Monday, December 31, 2012

61 books (in 2012) and counting

So as I sit here in my pjs on the couch, watching Goonies (The Avengers is next!) with a chilled glass of Moscato and a vanilla rum cupcake (baked by my roomie. Thanks Pam!) on the coffee table(will that count as mixing my liquors?), I have no problem with the fact that I'm spending New Year's Eve alone (with the exception of my roommate's dog, Trustee, who is totally panicked and hyperventilating because of the fireworks neighbors are shooting off). In fact, going out was the last thing I wanted to do tonight. My one (admittedly lame) goal for the night, aside from relaxing, was to waterproof a pair of boots. Mission accomplished! LOL

Anyhoo, one of the only resolutions I made this year and kept completely with was to record all the books I read in 2012. Inspired by a friend's blog at the end of 2011, I realized that I had no idea how many books I'd read that year, so in order to know for sure how many I read in 2012, I grabbed one of my many empty journals and started a list. I had no particular goal for the number of books I wanted to read, but there were several I had received for Christmas that I wanted to tackle ("Death Comes to Pemberly," "The History of the World in 100 Objects," "Hedy's Folly) and did, as well as a a few I wanted to reread ("The Screwtape Letters" and "War & Peace," specifically).

All told, I read and completed 61 books in 2012. There are two I started and haven't yet finished: "Crossing the Borders of Time" (a true story about the daughter of a Holocaust survivor trying to search out what happened to her mother's first love after the two were separated by war) which I started only on Saturday night; the second is St. Augustine's "Confessions" which I'm taking slowly on purpose. St. Augustine isn't a Doctor of the Church for nothing. There's a lot of depth there. :)

Overall, the list just makes it onto the fourteenth page of the journal. Some of the entries include commentaries on the books (an Agatha Christie novel I'd never read, "Destination Unknown" which I noted it seemed "very cinematic," was fabulous, as was "Les Miserables," which I hadn't read before, "A Canticle for Leibowitz" and "The Guernsey Literary Guild and Potato Peel Pie Society."). Others notated I would immediately be relegating them to the donation bag.

Don't worry, I wont be naming them all. :) But the list represents fiction and non-fiction (mostly history), spiritual reading ( two by Fulton Sheen in addition to C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine), comic biography ("Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" by Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie on "Little House on the Prairie"), a poetry anthology, one children's book, science ("The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"), some chick-lit, a true crime novel and a couple of thrillers passed along to me by my dad.

In addition to rereading "War and Peace" (which took me nearly two months) I also reread "The Hobbit," the Hunger Games trilogy (in advance of the movie) and "Pride and Prejudice," which I've read once a year since I was 12.

As for 2013, I will keep on with St. Augustine. I also want to read Thomas Merton's "Seeds of Contemplation" and a history of St. Peter's Basilica that I picked up at a used bookstore while on vacation in North Carolina in October. I'd like to reread "Brideshead Revisited" (the last time I read that one was in high school somewhere around sophomore year, inspired by the fact that Bravo was showing reruns of the 1981 miniseries staring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews which I would come home and watch after school) as well as "Persuasion." It's actually my second favorite of Austen's novels and I haven't read it in quite a while.

There are a more than a few books I haven't bought/checked out/borrowed yet, namely the newest novels by Charles Finch and Kate Morton. There are somewhere between five and 10 books I've snapped pictures of on my cell so I can remember them for later, including one called "Shakespeare's Tremors and Orwell's Cough," a book written by a doctor about the various maladies suffered by famous authors, and "The Lawgiver" a semi-comic novel written mostly in epistolary form by Herman Wouk, author of "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance." My boss also just loaned me "Gone Girl," which I've been meaning to read, both because the premise intrigues me and also because my best friend listened to the audio book on her morning and afternoon commutes and wants someone to discuss it with. I also want to read "Call the Midwife," which I recently picked up at Target. I've seen the first set of the BBC miniseries based off of it and it completely sucked me in.

Actually, there is a third book I haven't finished and I now realize I failed to record as part of the aforementioned list. In October, I started reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church as part of the Year of Faith, via emails sent out daily to a listserve who signed up to read it. I've actually fallen behind with that (the unread emails that are sent out every day, dividing it into manageable chunks, stare at me whenever I check my email) and it's my goal to catch up.

Then there's the bin of unread books waiting patiently for me under my bed... But for now, it's time for wine and a cupcake. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Joy and mourning

A lot of people in the world of Catholic blogging have been writing about the horrible tragedy last week in Newtown, Connecticut, along with the irony of it being followed two days later by Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent meant for joy.

Possibly because of the Connecticut shooting, I couldn't help but notice all the little children sitting in the pews around me during morning mass. Some of them got a bit cranky, or talked a little too loudly, but I didn't mind. What bothered me more, though, was the retirees who kept gaping, turning their heads left and right every time a child made so much as a peep. Exiting church at the end of mass, one older woman, who looked to be at least 75, even patted a 4-year old boy who had been sitting down the pew from me on the head and said "You make too much noise."

Curbing my desire to tell her to mind her own business (I was raised to respect elders, for one, and secondly, I'd just received Jesus in the Eucharist so thought it best not to be snarky), I also wanted to ask if she'd been listening to Father, or if she'd even seen the news, or tell her that she perhaps might be grateful for the little children in our midst (and that their parents bring them to church). The little boy wasn't that loud. He was being 4, and his mother dealt with him appropriately.

Ultimately, I don't think I can come up with anything better than what has already been written and said by a number of others. But I ache for those families of the children, teachers and administrators. Everyone, whether directly or indirectly, has been impacted by tragedies. I don't know why He allows bad things to happen. Sitting in mass Sunday morning, Father talked about evil in the world, and how, despite our best efforts to keep it at bay, sometimes evil happens. But we can't live our lives in fear. And I think, although it's hard to wrap our minds around sometimes, that's why we are asked to still be joyful. Jesus' birth is right around the corner. All we can do is lean on God in our sorrow and pray for everyone involved, and, despite the evil in the world, know the Lord will never abandon us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some things that make me happy

Recently my friend David, who blogs over at, posted about things that make him happy, writing "What are the things which make you really, truly happy? Where are the places you can always find joy?" He then proceeded to list his top 10.

And it got me thinking -- in this time of the year when we're stressing to find just the perfect gift for everyone on our list, and people are asking us what we want for Christmas -- what does make me happy? It seemed like a good exercise for Advent.

So, inspired by David's blog post, I, too, sat down and made a list. The first seven (and I didn't actually stop at 10, but went to 14) or so came to me quite easily, but I did have to put some thought into it. In no particular order (although I have numbered them in the order I came up with them), here is my list. Some are very silly, some are serious. And I found most of them have nothing to do with material things.

1: Reading a really good book and being in bookstores, especially of the used/secondhand variety (they just smell divine!).

2: Time spent in a cool, quiet chapel, for prayer and meditation, just me and Jesus in the tabernacle or monstrance.

3: Gift wrapping. I really love to wrap presents. I find it soothing, but I also love taking the time to wrap a gift beautifully to make a gift really special. I joke with my roommate, who is very into crafting, that gift wrapping is my way of being crafty.

4: Classic movie marathons and/or seeing classic films on the big screen.

5: The prospect of and packing for a trip, especially to someplace I've never been before, or to visit people I haven't seen in awhile.

6: These three songs. They will always turn my mood if I'm feeling like a sad sack: This one I danced around in my living room to as a little girl: ; these next two remind me of high school: ; and this one of college:

7: Having a child, usually one of my godchildren, cuddle into my lap.

8: Dancing, although I don't do much of it these days.

9: Looking through old family pictures and letters/learning family stories and history.

10: Sitting in a darkened room, taking in the delicious evergreen-tree smell and just watching Christmas lights blink on and off. There's just something mesmerizing about it (this could lead people to think I'm easily distracted by shiny things...which I suppose that is sometimes the case) that appeals to my sense of wonder.

11: Changing into comfy clothes at the end of the work day.

12: Time spent with good friends.

13: Snuggling down into clean sheets.

14: Cool, fall, scarf-wearing weather.

So, what are some of the things that make you happy?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Faith, hope and Advent

We're lucky, as Catholics, to have two New Year's celebrations -- January first, like everyone else -- and our liturgical new year, which started yesterday with the first Sunday in Advent. So, Happy New Year!

Advent is my favorite part of the Church calendar. Yes, I love Lent, too, and need it every time it rolls around, but there's just something about Advent. As a child, the countdown of lighting the candles each week helped me mark how long it would be until Santa came, until I could stand in wonder before the sparkling tree on Christmas morning and gaze at the presents beneath.

Of course, now that I'm a grown up (well, more or less. Half the time I still feel about 12), I know that the birth of Christ is the real gift, that it was Mary's Fiat which began this journey to the coming birth of our Savior, and although His death and resurrection truly saved us, without His birth there would have been no sacrifice on the Cross.

But I still have that sense of wonder, that sense of hopeful expectation that Advent is all about. Only, instead of 'will I get that Cabbage Patch doll and the bike I asked for?' it is a renewal of God's care for me, a renewal that my faith will not be in vain. It's about waiting, patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) for what we want -- the desires of our heart -- and for God's will (which placed those desires there) to be made manifest.

One of my (many) favorite verses in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." We live, we pray, because we have hope and the faith to believe our hope will be realized. A few verses before that, though, St. Paul leads up to it with Hebrews 10: 35-37, 39: "Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. 'For, after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay.' ... We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life."

It is yet another reminder that our faith, our "confidence," in the Lord will not be in vain, even if that "brief moment" might seem a bit longer to us. And while we might not get that doll, or bike, or whatever else it is we want, Advent and the coming joys of Christmas remind us that God will never let us down, that our faith in Him will result in our eternal life, which is the best possible gift.

Or, to quote Pope Benedict XVI, who says it so much better (and more succinctly!):

"Faith is not merely a personal reaching out toward things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for... Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a 'not yet.'"