Ultimately, Distracted

Sample entry for the Readers' GuideCan’t write with it. Can’t write without it.

Naturally, I’m talking about the Internet. (I could’ve been talking about computers in general, but I’d rather be specific.) It’s sad, really, that I think I can’t write without the internet, because obviously, I could. I’m just not sure that I can.

For millennia, authors have been penning the great works of literature, and even the great works of science, mathematics, medicine, art, and every other branch of knowledge, without access to the Internet. I’ve written plenty of things without benefit of Google, or any other search engine. I think back to scanning volumes of The Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature that was the mainstay of every paper I wrote in high school and my early years of college. My arms ache in remembrance of hauling stacks of ponderous books to wooden library tables. I made enough 3×5 cards to fill the drawers of my school’s card catalogue many times over.

When it comes to sheer creativity, I don’t need the Internet. But when it comes to verifying information, it’s a must. I am all about verification, and citing my sources.

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Five Favorites: Part Deux

Five Favorites Moxie Wife Joining up with some other ladies to exchange a diet of delights as we share the five favorite things that’ve recently caught our attention. Low key fun all around, and a great way to discover some interesting things.

1. Aussi Instant Freeze Spray

Aussi Instant Freeze Hairspray

My go-to hair spray–this stuff is amazing. They call it Instant Freeze, and they’re not kidding.
I really think it could suspend me off the ground. Just sayin’…

2. Knitting Socks

New socks for Sophia 001

I knit. All the time. I carry knitting in my purse. Socks are the most useful things, and they fit. Easily.
I made these for my daughter last year.

3. Papal Conclave

Papal Conclave


The waiting is the hardest part.

3. Rolling Stone Magazine

Rolling Stone Johnny Depp Cover

People sometimes ask me how I manage to stay abreast of pop culture without watching television. This is it.
Bonus picture of Johnny Depp!

4. Brocante Home

Brocante Home header

Cute and oh-so-very-British! Housekeeping superstars, unite!
Charming vintage pictures and tips, all served up by a lovely lady, Alison.

5. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I saw the very first episodes of Little House on the Prairie on television, and then I found the books. Even better!
(Believe me, the TV series may be interesting, but it’s not for aficionados)
Always inspiring, never objectionable.

What’s Yours?

Calvin and Hobbs ResolutionsEverybody makes ‘em. Nobody keeps ‘em. Yeah. I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions.

You have to admit, they show good intention. People always mention that they want to lose weight, start exercising, manage their budget better, invest wisely, save more money, become a better parent, the lists go on. And on.

Why, honestly, do we bother? I have never yet met a person who made a New Year’s resolution that they managed to keep. Ever. Past February. (If you have, please comment, because I want to arrange a meeting with you and other world leaders.) Given that, I am starting an entirely new style of resolution, which is based on the principal of reverse psychology. It’s a well-known fact that, since the Garden of Eden, people can’t seem to avoid doing either the very thing someone tells them not to do, or just the opposite of what they are supposed to do.

So, my New Year’s Resolutions are as follows:

  • Utterly trash my home and become an unrepentant hoarder;
  • Become a recluse who shuns human contact, especially with my aging parents and any close friends;
  • Gain as much weight as is humanly possible by never cooking or eating anything healthy, let alone by attempting anything that even resembles exercise;
  • Never keep track of appointments or dates and never, ever return phone calls the same day;
  • Avoid anything that smacks of spirituality or any kind of organized religion;
  • Shamelessly prowl Facebook and Twitter All Day Long;
  • Relentlessly pursue anything that might depress me, most notably by staying in bed all day;
  • Spend my money on whimsical items that have no enduring value whatsoever; and
  • Write as little as possible.

I’ll NEVER tell you how that’s going.

Date a Guy Who Reads

Guy ReadingThis post is a response to A Girl You Should Date

Date a guy who reads. Date a guy who spends his money on books instead of video games, beer, or tickets to sporting events. He has problems with floor space because he has too many books. He doesn’t have end tables, but he does have stacks of books. Date a guy who has a list of books he wants to read, who has had a library card since he was in first grade.

Find a guy who reads. You’ll know that he does because he will always have an unread book with him, maybe in the back seat of his car, or just under his arm. He’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore (and not just the science fiction section, either), the one who quietly smiles when he finds the book he wants. You see the geek sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

He’s the guy reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at his mug, it’s already getting cool, because he’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. He might look astonished, as most guys who read are not likely to be interrupted, since most people don’t know what to do with a reader, especially if it’s a guy, and it’s not Sports Illustrated. Ask him if he likes the book.

Buy him another cup of coffee.
Let him know what you really think of Hemingway. See if he got through the first chapter of Atlas Shrugged. Understand that if he says he understood James Joyce’s Ulysses he’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask him if he loves Gandalf or he would like to be Gandalf.

It’s easy to date a guy who reads. Give him books for his birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give him the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give him Dante, Dickinson, Pound, Plath. Let him know that you understand that words are love. Understand that he knows the difference between books and reality but by god, he’s going to try to make his life a little like his favorite book. It will never be your fault if he does.

He has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to him. (He already thinks you do, from the first moment that you seemed interested in him…) If he understands syntax, he will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail him. (He already thinks you will—most women have been disappointed in him already.) Because a guy who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because guys who understand know that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two. That while life is more than about rescuing the fair maiden, he’d really like to give it a try. He wants to be your hero. Let him.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Guys who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series. (Which, as a powerful girl who reads, you can admit to doing. It’s cool. You don’t have to like it.)

If you find a guy who reads, keep him close. When you find him up at 2 AM clutching a book to his chest and silently weeping, pull him close and kiss him. Make love. Talk about it. You may lose him for a couple of hours but he will always come back to you. He’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

He will propose at a historical re-enactment. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time you’re sick. Over Skype. He may be past comic books (or not), but he still likes the pictures, especially when they’re of you.

You will start to cry, and laugh, all at the same time. You will wonder why your heart never before realized that there’s enough love in it for every single person in the universe. You will write the story of your lives, have kids (and cats) with strange names and even stranger tastes. He will introduce your children to Beatrix Potter and Guy Reading with Babythe Hobbit, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and he will recite Keats under his breath while you adjust his hat and make sure he has his gloves.

Date a guy who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a guy who can give you the most colorful life imaginable, and not just things from the Victoria Secret catalog. If you can only give him monotony, and stale hours and gossip about Jersey Shore, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a guy who reads.

Don’t get me started about the guys who write. Don’t go there.

Thank you, Rosemarie Urquico, for your original essay.

Bible Marathon

Image representing YouVersion as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

A marathon, not a telethon, and you don’t read while you run for 26 miles (though that’s an intriguing possibility)! No, the only running involved was when I ran across an online 90-day Bible reading plan (courtesy of a site called YouVersion). It sounded like an intriguing possibility, and a good way to both bolster my spirits in general, and keep me occupied while Sophia’s in Rome for this semester, so I decided to take the plunge.

I’m only a day behind so far (since I was pretty occupied last Tuesday with getting her on her flight at O’Hare, as well as a deluge of packing, last minute purchases, and the 6 hours in the car there and back0, so I’m doing pretty good. I read more some days, and less others, but the computer keeps track of the chapters and what day they’re “due.” I generally read from a print version, and then check them off on the on-line version, but if I’m away form home, I can always read on the road via the computer. Since my Bible and my laptop weigh about the same, there’s no savings there, but I do have more options with a laptop!

This isn’t the first time I’ve read the Bible all the way through, by any means. (I’ve read my New American Bible a few times.) About ten years ago I started reading Protestant versions, to keep up with the times, so what I like to do is read different translations. I really enjoyed reading the King James Version, because there are so many phrases that you recognize as lines from movies or books! It’s a little like going to the opera and thinking, Hey, didn’t I hear this music from Bugs Bunny cartoons when I was a kid? The whole experience is that much more enjoyable. This time I’m reading the Amplified Version. It’s intriguing, since there’s so much expansion. It doesn’t make for good reading aloud, I think, but it’s okay for silent reading. I know there are people that use it all the time, but I think most people feel comfortable with the Bible that they’ve used the longest.

So this is my reading for now. Mostly. Naturally, I’m also reading a number of other books, but they’ve sort of taken a back seat since I’m on this reading plan.

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part article/review of Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, and if you haven’t read yesterday’s entry, you need to, otherwise this will seem disjointed and probably make no sense.

Definition of GoodnessCase in point:
In the realm of public opinion, there are so very few people who fall so strongly in the good camp that I can only (easily) think of one: Mother Teresa. Most people would think of her as having been so astonishingly good that it’s entirely possible that she is provided as an illustration next to the entry for goodness in a dictionary. However, at one point Mother Teresa mentioned that she was sure that there were good Muslims and Hindus in Heaven. At which juncture some people promptly decided that she was obviously in league with Satan.

As Rob Bell might put it, “Huh?
Mother Teresa.
In league with Satan.
And you know this.

It strikes me that it seems as though many Christians (especially those that call themselves Evangelical—an adjective that strikes me in much the same way that church signs like “Church of the One True God” do—what other kind is there?) like the idea of the title of this book, but they don’t like the practice of it. I think they really believe that love does win, but deep down, they seem like they don’t like it. Most of the people who vehemently disagree with this book seem to be deeply disappointed that being a Christian isn’t like belonging to a very exclusive country club, and that somehow, a sort of Wal-Mart Heaven isn’t what they had in mind. It sort of seems like, well, once everyone can afford to carry a Coach handbag, they’re not going to be cool anymore. If well, just anyone can go to Heaven, we’re going to need to find a different place.

Sorry, but that place sounds like Hell.

Rob Bell’s idea of the generosity of God’s love and the inclusivity of Heaven is one I like. Of course, I’m one of those people who found the gleeful dancing and “he’s-roasting-in-hell-now-just-like-he-deserves” attitude exhibited by some people who call themselves Christians after the death of Osama bin Ladin to be distressing and/or sad. I’m not saying that Osama bin Ladin was a good man. What I am saying is that I can’t believe that anyone who says they believe in Jesus and want to be like Him believes that the same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem is actually excited about the eternal damnation of anyone, even if that person is (was?) named Osama bin Ladin.

Please note that I am not saying that Osama bin Ladin is in Heaven. What I am saying is that I believe no one is beyond salvation. In Matthew 24:35,36, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away….But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Now if Jesus Himself doesn’t know the date of the end of the world, how can it be that the average man on the street knows the eternal destination of a specific person? So as to Osama’s status, I just don’t know.

What I believe, and what I see Bell saying is that if Osama bin Ladin is in Hell, God didn’t send him there. God doesn’t send people to Hell. People choose that for themselves. I’ve chosen it for myself from time to time, and I’ll bet you have, too. No one wants to go to hell, even for five minutes. But we do.

But if Christianity is about anything, it’s about hope. So when someone says that some specific bad person is definitively in Hell, I think they must have a finger on the pulse of a god that I don’t recognize, and not Jesus, who is definitely the God of Hope. How can anyone know what happens in the eternal moment (where a thousand years are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years) that happens between when a person is still alive and he (or she) has died? Has hope also died? Apparently so, for some people. But my vision of God is bigger than that. And so, I read, is Bell’s.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this. After all, I am a Catholic.

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part I)

If you haven’t already figured it out by some of my earlier blog entries, I’m a Catholic. Depending on which school of thought you fall in, that usually (but not necessarily) makes me one of the following:

Love Wins by Rob BellGiven these possibilities, my review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived will probably just serve to cement your point of view. In my experience, most people prefer options that reinforce their currently held opinion, regardless of what it is.

When I first ran across this book at the store, my only thought was, “Hey! I didn’t know he’d written another book. Cool!” So I bought it and read it over the course of a couple days. (It’s not a hard book to read, and I could’ve finished it in one sitting, but I was working on another book at the time, which is all too common for me.) I found it well-reasoned, thought provoking, and ultimately, exciting! One of the things I like most about Bell is his willingness to admit that while he might not have all the answers, he’s not afraid to ask the questions.

So imagine my surprise when I posted a brief entry last night mentioning it, and found that there were no less than approximately fifteen thousand separate articles I could’ve used as “Related Articles” that reference this book and the astonishingly strong reactions it’s provoking among some members of the Christian community.

I’ve decided not to reference most of these strong-minded articles. One, because they’re really easy to find on the Internet. Two, because all the ones I’ve read so far completely miss the point of this book, which is, oddly enough, the title.

Because I’m a Catholic, I’m pretty used to being the subject of intense opinion and curiosity. (Maybe it’s because I’m open minded and approachable, and generally come across as an intelligent person with a sense of humor. I don’t know.) There have been people who have asked me, in all honesty and without a hint of sarcasm, why Catholics worship statues. (We don’t.) I know, for a fact, that there are people who believe Catholics worship Satan (we don’t) and are all bound for a justly-deserved hell. (We aren’t. Well, maybe some of us are. But not me. Oops. But not I.) And there are people who believe that if we only accepted Jesus as our personal Savior, we’d finally come to realize that the Protestants are right. (We won’t.) And naturally, there are people who just don’t care about that sort of thing. (I, however, do.)

What’s interesting about most of these reviews is that they seem to completely miss the point of this book. (It really makes me wonder if the writers have actually read Love Wins.) One reviewer basically said that because the book didn’t have copious footnotes and could be read in under two hours, it basically wasn’t worth it, theologically. (Point of reference: the Bible doesn’t actually have any footnotes, and the entire Gospel of John on CD clocks in at only a little more than two hours, and that’s because it’s being read aloud. Hmmm….) Another writer said that if Jesus wasn’t really the only way to get to heaven, and if everyone really does a “get out of jail free” card, then why not live a life of unbridled self-indulgence?

After a thorough reading and re-reading of this book, I can not, for the life of me, see how Bell is saying that what amounts to using people for personal advancement, defrauding the poor, or engaging in wild sexual abandon, is okay with God, and He “lets you in” anyway. What I do see is that Bell’s view of salvation is a lot more expansive than that of a lot of conservative, self-proclaimed Evangelical Christians.

Stay tuned, because I’m nowhere near done with this.