— 7 —

Speaking of today – it’s July 3 and the feasts of St. Thomas the Twin.  Speaking of St. Thomas, here’s Pope Emeritus Benedict’s General Audience talk on him from 2006. 

Then, the proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said:  “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20: 25).

Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus’ identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.

St. Thomas July 3

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— 1 —

A decent, different sort of week here.  The boys being otherwise occupied, I’ve had every day, all day, free.  To work.  To some, that might seem like a sad plight, but honestly, this is the first truly alone time since….last summer, I guess.  I used to be able to write at night, even after teaching all day, but those days are long gone, especially since I hit fifty, and especially since we started homeschooling.  I just can’t focus, and my creative energies are spent by the end of the day.  So this week has been exactly what I needed in order to hammer out a first draft of a project that isn’t actually due until next February, but there’s other stuff in the hopper that I will need to be working on this fall (somehow), so it will be good to get a solid draft done early.  I can revise and edit on the fly, just fine, but the initial writing takes a kind of focus I can only achieve when I’m alone for several hours at a time.

— 2 —

Since piano camp has left the camper exhausted every day, and every day has been a full day for him, there were no extra travels this week.  Last weekend, however, we did go to Sweetwater Creek State Park in Georgia, which was very nice and which you can read about here.  What I didn’t know when I initially wrote the post was that the Hunger Games movies were filmed in part there.  (They were filmed all over Atlanta, of course.  I guess.)

— 3 —

And what of the rest of the summer?  I’m not sure.

What’s weird is that I’m already thinking that summer is almost over, while some of my Facebook friends are just this week posting “last day of school” photos.  What?? We’ve been out for a month!

Of course, school (for the high schooler) also starts a month earlier than those northerners will be returning – orientation is August 6, classes start August 10.  Blah.

There’s only one other *obligation* owed during that time – a scout rafting trip – so we’re contemplating options.  Probably some combination of some local wandering and perhaps one bigger road trip.

— 4 —

Speaking of high school, you might read this very sad local story.  There are some ambiguities in the narrative, and some unanswered questions, but here’s the bottom line for the mother grieving the loss of her 14-year old daughter:

“If I had known then what I know now, one, she wouldn’t have had a smart phone,” Seller said. “She would have had a phone that could make a call, get a call, send a text, get a text. And all of her internet activity would have been in the living room.”

As far as I can tell, we are one of the last holdouts in this regard.  My 14-year old does not have a smart phone and only uses the internet in my presence. I just last week purchased a basic flip phone for them to use when they’re out and need to contact me. I wish more parents were holding firm on this. It makes it very, very difficult to hold the line. I don’t understand why 8-year olds have Instagram accounts.  I wish schools would be proactive, and along with all the other crap they send out on a constant basis, send out a weekly report to parents on the latest internet fads, from Kik to Snapchat to all those apps (which exist) which enable the other apps to remain hidden.

— 5 —

The good thing about not feeling an obligation to follow and comment on Every Catholic Story coming over the Interwebs is that you actually have time to read.

So this week I finished: Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians

It’s the story of a small group of mostly writers and performers who were gathered at a Manhattan bar called Pfaff’s by a man named Henry Clapp, the son of New England Congregationalists who found himself in Paris, was besotted with cafe life and returned to the United States, determined to recreate it.  Walt Whitman was the most well-known of the regulars, although he tended to stay on the margins.

It’s a good tale, if padded a bit – without Whitman, the book would probably be half as long, which would make it more of an Atlantiic Monthly article, which would then be bad, since the Boston-based Atlantic was Clapp’s bete noire. There are a slew of vivid, interesting characters whose lives show very vividly that excess and self-indulgence, as well as delusions of grandeur and relentless self-promotion are not unique to the 21st century would-be artiste. 

I was probably most taken by the story of Hugh Ludlow, who became very famous as a very young man because of his drug experimentation and the book he wrote about it called The Hasheesh Eater.  Ludlow couldn’t follow up on that book’s success, took various writing and office jobs, then in 1863, got the opportunity to accompany painter Albert Bierstadt out west.  Bierstadt was going to sketch and paint, and Ludlow would write about their travels, in articles that would be published in the New York Post, and then in a book.

This interested me, not just because of the fact that we’ve just been out West, nor just because of the interesting paths that were crossed on that trip, but because one of Bierstadt’s paintings of Yosemite – one of the fruits of that trip –  is one of the most treasured pieces of our Birmingham Museum of Art’s collection.  

The trip, however, did not end well.  They returned and Ludlow’s wife left him for Bierstadt, the book’s publication was delayed to the point that when it finally did make it to print, reviewers mocked it for being out of date, since by that time, the Transcontinental Railroad was finished, and going out West was not nearly as exotic a quest as it had been.

If you want a good introduction to the group, head to this comprehensive website – the Vault at Pfaff’s – from Lehigh University.  It’s a treasure trove, and will keep you busy for a while. 

— 6 —

I also finished The Wapshot Chronicle. I had begun it a month or two ago, so I was a little confused at first and required a refresher, but it didn’t take long to get into the swing of it.  It’s a strange book, and I suppose everyone is correct about Cheever being a stronger short story writer, but there’s some gorgeous writing, nonetheless.  There’s something unreal about the whole thing – it doesn’t feel as anchored in reality as do, say, Updike or Walker Percy – to take two male writers Wapshot Cheeverfrom around the same time – and everyone is fairly miserable and stumbling into things and life choices in the most haphazard way. I never could really picture either Moses or Coverly, the two brothers, in my mind.  They seemed more like two dimensions of the same person, which they probably are.

Just as quick sample, from near the end:

[Leander – the Wapshot father] went to early communion, happily, not convinced of the worth of his prayers but pleased with the fact that on his knees in Christ Church he was, more than in any other place in the world, face to face with the bare facts of his humanity.….Even as the service rose to the climax of bread and wine he noticed that the acolytes’ plush cushion was nailed to the floor of the chancel and that the altar cloth was embroidered with tulips but he also noticed, kneeling at the rail, that on the ecclesiastical and malodorous carpet were a few pine or fir needles that must have lain there all the months since Advent, and these cheered him as if this handful of sere needles had been shake from the Tree of Life and reminded him of its fragrance and vitality.

To no good end, unfortunately, but that’s the way it goes.  I’ve never read Cheever but for a few of the stories, and while reading the novel, I also read up on his famously sad and fractured life, and was confronted once more with the paradox of such a mess of a human being producing art that really does, in some admittedly imperfect way, reflect truth. Not that a mess of a human being wouldn’t be able to see truth – we are a mess, and we all have the capacity – but it’s the discipline required to express it in an artful way in the midst of the mess, which for Cheever included being drunk much of the time, that confounds me.

And what of all these lost, post-war, mid-century men?

— 7 —

Mill ruins, Sweetwater Creek State Park, west of Atlanta.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from a 2007 General Audience

Continuing our journey among the protagonists who were the first to spread Christianity, today let us turn our attention to some of St Paul’s other collaborators. We must recognize that the Apostle is an eloquent example of a man open to collaboration: he did not want to do everything in the Church on his own but availed himself of many and very different colleagues.

We cannot reflect on all these precious assistants because they were numerous. It suffices to recall among the others, Epaphras (cf. Col 1: 7; 4: 12; Phlm 23); Epaphroditus (cf. Phil 2: 25; 4: 18), Tychicus (cf. Acts 20: 4; Eph 6: 21; Col 4: 7; II Tm 4: 12; Ti 3: 12), Urbanus (cf. Rm 16: 9), Gaius and Aristarchus (cf. Acts 19: 29; 20: 4; 27: 2; Col 4: 10). And women such as Phoebe, (Rom 16: 1), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (cf. Rom 16: 12), Persis, the mother of Rufus, whom Paul called “his mother and mine” (cf. Rom 16: 12-13), not to mention married couples such as Prisca and Aquila (cf. Rom 16: 3; I Cor 16: 19; II Tm 4: 19).

Among this great array of St Paul’s male and female collaborators, let us focus today on three of these people who played a particularly significant role in the initial evangelization: Barnabas, Silas, and Apollos.

Barnabas means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4: 36) or “son of consolation”. He was a Levite Jew, a native of Cyprus, and this was his nickname. Having settled in Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace Christianity after the Lord’s Resurrection. With immense generosity, he sold a field which belonged to him, and gave the money to the Apostles for the Church’s needs (Acts 4: 37).

It was he who vouched for the sincerity of Saul’s conversion before the Jerusalem community that still feared its former persecutor (cf. Acts 9: 27).

Sent to Antioch in Syria, he went to meet Paul in Tarsus, where he had withdrawn, and spent a whole year with him there, dedicated to the evangelization of that important city in whose Church Barnabas was known as a II-Barnabasprophet and teacher (cf. Acts 13: 1).

At the time of the first conversions of the Gentiles, therefore, Barnabas realized that Saul’s hour had come. As Paul had retired to his native town of Tarsus, he went there to look for him. Thus, at that important moment, Barnabas, as it were, restored Paul to the Church; in this sense he gave back to her the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The Church of Antioch sent Barnabas on a mission with Paul, which became known as the Apostle’s first missionary journey. In fact, it was Barnabas’ missionary voyage since it was he who was really in charge of it and Paul had joined him as a collaborator, visiting the regions of Cyprus and Central and Southern Anatolia in present-day Turkey, with the cities of Attalia, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (cf. Acts 13-14).

Together with Paul, he then went to the so-called Council of Jerusalem where after a profound examination of the question, the Apostles with the Elders decided to discontinue the practice of circumcision so that it was no longer a feature of the Christian identity (cf. Acts 15: 1-35). It was only in this way that, in the end, they officially made possible the Church of the Gentiles, a Church without circumcision; we are children of Abraham simply through faith in Christ.

The two, Paul and Barnabas, disagreed at the beginning of the second missionary journey because Barnabas was determined to take with them as a companion John called Mark, whereas Paul was against it, since the young man had deserted them during their previous journey (cf. Acts 13: 13; 15: 36-40).

Hence there are also disputes, disagreements and controversies among saints. And I find this very comforting, because we see that the saints have not “fallen from Heaven”. They are people like us, who also have complicated problems.

Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.

So it was that Paul, who had been somewhat harsh and bitter with regard to Mark, in the end found himself with him once again. In St Paul’s last Letters, to Philemon and in his Second Letter to Timothy, Mark actually appears as one of his “fellow workers”.

Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness. In any case, Barnabas, together with John Mark, returned to Cyprus (Acts 15: 39) in about the year 49. From that moment we lose track of him. Tertullian attributes to him the Letter to the Hebrews. This is not improbable. Since he belonged to the tribe of Levi, Barnabas may have been interested in the topic of the priesthood; and the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Jesus’ priesthood for us in an extraordinary way.

And, Fr. Steve Grunow:

One of the greatest desires we have is to be remembered, to be able to rest in a sense of accomplishments and receive recognition. True holiness delivers us from this inclination. For we are not called by the Lord to receive honors or even to see the great work of our lives to fruition. We give generously of what the Lord has given us, not because we will necessarily get something in return, but becasue in doing so we give praise to God and imitate the love by which he saved us.

Any memorial we seek for ourselves in this world passes away. What endures are faith, hope and love.

This spiritual truth should not only challenge us, but encourage us, for it means that everything is not simply dependent upon us. We are part of a greater purpose than our own ego, and a greater power than our own will moves us, shapes us and directs us toward our ultimate destiny.

On this feast of Barnabas, let us give praise to God for the life and destiny he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Looking ahead on the calendar a couple of days, you can read my entry for St. Anthony of Padua (June 13) from The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints here. 

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— 1 —

We’re back. Got back last Saturday, with no issues. I’m very slowly but definitely surely blogging my way through the trip.  Hey, I’m up to the evening of the second day.  Go me!

Just go backwards to catch up.

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The Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley.  Those are dried, hard, sharp salt formations. 

— 2 —

Back to the podcasts. This week, I have started catching up with my BBC radio podcasts once again. The first I cracked open was an excellent program on Matteo Ricci – if you go here and scroll down to April 16, you’ll find the downloadable version. 

It was balanced in a way that you so rarely find in either American media or among Catholics in discussing figures like Ricci, who would most of the time be placed in either a contemporary black or white hat, his missionary techniques evaluated in terms of modern ideologies and sensibilities.  This program doesn’t fall into that trap, and as a result, was quite illuminating. In short, people who don’t know much might fling about Ricci’s story as a model for Excellence in Inculturating Missionaries, but when you look at the whole picture…perhaps not.  He did what he did for his own reasons, and they weren’t terrible reasons, but he actually wasn’t as radical as is often implied and there were legitimate questions about his angle that aren’t simply about “fear” or Latin-centric bigotry.

— 3 —

I also listened to a program on the California Gold Rush (scroll down to April 2), which meshed well with one of this week’s reads – The Rush by Edward Dolnick.  So yes, I learned a lot about the California Gold Rush this week, thanks much.

The book is an easy, absorbing read. It’s a history told mostly through focusing on first-person narratives left by gold seekers themselves, so don’t go to it looking for a comprehensive economic, political and social history – although all the important points are certainly covered. As in the best books of this kind, there are delightful surprises, as in the story of Jennie Megquier, who left Maine with her husband in response to the Call of Gold, leaving three (not tiny, but still) children behind with friends and family. They took the sea route, sailing down to Panama, crossing the isthmus, then waiting for another ship to take them up to California. Unlike many others who found the Panamanian element of the journey horrific, she loved it and gleefully reported each monkey and snake sighting, each odd meal, in letters to her children back in Maine.

Other stories of the journey – those going overland – are filled with much more hardship and tragedy. And yes, foolishness, but, in the context of the time, understandable foolishness.

It’s a fascinating story, this tale of Gold Fever.  It drew people from all over the world, including China, Hawaii, Ireland and Australia. It created the myth of California.  The Gold Rush impacted California’s statehood, voted on just two years after the territory had been wrested from Mexico, and the course, in the future, of the Civil War, as it broke the then-balance and was voted in as a free state. The environmental impact was devastating, as noted even at the time, as were the consequences for Native Americans.

A picky note, though.  The California Gold Rush wasn’t the first in the history of the United States. Preceding it by twenty years was a smaller, but still powerful rush for gold in the lower Appalachian mountains, especially in Georgia – Dahlonega and Villa Rica both claim “first, ” although I think the former has the stronger claim.  Thousands came to mine, and a branch of the US Mint was even established in Dahlonega, aBut nd it was there that many of the California miners who returned East brought their gold before the San Francisco mint was opened.  I thought of this because Dolnick writes, in relation to California mining, of the innovation of assaulting hillsides with water in attempts to wash out gold, but this was attempted several years before in Georgia, as well.

But moving on from that regionally-motivated nitpicking, it’s a good read and a useful reminder that human nature doesn’t change.  It’s just that our times magnify and enable the worst parts of us.  Thanks, technology!

— 4 —

One book that I will be writing about at length next week – hey, I even took notes – was a sort-of “lost” 19th century novel called The Damnation of Theron Ware – you can get started by reading Jonathan Yardley’s column on it here. It’s a startlingly contemporary-reading novel about a young Methodist minister who loses his faith. I have said before that one reason I enjoy reading older fiction is that through it, I can get a “contemporary” glimpse into worlds in which I’m interested unfiltered by academic historians’ choices and biases.  So in this novel, a crucial element in his loss of faith is his first real encounter with Catholics and Catholicism. It’s pretty interesting and surprising.  But more on that next week.

Another good thing about these older novels? Free.  Go the Internet Archive, and you can download it and read away.  I download it in Kindle format and read it on the app on my Ipad. 

— 5 —

Planning for your parish for 2015-16?

Maybe this for adult Bible study?

Or The Words We Pray for a study/discussion/prayer group?

Or the Prove It books for youth ministry?

And really thinking ahead….Adventures in Assisi for October? Bambinelli Sunday for Christmas?

— 6 —

Back in business.

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I figure since he’s slaving away, learning it, I should learn it, too.  I’m only going to be able to keep up this charade for another year or so, I fear.  He’s moving pretty quickly  – ten years old, about to start his third year of piano instruction, and this is where he is? Yeah, I’ll soon be left in the dust.

— 7 —

Read this obituary of a local man who passed away this week.  John Wright, Jr. was one of the first people I remember really speaking with here – that first fall, Mike and I did several adult ed sessions at our parish, and he was one of the coordinators and often taught classes himself, usually on some aspect of social justice.  He had a magnificent voice (he did quite a bit of acting), a huge heart, and, as I said, a passion for justice which lead him on such paths as moving his family to Selma for a time in the 60’s, researching and bringing into brighter light the story of Fr.James Coyle, shot in 1921 on the Cathedral rectory steps for marrying the daughter of a Klansman-minister to a Puerto Rican man , and, this past year, as he lost the ability to drive, coming into the public eye a strong advocate for public transportation. 

Requiescat in pace…

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— 1 —

8th grade graduation: Check

Confirmation: Check.

Time to hit the road!

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Well, that was the only road sign I have so far. But you get the gist.

— 2 —

It’s late, and I’m tired, so all I can do is photos.  Sorry!

Hoover Dam, obvs.

— 3 —

Inside the dam.

Speaking of tours (were we?)…if there is anything I would like to change about the current Guided Tour and Presentation Culture of these United States, it’s..”.humor.”   As in, You’re Not Funny.  Stop trying.

(Personally…I blame it on Disney. You know…the Jungle Cruise thing with lame jokes?  I blame that. But then I blame Disney for almost everything bad, so take it however you like.)

— 4 —

A fantastic surprise in Saint George, Utah.  When checking in to the hotel, I asked the clerk what to do with those last couple hours of daylight.  He suggested this – Pioneer Park.  Great time, running and climbing and looking down on the town. (The white church is, of course, the LDS temple, but it’s also important because it was the first LDS temple built in Utah and the oldest still in use.

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— 5 —

The next morning, we hit the ground running and headed a bit north to the AMAZING Snow Canyon State Park.  It hadn’t been on my radar until the day before, and I am so glad we spent the morning there.  Petrified sand dunes, lava fields, lava tunnels, then an array of white hills (hence the name). Gorgeous.

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— 6 —

And then, of course….

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Bryce Canyon…

— 7 —

Today’s wildlife count:

Many, many deer (in Bryce)

2 rabbits.

1 weirdly friendly huge raven at an overlook at Bryce.  People must be (unfortunately and stupidly) feeding it because it positions itself on whatever post is nearest to an onlooker and just waits.  We didn’t get close, but even when we walked away and to our car, it flew after us, landing right in front of the car, clearly expecting something. Very Birds-like, and considering that over the past two weeks, a bird has flung itself into our front living room window with such force it left feathers, and another small bird came in through an open door of our house…yeah,we’re ready.

Some good-looking lizards at Snow Canyon.

A wild turkey at Bryce.

And most amusingly, at Snow Canyon, a prairie dog sprawled in a juniper bush just stuffing his little fat face with every berry he could reach.

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My name is not Tippi.

Oh, and Saturday’s forecast for where we are going to be….ice. 

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— 1 —

Well, that was interesting – and let’s hope that “was” remains the pertinent verb.

No internet or landline for almost a week.  Yes, we had data on the Ipad, but I didn’t want to burn through that, plus I don’t have a keyboard and really don’t like actually typing/working on the thing.

I hope the situation is finally resolved – I thought it was late yesterday morning, but then it went out again last night…and here it is back on again this morning.

It’s been a good – excellent – exercise in patience and priorities and a lesson in putting small (really) inconviences like this into perspective.  Not joking or being ironic here!

— 2 —

Danielle Bean was here!  She was taping a couple of EWTN shows, including At Home with Jim and Joy yesterday, so I ran over during her break and before my afternoon running about and said hello in person at last. 

— 3 —

10-year old started a Kabelevsky piece this week, so we spent some time yesterday listening to the Kabelevsky section at Classics for Kids.  If you’ve never seen (heard) it, check it out – it might be the best classical music-for-children site out there.  It’s centered around recorded radio programs – tons of them – but there are a lot of excellent printables as well.

— 4 —

Finally set up a hummingbird feeder too, and lo – one came!  We had a feeder at the old house, but with zero success, so it’s a good sign that we had it up a day, and already had a customer.  All nature, every animal is amazing, but hummingbirds are something else.

We also put up the regular bird feeder, and I tell you – as a person who’s never had a bird feeder up at any house she’s lived in her entire life  – this is one of the best educational tools you can have.  Up until this point, the only birds we had noticed in our yard were the usual – cardinals, jays, crows and robins.  Now, all sorts of critters are appearing, and books have been checked out, morphologies and taxonomies studies, and a journal begun:

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— 5 —

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Ever heard of Sylacauga marble?  Well, it’s one of the major types of marble found in the United States, and it’s found about 40 miles southeast of Birmingham, in Sylacauga.

We had visited the town before, and seen the quarry and toured the Blue Bell ice cream plant, but this time we went down for the festival. (This being last week….I had written this to be pubished last Friday until..well, you know.) 

Perhaps there is more “fest” to the festival on the weekends, but in going down during the week, the major thing we wanted to see were the artists at work.

Thirty artists are set up in tents for two weeks –two weeks! – where they work on their pieces in marble.

As it happens, one of the artists this year is the husband of blogger and long-time commenter Nancy Ewing, and so we were able to meet him and gain some insight into the challenges and fruits of working with this stone.  It was excellent exposure to a new type of artistic endeavor for the ten-year old.

As I said, that was last week.  No travels this week because (not kidding) every day we had to be at home waiting for a tech person.  Five visits this week.  Next week, however, there’s a short jaunt planned. 8th grader has an overnight class trip, so the 10-year old and I will venture out to an another location…

— 6 —

Beast Academy 4D is finally here!  On deck: multiplying and dividing fractions, decimals, and probability.  We’ll stretch this one out as long as possible with other resources and ample Khan Academy.

Have I mentioned this before? I don’t think so.  This is an excellent series – well, we only have one book, but I assume the whole series is good – published by Oxford –  The World in Ancient Times.  It’s exactly what I was looking for: very solid content that’s at advanced kid level but doesn’t repeat what every other book on pre-Columbian cultures say. The perspective is not omniscient-expert-for-unknown-reasons.  Every chapter starts with archaeology and examines what we think might be true from the evidence at hand.  I wish there were study guides for every book, but unfortunately, that is only the case for the book on the Romans.  It’s okay – we get excellent use on the volume on the Americas.

— 7 —

Looking for gifts for First Communion? Mother’s Day? Confirmation?

Got it!

51B8RuM9UaL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

days

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— 1 —

Traveling is so odd.  You go, you see places that you will probably never see again, and you walk in strange places.   A completely different experience of the world becomes a part of your experience, your worldview, your frame of mind.

And then you come back, and it’s as if you never left, and what happened a week ago floats somewhere between the distant past and a dream.

But it’s all still there, in your head, in your life.

Bigger now.

"amy welborn"

— 2 —

We’re back, but we don’t stay still.  We returned Monday night, the 13-year old went back to school on Tuesday, the 10-year old did a bit of school, had his homeschool boxing session, then they both had server practice for the Triduum in the afternoon. Wednesday, the 10-year old and I took a walk on a trail that’s not too far from my house but, I’m ashamed to say, I’d never even heard of before this week: The Irondale Furnace trail.

There’s a bit of a ruin along the trail, the ruin of an iron..processing? furnace, which was a part of a 2,000 acre mining and processing property that was burned up by the Yankees in 1863, rebuilt after the Civil War and used for about 15 years.  And now it’s a wall, a trail along a creek surrounded by a lot of high-end homes.

Talk about the distant past and dreams….

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

— 3 —

Today, we went up 59 towards Gadsden to Tigers for Tomorrow. It’s a refuge for rescued animals, mostly cats, but also a few bears, wolves, and even some cavy.  I’d heard about it, and had been meaning to go for ages, but they are generally only open to the general public on weekends. But when Michael, still on Europe time, popped up awake super early, I decided we needed to go somewhere.  I looked this up and saw that they were doing some special Spring Break tours during weekdays, and for a reduced price, so we jumped in the car and drove up.

It was quite educational for both of us, and offered food for thought on issues related not only to endangered animals, but also animals in captivity and the relationship between animals and human beings.

(The animals come mostly from zoos, other refuges that close, and from people who had attempted to keep wild animals as pets. Always a grand idea.)

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

— 4 —

We went to Mass on two Sundays in Spain.  Both had congregations of about thirty in attendance, minimal music,  fairly perfunctory ritual and (I just happened to notice) in both the Apostles’ Creed, not the Nicene was prayed.

"amy welborn"

We just peaked into this church on the way to the museum on Sunday…don’t remember what it was.

— 5 —

Speaking of churches and such….check out this post from the New Liturgical Movement on veiling statues during Passiontide…two Birmingham churches are in the mix.

— 6 —

I did something new on this trip: I rented our apartment through AirBNB, and I was very pleased with the experience.

In previous trips both to Europe and in the US, I’ve rented via VRBO and just independently through owners and managers. I’ve never had a bad experience with any stay  – except that one time in Sicily, but that wasn’t an apartment, it was a B & B, sort of, and I violated by policy of not renting when there were no reviews, so it was pretty much my own fault, and in retrospect…the whole thing was pretty wacky.

With the apartments, everything has been fine, but I’ll say that the Airbnb process strikes me as a level above what I’ve previously experienced.  The owner/ manager has a full profile and reviews – and the profile is more substantive than the minimal VRBO profile.  If he or she has used Airbnb as a traveler, the reviews of those places are posted as well. You, as a renter have to provide enough information to prove that you do, indeed, exist as well, and the owner is given an opportunity to review you as well, sort of like Uber.

I understand there are issues with the growing business of vacation rentals. I’ve read of people essentially buying out entire apartment buildings and transforming them into Airbnb properties, which isn’t right, because you’re then running a hotel without having to abide by appropriate regulations and taxation requirements.  If I lived somewhere and my neighborhood was slowly but surely turning into party central because of vacation rentals, I’d be upset.

But. All I’m saying is that the process of renting through Airbnb gave me an added sense of security above what I’d experienced with VRBO or independently, and I will definitely use them again!

(One of my older sons had used Airbnb the week before our trip, and had similar observations about the process. He was pleased.)

"amy welborn"

Some teachers give homework over spring break….

"amy welborn"

…but the nice ones don’t.

— 7 —

Do you want books for Easter gifts? For First Communion? For a new Catholic?

Got it!

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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