Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Reading

Advent Reading @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Every year I add to our Christmas book collection. After all these years, it’s rather extensive. I’ve gathered links to some of my favorites here.

This year, our new Christmas books correspond with my current literary projects. Just this month I revealed my Tolkien project, and Tolkien’s magical Letters from Father Christmas, with reproductions of his delightful illustrations and handwritten letters, is just perfect for me to read aloud to the kids!

I haven’t yet posted about my second ongoing literary project, but you might guess it from the second title. Yes, I am also immersing myself in G.K. Chesterton. This simple Advent and Christmas reader will be perfect for my own studies, and I am deliberating whether to read it aloud to the family. It contains 28 Advent readings and 12 readings for the days of Christmas. Each reading includes a short selection written by Chesterton (a poem or quote from an essay or book), a short bible passage, a prayer, and an “Advent Action.”

Have you added any books to your Christmas collection this season? Share in the comments!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Green Friday

Green Friday @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

My sister Holly and I began this tradition eight years ago. As much as weather allows, we try to spend a couple hours in this particular green space on the day after Thanksgiving. This year the weather forecast showed pouring rain, but it managed to hold out for the afternoon hours while we walked and breathed and played and talked and paid attention to the loveliness.

Green Friday (8) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (9) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (13) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Everything glittered with clinging raindrops. God decorated for Christmas.

Green Friday (3) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Holly discovered charred blackberries in an area that had apparently burned during late fall. The ground was littered with them. I’ve never seen anything like it!

Green Friday (17) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I started feeling all sentimental about these two walking together, remembering another picture from 5 years ago when Lola was just beginning to walk.

Green Friday (11) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (5) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (7) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIn Every Walk with Nature @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (14) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (10) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (4) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (12) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (1) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (15) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (16) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGreen Friday (6) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Here are a few links to some of my favorite Green Friday walks in the past: 2009, 2011, and 2013.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Walk

Thanksgiving Walk @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

It was incredibly dark and rainy for our Thanksgiving celebration yesterday, but the weather cleared at just the perfect moment and for just long enough to go on our traditional after-dinner walk. It was still dark and gray and it sprinkled on us a smidge as we were on our way back, but we were thankful to stretch our legs and our lungs in the cool, damp air.

Lola decided to use a Queen Anne’s Lace as an umbrella. I don’t think it worked well. But I am incredibly thankful for this darling love.

Thankful for Lola @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Thursday, November 24, 2016

To Gather Joyfully

Bless Us, O Lord @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I didn’t think anything could come as close to expressing my heart as the quotes I shared last Thanksgiving—until I read the post A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends at Rabbit Room this morning. I previously posted the link to the article Feasting as an Act of War, and this liturgical prayer is the perfect extension.

Leader: To gather joyfully is indeed a serious affair, for feasting and all enjoyments gratefully taken are, at their heart, acts of war.

People: In celebrating this feast we declare that evil and death,
suffering and loss,
sorrow and tears, will not have the final word.

Please. Go read the whole prayer.


Thanksgiving was the usual joyful gathering. We missed Drake, who is in boot camp in Illinois, his girlfriend, Jess, who wasn’t feeling well, and Olive’s son, Ben. But the rest of us (17 in all) feasted as an act of war. And then we took our traditional after-dinner walk. Later we colored (Shannon shared her sophisticated coloring books and jars of colored pencils) and played games while eating pie.

And now we rest.


God bless you all, dear readers.


Thanksgiving Parallelism

We Thank Thee @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

A Thanksgiving celebration of parallelism by Robert Louis Stevenson:

"Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee

for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health,
     the work,
     the food
, and
     the bright skies, that make our lives delightful;
for our friends in all parts of the earth, and
     our friendly helpers in this foreign isle.

Let peace abound in our small company.
Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.

Offenders, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.

Give us

courage and
gaiety and
the quiet mind.

Spare to us our friends,
soften to us our enemies

Bless us,

if it may be, in all our innocent endeavours.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be

brave in peril,
constant in tribulation,
temperate in wrath,

and in all changes of fortune,
and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another.

As the clay to the potter,
as the windmill to the wind,
as children of their sire,

we beseech of Thee this help and mercy for Christ’s sake."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Tolkien Project


This past spring, CiRCE Institute hosted a literature bracket (“The Great Novel Knockout”). Out of 62 great works of literature, two remained to compete in the championship round.

Which two books stood at the top? The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Two summers ago, my dear friend and Scholé Sisters facilitator, Mindy Pickens, attended the CiRCE Summer Institute. While there, she took advantage of the time with Andrew Kern to ask a big question. “What should my husband read in answer to the question, ‘What is a man?’” Kern’s answer was Tolkien.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings show up on almost every “must read” book list, from classical schools to secular reading lists.

And I hadn’t read them.

I knew I needed to pursue Tolkien as my next reading project, and, unbeknownst to me, Mindy had been thinking the same thing. Our Scholé group was just finishing a year of Flannery (after a year of Hamlet), and we were ready to tackle a new author. (If we’re going for variety, I think we’re set.)

My friend Sara at Plumfield and Paideia suggested I read Bilbo’s Journey and Frodo’s Journey by Joseph Pearce to help me on my own journey of understanding, so I eagerly purchased both books. I already had The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings by Peter Kreeft on my to-read stack.

Mindy is reading On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, and I may have to join her before my journey is over.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories is a must-read. [Link contains the full text.]

I have The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies in the queue. [I think the first Hobbit movie is the only one I’ve watched in its entirety.]

I also took this opportunity to add Letters From Father Christmas by Tolkien to our Christmas book collection. I am looking forward to sharing this one with the kids! I’ll also be re-reading Tolkien’s quirky illustrated tale Mr. Bliss.


Levi is thrilled that I am finally reading his favorite series. His enthusiasm was so great that he recently re-read them all and spent more time digging into The Silmarillion. I am strongly considering enrolling him in Roman Roads Good Books II: The Lord of the Rings online class led by James Nance from January until May. Maybe he can share some of the discussion with me.

Luke and Leif both read through The Hobbit recently and all of the kids have watched and re-watched the movie. (It is one of Lola’s favorites, surprisingly. She is not a sensitive child, for sure.)


Even though I am just now sharing this new literary project here on the blog, I have already finished The Hobbit and Bilbo’s Journey as well as enjoyed two meetings to discuss them with my Scholé Sisters. I’m well on my way! I’ll share more thoughts about those books specifically in another post.

Until the next post, enjoy this short collection of related articles.

:: Joy and Death in Tolkien @ Center for Lit

Perhaps the most beautiful facet of this almost biblically-worded passage is its position within the story of Tolkien’s world; it foreshadows that Men will be born into a world already broken and remade, in which pain and comfort, joy and sorrow, and (most importantly) rebellion and reconciliation have all been introduced. Everywhere in the passage we find descriptive thematic elements set against one another, all pointing to a truth vital to Tolkien’s project: life comes from death.

:: The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth @ First Things

Certainly grace builds on nature, but we need to let nature be nature before we start building. We need to know what natural wisdom, justice, courage, temperance, and friendship are before we can know them as supernatural.

:: The Language and Myth of Tokien @ The Imaginative Conservative

It is not surprising that language should be used in especially complicated ways in Tolkien’s fiction, used not only to present the story but to be an important formative element of its most basic and pervasive mythic pattern. His fascination with language—its nature, its “feel,” its relation to thought, myth, and literature—began early and continued unabated throughout his life.

:: Tolkien Alternatives to the “Benedict Option” @ Crisis Magazine

Like Sam Gamgee, we know we are little things, incapable of moving the gears of the great. We know we are not the world’s saviors, but the companions of the world’s savior. We are, rather, the servants of him who walks a sorrowful road of sacrifice. We remember that it is our master’s job to save the world, our master’s to eradicate evil, to root it out, to burn it in the fires of his Sacred Heart. Because we walk alongside our master, his path is ours, and his death may well be ours as well. But our primary job is to be available to our master, to adopt the same humble attitude of Sam, the servant of him who bore the evil of the world, the little hobbit who “knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden…[that] the one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”

:: J.R.R. Tolkien biopic Middle Earth will add new depth to Lord of the Rings @ The Verge

Middle Earth is described as following Tolkien’s "early life and love affair with Edith Bratt," as well as his service to the British Army during the First World War. The film, to be written by Angus Fletcher, is reportedly based on years of archival research on Tolkien’s life.


We’ve been singing The Misty Mountains Cold here at our house for weeks now. I even learned to play it on the tin whistle!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Finishing Up the Flannery O’Connor Literary Project

Finishing the Flannery O'Connor Project @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I am finishing up my Flannery O’Connor literary project.

I read her biography, her book of essays, her prayer journal, and discussed several of her stories with my Scholé Sisters group. I’ve read blog posts and articles and listened to podcasts.

I am so glad I took the time to read her deeply. Her biography and the discussions were absolutely essential for me. I never would have understood (to a small degree) her stories without a nudge in the right direction.

O’Connor’s essays allow the reader fascinating insight into the way she viewed the world, writing as an art, reading as a practice, and her own stories. My copy of Mystery and Manners is heavily underlined and marked with notes in the margins. What a pleasure to have a “conversation” with Flannery.

It’s almost impossible to decide which quotes to share with you here, so I’ll eeny-meeny-miny-mo it.

The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.

The Catholic novelist believes that you destroy your freedom by sin; the modern reader believes, I think, that you gain it in that way.

In my stories a reader will find that the devil accomplishes a good deal of groundwork that seems to be necessary before grace is effective.

Redemption is meaningless unless there is a cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular believe that there is no such cause.

Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held the knife over Isaac.

At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.

Christ didn’t redeem us by a direct intellectual act, but became incarnate in human form…

When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.


I am embarking on two new literary projects this winter. I’ll share more about them in upcoming posts. Stick around!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Man-Child

The Man-Child @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I went suit-shopping with the man-child today. [Policy debate, winter formal, Teen Pact, spring protocol—he’ll have several chances to wear it, hopefully before he grows out of it!]

I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

Six feet tall.

A high school swimmer.

Less than two months away from a driver’s permit.

Where did my baby boy go?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Delights, Visions, and Suffering

Delights, Visions, and Suffering @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

A decade.

A decade ago I began homeschooling the little boy who is now a hairy six-foot man-child.

A decade ago I had a toddler boy who was a one-man demolition crew with insomnia.

A decade ago I had an infant boy who would not let me set him down—or sleep.

A decade ago we unexpectedly bought our tiny forever house in the country and were getting ready to move and settle in over Christmas.

Almost a decade ago I started a blog in which I shared my delights and visions and suffering.


Three weeks since my last post, and only a small smattering of posts in two months.

It seems I needed an unplanned sabbatical.

I have a thousand posts started, either in my files or in my imagination.

But I’m having trouble finishing anything. Posts. Books. School work. House work.

My work space is a disaster. My house is a disaster. I’m having trouble summoning any sort of motivation or enthusiasm because it feels so daunting.

Is it the weather and the lack of light? Is it the pushback from kids? Is it the national atmosphere? Is it my inherent laziness?

Is it the decade-ness?

I’m going with all of the above.

But this decade-ness is weighing on me.

I’m struggling with the “visions” because I lack perseverance. I used to love the visions because I could imagine myself doing them, but now the visions come with a heaping dose of reality and they’ve lost the magic.


In October, Russ was gone on multiple out of state and out of town trips.

He began coaching the swim team at our local YMCA at the end of September. All three boys started swimming with the Y team as well (Levi’s broken foot healed well and he was cleared for swimming), and Russ started swimming with the Masters team. It was so nice to have a long break from swimming before the fall season started, but the new swim schedule messed with our evening routine. I’m thankful for the childcare program at the Y, however, and we’ve used it often for Lola. There is also a student meal program and a center for tweens, which we use a few nights a week when Russ stays late to swim.

Levi is now swimming on the local high school swim team for the winter season. That again has messed with our schedule, but I think it’s a good opportunity for him.

I hosted a few IEW DVD watching sessions for my CC Essentials parents and hosted the last of my Scholé Sisters Flannery O’Connor meetings. We’ve started a new literary project for this school year (hosted by another friend, but facilitated by the same fabulous Mindy who led the Hamlet and Flannery O’Connor projects). I’ll be posting about the new project as soon as I can finish writing it up (but no promises).

I slowly finished a handful of books.

I binge-watched Longmire on Netflix.


Now I need to go purge a decade-worth of stuff from our house.

Or go on vacation.