July started with a bang. Literally. Hudson’s head violently collided with the chair leg, splitting it open and earning him a ride to hospital in an ambulance to be stitched back together.
Thankfully the rest of the month was a lot less dramatic, though Dave managed to spend a good chunk of it away at the Australian Girard Seminar, Parent/Teacher Interviews, School Information Nights and Philosophy Camp. To be fair, he did rope in a lot of help for the crazy hour period and sought permission for all of us to join him for the camp. A vivid experience that I recounted here.
I started the month off with a burst of writing in my Historical Fiction novel, but then channeled most of my words into blog posts. I think it has been a record month, with pieces published on average of every 2-3 days. Poetry inspired me to deal with my pain in new ways, an act of shameless eavesdropping led to this piece on marriage, I delved into the roots of my faith story, tried to find redemption in the tragedies facing the world, looked for the joy in the everyday and finished the month with a treatise on humour. The weekly Five Minute Friday prompt saw postings on the alchemy of invention, viewing life through the lens of cooking and an ode to the Village.
What I’m Reading
The Murder Stone (Louise Penny)
This Chief Inspector Gamache novel was my first introduction to the series after hearing his name crop up over and over again. This mystery is set in the remote and luxurious Manoir Bellechasse, and Penny’s evocative writing made me feel as if I was a guest there – sweat trickling down the back of my neck, sampling the delectable pastries of Chef Veronique.
The Joy of Poetry (Megan Willome)
This memoir and ode to poetry was a generous gift from a new writer friend, Christina Hubbard, and I soaked it in. Having now been introduced to the ingenuity of poetry I cannot turn away and Willome shares poignantly about experiences with her dying mother as she undergoes treatment for cancer. She incorporates poems seamlessly in a way that highlights the beauty and meaning without feeling as if you returned to an eighth grade English class.
Bury Your Dead (Louise Penny)
Another Chief Inspector Gamache novel, this one set in the old walled city of Quebec. I loved exploring the town through Penny’s prose, stopping often for cafe au lait and flaky, buttery croissants. The history of Samuel de Champlain and the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec was compelling and well woven through the story.
Roots & Sky (Christie Purifoy)
Anchored in the walls of Maplehurst – a large Victorian farmhouse – and the surrounding grounds, this is a poetic memoir. Purifoy’s style is very poetic and dreamlike, and there were times I felt as if she were hiding behind the language a little. After reading the book, however, I listened to her podcast interview with Tsh Oxenreider and feel like I understand where she is coming from a lot more clearly now. On the whole, it was an evocative read, incorporating a lot of theology into the everyday, messy moments of motherhood, gardening, cooking and creating.
The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
Wow, this was dark. I actually only picked it up because Ivy brought it over to me from the bookshelf and it was a relatively short book. Set in post-apocalyptic America, this is a story of a father and son, struggling to survive against the elements and the garish remnants of humanity that cling onto a bitter, horror-filled existence. McCarthy’s style is almost entirely poetry with spatterings of dialogue woven in. His words evoke vivid pictures of the seared landscape, but the (very convenient) plot line did leave me a little cold. I will say that I looked upon the canned goods in my pantry with a great deal more fondness after reading though!
What I’m Listening To
July was filled to the brim with podcasts. It really is amazing how much time you have to listen when you overlay a podcast onto the incidental moments of life – washing up, car travel, housework, watching kids at the playground… Here is my playlist for the month:
On Being with Krista Tippett
I’m so hooked on On Being. I think it probably weaves its way into most of my conversations and blog posts nowadays and I described it like this to a friend last week – ‘It’s like getting to eavesdrop on an incredibly meaningful conversation between two people who are filled with wonder, wisdom and profound insights’ – what’s not to like!? I love that Krista Tippett has such a broad range of people she interviews – from writers, poets and songwriters to professors, researchers, scientists and spiritual leaders.
This month I couldn’t help but laugh along with Desmond Tutu’s hilariously infectious laugh in ‘The God of Surprises’, as well as marvel at his approach of forgiveness to the horrific suffering that he and his people went through. I was inspired by Shane Claiborne’s community in ‘A Monastic Revolution’, followed the clues with Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Choosing Curiosity Over Fear’, and became enchanted with Rilke’s poetry in Joanna Macy’s ‘A Wild Love for the World’. Dr James Doty thrilled me with his insights about neuroscience in ‘The Magic Shop of the Brain’, Rex Jung made me think in ‘Creativity and the Everyday Brain’, and Kevin Kling moved me with his humorous approach to suffering in ‘The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into’.
Other noteworthy podcasts included Joe Henry in ‘The Mystery and Adventure of Life and Songwriting’, Paul Muldoon – ‘A Conversation with Verse’, Ann Hamilton – ‘Making and the Spaces We Share’, Yo Yo Ma – ‘Music Happens Between the Notes’, Marilynne Robinson and Marcelo Gleiser – ‘The Mystery We Are’, Adam Gopnik – ‘Practicing Doubt, Redrawing Faith’ and David Steindl-Rast – ‘Anatomy of Gratitude’.
Ann Kroeker – Writing Coach
If you are a writer, or even if you are just interested in the idea of writing, Ann Kroeker is a voice of encouragement and inspiration. Her short, bite-sized podcasts are perfect for the quick drive to the cafe where I pull out my computer and settle down with a piccolo latte. This month I took her challenge to return to my origins and created the piece Where I’m From.
The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenreider
I enjoy listening to the format of this show, it is friendly, fast-paced and informative while encouraging the wholistic focus of living simply. This month I learned about the four tendencies with Gretchen Rubin, became inspired to start a Book Club (with themed food!) with Nicole Bennett and dreamed of ‘placemaking’ with Christie Purifoy.
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
I discovered this podcast while listening to Gretchen’s interview with Tsh in The Simple Show. This is an initiative by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft and their focus centers upon becoming happier by understanding yourself better and implementing good habits to get you on track. I listened to Episode 29: ‘The Fantasy of Perfection’ and Epidsode 35: ‘A Close Look at the Upholder Personality; Are You Like Gretchen and Hermione?’.
Let it Be
Last month I enjoyed listening to Straight & Curly, a practical podcast dedicated to doing life better with hacks, reviews and helpful tips. The Let It Be podcast is another project by Kelly Exeter and she teams up with Brooke McAlary to look more at the philosophical approach to living. I listened to the ‘Me Time’ episode which unpacked the cringe factor in allowing ourselves some time just to ‘be’, and why it is so important to prioritise.
What I’m Watching
As usual I was fairly light on the viewing material, but I did watch a few episodes of the comedy Master of None and a few more of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having with the kids. After listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s On Being interview Dave and I went back to re-watch Eat, Pray, Love. I also got to watch Zootopia with the kids and thought the themes to be very current and great for talking through the ideas of difference and diversity.
Eli is growing up crazily fast. He comes out with the most mature lines sometimes that I have to do a double-take and make sure he is still five years old. And other times he struggles hard with the emotions of life and the carnage spills out onto all of us. We have implemented a ‘ladder’ strategy to get him to ‘level up’ in listening and being respectful, and decrease name-calling and other bad behaviours. So far it has been really worthwhile, and I like that he isn’t working for a material reward but for the inner satisfaction of climbing the ‘right ladder’. He always has a cuddle and word of reassurance if I’m having a hard time, and he avidly practices his basketball skills at every opportunity.
Despite the rocky start to the month, Hudson’s head injury did little to slow him down. If anything his zest for life increased and he has started to really engage in Eli’s imaginative games. I often see the two of them in costume, charging after a bad guy, packing a backpack of survival equipment or having a ‘sleepover’ in the car. It is so great to watch (until it all unravels, of course!). It seems like Hudson’s greatest fear is not being where the action is, he thrives on hanging out with people and struggles to be alone.
Ivy is cheeky, adventurous and delightful… with a healthy dose of willpower and attitude! She is right in the action – bouncing on the trampoline, playing in the dirt, dancing enthusiastically along to Hi-5 and The Wiggles. She can’t get enough of play-dough and drawing and gives the best cuddles. She has started saying ‘no boys’ to provoke her brothers, and hitting them if they look at her the wrong way. Dave and I have to work hard to hide our smiles before telling her off!
When you can’t get to the snow, you go to the next best thing – The Big Freeze! We visited this (rather expensive) snow festival in Cranbourne over the holidays and it was heaps of fun. The snow part of it was great, but the boys couldn’t get enough of the snow slide, the crafts, the super hero circuit and the snow-boarding training. We did some family Zumba, watched a re-enactment of Frozen and played with Lego. It was a great day out for the whole family.
We had the privilege of hanging out with a lot of cool people this month – with a decadent lunch at Matt & Kerrie-Anne’s, a Hughes family birthday celebration and a Tomasich family birthday celebration. The boys got to hold reptiles at Declan’s party, I attended a baby shower for Kara, we had a crazy hour dinner with Monica and Alex, and enjoyed dessert and the Ball Game with Dave and Sharon. In between that we enjoyed many meaningful chats over wine and antipasto/cake with our House Church crew, a delicious Afghan BBQ cooked by Mahdi, and a sunset pizza dinner at Leigh and Caryn’s house after Messy Church. I’ve also loved catching up more regularly with Naomi and Monica and getting to have some inspiring, life-affirming chats (in between chasing children, of course).
Thanks to my Mum and Dad and Alex and Monica, Dave and I were able to escape to the city for a night to celebrate my birthday (which is coming up on Monday)! We savoured European treats at the Night Market in Madame Brussels Lane, explored laneways and ate like kings. It was so blissful and rejuvenating.
As for the rest of the month, we had an amazing (and horrible) time at the Philosophy Camp, visited Hali at her Op Shop and went on a family night hunt for Pokemon.
Life is a beautiful gift.