122: Oona Out of Order

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

If you like stories such as The Time Traveler’s Wife, this is the book for you. Oona finds out on the eve of her 19th birthday that she time travels on her birthday each year. The book follows her chronological internal age, but jumps around in time.

This story beautifully explores what one might do to change their life. How can they influence the future after they’ve already experienced it the next time they experience the past? it’s a forking mind puzzle and I loved it! LOVED it!

The writing was great, the story was fascinating, the only regret is that it only covers her life through chronological age 27 (7 years total). I want to know what happened in her 20s, when she made the decisions that influenced her future.

Does she decide to start the binder at physical age 19 because she saw it for the first time in her house at physical age 51 (interior age 19) on her first leap? Dale, Edward, Kenzie, Crosby, and Peter … what happens with all of these men? I need to know more!!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

121: Followers

Followers by Megan Angelo

I’ve read a few dystopian novels in my time, and this one is the one I think is the most realistic. That’s saying something since I read two novels this year where a virus spreads all over the earth and millions of people die (Station Eleven & The End of October). Considering the time we’re currently living through, I think that’s saying a lot.

The story follows Orla before “the spill” and Marlow about 30 years later. There’s also this woman Floss who is part of both stories. “The Spill” was a targeted attack on the grid that happened in 2016 where a country, probably Russia, ‘stopped time’ and crashed the internet.

Marlow is living in a “post-spill world” as she was born during it. She’s now a famous person with 12 million plus followers living in Constellation. Her next ‘scripted life event’ is to have a baby with her husband Ellis. Then things really start happening.

I felt like this could really be us. We rely too much on what we share on the internet – and here I am writing about this online. Pre-Covid we lived in a very virtual world, and now, by necessity, we live in an even more virtual world. We cannot let this become our new normal. We need to figure out how to safely live in the world again among real human beings.

Anyway, off my soapbox, loved this book! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

120: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Almost a year ago a friend who spends a lot of time in the car told me about this book, how beautiful and sad it is. I just finished and that is quite true.

Paul is a neurosurgery resident who is diagnosed with cancer less than a year before he graduates. At the time his marriage is falling apart, but his career is taking off. Then everything changes.

Cancer saves his marriage, but unfortunately not his life. This book journeys through what it’s like to go through treatment as a doctor who might just six months earlier be giving recommendations for that treatment.

His oncologist, Emma, tells him more than once, “I’m willing to be a doctor who speaks to you like you’re a doctor and we can develop a plan together OR if you’d prefer, I can be the doctor, and you can be the patient.” Paul chooses both options throughout the course of his treatment.

His story ends unfinished. His wife wrote an epilogue to share the last few moments of his life, which was beautiful. I can’t imagine the heartache of her, their daughter Katie, and his extended family.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Things I Wish My Neighbors Knew

I’d put a picture of the dumpster overflowing here, but that’s gross.

I live in a small townhouse community – less than 50 homes, mostly renters but a few long-time residents. They’re all annoying, but for different reasons. I’ve been thinking about this for the past few months since we all seem to be here a lot during Covid – or were we always around? I get a lot of complaints (not really about my behavior, but about others since I’m the HOA president), and there are some things I wish all of my neighbors knew. So here they are, in no particular order – because they’re all annoying.

  1. Trash should be placed INSIDE the dumpster. Not on the ground in front. Not off to the right side. Not behind. INSIDE. You’d think this would be something that everyone knows, but they don’t. Also “Bulk Pick Up Items” are things that don’t FIT in the dumpster. Not things you put on the ground beside the dumpster.
  2. Screaming matches in the parking lot are never a good idea, but at 1:30 in the morning (and again at 2:15) they’re downright illegal (or should be … there’s a noise ordinance, right?).
  3. The music you listen to in your car is for your ears only, if I wanted to listen to it right now, I’d have it going inside my house. During the day it’s just annoying, but at night, it’s downright irritating.
  4. Knocking on someone’s door after 9 pm should be undertaken only when the matter is important. Between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am, the building should be on fire and my life is in danger.
  5. Even though your address is a ‘street’ with a ‘number’ – we don’t park on the street like in other neighborhoods. We live in a parking lot, and there are lines for a reason – so use them.

While there are other little annoyances that happen, like people blaming a small bush on their terrible plumbing issues or have more than 2 cars at your house permanently (each house only has 2 spaces) or calling your ‘nephew who lives with you a visitor but he’s not just visiting, he’s living there.’ Those annoy me, but that’s just because I’m me not because they are objectively annoying. We’ve all got our pet peeves.

But those other items are annoying. Period. I wish my neighbors would stop doing them, then we might be able to be neighborly.

119: Jo & Laurie

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz

Let me start by saying if you don’t appreciate retellings, skip this one. I’m not one of those people – I’m here for them! The authors imagine what was going on in Jo’s (the real life Louisa) life between the publication of the first half of Little Women and her sequel. This book imagines what was going on during those months as she was writing Good Wives.

They don’t change what happens in the book, but they do lay out an alternative reality for the real life Jo (the author not the girl she writes about in the book). So there are things that are different, like how Beth passed when she had scarlet fever, instead of recovering and then dying later (sorry for that Little Women spoiler).

The premise of this book is that Jo and Laurie find there way to each other. Which is NOT Little Women and hard to imagine, but the way they write it, it’s the only reasonable next step. It was quite a delight to read, but now I want to go watch the Greta Gerwig move adaptation. Or maybe the PBS versions that are on Prime.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

118: The Janes

The Janes by Louisa Luna

This is a harrowing tale (the second in the Alice Vaga series, but I didn’t read the first) about finding some young women who are being trafficked.

I was a little confused when they found “the Janes” about half way through the book – but nothing is as simple as one even when human trafficking is involved. Especially when they are young girls (ages 12 to 16) who are being kept in a house, tortured, sold into sex slavery, and killed.

The actual killer won’t surprise you, but I don’t think you’ll see it coming. I didn’t, but I wasn’t surprised.

The author does a great job highlighting the issue of human trafficking while retaining the dignity of the young girls, which I really appreciated. Not a ‘cozy mystery’ by any means, but well done!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

117: My Eyes Are Up Here

My Eyes are Up Here by Laura Zimmerman

This book is FIRE! If you’re raising a daughter, read it. If you’re raising a son that you want to see the full dignity of women, read it. If you’re a woman who’s struggled to live in her body, read it.

Greer is a girl who’s body has betrayed her. She knows it, and so does everyone else. The only people who say something to her are the ones who belittle her. Everyone else in her class is a B or C cup, she’s a DDD or larger.

The biggest issue, no one ever talks about it. Her parents ignore it. Her friends don’t say anything. Her doctor doesn’t ask if she’s okay. No one says anything, except the boys in math class who make her solve problems who’s answer is 58,008. People either objectify her or belittle her. It’s infuriating and, unfortunately, rooted in reality.

Moms, talk to your daughters about their bodies. No matter their size, it’s your job to teach them how to be comfortable in them. Also, talk to your sons about how they talk to and about girls in their classes – not just high school – but from the beginning.

Bullying is not “just how it is.” They won’t “just get over it when they’re older.” And NO, “Boys will not just be boys.”

Finally, remember that your children are watching you and imitating you. Your daughters are valuing their body the same way you value theirs. Your sons are looking for women who fit the ‘beauty mold’ you’ve created for yourself. Your children are looking to you to know how to relate to their own body so be kind, charitable, and loving.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

116: The End of October

The End of October by Lawrence Wright

This is a book about a global pandemic. If that sounds odd to you, you’d be right. It’s creepy and feels like a cautionary tale. There is a lot of pandemic history here including things from 1918 that I really appreciated it.

In the midst of the book’s pandemic, a war also begins include cyber attacks, bio attacks, and missal attacks. It’s quite the bleak outcome.

And also, I loved it. I gobbled it right up. A year ago I’d classify this as dystopian (and it probably still is), but considering what coronavirus is doing to the world right now, it feels closer than ever before.

I did leave thinking, “well, it could be a lot worse.” So that’s something. This might be a good book to read 5 or 10 years from now, remembering 2020 as a ‘thing of the past’ rather than a thing of the present.

There was one line in here that struck me about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, and it was that survivors didn’t write about or talk about it. It’s like they survived and that’s enough of a testimony to what they experienced. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Will we write about this experience? Or will we just be grateful we survived and it’s over – and move on with our lives?

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Responding to the ‘Single Vocation’

All of the books I own on the single life, relationships, and how to get out of the first into the second

Have you ever had a negative visceral reaction to an article whose premise you actually agree with? A few weeks ago I read an article entitled “There’s no vocation to the ‘Single Life’” that made me physically angry at the author. And yet, I agree with the premise.

I do not, however, agree with her reasonings, foundation, or assessment of all single people. Or even her thoughts on Online Dating, even though I also dislike Online Dating. I have never been so infuriated with someone who has the same beliefs as me.

When trying to figure out why I agree with her premise but was so angry at the article I started by writing a response that could be characterized as “What do you even know? You found your husband, had two kids, and now want to just hate on single people because your envious of our great lives.”

So I just saved that response to my computer, and let it go. Until I couldn’t let it go anymore this morning. Here we go.

She writes that single people are CHOOSING the single life because they like a life without obligations, consequence, and responsibility. I don’t believe most single people are CHOOSING a single vacation because they “love a life without obligations, consequence, and responsibilities.” Are some? Sure. However, it’s my experience that most fall into this relationship status. For that reason, I don’t think it’s a “capital V” Vocation.

A “capital V” Vocation is something you discern and choose to undertake. You don’t just “wake up one day and find that you’ve been living it for the past 5 years so it must be your destiny.” It’s a choice that you have adequately discerned. We know that’s true for the priesthood and religious life because we see the way seminaries, monasteries, and convents are set up. Process of Postulate, Novice, Fully Professed, Life Profession, etc.

We’ve lost this view when it comes to marriage a bit, in my opinion. People ‘fall in love” and then just take the next step into marriage and then half of them take the next step into divorce. We take marriage for granted as the default because most people do end up marrying. We all (those who are married, those who are single, and those who have discerned and are living celibacy) have a desire to “love someone the most and be loved by someone the most” therefore we attribute the Marriage Vocation as our default and therefore one that doesn’t need discernment. Here, we are wrong.

I heard that on a new podcast I was introduced to entitled, “What God Is Not.” Fr. Michael O’Loughlin and Sister Natalia of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery began hosting this together during the quarantine (I’m 2 episodes in, and it’s a great listen.). A spiritual father and a spiritual mother discussing spirituality and helping us get to know God better to bring us closer to theosis. Their first episode is about vocation as they both tell their stories of discernment.

They didn’t fall into priesthood and religious life. It wasn’t their default because no one invited them into marriage. It was a deliberate discernment to celibacy, sacrificing a natural good (marriage, physical love, and children) for a supernatural good.

I’ve always thought that if the Lord wasn’t going to lead me to a husband He’d remove my desire for marriage, physical love, and children. He hasn’t. Then I listened to this spiritual father and spiritual mother discuss how they are fully in their vocation to priesthood and religious life with a promise of celibacy and they still have that desire. To remember what they’re sacrificing for a greater good. So He hasn’t removed the desire, and He probably won’t remove my desire for this natural goods.

And yet, I still may remain single. Not because I’m choosing this “capital V” Vocation, but because we live in a world where not every desire is fulfilled. I may have missed my Vocation to Marriage due to circumstances in my own life or because of the state of brokenness in our world. We worship a God who values the sacrifices we’re making out of Love for Him.

Should the Church promote a ‘Single Vocation’? If She does, it shouldn’t be something you “fall into because you didn’t get married.” A “capital V” Vocation isn’t something you ‘fall into because nothing else appeared.’ It’s a deliberate decision made after careful discernment. So what’s the Church supposed to do about all the single people?

I’ve got a few ideas, of course I do.

First, teach what discernment is and how to do it from a young age. Help children employ it with small decisions, teens with bigger decisions, and adults with all life choices. Help us make discernment our default instead of just the “thing men do who might enter seminary and women do whom might join a religious community.”

Second, remind people about the beauty of marriage and our calling to “love someone the most and be loved by someone the most.” Reordering marriage and family to be a high calling, a “Capital V” Vocation rather than something people just ‘fall into.’ Treat marriage like the Holy Sacrament it is by witnessing to the foreverness of it, the beauty of it, and the willful decision to enter into it.

Third, call everyone to their primary “small v” vocation of HOLINESS. This is the first vocation the Lord calls us to and is the primary goal of any other “Capital V” Vocation we enter into. We are called to be Saints. We are called to be Holy. We are called to enter into the Heavenly Kingdom. Anything that doesn’t get us there isn’t for us.

Finally, provide community for the single people around you. Those who are actively looking for a spouse, those who are not, and those who may never get married. Bring them into your Domestic Church, into your vocation to holiness. Don’t ignore them because you aren’t sure what to do with them. Don’t invalidate their life or call them inherently selfish because they never got married. Don’t dismiss any avenue they’re using to find a spouse. We can’t all marry our high school sweethearts (if I even had one). We don’t all look across the Church during Mass, lock eyes with someone, and fall in love (wouldn’t that be great, yet hard to do wearing a mask).

The real rub of the article was that she seemed to be calling single people selfish, and then condemning the Church for supporting them in their selfishness. Are some single people selfish? Yes. Are some married people selfish? Yes. Are some celibate priests and nuns selfish? Yes. Why do I know that? Because they are all human, we are all human, and we all fall into sin.

Instead of dismissing a group of people who are already feeling lost and unwanted in the Church, find a way to bring them into community, support them in their vocation to holiness, and walk with them through their suffering. There are enough places telling me my singleness is the thing wrong with me that I need to fix, the Church shouldn’t be another one to add to that list.