Archive | January 2017

Pause and do a Twirl

img_2579

Recently I was doing school lessons with my little niece while visiting with my sister-in-law and the kidlets. Reading lesson was over, and Fairy-godchild lifted up her catechism book onto my lap before flitting from light-switch to lamp to other light-switch, “getting some light in this place!” As she whisked up onto the couch to turn on the final lamp, she semi-reached, then had a split-second of thought before delightedly spinning a twirl with a dainty bounce. She then turned on the lamp, scrambled over to my side on the other couch, and sat down and to have her catechism lesson.

Being her “Fairy god-auntie-mother”, I naturally watch her every move without her being aware, and smiled as I watched her flitting about with a purpose to bring better light to read by. But when she paused mid-action to twirl and smile brilliantly to herself, I was struck by how right she was in pausing amid her necessary task to enjoy a twirl of gaiety before continuing her school work.

It never fails to amaze me how such simple lessons can be taught to us by innocent children. We all need to take a pause during the busy day and do a twirl of our own – stop and watch the sun set, take a deep breath and listen to the morning birds sing (yes, I’ve already heard morning song birds twice in the past week! Early spring? I hope so!), jump over a puddle, sprint down the sidewalk in a race with a friend while you’re out for a walk, or just do a little twirl as you’re cooking in the kitchen. It’s important to stop and remember to enjoy life, instead of being caught up in the hurried bustle of everyday without breaking to appreciate the simple and beautiful things life holds.

 

 

 

 

2017 book 2 complete: Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott

rose-in-bloom-cover

Much like it’s prequel, ‘Rose in Bloom’ is delightful and heart-warming. It is filled with good and true ideals, presenting a delicious view of life through a crystal clear lens which allows the beauty of things both large and small to be fully absorbed.

Rose returns from two years abroad with Uncle Alec & Pheobe (her best friend & former kitchen maid) to find her seven boy cousins quite grown up, or at least altered in their current climb to manhood. Being an heiress, she is tried by having lines of suitors, all whom she rejects due to their lack of integrity; people she thought were friends, who prove not to be; and a particular cousin whom she loves dearly, insists on wooing her despite her openness in being averse to his wayward behaviour.

Rose has chosen philanthropy as her “profession”, since she has money at her disposal and need not work for it. She tackles many projects including settling up low-rent homes for women in need, and an orphanage. She does good by her fellow man, receiving little to no credit or gratitude but for that from her Uncle Alec, yet musters on with the satisfaction and contentment of knowing she is loving and caring for others as best she can. This care still includes that of great-aunt Plenty, Uncle Alec, and eventually Rose adopts a toddler orphan girl whose mother was promised her daughter would be cared for. She goes about doing all she can for those she loves, including sacrifices to encourage the “Prince” to drop his prominent vice and become the man she believes him capable of being.

Mac, the “bookworm”, continues to be a considerable character along with “Prince” Charlie in this sequel. Charlie is dear to her due to his charm and unfailing ability to seek back her favour whenever it goes amiss due to his actions, just as he did as a boy. Mac is admired due to his trustworthiness, uncanny, blunt and philosophical nature, which continues to marvel Rose as she urges him to round his character somewhat by putting his books down on the occasional evening and go into society, learn to dance, etc. As his cousins around him fall in love, Mac takes interest in studying the subject and sets out to “keep good company, read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as [he] can.”

Tragedy strikes, young lovers persevere through obstacles, each cousin growing and learning along their various paths. I won’t give away the ending, for you should read it yourself and take in the various virtues and qualities Alcott promotes in her writings.

2017 Book 1 complete: Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott

 

eight-cousinsAnd 2017 book reading begins with the completion of Louisa May Alcott’s “Eight Cousins” (or, “The Aunt Hill”).

Although I have read this book before, years ago, I was thrilled to finally purchase a copy of it and read it again! It is such a merry tale of an orphan girl, Rose, and her newly found seven boy cousins. They all live with their various mothers on the same “aunt” hill, save for Rose who lives with great-aunt Peace & Plenty ,and Uncle Alec. Full of escapades, sweet moments of tender affection, children’s imaginative worlds, it’s all wonderfully developed with distinctive and endearing characters. But it isn’t all children’s antics, for Rose’s guardian, romantic-sensible-doctor-bachelor Uncle Alec, is decidedly going to do right by her and struggles to find the balance in raising her to be healthy, active, capable, sensible, feminine, loving, nurturing, and a positive influence in her seven boy cousins’ maturing and growing into men. In a shot, raising her to be the definition of “woman” which all of us gals should strive for.

All the boys have such endearing personalities, expressed perfectly in their nicknames they call each other by. There is Archie the “Chief”; Charlie the “Prince”; Mac the “Bookworm”; Steve the “Dandy”; twins Will & Geordie the “Brats”; and Jamie the “Baby”. Uncle Alec has sensible advice all the time, and the aunts each have their own particular characters as well.

One characteristic I notice about Alcott’s writing style, is she has the odd paragraph that becomes a bit of an exhortation in persuasion of a particular thing. She sometimes uses a character to get her point across, such as Uncle Alec’s housekeeping comments in my previous post. But it is also sometimes her own voice/the narrator whose opening paragraph of a chapter may state a particular opinion or a pondering on the subject or theme to be read about. I quite like it – I agree with most everything she writes about virtues, character, life in general. (“Little Women” is a wonderful read along these same lines!)

I’m an Alcott fan, and Eight Cousins is a great read for children and adults alike.

Nota Bene: I am (once again) enjoying the sequel to this book, more to come once I’ve finished reading it!

The art of Housekeeping

“Well now, there is one very excellent, necessary, and womanly accomplishment that no girl should be without, for it is a help to rich and poor, and the comfort of families depends upon it. This fine talent is neglected nowadays, and considered old-fashioned, which is a sad mistake, and one that I don’t mean to make in bringing up my girl. It should be a part of every girl’s education, and I know of a most accomplished lady who will teach you in the best and pleasantest manner.” 

“Oh, what is it?” cried Rose eagerly, charged to be met in this helpful and cordial way. 

“Housekeeping!” answered Dr. Alec. 

“Is that an accomplishment?” asked Rose, while her face fell, for she had indulged in all sorts of vague, delightful dreams. 

“Yes; it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts a woman can learn. Not so romantic, perhaps, as singing, painting, writing, or teaching, even; but one that makes many happy and comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world. Yes, you may open your big eyes; but it is a fact that I had rather see you a good house-keeper than the greatest belle in the city. It need not interfere with any talent you may possess, but it is a necessary part of your training, and I hope that you will set about it at once, now that you are well and strong.

– excerpt from “Eight Cousins”, by Louisa May Alcott

Currently re-reading this novel, Uncle Alec’s house-keeping ideals couldn’t be more true, or better said.

All through the centuries, keeping house was a recognized position. A woman’s worth was not measured by her income, it was measured by her accomplishments and temperament. The upper class had time to spend on finer accomplishments – languages, painting, drawing, needlework, etc. The lower class focused on practical accomplishments – sewing, cooking, house work, etc. One was encouraged to also be an attractive personality, and grow in virtues of charity, patience, understanding, courage, perseverance, etc. But for both upper and lower class, was the art of house-keeping. Whether you were married to the blacksmith, or married to the Squire, you had a job to do in keeping house.

I remember my mom once saying on the phone, when asked her profession, that she was a “domestic engineer”. This answer was readily accepted, no further questions asked. But would the same response have been given if she had answered with “stay-at-home mom” ? Perhaps it’s the connotation that comes with the phrase “stay-at-home”, which I suppose could sound like a leisurely past time you choose instead of going out to an evening party. “Domestic engineer” does sound more like a pointed purposeful position.

Position titles aside, both come with the necessity of keeping-house, which is a far more complex endeavour then given credit for. A home should be the sanctuary of a family, a safe haven, where all the cares and worries of the world are wiped off your feet on the front door matt, and you are free to be loved, encouraged, and cherished openly and without reservation. With this care and attention come daily necessities, such as food, cleanliness, warmth, beauty in things surrounding you, etc. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, comfortable and nice things, may sound rather trite and odious to some, but there is so much more skill needed in doing these things then is realized. If these tasks aren’t done with love and care, they don’t mean half as much. Anyone can prepare food if necessary, particularly when Costco’s frozen food section is filled with such a vast variety. But real cooking takes time, energy, and a certain devotion in learning how to do things. Anyone can pull out a swiffer mop, dust, vacuum and call it clean. But cleanliness isn’t in the larger things, it’s in the details; grout groves, door jams, polished glass – strong arms and determination. Housekeeping – the key ingredient to a home – is so looked down on now, is it any wonder houses are no longer “homes”, homes no longer the centre, families no longer the root of an individual, and the world is so full of people who don’t understand true love.

If proper care and attention went into teaching girls the purpose and beauty of making a home, there would be happier and more fruitful homes and families. Housekeeping isn’t to be scoffed at, or seen as inferior, or for those incapable or undesiring of a “real profession”. On the contrary, it takes a truly conscious effort and willpower, backed by love, to effectually complete the task of housekeeper. And a housekeeper  is rewarded with the best of all – the satisfaction of knowing and seeing you’ve made others happy and content.

 

 

eed65a6b59bde107b07692fda2ffcde9

true that

 

 

 

Movie Review: La La Land

la_la_land_ver3

 

*WARNING: Spoiler Alert!* 

      Over all, a cute movie! It was original and had a fun classic movie era flavour to it. There were no graphic scenes against the 6th & 9th, which was impressive and appreciated in such a modern film. The musical numbers were fun, tapping was light, and costumes were colourful.

Ryan Gosling was, of course, endearing and attractive as Sebastian, the down-and-under jazz pianist. I quite liked his character, actually. At the beginning we’re introduced further to his character  in his still-packed-in-boxes apartment. His sister is ragging on him to unpack and grow up but he says he’ll unpack when he has his own jazz place. That’s his dream – to own his own jazz club. He is strong willed and holding onto his dream.

Emma Stone was also good, as usual. Though I liked her character somewhat less then Ryan Gosling’s. Mia is an aspiring actress working as a barista, while she does audition after audition hoping for her big break.

Sebastian and Mia chance meet a few times and the sparks fly. On the third time they finally chat, do a cute dance number, and after he seeks her out at her coffee shop the next day, they end up on a lovely next few months – both working towards their respective dreams, and falling more in love with one another.

I really liked that they are each the reason the other person achieves their goal. Sebastian  encourages Mia to write her play and shoot for her dreams, despite all the failed auditions. He nigh-on forces her to go to an audition that comes about because of that same failed play, which ends up being her big break. Mia encourages Sebastian to take a pianist job with a band he doesn’t like, and isn’t passionate about their music, because it is a steady income and he can eventually open his own establishment with that income. Both characters would have missed their shot, if not for the other character.

I really did like the movie, until we got to the end.

After Mia gets her big break, she has to go to Paris to film. She asks Sebastian where they are at, what will happen? He says she needs to chase her dream, and they’ll see what happens as they both continue life. There’s unspoken love connection going on in this scene, and it’s really sweet. Mia tells him that she “thinks she will always love him”, and Sebastian responds in kind. It’s sweet, but sad, and I sensed the foreshadowing.

Cut to five years later, and Mia is a successful actress, married to some guy, living in a big house, with a little girl. Sebastian owns his own jazz club. Mia and her husband stumble into his club one night, and as Sebastian is introducing the band, they lock eyes. He sits at the piano and plays their “song”, then the whole movie flashes back to the past and goes through the way events would have happened if a few decisions had been made differently. Sebastian doesn’t take the job with the band and go on tour, Mia takes the acting job and they both go to Paris, then they are married and have a little boy and they stumble into the same jazz club except that Sebastian doesn’t own it. When it comes full circle and back to real life, Sebastian and Mia lock eyes again, they smile at each other, and each go their own way.

Interesting ending to such a movie. We were all expecting a sweet fairytale romance ending, but nope. I pondered this ending on my drive home, and have a few ways of reading it.

My immediate reaction was to dislike it, because it was too real for the movie. The entire movie was flirty, fun, and full of dreams. Why end it on such a hard, real note? I also didn’t like how Mia seemingly got all she wanted – fame, money, husband, family, etc. While Sebastian did get his jazz club, but no love. He was still in love with her, and she with him, but she also had another love to fill the void. His was a heart that felt deeper, that was part of his character through the movie. His passion as he played was inspiring, and he would get worked up over situations and conversations that meant something to him. He was full of life and passion. She was ready to quit her dream because she was tired of being let-down. She wasn’t willing to persevere until he coaxed her to it. For him to end on a low-note in love was sad. Especially since he had to watch his love walk away holding the hand of another man. The reality of the situation was a bit too much after such a fairytale-esque story.

On the other side of the coin, she seems to have all she wants, but does she? She gave up true love for her dream. She has everything else she wanted, but was it worth it? Sebastian could have become her new dream. (Side note: That’s another thing that bothers me – in movies it always seems to be the man who has to give up his dream for the girl. In the flashback “what if” sequence, it’s Sebastian who gives up his dream, in the end Mia is still famous and rich, while he doesn’t have his jazz club. Heaven forbid a “strong independent woman” should let go of her dream and find a new one with the man she loves.) But she didn’t let herself love him enough to make him her new dream. She held on to the actress dream of riches and fame.

Sebastian also encouraged Mia to write her plays, because he saw that’s what she was truly passionate about. Her play writing ends up leading to her “big break”, but it’s like she doesn’t allow her true passion to unfold because she’s caught up in acting instead of writing – she’s caught up in what she thinks should be her passion, instead of what truly is her passion. If that’s the case, then a poetic ending for her. She’s now stuck in a life of what she thinks should be hear dream, instead of what really was her dream – Sebastian. And he, having followed his dream, is now happy in a life of his dream, save one thing – Mia. And now they both suffer the consequences of her blindness, selfishness and stupidity.

It was sad to see Sebastian alone at the end. He loved this girl so much, still does (which is apparent when we see he’s named his club after her suggestion instead of the name he was so stuck on in an earlier scene of the movie). He did everything he could to help her, did for himself what he thought she wanted him to do. Then she up and leaves the country, leaves him, leaves love. Only to see her again in the arms of another man, while he still loves her. Wait, is this a dig into “nice guys finish last” ? Maybe. But it’s crap. If he was truly with the right girl, they wouldn’t have lost touch when she left, and they’d be together instead of having a room between them. Same with this “nice guys finish last” crap – guys, if you’re with the right girl, you won’t finish last.

The “what if” sequence at the end was interesting because it showed how one or two decisions affected the entire outcome of the characters lives. Had they made one or two different choices, their lives would have been very different, still including one another and the love they shared. I guess life can be like that – the decisions we make do affect the way our lives turn out. There are consequences to our actions, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse. At least we don’t have real musical numbers running across the television screen when we’re in la la land, letting us know exactly how life would have turned out if…

Or maybe both characters really are happy in the end. Sometimes people come into our lives just as a stepping stone. Perhaps they weren’t meant to stay there, only help you achieve something that needed achieving, learn a lesson you needed to learn, or perhaps instead they needed you in their lives at that time.

When the music has died and the lights are out, maybe a smile across the room is the best you can share now, having gone through what was needed to go through, accepting that you chose another path, or that your paths were always meant to fork away eventually.

‘Heartfelt sincerity and candor’ in Speech

“I would truly like our words always to be suited as closely as possible to what we feel, so that in all things and through all things we may maintain heartfelt sincerity and candor.”

– St. Francis de Sales, on deeper interior humility

Why go through life trying to get a meaning across without wanting to come right out and say it? Why confuse others because of not being straightforward, open and honest? Why play guessing games and cause miscommunications, rifts between friendships and confusion? It is all a lot of added mental exhaustion and emotional frustrations – not to mention this more often then not this leads us into false humility, as I was reading in Francis de Sales the other day.

Perhaps it’s my personality that finds it easier to be straightforward then to beat around the bush or simply ignore an issue, but I detest any sort of passive aggression. What I’ve often found, when passive aggression is called out on the carpet, said PA Person is forced to truly vocalize their feelings and sort out their emotional irritation. This often makes one realize it’s not as big a deal as one may have made it out to be in ones head. When we have to vocalize something, it somehow makes any petty or selfish behaviour seem just that – petty and selfish. We are able to more quickly move past it, forgive another person for the injury we felt done towards us.

St. Francis de Sales also speaks about false humility. When we don’t speak according to how we feel or think, when we say things to have others think what we wish them to think, instead of giving them the respect they deserve and allowing them to know just what it is that we feel about a particular situation or event, we are being falsely humble. (Excepting the times we know we can swallow something without bringing it to anyones attention, and it won’t later cause a problem). If one falls into being hurt or offended by the doings or sayings of another friend, instead of perhaps getting over a feeling of hurt (making excuses for your friends behaviour, and acknowledging that they probably did not intentionally offend you), one “attempts” to hide the hurt. But in fact, one says they are not offended, while clearly showing signs of hurt in behaviour. One says there is no need for an apology, while intentionally avoiding the friend “at fault” – very often all under the guise of “humility”. This is NOT humility, it is False Humility. By saying there is no need to apologize, you are drawing more attention to your hurt self. By avoiding the friend out of either hurt or anger, you are keeping healing, charity, and love, from taking hold of you.

St. Francis would not have been referring to “feelings” in the emotionally selfish way, he would have been speaking simply of every day living and inter-personal communications. To say what we feel or what we mean is necessary to our charity towards others, our happiness, and ultimately our salvation. Of course charity in speech is a given, and there are of course things we need not vocalize. But in everyday speech, his encouragement of being candid and sincere is of utmost importance to charity, the salvation of our souls, and others souls in that our speech and actions affect them.

 

 

A year in review, and a New Year

Happy New Year, and Happy Feast of the Holy Family (ok so I’m a day late), readers!

I tend to always think nothing of significance happens in the span of a year, as they come one after another and time goes by with working and being single. But 2016 was a fairly full year, reflecting back. Achieving my aquatic fitness certification, specializing in pre & post natal fitness. Travel plans to Europe being put to snuff, taking an entirely different direction into exciting adventures in New York City (thanks to a pal over there). Meeting my priest (my FSSP parish does a “Spiritual Motherhood” in which each woman randomly chooses an FSSP priest to pray for daily). I met my priest, after a few years of praying for him daily, which was a wonderful experience to be treasured. Camping. Friendships changed and friendships forged. Wasted time binge-watching and new novels read. A new vehicle dubbed “Percy” to replace the old “Cassius”.  Re-finishing furniture projects. Creative coaster making and Christmas craft fair tables. The beginning of “Kindred Readers” book club. Bible study group. Our dog Loki. General love growth in my family.

My spiritual new year usually begins with the Church, and I begin resolutions with Advent. This began a few years ago when, the day before First Sunday of Advent, I decided to get off Facebook. I attest my current disdain of Facebook directly with the fact that I linked it to my spiritual well-being and the new year that comes with Advent. It gave me something (or rather, someone) higher to give my resolution to – to Our Lord.

I don’t find the material New Year sets the same vigour as the Spiritual New Year in any of my resolutions. But 2017 brings a new year, and I do have more material resolutions I have put to myself because I realize so many things happen in a year, without even realizing it. Therefore, goals can be set and achieved. These goals, in particular:

  1. Write/keep track of every novel I read this year. Putting pen to paper during or after every book I read is time consuming and I haven’t always found time for it. But this year I will make time.
  2. Write more faithfully in my journal, as I’ve lacked the past few months.
  3. No binge-watching. Netflix can be as mind-numbing as Facebook, when allowed to be.
  4. Attend more social events. Friday nights are sometimes so hard to be social on, after a long work week – and I’m a social, adventurous extrovert! (Introverts, you have my sympathies on this, truly). Mind over exhaustion and be social before becoming squirrely.
  5. Hike more in hiking season. Put other things aside and go out in nature, because that’s where I am happiest.
  6. Go shooting more. Work on aim and precision.
  7. Travel somewhere I want to go to.

Those are my material goals for the new year. At the end of the year, I plan on being able to truthfully acknowledge my success.