Friday Faves: Just a Short Update

Jow are you guys doing out there? You staying sane in the midst of our collective national push to practice social distancing? I thought I’d take a minute to talk about what life is looking like for us during this season.

Where we live, large swaths of the state are under some kind of stay at home order. Some are more strict than others, but most everyone has guidelines to adhere to. Because of that, we’re -obviously- spending a lot more time at home. We still get out for walks, jogs and the occasional bike rides, and we buy groceries like milk and eggs as needed (we’re pretty well stocked on the non-perishables). Other than that, we’re not getting out much, although a few of us are in jobs considered “essential” for various reasons. So there are family members heading out and returning home each day. We’ve maintained our health and our sanity, for which we are quite grateful. So what are we doing with all this extra time? By way of home projects (since thankfully home improvement and gardening places are still open):

  • Building new garden beds, and doing other backyard projects.
  • Cleaning out the garage (on the to-do list for the next week)
  • Clearing out the file cabinet (a hellish job if ever there was one!)
  • Reorganizing cabinets and bureaus.

On the literary and education front:

  • We’re already technically homeschoolers, despite the fact that most of our kids’ academic courses are supported by outside class time. So our kids have been doing several classes online using Zoom meeting platforms as I continue my usual role as supporter and facilitator.
  • I’m reading a lot when we’re not working on home stuff. Currently reading A.W. Tozer, a writer who requires a fair amount of prayerful concentration. I’ve spent the last 36 hours -when I can manage a private moment- trying to discern what it is I really believe about God; deep down in my soul, and not just from all the Bible verses I’ve memorized.
  • Cooking and baking, of the paleo variety. Except I need to remember that cookies made with almond flour and sweetened with coconut sugar aren’t magically calorie-free!  The flour was wiped out at my local grocer (I wasn’t looking for it I just noticed), and I’ve since learned that women are getting into baking bread and stuff since they’re stuck at home. That, in my opinion, is very cool.
  • Working on my side hustle. You might remember that I acquired a certification last year from my Local U. I figured since I’ve been forced off my normal suburban mom rate race treadmill, I may as well put the time into drumming up some coin out of it. Requires a fair amount of -again- ability to concentrate, so I’m not making much headway there.
  • Sewing. My daughter and  I are gearing up to make skirts. I’m not the greatest seamstress, but I really want to fit this into the time that is available to us right now.
  • And lastly, writing. That’s all I say about that because it is very slow going right now.

This list is composed partially of works in progress and partly ambitions of things I hope to do over the next two weeks.

The theme of this season for me, right now, is learning to be content, and preparing for the possibility of a very different world when this is done. The possibility that our lives will change materially, culturally, and politically is a possibility we would all do well to prepare for. so that’s what I am doing in addition to striving to be productive during this time, since productivity, along with prayer, also staves off panic and worry. Panic and worry help no one.

So…what’s life looking like for you guys?

Friday Faves Potpourri: Pandemic Edition

In this age of Cornonavirus overload, I will resist the urge to pile on to the millions of discussions about preparation for the pandemic. This Friday, in the absence of a planned set of favorite things, I’m going to list a few thoughts I have entertained over the past week. Feel free to add your own in the comments:

  • A virtual friend of mine pointed this out, but it’s funny, and I think she’s right. Y’all know there are far worse things than toilet paper to run out of, right? The toilet paper aisles are empty, but numerous varieties of bread are on the shelves of my local grocery store. What good is it really going to do anyone, if it comes to that, to starve surrounded by bulk packages of toilet paper?
  • I picked up Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague, from my local library.  I have been reading it in the evenings for the past couple of days (after reading from my Lenten reading list in the mornings). The Plague is a really good book. I was struck by how similar the post-modern USA is to the description of the Algerian city Camus uses as the setting for his novel published in 1947. It reminded me that while modernity is fluid and unstable, its underlying characteristics are recognizable across generations.
  • Whatever my negative thoughts about American politics in general and the Democrat party, in particular, I have marveled yet again at how they exercise the discipline they do in their ranks. In one night, they managed to completely change and control the trajectory of their primary race. Because I don’t generate enough traffic to warrant fear of being politically incorrect, I’m going to say what isn’t being said: trading out the old socialist for an equally old establishment guy who is showing signs of dementia means their choice of a VP candidate is probably more important than any VP pick in recent memory.
  • On a happier, lighter note, we recently went on a tour of the historic city of St. Augustine with some fellow homeschooling travelers. St. Augustine is a touristy town,  being the oldest European settlement in the United States. However, it’s touristy without being overly crowded, which is nice. Touring the historic buildings commissioned and financed by the ridiculously, obscenely rich Henry Flagler induce contrasting feelings of awe at the beauty and craftsmanship combined with “oh my gosh who needs this much money?”

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    What looks like gold in this rotunda? It is ACTUALLY gold!

  • The Gilded Age, which is what Mark Twain billed the period in which Flagler and other wealthy industrialists reshaped America, is an apt name for the period. It reminds us that the blatant materialism that we lament today is nothing new.  I am also reminded that most of us are probably more materialistic than we think or are willing to recognize.
  • We noted that whatever one might think of the gilded age, at the very least, they built things with a level of craftsmanship and beauty that are still worth admiring 150 years later. Can any of us imagine anyone building anything today that people will care to tour and admire 150 years from now? I know I can’t.

Happy Friday! Stay healthy and safe!

Friday Faves: Miami Arts District

My beloved and I recently whisked away to Miami to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful, picture-perfect weekend with sunny skies, temps in the mid-70s, and postcard-worthy beach views. One of my favorite parts of the trip, however, was our walk through the Wynwood Arts District. So this Friday, I thought I’d share some of the spectacular murals on display at the Wynwood Walls.

This first one made me smile as soon as I lay eyes on it. It is so happy and cheerful:

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You can get a feel for the scale of this one by noting that I am 5’9″ standing in front of it:

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This one isn’t quite as big, but something about the paint dripping upwards really grabbed me:

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This one, which you can see is at the top of a taller building, is really spectacular:

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This woman spanning the width of the wall was pretty cool:

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Last but not least is another mural featuring yours truly for scale. The wind took over my hair, but I really liked this mural too:

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My husband has something of an artistic gift, which I do not share, but I have acquired his love of creativity and design. Gifted artists remind us that we are the Imago Dei of the Great Creator.

What are some of your favorite artworks or mediums? Feel free to share! Have a glorious weekend.

 

 

Friday Fave: Quotable Literary Quote

It occurred to me quite recently, after my post in memory of Roger Scruton, that while I have watched his documentary on beauty a couple of times, and read many of his online essays, I’d never actually taken the time to read one of his books. I took some time this week to do so. A review of Culture Counts is forthcoming at my earliest convenience, but for now, I thought this quote was profoundly true:

It is sometimes said that we now live in a “knowledge economy,” and that “information technology” has vastly increased the extent and accessibility of human knowledge. Both claims are false. “Information technology” simply means the use of digital algorithms in the transference of messages. The “information” that is processed is not information about anything, nor does it have its equivalent in knowledge. It treats truth and falsehood, reality and fantasy, as equivalent, and has no means to assess the difference. Indeed, as the Internet reveals, information technology is far more effective in propagating ignorance than in advancing science. For, in the conquest of cyberspace, ignorance has a flying start, being adapted to the habits of idle minds.

There’s a lot to be said about this (and I hope you’ll share your thoughts!), but the biggest takeaway for me is that we have erred greatly by conflating information and knowledge as if they are synonymous. We are much poorer for it, in my opinion.

 

Friday Faves: Chucktown, SC

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The view we enjoyed during our stay.

We recently had occasion to spend a great week exploring the charming and historic Southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a city with subtropical weather (not unlike Southern Florida), surrounded by water, with scenic views in every direction. For my Friday Faves, I thought a brief recap of my favorite stops would be a fun thing to do.

  • Kiawah Island: The combination of the weather (after the first two days of rain), views, and general beauty of the place made it a place I’d love to stay again soon.
  • The City Market: The array of vendors selling everything from local specialty foods to the work of local artists was a feast for the senses. I really enjoyed touring and shopping there
  • Low Country Cuisine: You can’t really go to a food region like this one and not enjoy the local seafood, especially a plate of shrimp and grits.
  • The Sound of Charleston: This musical history of the city featuring beautifully performed music from plantation fields, confederate battlegrounds, and Gershwin’s South Carolina inspired opera Porgy and Bess, which contains the well-known song, Summertime.
  • The unquestioned highlight of our short excursion northward was getting to meet a friend I first began communication online with 8-10 years ago. She is every bit as delightful in person and I look forward to getting together again with her much sooner than a decade from now!

Next week, I’m thinking of listing a few of my guilty pleasures. We’ll see…

Y’all have a great weekend!

Friday Faves: Looking Backwards and Forwards

Happy New Year, y’all!

Since this is the first Friday of 2020, I decided to do a quick review of what was and preview of what I hope to see as the calendar has flipped. I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but swimming in the sea of new beginnings such as we all are, it’s impossible not to get splashed. Once splashed, it’s impossible to ignore the drops of water on my skirt, and so my mind was drawn into thoughts of things that have gone, and things to come. First up, a look back:

I reviewed 30 books on the blog this year. However, I also read several books that I didn’t review for various reasons. Some of those are:

  • Marriage for Moderns: I’m still sifting through this old textbook from the 1940s written by Dr. Henry Bowman. It’s not readily available, which is one of the reasons I’m not planning to review it. A quick perusal of the two reviews it garnered on Amazon offers a snapshot of how Bowman’s ideas play in 2020. I don’t find it nearly as objectionable as those reviewers. Perhaps I’ll review it this year, but probably not.
  • The Hormone Reset Diet by Dr. Sarah Gottfried: I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t have any qualms about acknowledging it.  I refuse to jump on the cultural bandwagon which asserts that continuing to live is somehow offensive or something to apologize for. The reason I didn’t review the book is that it’s niche-y, and I don’t suppose everyone is interested in the tweaks I have to make along the way to maintain optimal health, which I am grateful to enjoy, but it costs.
  • Julius Caesar: I read this in conjunction with some exquisite and delightful literary homeschool mothers over the summer. It was fun, but it’s a story everyone knows and most people have read, only if in high school, so I didn’t bother to review it.
  • The Father Brown Mysteries, by G.K. Chesterton. I love these stories, and I may pick a few to highlight some time during the first quarter of 2020, but I read them sporadically for my personal enjoyment in 2019, and never got around to offering reviews.

There are times when I want to read unimpeded, and writing reviews I’ll be satisfied with requires a level of distraction that necessarily precludes my ability to do that. Which is why I decide not to review certain books.

Here are my favorite books reviewed here at Reading in Between the Life, by category:

  • Fiction: A Girl of the Liberlost. This is a beautiful, poignant story with a satisfying conclusion. It’s a middle-grade book but appeals to all ages.
  • Nonfiction: There’s a three-way tie for this one. That sounds like a lot until you consider that most of the books I read and review here are nonfiction. My three favorite nonfiction books of the year are Beauty Destroys the Beast, The Black Girl’s Guide to Being Blissfully Feminine, and Digital Minimalism. They each encouraged me in different but profound ways. Amy Fleming touches on things that Christian women need to think about, Candace Adewole taps into truths only black women can fully appreciate, and Cal Newport is a postmodern prophet crying out in the digital wilderness.
  • Christian: How to be Unlucky, by Joshua Gibbs. In reality, Beauty Destroys the Beast is also a Christian book so it could go here as well. Unlucky is more metaphysical, which is what I was originally thinking of as I considered this category.

Looking ahead to 2020, and addressing that New Year’s splash I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there are a few endeavors I’m looking forward to dipping my toe into. There are also other things I began last year but would like to dive deeper into as the year unfolds.

  • I need to write more, and by more, I mean more than just here and in my prayer journal. I often feel as if my vision of being published is slipping away. This could mean that my dream is not on the path God has for me, but it also could mean that I haven’t applied myself to the task as much as I should.
  • Improve my copyediting skills and build a resume. I went back to school. I put in the work. I got the piece of paper. The only thing left is to take advantage of it, which I didn’t work at in 2019.
  • Learn to sew the perfect skirt. I’m not a seamstress, and I don’t have any real desire to be one, but I love a great skirt, at just the right length, with usable pockets, in colors that flatter my caramel skin tone. Every now and again I run across one and if the price is right, I grab it. But as a 5’9″ pronounced hourglass, it’s in my interest, if I can manage it, to learn to make my own. So I’m going for it.
  • Lose weight. Spiritual weight, that is. I’m always working on strengthening my physical temple, but this year my focus is on Hebrews 12:1b let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

As far as reading and what you can expect around here? More great (and sometimes not so great) books, and more reviews so you’ll know which is which. We’ll have more discussions about education, language, and all of it interspersed with occasional snippets from my crazy, busy, blissfully mundane life.

Happy 2020!

Friday Faves: Reasons to Study Shakespeare

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This is a busy week. Our children are performing in a Shakespeare production, we’re all stretched thin, and my mind is on Shakespearean things. Or at least on the reasons why Shakespeare is valuable, since we’re all working 10 hour days on limited sleep. I thought we’d discuss the things to be gained from studying the ancient works of Shakespeare in this postmodern year of Our Lord, 2019.

~ That you may ruminate: If there is one thing Shakespeare provides, it’s the opportunity to consider the complexities of human nature and conduct. There really is, to quote King Solomon, nothing new under the sun, and it’s usually a straight line between someone we know, perhaps ourselves, and a Shakespearean character’s foibles.

~ One man in his time plays many parts: Is there a better description of the many ages and stages of a single life? In a world of two-dimensional characters and one-dimensional depictions of a good life, Shakespeare offers a rich and full examination of the stages of life as well as their advantages and drawbacks.

~ I have no other reason but a woman’s reason: I actually do have a reason, but I like this quote from The Two Gentlemen of Verona because it illuminates my next point. Shakespeare is politically incorrect and brutally honest. On most subjects, perhaps because he was a man of his time, Shakespeare unapologetically expresses things as they are, not the way we wish a mysterious alternate reality fairy might make them.

~ They have been at a great feast of languages and stol’n the scraps“: So much of our modern language, its idioms, and axioms, are borne of ideas first penned by William Shakespeare. From “break the ice” to “love is blind” and “as good luck would have it”, our modern language is peppered with mainstays we borrowed from Shakespeare’s 16th Century writings. In our flash-in-the-pan culture, I’d say that’s pretty amazing. Only the Bible has had as much or more impact on our use of language. And oh yes, I’m aware that the quote that I used here is not quite in context. I couldn’t think of one more fitting and so…I turned it into scraps.

~Mine eyes smell onions: Lastly, Shakespeare is funny, if you can get the joke. This very obvious quip is from All’s Well that End’s Well when the duke excuses his emotional reaction to a touching scene by complaining that his eyes smell onions. A lot of Shakespeare’s humor is what as known as “blue comedy”,  but even those jokes are insightful and tinged with truths about human nature.

Those are five of my favorite reasons why it’s worth the time and intellectual investment required to read some of the works of William Shakespeare.

Feel free to add your own observations to the list, and Happy Friday!