Wednesday (with Words)

I’m still limping along with my reading this new year.  The good news is, I found a nice, thick novel to sink my teeth into.  The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman is about love + loss + just how difficult it is to do the right thing.


The memory of a conversation with Frank floated into her awareness. ‘But how?  How can you just get over those things, darling?’ she had asked him.  “You’ve had so much strife in your life but you’re always happy.  How do you do it?’

‘I choose to,’ he said. ‘I can leave myself to rot in the past…or I can forgive and forget.’

‘It’s not that easy.’

He smiled that Frank smile.  ‘Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent, you have to do it all day, everyday.  You have to keep on remembering all the bad things.’

This story is full of hard, dark things.  Yet it’s a story full of light.  It might be just the thing for these last dark days of winter.


Wednesday (with Words)

Last night the children dressed up and brought gifts to the baby in the manger.  The part of Mary was gracefully played by Jane the stuffed rabbit!  Then we celebrated with a Kings Cake using the fancy bundt pan and a yummy recipe for Snickerdoodle Cake!  Now it’s time to start putting away, cleaning up, making room.

taking down the tree

This reading year has started off slowly.  I’m longing for a nice thick novel to read…any suggestions?  I thought I’d share two verses that have caught my imagination of late…especially as I work on the post-Christmas clean up.  The first is from Proverbs 14.4 via Mystie from Simply Convivial:

Without oxen a stable stays clean,

    but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

And then from the prophecy of Zechariah:

In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD;

and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar.


The Year in Books: 2014

This was an amazing reading year.  I couldn’t choose just one favorite book, so here are my favorites in a few different categories.  Maybe you’ll find the perfect book to get the New Year started right!

FictionPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  How is it that I made it into my 40th year without reading P&P?  What I mean of course is how did I miss the Colin Firth movie version?!  But really, I loved this book.  I listened to a Librivox recording every night for a few weeks as I made dinner.  Then I would re-tell the story to the children, finding the best scenes to read out loud.  Excellent!

HomeschoolingThe Living Page by Laurie Bestvater.  I got this book for my birthday, and read it during the summer.  I had no idea how much I would like it.  Bestvater’s prose is evocative and lush.  And she’s writing about a topic close to my heart; I went to the cafe today with 5 different notebooks!

The Urban Bestiary by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.  If you are looking for a way to incorporate more (or better informed!) nature study into your homeschool, then you should definitely check out this book.  Thought not a homeschooling book per se, Lyanda’s easy, conversational manner is as engaging as it is informative.  As with the Jane Austen, I read the book, and then told it back to my children.  We started seeing patterns and animal sign immediately!

Drawing–This has been an expansive year for my drawing and journaling.  First, two best of the year resources that aren’t books at all: Lisa Congdon’s drawing class at Creativebug and Lori Pickart’s Journaling class.  These two classes were game changers for me.  I am excited to read Congdon’s 40 Ways to Draw a Tulip in 2015.  For some strange reason, our library doesn’t own it, so I have to wait to request an interlibrary loan.

In December I finally got the chance to read Syllabus by Lynda Barry.  It’s a book about drawing, but really it’s about teaching and learning.  So engaging + inspiring.  I have pages and pages in my notebooks filled with quotes from this one.  We also spent quite a long time The Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rodes. Again, not a homeschooling book at all, but with plenty of applications especially in relation to keeping notebooks and The Living Page.

Spiritual–But if I had to choose just one book to be my favorite from this last year, I’d choose The Monk’s Alphabet by Jeremy Driscoll. He is a poet and Benedictine monk from Mt. Angel, the monastery we visited in October.  This book is a miscellany, short reflections on a variety of topics organized alphabetically.  The strange way that topics flow into each other is one of the pleasures of the book.   I have read it completely at random, just opening the book and starting to read for a few pages.  But I don’t get far before I find an arresting idea or image.  The poet and the monk are perfectly entwined in Driscoll’s writing.  This small book is not to be missed.

I keep track of my reading all year long at Goodreads.  Here’s a look at all the books from this year!

What books made all the difference in your year?  I’d love to hear + add them to my 2015 list!

Wednesday (with Words)

A few years ago my friend Lyanda Lynn Haupt wrote about her Advent reading.  She mentioned a writer who was new to me–always a treat.  She was reading A Child in Winter by Caryll Houselander.  So I put it on hold, and it came to me from the Benedictines at Mount Angel.  The slim blue book made an impression right away.  This is the third year that I’ve used it at Advent.  It’s still amazing me.  Even though I’ve been sharing often from this book, today’s selection really throws on lights.

Christ never goes away, never forgets, all day long, wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you are doing.  HIs whole heart is concentrated upon you.

He watches you with the eye of a mother watching her only child.  He sees not the surface of things, not the imperfections inevitable to human frailty, but the truly loveable in you, your dependence on him, your need of him.  Does a mother love her child less because it has fallen and bruised itself?  No, indeed; only, if that is possible, more!

What must we do then?

Listen.  Be silent.  Let Christ speak to you.  Forget yourself, do not be self-centered, let him tell you how he loves you, show you what he is like, prove to you that he is real.  Silence in your soul means a gentle attention to Christ, it means turning away from self to him, listening to him.

God speaks silently, God speaks in your heart; if your heart is noisy, chattering, you will not hear.

Every ordinary thing in your life is a word of God’s love:

your home, your work, the clothes you wear, the air you breathe, the food you eat, the friends you delight in, the flowers under your feet are the courtesy of God’s heart flung down on you!  All these things say one thing only: “See how I love you.”

God asks only this one thing, that you will let God tell you this directly, simply; that you will treat God as someone real, not as someone who does not really exist.

–From The Comforting of Christ, 21

Wednesday (with Words)

Advent has come…with a thud.  We’ve had a hard time getting back into the swing of school since the Thanksgiving break.  The kids are distracted, the baby’s into everything, I’m feeling out of sorts.  How can this be?  Advent didn’t sneak up on me; I’ve been preparing for weeks.  I even wrote a book about it!

Keeping Advent

For the past few years, during Advent I’ve read A Child in Winter by Caryll Houselander.  It’s a book of short, quiet reflections that work their way in.  Just a single line can catch my attention and keep me reflecting for a few days.

Our own effort will consist in sifting and sorting out everything that is not essential and that fills up space and silence in us and in discovering what sort of shape this emptiness in us is.  From this we shall learn what sort of purpose God has for us.


There is great virtue in practicing patience in small things until the habit of Advent returns to us.

So, I’m simply doing what I can.  Lighting the candles, singing the songs, reading the books. Waiting for the habit of Advent to return.



GWS :: forty-seven

fire ciderI think that being really smart is the ability to live well–that is in harmony with one’s own needs and the needs of the rest of the world.  Really smart is the ability to solve problems.

I would never tell the school board this, but my goal for my own and my children’s education here at home is to get better and better at solving problems, and at meeting needs.

That is our curriculum here; those are the “basics.”  Math and reading and such are the frills.


–Andrea Kelly-Rosenberg in Growing Without Schooling Issue #45

Find more reading goodness at Wednesday With Words!

Wednesday ( with words)

Earlier this Fall, we had the opportunity to spend a rainy morning at Mount Angel Abbey.  The children were excited to get to see real, live Benedictines!  Joseph wanted to kneel down and kiss every statue that we found tucked into the greenery.  But for me, the highlight was wandering in the aisles of the bookshop.  We came home with one book, and a list of 15 others, among them, The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal.

dec 13 004

The book gathers together ancient Celtic prayers along with brief commentaries by de Waal.  One of the most striking things about the prayers is how absolutely saturated in prayer the lives + work of the people were.  There are prayers for beginning a journey, prayers for churning the butter, even prayers for making the bed:

I make this bed

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,

In the name of the night we were conceived, the night we were born, and the day we were baptized.

Imagine calling to mind the night your child was born each time you smooth the covers on her bed.  Imagine blessing the night your partner was conceived + all the work + love that brought him up.  Imagine doing your daily tasks in the name of God…inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.

Making the bed again provided them with the opportunity to reflect on God’s many blessings….and there are numerous prayers such as this which mark the start of each new day.  They all make it clear that this is a ritual of recovery and rebuilding. –de Waal

In this small way we can participate in God’s ongoing creation of the world.


wednesday (with words)

we’ve had a string of out-of-the-house commitments for the last week.  i prepared + planned, gave the children plenty of downtime in between, got rest myself, and had a wonderful time.  but now the big push is over and it’s only Wednesday!  longest week ever!  the upshot of course is that i get to post here about the wonderful novel i just finished called Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss.

it’s the story of a year that a young man from a ranching family named Bud spent working in Hollywood westerns.  not my usual fare.  i’m not a rancher, don’t really like horses, or care much about Hollywood.  but Molly Gloss creates characters that are rich, thoughtful, and honest.  characters that you love to spend time with, that you can’t wait to get back to.  time itself is almost a character.  it pools and unfurls in unexpected ways.  a single incident grows rich with meaning while years lay quiet and unheeded.

It was a relief to be away from the concrete sidewalks and under the shade of those big old canyon oaks.  And a shock, almost, to hear quiet for the first time in two days.  Once I left the road and hiked down into the gully, there was almost no traffic noise, no rattling streetcars, no buses whining through the gears, no muttered voices through cheap hotel walls, just a lot of bird chatter–California birds, their strange sounds not the ones I recognized–and the understory buzz that crickets and grasshoppers make, and every so often the dry rustle of a snake or a squirrel or a gopher moving off through the brush.  I think that may have been the point at which I realized I’d been taking such things for granted my whole life.

the novel will be published at the end of October.  it will be a wonderful way to spend an Autumn evening or two or three.

Wednesday (with words)

one of the gifts i received for my birthday this year was a copy of Laurie Bestvater’s book The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason.  reviews that i had read made me interested in the book, but i was afraid there wouldn’t be any new ground covered.  i was wrong!  Bestvater’s elliptical, reflective, associative style drew me in immediately.  i choose to read the book straight through–without copying down or even marking quotes.  i wanted to just take it all in the first time.  i am only now beginning to re-read and have only made through the preface!  Bestvater (and Mason behind her) put names to ideas that have been percolating in me.  i’ve been seeing shadows and hints of Mason’s glorious large room.  listen:

Mason had shown me that the notebooks can be forms of vitality, literally the shape and outline, the liturgy of the attentive life.

They nurture the science of relations and the art of mindfulness.

They teach us to see the very brief beauty of now, to know the landscape of here, to be present in all our pleasures and pains.

Through them we, haltingly dwell in a world of ideas and connections with an ever-higher opinion of God and his works and as truer students of Divinity.

–from the Preface, xv.

more goodness can be found over at Dawn’s place


Wednesday (with words)

aug 12 092

a little poetry as the seasons shift…Robert Hass from “The Beginning of September.”


Here are some things to pray to in San Francisco: the bay, the mountain, the goddess of the city; remembering, forgetting, sudden pleasure, loss; sunrise and sunset; salt; the tutelary gods of Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Basque, French, Italian, and Mexican cooking; the solitude of coffeehouse and museums; the virgin, the mother, and widow moons; hilliness, vistas; John McLaren; Saint Francis; the Mother of Sorrows; the rhythm of any life still whole through three generations; wine, especially zinfandel because from that Hungarian wine-slip came first a native wne not resinous and sugar-heavy; the sourdough mother, true yeast and beginning; all fish and fisherman at the turning of the tide; the turning of the tide; eelgrass, oldest inhabitant; fog; seagulls; Joseph Worcester; plum blossoms; warm days in January.

you can read more of this long and lovely poem at the Library of Congress…though the line breaks of this prose poem are all messed up.  if you can get your hands on the slim volume called simply Praise, it would be worth your time.

more good things to read at ladydusk.