7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Good morning from Not Birmingham. We are not at our final destination, but very, very close:


We’re in Covington – just because I didn’t feel like going all the way last night, and hotels are half to a third the cost (depending on where you stay.)

Last night we popped up to St. Joseph’s Abbey for Compline – did not quite make it in time for Vespers.

We were the only people not in the choir stalls – I can’t say we were the only non-monks, because there were several young men not wearing monastic robes in choir. Retreatants, I suppose. But for sure I was the only woman.

I wish we’d gotten there early, because although I have been to the monastery grounds – to find Walker Percy’s grave in the cemetery – I had never been in the chapel before, and it’s beautiful with those magnificent murals.

— 2 —

So no, the plan didn’t quite work out, a plan which had involved getting there early enough to explore, visit Percy’s grave, and then participate in monastic prayer.

We only got the prayer part, with a glimpse at the saints, and that was enough.



Go to Instagram for a bit of video and more on the coming weekend.


Today’s the memorial of St. Frances of Rome. She’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints:




–5 —

From the Catholic Herald: Now you can access a map of England’s Catholic Martyrs:

I also soon became aware of what are known as the Howdenshire Martyrs and, for the first time, two things started to dawn on me; how much the ordinary English people loved their Catholic Faith and the huge scale of suffering they endured from the Dissolution of the Monasteries onwards.

The problem when looking at lists of those martyred for their faith is the difficulty of grasping the enormous scale. I decided to try to plot these names on a map, to see how far and wide they ranged. It quickly became clear it truly was nationwide, with particular ‘epicentres’ such as Lancashire, Yorkshire, Glastonbury, Oxford and London. I was trying to see them as real people, not just lists. This was greatly helped by using the internet to find out more about each. It is quite remarkable, really, how much we can still discover about so many of them, although a huge number more will never be identified.

— 6 —

Please read Emily Stimpson Chapman’s series on adoption here, at her blog The Catholic Table. It’s in three parts, and she finished it up today (Friday). 

— 7 —

If you’re not scared enough about the internet, social media and your kids, please read this.

My daughter is ten. She wants me to download the Musical.ly app on my phone so she can make funny lip-sync videos. Everyone has it, she whines, even the kid whose mom is an FBI agent/social worker/pediatrician/nun.

Wow. Well. In that case…

I download the app while she’s at school but it won’t let me explore without an account. I create a profile under Chardonaynay47, only to delete that and opt for something less momish — gummibear9.

One word sums up my experience: Nowayismykidgettingthisapp.

One of the points I appreciate in the article is something I’ve been pounding on for years. It’s not just the porn and the objectification and the grossness and the bullying. It’s this:

If your child does not maintain an online self, chances are her social circle is small — friends from school, neighbors, family. If she has a rough day at school, a bell sets her free each afternoon. The jerks who taunted her at lunch aren’t coming home with her for the night. She has space to think, to be with you, to read, to hug her dog, to recover, to get brave. Online, there is no school bell, there is no escape; she exists globally, and so do her mistakes. The ridicule is permanent. Puberty is harrowing enough in physical form, asking a child to also manage an online ego is like asking them to thread a needle while the plane is going down.

And perhaps this very pointed question will give a nudge, too:

Question: do you want my kid to have access to your kid 24/7?

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

You can read the text of the Acts of the two saints here. 

5. A few days after, the report went abroad that we were to be tried. Also my father returned from the city spent with weariness; and he came up to me to cast down my faith saying: Have pity, daughter, on my grey hairs; have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be, called father by you; if with these hands I have brought you unto this flower of youth- and I-have preferred you before all your brothers; give me not over to the reproach of men. Look upon your brothers; look upon your mother and mother’s sister; look upon your son, who will not endure to live after you. Give up your resolution; do not destroy us all together; for none of us will speak openly against men again if you suffer aught.

This he said fatherly in his love, kissing my hands and grovelling at my feet; and with tears he named me, not daughter, but lady. And I was grieved for my father’s case because he would not rejoice at my passion out of all my kin; and I comforted him, saying: That shall be done at this tribunal, whatsoever God shall please; for know that we are not established in our own power, but in God’s. And he went from me very sorrowful.

6. Another day as we were at meal we were suddenly snatched away to be tried; and we came to the forum. Therewith a report spread abroad through the parts near to the forum, and a very great multitude gathered together. We went up to the tribunal. The others being asked, confessed. So they came to me. And my father appeared there also, with my son, and would draw me from the step, saying: Perform the Sacrifice; have mercy on the child. And Hilarian the procurator – he that after the death of Minucius Timinian the proconsul had received in his room the right and power of the sword – said: Spare your father’s grey hairs; spare the infancy of the boy. Make sacrifice for the Emperors’ prosperity. And I answered: I am a Christian. And when my father stood by me yet to cast down my faith, he was bidden by Hilarian to be cast down and was smitten with a rod. And I sorrowed for my father’s harm as though I had been smitten myself; so sorrowed I for his unhappy old age. Then Hilarian passed sentence upon us all and condemned us to the beasts; and cheerfully we went down to the dungeon. Then because my child had been used to being breastfed and to staying with me in the prison, straightway I sent Pomponius the deacon to my father, asking for the child. But my father would not give him. And as God willed, no longer did he need to be suckled, nor did I take fever; that I might not be tormented by care for the child and by the pain of my breasts.

7. A few days after, while we were all praying, suddenly in the midst of the prayer I uttered a word and named Dinocrates; and I was amazed because he had never come into my mind save then; and I sorrowed, remembering his fate. And straightway I knew that I was worthy, and that I ought to ask for him. And I began to pray for him long, and to groan unto the Lord. Immediately the same night, this was shown me.

I beheld Dinocrates coming forth from a dark place, where were many others also; being both hot and thirsty, his raiment foul, his color pale; and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother in the flesh, seven years old, who being diseased with ulcers of the face had come to a horrible death, so that his death was abominated of all men. For him therefore I had made my prayer; and between him and me was a great gulf, so that either might not go to the other. There was moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, a font full of water, having its edge higher than was the boy’s stature; and Dinocrates stretched up as though to drink. I was sorry that the font had water in it, and yet for the height of the edge he might not drink.

And I awoke, and I knew that my brother was in travail. Yet I was confident I should ease his travail; and I prayed for him every day till we passed over into the camp prison. (For it was in the camp games that we were to fight; and the time was the feast of the Emperor Geta’s birthday.) And I prayed for him day and night with groans and tears, that he might be given me.

8. On the day when we abode in the stocks, this was shown me.

I saw that place which I had before seen, and Dinocrates clean of body, finely clothed, m comfort; and the font I had seen before, the edge of it being drawn to the boy’s navel; and he drew water thence which flowed without ceasing. And on the edge was a golden cup full of water; and Dinocrates came up and began to drink therefrom; which cup failed not. And being satisfied he departed away from the water and began to play as children will, joyfully.

And I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from his pains.

They are in the section of The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints called:

"amy welborn"

The last couple of pages:

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"


Beethoven Monday

If you’d like to hear a snippet of my 13-year old playing Beethoven’s Sonata #1 (4th movement), head over to Instagram. I don’t post videos here because I don’t know how to resize them, and they end up yuge and awkward-looking on this finely crafted design masterpiece of a page.


Today is her memorial – March 3. You and your children can read about her in my Loyola Kids Book of Saints:


And learn all about her here. 



And don’t forget….St. Patrick is coming soon:….


Friday = Jaunt Day.

I was tempted to ditch it, considering there’s a Major Jaunt coming next week, and next week also has a bunch of other activities on the calendar, so, you know, SQUARE ROOTS AND -E TO -UE STEM-CHANGING VERBS.

Eh, who cares.

Life will be our teacher today. 

He had no preference for a destination. Actually, his preferences would be hiking in mountains somewhere, but it’s not quite warm enough for that yet – for me, at least. So I took charge and, trying to hit as much warmth as possible, decided we’d head to the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park south of here 

Cahawba was once Alabama’s state capital (1820-1826) and a thriving antebellum river town. It became a ghost town shortly after the Civil War. Today it is an important archaeological site and a place of picturesque ruins.

As early as 4,000 years ago Indians occupied Cahawba, and the Spanish explorer DeSoto may have visited a large Indian village located there in 1540.

In 1819 the state of Alabama was carved out of the wilderness. Cahawba, its capital city, was an undeveloped town site, a gift from President James Monroe to the new state. Consequently, Alabama’s legislature was forced to find temporary accommodations in Huntsville until a statehouse could be built. By 1820, however, Cahawba was a fully functioning state capital…

Cahawba’s low elevation gave it a reputation for flooding and an unhealthy atmosphere. Those opposed to the selection of Cahawba as the capital used this reputation to persuade the legislature to move the capital to Tuscaloosa in 1826. Within weeks Cahawba was nearly abandoned.

The flooding had been greatly exaggerated by Cahawba’s opponents, so the town recovered and reestablished itself as a social and commercial center. Cahawba became the major distribution point for cotton shipped down the Alabama River from the IMG_20180302_142145.jpgfertile “black belt” to the port of Mobile. The addition of a railroad line in l859 triggered a building boom. On the eve of the Civil War, more than 3,000 people called Cahawba home.

Cahawba’s glory days were again short-lived. During the Civil War, the Confederate government seized Cahawba’s railroad, tore up the iron rails and used them to extend a nearby railroad. A lice-infested prison for 3,000 captured Union soldiers was established in the center of town. In 1865 a flood inundated the town, and in 1866 the county seat was removed to nearby Selma. Businesses and families followed. Within 10 years, even the houses were being dismantled and moved.

During Reconstruction, the abandoned courthouse became a meeting place for freemen seeking new political power. Cahawba became the “Mecca of the Radical Republican Party”. A new rural community of former slave families replaced the old urban center. These families turned the vacant town blocks into two-acre fields.

Soon, even this community disappeared. By 1900 most of Cahawba’s buildings had burned, collapsed, or been dismantled. Few structures survived past 1930, but the town was not unincorporated until 1989. By that time, only fishermen and hunters walked the town’s abandoned streets.

Today, nature has reclaimed Old Cahawba, but historians and archaeologists from the Alabama Historical Commission are working hard to uncover Cahawba’s historic past and to create a full time interpretive park. Visitors are welcome at Old Cahawba. Enjoy the wildflowers. Take the time to roam the abandoned streets, view the moss-covered ruins, talk with an archaeologist, read the interpretive signs, and contemplate Cahawba’s mysterious disappearance.

So yes. There’s hardly anything there at Old Cahawba. Some columns, a few chimneys, cellars and the road grid. How could that be interesting? I’ve been to the Forum, the Coliseum and Tikal. What is this in comparison to all that? Strangely enough, and even surprising me, it was, indeed, interesting. The signage was helpful and the docent in the visitor’s center offered an engaging introduction to the site. That background, the map, some imagination and engagement with the ebb and flow of history (which means human life) was enough to make the time far more absorbing than I had expected.

(I had hoped to squeeze Selma sights in as well, but we got a late start, and it’s further away than I thought, so not this time. It’s okay. I want my older son with us when we do Selma, anyway. We also didn’t get to the cemeteries, which, I’m thinking, were probably the most interesting part of the site – but we had to get back here. Next time.)

Visitor’s Center.


St. Luke’s Episcopal Church – built in 1854, moved, and then relocated to Cahawba in 2007. 

Nature, including the Cahaba River (which flows near Birmingham, as well.)


Corner of Oak and Capitol. On the other side of town where another branch of the Cahaba joins the Alabama. We saw lots of turtles, but no gators. It was nice to be in Spanish Moss country again, too. 

These are columns of the side porch of what I suppose was the biggest house in town – the front porch looked out on the Alabama River. It was constructed by a New Yorker who owned the most important store in town – he left in 1850 after the death of his wife. The bricks in the columns were never repurposed because they were made in a triangular shape which made them useless for any other structure. The “Yankees in Cahawba” title on the sign has a double meaning – not just in reference to the owner, but also to a meeting  between a Union General and Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest to discuss a prisoner exchange. The next day, Lee surrendered at Appomattox. 



There’s no extant drawing of the statehouse. These are renderings deduced from written descriptions. None are quonset huts.


This sign describes the POW camp that was on site. There was a relatively low death rate, but then sadly, after the war was over, many of the former prisoners died as they were being transported back north on the Sultana steamboat, that exploded on April 27, 1865 in the Mississipi River. 

As I took the photo above, the Alabama River was behind me, and so the grassy area you’re looking at was the former center of town – once busy and bustling, now silent and empty, one more reminder that, well, sic transit gloria mundi and all that.

(There’s a bit of video on Instagram.)


7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

(Just had a chat with Matt Swain on the Sonrise Morning Show, centered on this post on St. Robert Bellarmine on fasting.)

This week’s work: moving closer to the finish line on one project – it has all kinds of moving targets, so there’s always something going on there. It’s interesting and it’s $$, but I’ll be glad when it’s over in a couple of weeks. As will the hard-working project managers, I’m sure.

Also this week: doing edits on the copyedited manuscript of my next book, due out in the fall from Loyola. And making some incremental progress on that other thing for which I got massively organized on Sunday. But because of a couple of early-ish appointments (dentist/orthodontist, then piano lesson moved earlier and then Friday morning a radio interview) – that early-morning work time I’ve been counting on hasn’t seen much…work.

— 2 —

I hope this coming week will be better, but considering there’s some travel coming up at the end of the week, I’m not hopeful. Okay. I’m realistic.


And where and when is that trip? Check back here and on Instagram for that. Just say…it’s probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done in the name of Learner-Led Unschooling, but because it sort of – kind of – almost falls within my own collection of interests, I don’t mind at all. Life is short, and life with your kids around is (probably) even shorter. So don’t be stingy.


You know how we always associate flamingos with Florida? How they’re on all the ashtrays and retro tablecloths and signs? Now consider this – have you ever actually seen a flamingo in Florida outside of a zoo?


Me neither.

That’s a very good question!

So here, from – not surprisingly, Atlas Obscura – is the answer to that excellent question.

“Living in Florida, you see flamingos everywhere—in advertising, in place names, even on the logo for the state lottery—but as an actual organism, as a species, there was essentially no information available on the biology of flamingos,” said Steven Whitfield, a conservation ecologist at Zoo Miami. The birds are iconic, Whitfield says, but there’s been little information about their past and present in the state. When and how did they get to the region? What happened to them once they arrived?

The murky history spans centuries. While some 19th-century naturalists recounted dense clusters of flamingos around Florida, others were less certain about the birds’ primary strutting grounds. In the 1881 edition of his encyclopedic book, The Birds of Eastern North America, Charles Johnson Maynard notes that flamingos were rare in the Florida Keys. In fact, he wasn’t sure how plentiful they’d ever been there. Word had it that they clustered in the Keys in the summer months, while they molted—but he’d never seen one there himself.

–5 —

Recent reads: The 13-year old is taking a break from a big “school” novel this week – I’ve had him read several poems as well as Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.”

It’s a perceptive, wild story. Perhaps it will strike you as it did me: a prescient account of the logical, if unintended consequences of a social emphasis on “equality” as well as a startling reflection on the powers and uses of distraction.

— 6 —

I also read The Great Gatsby over the past couple of weeks in concert with my high schooler. I admit: I’d never actually read it (as I have emphasized to you before, I grew up in an era in which we read tomes like Jonathan Livingston Seagull in school.). I enjoyed it, and found it rather different than I expected. Less a portrait of the Jazz Age than a tragic meditation on the folly of striving after idols of all kinds. My son reports that the class (not an honors class, by the way) responded well to the novel and was consistently engaged. So that’s a sign of hope.

I’ve never seen either of the Gatsby films, although I do have strong memories of when the Redford version came out – it must have been quite the cultural event. I watched a lot of clips online, though, and it seems to me that no one has gotten it right yet, if they ever can. The leads (especially Redford, but even DiCaprio) are too old, and there’s a heaviness about both (at least in the clips) that fails to reflect the sense of the ephemeral – ephemeral possessions, ephemeral attachments, ephemeral achievements, ephemeral lives – that the novel communicates.

Also The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I’ve had a copy hanging about for years, and finally read it. It was a decent way to spend a couple of hours, although not what I expected, which was a straight-up haunting tale (I have memories of seeing the 60’s version on television when I was young – I believe at my grandparents’ house in Oklahoma – and being petrified) and more of a psychological study of the need to feel alive and real – written at the same time as Walker Percy’s Moviegoer, a novel also centered on the matter of what it means to feel real and alive in the world, it strikes me as an interesting, if odd potential pairing. Hmmm.

— 7 —

Tomorrow’s the memorial of St. Katharine Drexel. She’s in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints.

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

The Lord’s Day

What a day!

Up at 6:30 am, over to 7 am Mass at one parish with my working-man-son, sent him off to work, dashed over to the Cathedral for a talk on sacred music from our wonderful Music Director, Bruce Ludwick, then back home to spend the entire rest of this rainy, chilly day..


Yup. With one kid working and the other off to Atlanta on a friend’s birthday jaunt, I was..


Did I mention that I was


For an introvert homeschooling Mom, that’s about as good as it gets.

It can hardly get better.



Even if you don’t think that is so terribly odd, what comes next might give you pause. You might indeed think it strange  that the cherry on this cake was not Netflix binging or watching movies or even reading a good book – it was…work.


(With apologies to the Lord’s Day.)

And I didn’t mind a bit. My work is not hard at this point, but it does take chunks of time. I’ve been managing to get ‘er done in in the early mornings (really only by letting my homeschooler sleep until about 9:30 each day, which he does not mind) and in the evenings. This has worked find for one major project, but another has suffered a bit. The first project will be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks, but the second is ongoing to the beginning of 2019, and I was really feeling the need to gather my resources on that one and get myself organized so that I can work on it more efficiently, perhaps in 30-minute/day chunks. Freeing me up to work on the long-promised, freakin’ Guatemala e-book – which I am determined – determined – to finish and get to you before our next trip, which is coming at the end of March.

So that’s what I did. I banged out work for Project #1 that’s due this week and next – finished, edited, dusted off and invoiced – and got myself deeply organized for Project #2.

It was fantastic. 

And now, with a few more minutes before our very own Publix Employee returns for the evening, some random Sunday night thoughts:

  • My 13-year old and I attended one of the Alabama Symphony’s “Coffee Concerts” on Friday – this one featured Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I have to say, I am so impressed with this symphony and this conductor. Or, as they have branded themselves in typical friendly Southern fashion, “Your Alabama Symphony Orchestra!” The performance was vibrant, vivid and quite moving. Strong, delicate and urgent all at once, looking forward and backwards, east and west.
  • It didn’t hurt that this time, instead of seating us with all the other hordes of schoolkids in the balcony, they put is in the Orchestra seating with all the other old people (and other homeschoolers).
  • This is what we read in preparation, and we also watched a short video which I can’t locate at the moment – but know it was very helpful, especially in understanding the very last measures of the piece. Sorry.
  • Saturday was music – a piano festival competition thing – basketball – last game of the regular season, playoffs start Tuesday – and serving – Confirmation retreat Mass at Casa Maria Convent, led by Fr. Augustine Wetta, OSB, who is the author of this new book, which I am hoping to read soon. My son really appreciated what Fr. Wetta had to say during his homily – which is one of the reasons I have them serve over there at the convent. Every time they do, they are privileged to hear excellent homilies from either one of the local friars or the retreat master for the weekend. Religion Class: Check.
  • Over the past two weeks, homeschooling son has read Murder on the Orient Express as his “school” reading. (He’s reading the Dune trilogy as his leisure reading) It was his suggestion, and so we went with it, doing some background on the history of detective fiction and so on. After re-reading it, I’m thinking we could have done better – I probably should have had him read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd or And Then There Were None – but perhaps neither of those would have held up, either.
  • I haven’t read Christie in decades. As a teenager, mysteries were my gateways into adult fiction, my favorites being Christie, Ellery Queen and Rex Stout – the last being my absolute favorite. So I don’t think I’d read her in probably 40 years (so weird to think in that kind of time span when speaking of my own life), and no, I wasn’t impressed. She wasn’t a stylist, that’s for sure, and this book, in particular, plods along (Murder. Interview many people. Cogitate. Announce.) and the climax and denouement are, in my mind rather shocking (spoiler alert!) – as the murder is, we are led to infer, excusable since the murderers act as jury to do what institutional law enforcement did not.
  • We’re read a lot of books, stories and poems this year – this one will be last on the quality list. I’m not completely sorry we read it: we did some geography and history inspired by it and it’s good to read books of which you can be critical – so there’s that. Plus issues of justice and law, of course.
  • The 1974 film version was one of the last movies I remember seeing with my parents in the theater (along with Young Frankenstein and Being There – with, respectively, those super fun “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” and “I like to watch” scenes putting an end to that activity and any future potential awkwardness). We watched the trailer for that and last year’s version, both of which left my son saying, “Uh, I don’t think I want to watch either of those….”
  • What’s going on with school? We are indeed finishing up homeschooling 7th grade and finishing the 11th grade in a Catholic high school. Next year, everyone will be in school – 8th grade in a local Catholic school (because they do a very nice 8th grade year in this particular school and he has friends there…) and senior year in the same high school. And then….well who knows? Actually we do have a sense: the older one will go to college and the younger one and I will set out – God and good health and the stock market willing – on roadschooling/roamschooling/unschooling way of life for a while. We’ll keep the Birmingham homebase for a time, but will hopefully be able to see a good chunk of the world in between stints back here. But that’s more than a year away, and who knows what can happen between now and then? That “plan” is one more reason for him to return to school for a year – we can both have a breather, I can get some ducks in a row without having to think about teaching Algebra, and then…here we go….
  • Oh, I’m in Living Faith today – here’s the devotional. And if you missed it, I was also in another day last week – here it is.



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