50 books, Day 2

For today’s book, I was torn between choosing something that would be appropriate for the election, and something that would take your mind off the election.  So I decided to go with both.

I know I’ve mentioned this one before, but seriously, you need to have this book in your house:

It Could Always Be Worse:  A Yiddish Folktale written and illustrated by Margo Zemach

This is the book that my five-year-old says is her favorite.  She reviews it this way:  “There’s feathers in the soup!  And he keeps on coming to the rabbi.  Sometimes he pulls his beard to think!  It was hilarious.”  That’s pretty much it.  A poor man lives in a one-room hut with his wife and six children.  They are so cramped and crowded and quarrelsome, he can’t stand it anymore, and runs to the rabbi for help.  And the rabbi gives him some very strange advice.

An amazingly compact little story, completely satisfying at the end.  It’s lots of fun to read (you know how some books just aren’t?  It’s like the authors have no ear; but Zemach definitely does) and the pictures are a scream.  The kids’ favorite part is when things get so bad that the moon comes in the window.  Warning:  There are some contextually relevant tushies involved.

50 Books Till Christmas

My son pointed out to me that it was 50 days until Christmas.  Being a cynical and mistrustful person, I didn’t believe him; but being an incredibly lazy person, I didn’t feel like turning my head forty degrees to the right to check the wall calendar.  I was also too lazy to open up the calculator on the desktop of the computer I’m sitting in front of.  I did, however, manage to Google “how many days  until christmas 2012″ and sure enough!  The little crumb is right.

So how’s about, for the next fifty days, I tell you about my favorite books. Fiction, non-fiction, art collections, poetry, picture books, board books, books you have been hunting for six days and then suddenly realize have been holding up the tippy end of the couch.  Books, books, books!

(illustration from Arnold Lobel’s Pigericks.  Argh, or possibly from Whiskers and Rhymes!  Sorry, I have to run out!  Both are great books, though)

If you care to buy one of them (or anything else from Amazon, as long as you click through the links on this blog), I will get a small percentage of the sale, which I have opted to receive in the form of Amazon credits, to prevent me from spending it all on Twinkies and gin.  Wait, do they sell gin on Amazon?  Probably not.  Which means I’ll be spending those credits on Christmas presents for the kids, to whom, in a rash moment, I promised that we would not be having an Imagination Christmas this year.

The first book is great for someone who wants to do some spiritual reading for Advent, but who doesn’t like doing spiritual reading:

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

It’s fiction, a sort of fantasy/thought experiment with a nod to the Divine Comedy.  The speaker finds himself in a dim and dismal land and nervously gets on line for a bus.  The bus turns out to be headed to Heaven, and everyone who gets off has a chance to stay there, if they wish.  We witness the ghosts (because Heaven is so bright and substantial, the bus passengers are flimsy and transparent, like smoke in that land.  Even the grass hurts their feet) meeting people they knew on Earth, who try to persuade them to give up whatever is holding them back from leaving their fatal sins behind.  Some do, and some do not.

So, this is good spiritual reading because Lewis hits home again and again as he exposes the foolishness and lies that we harbor in our hearts, leading us away from God.  But it’s eminently entertaining, easy to follow, fascinating, piercingly insightful, and moving.  And it’s short!  I would recommend this book for adults or for teenagers as young as 14 or 15.

I’m giving really short shrift to an unforgettable book.  What’s worse, I’ve used up about 30% of my book reviewer’s adjectives on the first day.  Oh well.

Go ahead, October. Surprise me.

My husband — my HUSBAND! — make me take out the part about how, every time Obama goes down in the polls,  he does the Dutch Oven on Michelle.  But the rest stands.

In other news, don’t forget to enter the apron raffle!   Just $3!  Ends tomorrow!

In other news, happy anniversary to my husband.  Fifteen years with you is proof that God is good.

I have six minutes free!

For Seven Quick Takes.  See if you can figure out which one got the shaft, minutewise.  (Hint:  all of them.)

1.  You guys.  We got cookies!

The generous and talented Kate Essenberg sent us dozens of completely gorgeous cookies.  I took pictures.  Adorable, hilarious pictures of the kids in various stages of astonishment and glee as they discovered what was in the box.  Well, after three days of running various diagnostics and patches and rewiring and whatnot, my husband has discerned that everything on our computer expired at the same time.  Or something.  So I can’t upload any pictures (and they probably kind of sucked anyway, to be honest, because we’ve been losing colors, one by one, on the monitor.  Everything is glowing in Radiation Sickness Peach right now).  So you will have to imagine these cookies, which are astonishing — full of delicately molded detail, some gilded, some glittery, and all sweet, tender and entirely delectable (which I wasn’t expecting, since they are so beautiful).

The kids paused for a moment in their wolfish devouring and asked why she sent them, and I said, “I guess she likes my writing.”  So they howled, “Well, KEEP WRITING, Mama!”

2.  I can talk with my mouth!  Also, if I have a microphone in one hand and a sheaf of notes in the other, I don’t nervously pick at my face and ears  in a way that fills the audience with revulsion.  So, I think my first official speaking gig went pretty well.  I spoke about forgiveness, and nobody visibly lost consciousness or lit themselves on fire to get out of hearing the whole thing.  If anyone who was at Murphy’s on the 25th has a copy of the video or audio recordings, could you let me know how I could get my hands on one?  I’m doing the same talk in Keene, NH, sometime in November, and would like to see what I need to work on (more enunciation, less pants-wetting, or what).  Many thanks to Fr. Jon Kalisch of St. Denis in Hanover for hosting so graciously!

Oh, ha, and this was funny: before the talk, Fr. Jon asked me what I most liked to write about.  I didn’t realized that he also asked my husband what I most liked to write about.  So when he introduced me, he said, “Simcha’s husband says that she enjoys writing essays that encourage people to be themselves.  And Simcha says she likes to talk about sex.”  And thus, I had the full attention of a roomful of college students drinking beer.

3.  I had the pleasure of meeting Dartmouth graduate Peter Blair, who is the editor ofFare Forward, A Christian Review of Ideas.  I left my copy in my husband’s car and keep remembering to get it only once he’s already left for work, so it’s been traveling around southern New England very busily for almost two weeks now without me.  But the bits I got to read were intriguing, and I love the idea of Christians (yes, including Catholics!) working together to produce something thoughtful and beautiful.  Check it out!

4.  Catechesis of the Good Shepherd!  If you have little kids and someone in your area offers Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, GO TO IT.  Commit identity theft to get on the waiting list for next year.  Do what you have to do.  We’ve only been to one session so far (it turns out that all the other parents got all fancy and showed up at the churchwhere it was being held, whereas we very reasonably spent our time hunting around the various buildings at the other church that we assumed it was probably at; and then after a while we went home.  So we missed the first one), but it is super duper.   It’s a Montessori-based program, and it is lovely.

5.  For the month of October, I’ll be posting at the Register only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, mostly so I can get caught up on my ebook (and probably audiobook), which is forthcoming, in the same way that the Parousia is forthcoming, like, okay, yes, eventually we all more or less believe that it will happen, but by no means would we be so presumptuous as to assume that we will see it in our lifetimes.  Humph.  So anyway, would you or would you not pay good money for an ebook called How’s Your Goop? And Other Burning Questions About Sex, Marriage, and NFP?  Or does the title need help?  I need help.

6.  Will is make you just shrivel up inside if I tell you about a craft that we did and it was fun?  Check one YES _____ NO ______

7.  We’re trying to think of something nice to do for our fifteenth anniversary.  We’ll probably go out to eat on the actual day, but we would like to do some kind of activity or day trip on the weekend, when we’ll “have” more “time.”  Bowling?  Canoeing?  Ping pong?  One anniversary, we tried to go to the adoration chapel and renew our vows, only to find that (a) it was closed, and (b) we couldn’t remember our vows.  But it was nice anyway.

Theology on Tap!

On Tuesday, September 25th at 9:00, I’ll be at Murphy’s in Hanover, NH, for a widdle Theology on Tap.  I will be chatting about forgiveness — what it is, what it ain’t, how to get started, and maybe a little about what’s holding you back.  I will not be yelling at anyone.  Probably my husband and baby Benny will be there, if you want to buy them a beer.  I would love to meet anyone who’s going to be in the area!

Oh, and I just got the latest issue of Catholic Digest, wherin you can find “34 Pro-Life Family Activities,” invented by me (and we even actually do some of them at our house).

Catholic Match article

“A Letter To My Sad, Skinny Single Self” is up today.  Boy, that was a harder assignment than I expected it to be.  What advice would you give to your pre-relationship self?

Stupid game for your Monday morning!

I don’t know about you, but I had quite a weekend.  How about a stupid little game, to ease ourselves into another stupid week?

Just open up a comment and press ctrl + V.  Whatever you copied last will get pasted in.  Then we’ll see who we’re dealing with here.

Here’s mine:

hid his eyes behind his wing) Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra

Don’t that make me sound smarty and arty?  It’s from Eliot’s The Wasteland, asMelanie Bettinelli surely knows.  But the truth is, someone quoted this line on Facebook, and it sounded vaguely familiar, like maybe Shakespeare or the Bible or one o’ them thick books.  I had to Google it to find out who said it.  Oh, well.  College was a long time ago.

Okay, now yours!  Fun!  Fun!

Catholic Speaker Month!

Voting opened yesterday at BrandonVogt.com!  He’s collected the names of 250 Catholic speakers, and is asking people to vote for their favorites — or for lesser-known names who deserve more recognition.  You can choose 15 names.

You may notice my name is on the list  — thanks, Brandon!  I am now booking speaking engagements, mostly in the New England area for now, because Benny is only 8 months old and she wuvs her muvver.

I am especially interested in finding a reason to be in the D.C. area around November 11.  I’ve been invited to join a panel of U.S. Bishops and Catholic bloggers to discuss Catholicism and social media.  I really want to go, but D.C. is a little further than I want to travel at the moment — but if I could combine trips, it would make more sense to attend.  (Anyone else going to be there?)

Oh noez, he’s sending the wrong message!

Ms. Brown tried to walk forward to greet him, but she started tottering. Archbishop Dolan spotted her and jogged up the steps to help. Meanwhile, the school’s marching band burst into the Cardinal Hayes marching song, inspiring the archbishop to take Ms. Brown in his arms and twirl her around.

The dancing lasted only for a minute or so, Mr. Meenan said, but he will not soon forget the image of the bearlike archbishop squiring Ms. Brown. He wore his black bishop’s garment and a pink cap; she wore a drop-waist dress, black fur and lace-topped stockings.

(full story here)

It gets me every time

Dostoevsky and Dumbo.

Here, by the way, are some links to the books and movies I recommend.  Buying anything through these links will contribute to the “Don’t Make Simcha’s Children Wear Discarded Newspaper For Their Back-To-School Outfits” Fund.  Thanks!

Sound and Sense by Laurence Perrine

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fairy Tales (including “The Selfish Giant”) by Oscar Wilde

Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel

Fiddler on the Roof (DVD)

The Iron Giant (DVD)

Dumbo (DVD)