Laudato Si’ Week Book Rec

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In 2017, my friend Brother Mickey McGrath took Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si’ and created a wonderful visual meditation using the Pope’s words and Brother Mickey’s art. It is just breathtaking. I would highly recommend reading and exploring it, especially if you can do it outdoors with the breeze ruffling your hair and the leaves on the trees.

Our Common Home is published by World Library Publications. From the back cover:

Our Common Home invites us to slow down, look areound us, and remember that all we see has been granted to us and is in our care.

Cover (c)2017-2020

Back Cover (c) 2017-2020

Election Connection: 30 Weeks: What Can You Do Before November 3rd?

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Three recommendations:

1. Dan Pfeiffer‘s new book, Untrumping America: A Plan for Making America a Democracy Again

2. David Plouffe‘s two new books, one for adults, and one for children: A Citizen’s Guide for Beating Donald Trump and Ripples of Hope: Your Guide to Electing a New President

3. David Plouffe’s Podcast: Campaign HQ with David Plouffe

Links go to publishers, but books can be bought at any indpendent bookseller or online book retailer. Podcasts links to Player.FM but can be found wherever you get your podcasts.

Something to Smile About (Updated 4/29/20)

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These are fun things I’ve found online from a variety of people, famous and not, offering their talents while we all stay at home and flatten the curve. Please enjoy.

Do What You Can – new song from Jon Bon Jovi. Write and sing the second verse and post on social media with the hashtag: #DoWhatYouCan

Hamilton OBC Reunion on Some Good News

My Free Bingo Cards (Make your own Bingo Cards)

The Broadway Coronavirus Medley – from Zach Timson

Social Distance – a parody by Randy Rainbow – check out his other videos on YouTube

Follow @avantgame on Twitter for a Stay at Home Daily Challenge similar to a scavenger hunt.

Steve Martin Plays the Banjo

Will Smith et al on The Graham Norton Show (2013) This never fails to make me grin from ear to ear. It is the definition of feel good.

Neil Patrick Harris – 2013 Tonys Opening Number

Your Moment of Zen – Hiking, Stream, Woods (Video)

Follow Patrick Stewart on Facebook and he will read a sonnet from Shakespeare daily.

LeVar Burton reads Chivalry by Neil Gaiman

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Plays “Ode to Joy” from their Homes

Daniel Matarazzo on You Tube – he has two Coronavirus Parody songs

Rick Springfield Sings (No) Human Touch

Radio Free Burrito: Wil Wheaton Reads Star Mother (Soundcloud)

Wash Your Hands by Lin-Manuel Miranda

From the NE Ohio Sewer Service: Is it Flushable? Ask them on Twitter and they will answer. As useful as it is fun.

Text the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and they will reply with an SMS message to your phone with a related picture. Text “Send me ____” to 57251. Fill in the blank, and see what they send!

My Dad Looks like the Food Critic in Ratatoille

Andy Slavitt’s Twitter Thread: The Best of Us

2019 Books

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Just in time for the weekend! What follows is the list of all the books I’ve read in 2019, followed by two graphics describing President Obama’s 2019 reading list. Please add your own recommendations in the comments. I’m always looking for a new book to enjoy!

January

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling (on the 1st)
Women of the Bible: A One Year Devotional Study – Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda

The President is Missing – A Novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

The Last Good Heist: The Inside Story of the Single Biggest Payday in the Criminal History of the Northeast – Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worcester

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction – Neil Gaiman

February

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero – Timothy Egan

March

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump – Andrew G. McCabe

Believe Me: a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens – Eddie Izzard
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – Barack Obama

April
A Holy Mosaic: Love, Diversity, and the Family: Inspiration from a Pope Francis – Michael O’Neill Mcgrath OSFS

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law – Preet Bharara

Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus – James Martin, SJ
Not by Bread Alone: Daily Reflections for Lent 2019 – Mary DeTurris Poust

Lenten Reflections – Bishop Robert Barron
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain – Bill Bryson
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey – Kamala D. Harris

Gaudete et Exsultate – Pope Francis

June
In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines who Dared to Break the Rules – Karen Karbo
Daily Reflections for Easter: Rejoice and Be Glad 2019 – Various Authors
Enemies: A History off the FBI – Tim Weiner
Cronkite – Douglas Brinkley

The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book’s Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey – Margaret Leslie Davis

July
Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for the Future – Pete Buttigeig

No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon – Buzz Aldrin with Ken Abraham
The Library Book – Susan Orlean

August

Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy – Dan Abrams and David Fisher

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl – Timothy Egan
September
Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America – Jared Cohen

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars – Paul Collins

Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream – Carson Vaughn

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II – Robert Matzen
October
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her – Melanie Rehak

Your Fourth Day – National Cursillo Movement
City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York – Tyler Anbinder
November
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators – Ronan Farrow
December
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir – Samantha Power
Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump – Neal Katyal & Sam Koppelman
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style – Benjamin Dreyer
A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals – Thomas Merton

Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer – Pope Francis

President Barack Obama’s 2019 Book Reads and Recommendations:

Both graphics, President Barack Obama. (c)2020

Mental Health Monday – What Are Your Go-To’s?

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If you search through my tags or have read me for some time, you may notice that my mental health go-to’s will sometimes change. That. Is. Normal. What helps you, what soothes you, what centers you will change over time. And if there is no change…well, that’s normal too. Not any one thing will work for every one person. That is why it is so important for us to talk, to eliminate the mental health stigma, and to share what works for each of us so that the rest can pick what might work for them and give it a try.

My top five go-to’s:

  1. Writing. I am currently in a memoir workshop but it will come to an end. My plan for the next two weeks is setting up a writing schedule and a list of topics so I always have something to go to with pen and paper or keyboard and kindle.
  2. Supernatural. As I’ve mentioned this is the last season for the long-running series, and it is my heart. It is comfort for me.
  3. Prayer. I’ve been studying labyrinths and having that focus is a positive thing for my mental health. I read a daily Thomas Merton devotional that starts my day. I’m searching for prayers, I’m writing prayers, and I’m praying in new ways. For me that means the labyrinth, the rosary, and upcoming retreats.
  4. Podcasts. Two in particular. Stay Tuned with Preet BhararaLovett or Leave It. I have several other podcasts (Pod Save AmericaPod Save the WorldAnn Kroeker – Writing Coach), but they aren’t mental health go-to’s for me.
  5. Reading. I have my public library on my kindle, and I am constantly borrowing e-books from my library. I have three on my kindle at the moment of all variety of genre.

    Please comment with your go-to’s and I’ll put together a future post with your responses.

    Crisis Intervention Resources Page has been Updated.

    Have a good week!

    Writer Recs – Michelle Francl-Donnay

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    ​I don’t know Michelle Francl-Donnay personally, she is the friend and a writing colleague of a friend, but I have had the pleasure of reading some of her writings especially around Lenten and Easter times.

    I learned of her writing about a year ago from my aforementioned (and linked to) friend when I read Not by Bread Alone for Lent 2018, the daily reflection book published by Liturgical Press. My parish has been giving out these little books at each Lent and Advent (and this year for Easter) for a couple of years now, and they are by far my favorite seasonal devotional, and Michelle Francl-Donnay is by far my favorite writer of these little books (no offense to the other wonderful writers in other years). I’m excited that she will be writing the next Lent book for 2020!

    I’m currently reading the multi-author book form the same publisher for the Easter season where she is the writer for the first section.

    I love her writing, the way she conveys not only the spirituality but the humanity, the day to day humanness that is similar to what and how I’m inspired to write about my faith journey. She is also a scientist, a professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College and co-hosts a series of conversations with Director of the Vatican Observatory, Guy Consolmagno, SJ about Catholic scientists, and with that scientific background brings something of the vastness of the universe to G-d’s world and really expresses both the faraway-ness of G-d as well as the intimacy. I am always left wanting more as I continue to ruminate on her reflections.

    You will not be disappointed when you check her out.

    Writing on Spirituality and Contemplative Life

    Quantum Theology

    Science Writing

    The Culture of Chemistry

    World Book Day

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    World Book and Copyright Day is a celebration of books and the written word organized and proclaimed by the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On their page can be found information and resources on their programs and the reasoning behind the beginning of this observance and its choice of date.

    Books I’ve Read So Far This Year:

    January

    Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling (on the 1st)

    Women of the Bible: A One Year Devotional Study – Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda

    The President is Missing – A Novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

    The Last Good Heist: The Inside Story of the Single Biggest Payday in the Criminal History of the Northeast – Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worcester

    The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction – Neil Gaiman

    February

    The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero – Timothy Egan

    March

    The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump – Andrew G. McCabe

    Believe Me: a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens – Eddie Izzard

    Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – Barack Obama

    April

    A Holy Mosaic: Love, Diversity, and the Family: Inspiration from a Pope Francis – Michael O’Neill Mcgrath OSFS

    Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law – Preet Bharara

    Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus – James Martin, SJ

    Not by Bread Alone: Daily Reflections for Lent 2019 – Mary DeTurris Poust

    Lenten Reflections – Bishop Robert Barron


    I’m currently reading these three books:

    Rejoice and Be Glad: Daily Reflections for Easter 2019 by Michelle Francl-Donnay, Jerome Kodell, Rachelle Linner, Ronald Witherup, Catherine Upchurch, Jay Cormier, Genevieve Glen

    A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals – Selected and edited by Jonathan Montaldo

    The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson

    I use my library’s ebook library extensively and I take advantage of deep discounts or sales through Book Bub on Facebook and through Email. My Kindle is never without one or two books that I read simultaneously.

    Who are your favorite authors?
    What are your favorite books?
    Answer in comments.

    Happy Reading!

    Writing Advice – Wil Wheaton

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    Wil Wheaton is one of my favorite writers, nay people. I don’t agree with everything he espouses, I don’t think anyone can agree with everything anyone espouses, but we’re on the same wavelength more often than not.

    He is a writer’s writer. When he finds something that works, he doesn’t hoard or hide it; he shares it with the masses and he believes you can be a good writer too.

    In this blog post, he shares the three books that have made him a better writer. I have read Stephen King’s On Writing, and have highly recommended it. I now have the two other books on my to-read list because Wil’s advice is usually spot on.

    And while you’re taking his writing advice, read his work as well!

    The Forty Day Journey Begins. Ash Wednesday.

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    ​Giving up something is hard to choose, and giving up something for Lent can be a daunting task. Sometimes what I choose feels arbitrary and superficial. Some are good ideas, but not meaningful enough. Will giving it up bring me closer to G-d? Or just make me miserable for forty days? My feeling on giving something up is that it should be sacrificial – you should definitely notice that it’s absent. I won’t be giving up brussel sprouts or beets. I don’t eat them anyway. That would lack sincerity and significance. However, it should also not be something that is impossible to give up like driving or any number of things that you find indispensible.

    I asked for help from my friends on Facebook, and I received some very good suggestions. In spite of their excellent responses, some of those very valid suggestions don’t (or won’t) work for me:

    • TV? Then I’d miss family time. We watch most things all together and enjoy that time. I’d be abandoning them for forty days.
    • Cable news? I don’t watch it 24/7 anymore, but I do need to keep informed, especially in this era of misinformation.
    • Internet? Besides keeping in touch with my family, it is essentially my livelihood.
    • Chocolate? Soda? Bread? Been there, done that. I’m not sure it holds the same meaning as the first time; at least not yet.
    • Caffeine? And go through withdrawal? Too physically taxing.
    • Ice cream? Maybe. My doctor would certainly like that.
    • Bacon? Hmm. Possible. Very possible.

    I do always add a spiritual component to my forty days in the desert:

    • Prayer time.
    • Reflection.
    • Rosary.
    • Reading.

    I already read two devotional books throughout the year on a daily basis: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2019 by The Irish Jesuits and A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His journals. I’ll be adding two more: My parish gives out a small book, Not by Bread Alone 2019: Daily Reflections for Lent by Mary DeTurris Poust. This takes about five minutes to read each day and provides a reflection and a suggested meditation to reflect on. We’ve used this book for a number of years and it really is a good way to meet G-d everyday. The second book is Lenten Gospel Reflections by Bishop Robert Barron, which was given to my by the person who will be sponsoring me on my Cursillo journey (more on that in a later post). This one looks to be short readings also and it has space for notes or journaling.

    Daily Lenten Reading, 2019. (c)2019


    i’ve also decided to set aside $1 every time my family eats out or buys a non-grocery food item like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, etc and on Easter money donate all those dollars to my parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.
    I’m currently getting ready to attend Ash Wednesday Mass followed by a parish soup lunch. It is a really lovely way to begin Lent with other like-minded people, all on different paths but the same journey. It reinforces the community of the church.

     In addition to my own commitments during Lent, Lent has three pillars of prayer, fasting (and abstinence), and almsgiving. Fasting and abstinence sound similar, but are very different in practice, and for me, Catholic fasting is much different than my decades of Yom Kippur fasting (which I still observe). Fasting during Lent is only required of those 18 through 59, and may include one regular meal as well as two smaller meals. Fast days in Lent are today, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Additionally, Fridays in Lent require abstinence from meat as well as other enjoyable sources, freeing us to grow closer to G-d.

    My church also included a forty day calendar offering suggestions on ways to make Lent moe meaningful. It is provided from Take Five for Faith and I sill share it with you this weekend.

    I will keep you updated on my progress and I hope you will comment with your own reflections and suggestions this Lenten season.

    Are Libraries Still Essential?

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    Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism. – Neil Gaiman


    I originally saved the Vox link, thinking that this was a fluff piece; a ridiculous headline that they easily debunked in the article. I hadn’t realized that someone had actually written in favor of getting rid of libraries in favor of Amazon bookstores/coffee shops.

    I need to preface this by saying that I happen to love bookstore-slash-coffee shops. Whenever my family goes to Barnes & Noble, I find a comfortable space in the cafe and read or write. I frequently (before Howard Schultz began running for President) went to Starbucks with the specific intention to get something to eat and drink and to write. There is a comic book store that is also a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is on my list of places to visit. I love bookstores and coffee shops, together or apart.

    However, I don’t confuse them with libraries. Libraries have a whole different feel to them. They also have a different necessity to them. In fact, I’ve just come from my local library. I meet a group of people there once a month for a writing group. We’ve been getting together for about seven years, although they had been meeting prior to my joining them. I woujldn’t have met them if not for the memoir workshop that I began to attend, which not only gave me a wonderful learning environment but was also one of the important things that led me out of the darkness of my depression.

    I returned two of my daughter’s books that she had finished reading, and I collected the forms to file my taxes.

    In summer, I bring my kids for special programs as well as their summer reading program that includes prizes and a special celebration at the end of the summer. My older son attended a Harry Potter evening in costume and my younger kids met therapy dogs and learned some cooking techniques during two separate events. We’ve attended Olympics activities and Halloween parades. All of these activities were either free or for a nominal activity – one or two dollars.

    I almost always see people using the computers, checking their email, searching for jobs, and whatever else they’re doing that they can’t do at home, either because they don’t have access to the internet or because it isn’t safe to (domestic abuse victims and the homeless).

    There are several daily newspapers and hundreds of magazine subscriptions.

    On my Kindle, I will often have the maximum loan of four library books. I am currently reading Timothy Egan’s The Immortal Irishman. I can hold books and sign up for programs through my Kindle.

    Libraries often have local art exhibits, both from local artists working in several different mediums and school kids showing off their artistic talents from art class in school in all grade levels.

    I’ve attended concerts and lectures, and will be attending a storytelling event on the first of March.

    Last year, one local library had a comic book convention with activities, free items, and displays both to see and/or for sale.

    I remember being a kid growing up in NYC and having the bookmobile come. What a special day that always was.

    Every community needs a library.

    If you don’t believe me, listen to Neil Gaiman; or to librarians.]

    What was your favorite thing to do at your local library?

    What was your favorite book?​