Election Connection: 41 Weeks: Be Informed

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Being informed is not simply about the 2020 election although it is important to keep up to date on news. In order to do that, it is especially imperative to only glean your news from reliable news sources. This graphic should help you with that. Note the key on the right side of the graphic.

MediaBiasChart.com (c)2019-2020

In addition to using this graphic as a tool, Google is your friend. I can’t tell you how many times I correct a cousin or an uncle because what they’ve posted on Facebook is untruthful when the truth is only a Google search away. (It’s practically a full-time job.)

As you know from previous posts, I listen to several podcasts that relate to the news, politics, and current events including the impeachment and the upcoming election (which will have separate posts as needed). It is possible that you have noticed that I am a big fan of the Crooked Media group. I listen to almost all of their podcasts and follow most of the major players on Twitter even when I don’t listen to their particular podcast regularly. Joking aside, they really should put me on their payroll!

Their new one, What A Day is something that I can’t remember how I managed without it. It is about fifteen minutes each weekday morning with what’s going on in our world and some headlines with a really needed dose of humor. I do not start my day without it and highly recommend giving them a try. There is also a read-only update that you can receive nightly by email subscription.

What a Day from Crooked Media. (c)2020

While What a Day is my favorite, two others out there with a similar idea of getting you the news on a daily basis are:

Today, Explained from Vox

What Next from Slate

National Tea Month

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January is National Tea Month. Sometimes it’s nice to get a random reminder of the wonderfulness of tea. After the holiday season, I’m ready to get rid of the sweets and sugar-filled drinks like hot chocolate and eggnog, and even hot apple cider. I’m not a coffee drinker, so tea is my real go-to for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is taste.

It’s getting better, but in the past, I have found it somewhat difficult to find the teas I like to drink. I went through a spate of only drinking chai masala or ginger tea. Unfortunately for me most ginger teas come in lemon flavor or green tea, and I prefer black tea as my base. With this first post, I want to share some of the places you can find teas nationally.

1. The Fresh Market has a wide variety of teas from your basic Lipton to imported from the United Kingdom, India, and China. They have nearly every flavor that you might want to try or add to your repertory of tea selections.

2. Adagio is a mail order tea company that has a fandom section. I’ve enjoyed teas from them in themes of Harry Potter, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and more. They also have the opportunity to blend your own although I haven’t made use of that yet. They also offer reasonably priced sample tins so you can try something new.

3. PGTips is quintessentially British tea. Best taken with milk added first in a hot cup. Find Douglas Adams’s guide for making the perfect cup of tea. It is worth the Google.

4. Twinings has a wide variety. My favorites are the British and Irish breakfast and afternoon teas: English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Scottish afternoon, Prince of Wales, Earl Grey, Lady Grey among others. Afternoon teas tend to have less caffeine so less chance to keep you up at night.

5. Stash is the only place that I was able to get my Ginger Black Breakfast Tea that I originally and randomly found one box of in an overstock store.

Check your local directories for small tea shops or tea blenders and sellers. They are more and more popping up in localities around my neighborhood, and also probably yours as well.

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 – Me, My Self-Care, And I

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This is a limited series from Crooked Media. The link below is to the first episode, which you can listen to on your favorite podcast provider. There are four shows in total.

This series is hosted by Maya Munoz and Diosa Femme. Each week they are joined by a guest that discusses a different aspect of self care. One thing that they brought up is the privilged aspect of self care. For many of us, we feel that we can’t take the needed time for ourselves. Especially as women, we feel selfish taking any time away from our jobs, which include so much more than our salaried job and self care is NOT selfish. It took me a long time to figure that out, and the lesson was worth it. There is also a lack of safe spaces for women of color, and this series addresses that.

In each episode, they repeat an Audre Lord quotation that sums up for them what this series is all about:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Find the first episode here:

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!

Ways to Pray with Prayer Cards

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I’ve mentioned my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath often. After one of his retreats I come away with a renewed sense of peace in myself and my faith as well as a renewed energy to expand my creativity. You often see that depicted on these pages with my photography and artistic attempts, some of which are quite good, and others….well, I tried.

One of his new products is a card set called Prayer Starters. Below the cut, you will be able to click on the picture to be taken to his website to purchase them if you are interested in that. Simply, they are a set of about thirty cards with an easel under the theme of Wise and Holy Women featuring the words of the four women Doctors of the Church, Sts. Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Theresa of Avila, and Therese Lisieux plus Dorothy Day and Sister Thea Bowman combined with Brother Mickey’s beautiful art.

I’ve been using them as a daily devotional although I haven’t swapped out the cards every morning. Sometimes I leave them up for a few days and let them speak to me as long as I can feel it. This usually lasts two days. 

I mention this because two cards ago I came across a quotation from St. Hildegard of Bingen:

“Only when we connect misery to our cravings can we begin to solve our dilemma.”

I did not understand its meaning. I read it again, and then went about my work. Whenever I passed by my dining room table, I read it again, paused a moment, thought to myself, again, that I do not understand this; what does this mean?

Some of you may read it the first time and think, of course, this is not hard, what is she not seeing?

Honestly, I didn’t know.

I began to read it a bit more slowly. I’d sit with it and read it out normally, then a bit slower, and then I’d emphasize the punctuation, adding in my own commas, like you would with a poem, each line paused for absorption. I think I did this for two full days. I still did not get it.

Simple words, but they simply weren’t reaching me.

I don’t know how many days passed, each day I’d read the card at least once, more likely twice. I stared at the card on the easel. I held the card between two fingertips. I read it over and over and over again.

One morning, probably about very nearly a week ago, I read it, each word on my tongue, my inserted comma giving pause, and as I reached the period at the end, my eyes opened wide.

It was there!

Right there the whole time.

And now that I’d seen it, I couldn’t unseen it; I couldn’t not understand the meaning, and the most significant part was how much it related to my life, to my cravings of things and thoughts and symbols and signs. Little things and big things, and there in all of it wasn’t misery but the idea that misery could be brought on with too much of the cravings or the opposite that if I think of the cravings as misery perhaps I’d crave less and therefore be satisfied with less. And maybe that’s not it at all, but that was what it was for me.

Because that’s what has happened in my life. I can feel it and I’m living it in some ways. I am not a pious, ascetic, silence seeker, but I also do not crave everything the way I once did. Not only do I prioritize secular, monetary and time things, but I am also prioritizing my faith in relation to my secular life as well as the items of faith that I want to follow and adopt into my lifestyle. That’s not to suggest a change in doctrine, but in a feeling of where I want my faith to bring me, and for me to bring to others.

Only when we connect misery to our cravings can we begin to solve our dilemma.

Card from Prayer Starters Wise and Holy Women Card Pack, Brother Mickey McGrath, All Rights Reserved. Photo mine. (c)2019

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