Seven Quick Takes No. 69



Welcome, y’all, to another edition of Quick Takes, brought to you by coffee, coffee and coffee. 🙂


It’s not that I’m tired, it’s cold. Yeah. We had some fake outs earlier this week but I think it’s 0 outside right now. But this weekend it’ll be warmer! Rejoice! I just sort of want it to stay around, oh, 30? Could we do that, weather? 30 would be good!

So anyway….coffee. 🙂


The Oscars came and went, and I was right about Birdman winning Best Picture, but wrong about Michael Keaton. I’m OK with that because I love Eddie Redmayne and he did a great job in his movie. Also, if you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, do it. It’s  really cute, touching, and the animation? BAZINGA, people. The colors are amazing.


Last night I was playing an ancient dice game called Kismet with my mom. This game is a perennial favorite in our house, because you can play it with anywhere from 2 to…I guess 8 or so players (probably more), and my hyper-competitive self doesn’t mind losing so much, because, as the name attests, you get what you get when you roll the dice. You can’t really strategize your way to victory.

So, this game has been in the household since my parents first got married in 1979. Last night, mom and I were rifling through old score cards and found several of note: one from my dad’s best friend, dated Dec. ’82; one from my Aunt and Uncle who were dating when they were playing (they were dated pre-wedding); several from when me and my siblings were kids; and one that says “Mickey {my mom} and Baby, Feb. ’82”.

Yeah, the baby is me. 🙂

So basically I’ve been playing this game since I was in-utero. 🙂

(If you’ve never played it, it’s fun. Give it a try.)


I finally saw the movie Watership Down this week. No, I wasn’t traumatized unduly, but I bet if I was a wee child watching it, the sight of bunnies clawing each other and blood-drenched fields might have put me off sleep for a few nights. As a kid, the movies that scared me the most were Snow White (that witch. Holy cow.) and Pinnochio (the whole kids turning into asses? Yeah, not so much. TERRIFIED me. And then, oh, let’s throw in an enormous whale that wants to eat us!).

However, the moral was pretty clear, in both cases: Don’t take apples from strangers, and DO NOT SKIP SCHOOL.

(Wizard of Oz didn’t scare me until I got a bit older, around 7 or so, and then it was Auntie Em turning into the Witch in the crystal ball. Then I’d just excuse myself and come back when that part was over.)


I’m also finding myself hard-pressed to read any new books so I’m re-reading Outlander. Yes. Again. I’m on Fiery Cross. I’m also re-reading a variety of other books, but that changes from hour to hour. Outlander is pretty consistent, though. 🙂


Speaking of books, I’m about to do some nitty-picky editing on the manuscript, as one of my March goals. I need to go through and do a timeline and general note taking about what I’ve included already and how things are structured. No point in writing good bits if they don’t make sense, oui? 



tabernacle rest

Rest isn’t really something we talk about, is it?

I mean, sure, we talk about sleep. We talk about how to get more of it, how to get better quality sleep in the time we are sleeping, but it’s usually in the context of, “I want to stay up and binge watch House of Cards so how can I get an awesome night’s sleep in like five hours?”

Our bodies aren’t meant for that. We may be a 24/7 society, but our bodies are not 24/7 machines.

In my “past” life (when I was working full time) I ignored rest like it was my job. There was no time to rest. There were deadlines and things to do and getting up early to beat traffic. There was no time for the nine hours of sleep I needed, because then I’d be going to bed at like eight thirty, and then I couldn’t do theater, or church things, or sing in the choir, or anything else I enjoyed.

I was also the same way in college. I was in a lot of things. I just went, went, went, until I landed in the hospital. Then it was an obvious TIME OUT from God. Go, go, go, until you can’t go anymore. And since everyone does it, how bad can it be?

When I left my job, I realized how much sleep I’d been missing. I’ve always liked sleep and my bed (“I miss my bed. I’m thinking about keeping a picture of it in my wallet.”–The West Wing). Sleep is good. Even the Bard said so: “Ah, sweet sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” (Macbeth II.iii) I found I needed a solid 9 hours to really be happy, productive, and uncranky. And also–head bang–healthy. My body needs sleep.

This is not something people are generally sympathetic to. Admitting you need sleep is almost shameful. People say “Oh you can make it up.” “Oh, we’re not tired!” But in my case, I can’t make it up. My body needs sleep. It needs that time to rest and repair, otherwise bad things happen later. So now I know I need nine hours of sleep, and I’m finally getting it. And I’m much happier and probably healthier for it, because I’m not always running on coffee and sleep deprivation fumes.

But there’s another part of rest–spiritual rest. And this goes back to the same sort of thing: “Oh, I don’t have time for it.” I don’t have time for prayer, I don’t have time for a retreat, I don’t have time for a holy hour. And this may be true for a lot of us (moms, CEOs, full-time worker bees, etc). But I also know that even when I was working full time, these spiritual rests were vital to keeping me sane. I need that time in prayer, whether it’s saying my rosary at home, attending a Holy Hour at my parish, reading a spiritual book, or weekend long silent retreats.

We have to go to the well of Christ to fill us spiritually. We have to draw the water every day. If not, it’s just like sleep deprivation–at some point, you crash and burn. You can’t handle it anymore, you know? Everything becomes way too hard. But with Him, and with adequate rest, we can handle things (if not completely, then at least better).

But it can seem like time wasting, right? Or not as important? There’s dinner to make and laundry to do and trash to take out and sidewalks to shovel and oh the plumbing needs fixed and the car’s being wonky and the bills need paid……who has time for sleep? Who has time for rest?

You do. You have to have it.

Lent is a good time to think about this. Winter can be brutal. We can feel beat up and badly used. But we’re looking toward spring, it’s a good time to reassess our habits. What’s working for us? What isn’t?

Slipping on rest definitely does not work. Stop doing it. Listen to Christ and trust him. Come to him. Rest.

Yarn Along No. 18

The knitting is back!


Yarn reality :)

Yarn reality 🙂

OK, so here we see the Scarf/Cowl–it’s really becoming more of an infinity scarf. But I really love the colors. I am about halfway done with the last ball of yarn, so SOON it will be done! I’m trying to get in a half hour of knitting every day so I can work on these projects.

That gorgeous purple yarn is called Hyacinth. It’s sort of misbehaving right now. I tried to cast on a short project with it yesterday and it kept being silly, so I’m not sure what was going on, but the yarn would not lie right so I couldn’t knit my first row the right way. Going to give it another try today.

Also, I didn’t knit this, but isn’t this amazingly adorable? My new EDEL cohort and friend, Emily, knitted this. I LOVE IT.


It’s so great for keeping my head warm when it’s so cold! And the flower is DELICIOUS.

Here’s two of my Lent books that I want to share with you:


On the left, we have Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus. Sr. Miriam was one of the speakers at the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference last year, and I think I can safely say she blew all 2000+ of us away. She is amazingly gifted and her story is so moving.

The second is A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season. Mother Mary Francis was the abbess of the Roswell Poor Clares until her death in 2006. Her Advent book Come Lord Jesus is my favorite Advent meditation, bar none. There’s just something about Mother Mary Francis’s writing that just touches the heart and gets right to the nub of the matter. Thus far, I’m really enjoying her Lenten conferences.

Oscars 2014: The Theory of Everything

Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Hawking.

Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking.

When I first heard that this was going to be a movie, I got pretty excited. I love both Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, and the concept seemed pretty awesome: the life of Jane and Stephen Hawking. Most people know of Stephen Hawking (if only from his Simpsons and Big Bang Theory appearances), but a “major motion picture” (as they like to say) about his life and his wife? Sounds good to me. (There were other movies before, notably the BBC’s Hawking, where Benedict Cumberbatch played the physicist.)

The film is based on Jane Hawking’s Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen. Jane is an accomplished academic in her own right, having earned her PhD in Spanish poetry while she was married to Hawking. When she met Stephen he was at Cambridge working on his PhD. In real life, she knew about Stephen’s ALS before they started dating; in the movie, she doesn’t (Stephen doesn’t know either–it’s diagnosed later).

The one flaw this film has is that it’s pretty abrupt. It has a two hour running time, and I think it could’ve been longer, if only for the sake of exposition. We move from scene to scene pretty quickly, and there are montages of time passing that are treated to look like 60s “home movies”, where important plot points speed by: the Hawkings’ wedding, the birth of their first two children, family vacations, etc. I’m not saying we needed to spend endless time on these things, since the point of the movie is his relationship with Jane, but I would’ve liked to have seen more about their early married life, especially the birth of their first child, in order to lay the ground work for what comes later.

The early scenes are very well done. Redmayne plays Hawking as a sort of dashing, witty nerd, which is very close to Jane’s description of him in the memoir. Jane falls in love with him pretty quickly, and even though he tries to push her away after the diagnosis of motor neuron disease (it wasn’t called ALS in the 60s, apparently), she is persistent.

The movie speeds through their early married years, then focuses on Stephen earning his PhD and some of his work with his doctoral advisor (played winningly by David Thewlis of Harry Potter and The Lady). There’s a dinner party, celebrating his work, with his friends in attendance, but where Hawking’s feelings of isolation and disability becomes quite apparent.

It’s at this point that Jane determines she needs help–she can’t handle three children and Stephen. Her mother suggests she get out of the house and join the church choir. Well, the choir director, Jonathan Jones (a great Charlie Cox), is willing to give piano lessons to Robbie (their eldest–their children are Robbie, Lucy, and Timothy),and Jane invites him over to dinner. Stephen gives his assent to having Jonathan help around the house. Eventually he becomes almost another member of the family–going on vacations with them, helping Stephen in just about every capacity, etc.

Of course, people start to talk. At Tim’s christening, Mrs. Hawking corners Jane in the kitchen and asks whose son Tim is. Jonathan overhears this, and leaves the house–after confessing to Jane that he has feelings for her, and Jane telling him that she has them as well.

At this point, Stephen is confined to a wheelchair, but he’s giving lectures, winning prizes, and is traveling quite a bit. Stephen’s work is only briefly explained, and there are two scenes of him giving lectures. If you’re interested in his work, you’re going to have to go elsewhere–this isn’t A Beautiful Mind, where the work is explained in some detail, with fun images (like the women in the bar, in that movie). It’s only briefly sketched.

The turning point in the movie is when Stephen takes ill during a trip to Bordeaux. He’s gone with some students to see an opera (he’s a huge opera buff, particularly Wagner), and Jane and Jonathan are taking the kids camping in the same area, Jane still obviously wrestling with her feelings for Jonathan. Stephen is rushed to the hospital during a performance and is diagnosed with pneumonia. A ridiculous French doctor asks her if she should just let him die. Jane fiercely resists this, and says he will be transferred to England, where he receives the tracheotomy that removes his ability to speak.

The scene after the procedure, where Jane is trying to teach Stephen how to use an alphabet board, is amazingly good acting. From this point on, Redmayne doesn’t use his voice at all. Everything is conveyed in his face and posture. It’s really brilliant work. You can feel the agony he’s in at having his voice taken from him, at the existence he’s now living, and you can also see how much it tears Jane apart, to have done this to him, although she knows her husband wants to live.It’s a really crushingly emotional scene (and probably more so for me, because I have a huge thing about trachs. I never ever want one unless I absolutely have to have one. So I totally sympathized here.)

This brings in the introduction of the computer that becomes Stephen’s voice to the world, and also his nurse/second wife, Elaine. This is where I got a bit muddled. It is obviously that Jane is jealous of Elaine. It’s obvious she still has feelings for Stephen. But yet she doesn’t…I don’t know. Try to stop the relationship? I don’t know if she could, really. She might have been so emotionally drained. But when Stephen tells her than Elaine is traveling with him to America, Jane starts to cry. It’s as if she knows that their relationship is over (and in actuality, Stephen did ask Jane for a divorce and married Elaine, whom he also later divorced).  The scene is well done, but it muddled me and made me sad, because obviously these two still have deep feelings for each other. But I guess that wasn’t enough.

The movie ends with Jane, Stephen, and their children at Buckingham Palace, where Stephen has received an honor from the queen (He does refuse a knighthood). At the end of the movie, they watch their children play in the gardens, and Stephen tells Jane: “Look what we made.”

Jane does marry Jonathan, and is still married to him. She and Stephen have three grandchildren and remain good friends.

The movie itself has a lot of strong points, the biggest being the performances of Redmayne, Jones, Cox, and Thewlis. But like I said above, I wished we’d have had more actual scenes, instead of montages, to depict Jane and Stephen’s relationship. I think that’s why I don’t think it will win Best Picture, because there are a few flaws in the storytelling. But the acting is just gorgeous (as are the costumes, lighting, and set design).

Redmayne does a tremendous job showing emotion without saying anything in the latter bits of the movie. You can tell he’s still the same Stephen, even though he can’t talk: his humor, intelligence, wit, etc. are all still in tact. The scene where he’s essentially ending his marriage to Jane is done without him saying anything (his computer does the talking), but you can just tell from his face how hard this is for him. Actors are often told to use their entire body to portray a character (I know directors who are fond of saying that emotion doesn’t stop at the neck), and this is a master class in it.

Felicity Jones truly deserves Best Actress for her work here. She’s stubborn, fiery, massively intelligent, and loves her husband fiercely. This is a great role for her and she inhabits it fully. She does justice to Jane Hawking. Charlie Cox is just a fantastically warm and sympathetic actor.  And Thewlis is just great in everything I see him in.

So we bring the Best Actor race back: I really think it’s a coin toss. The Academy loves to reward actors who change their physicality for a role (Nicole Kidman in The Hours, etc.) But Keaton has been in the business a long time, he’s never been nominated for an Oscar, and he never may be, again. So there may be that in consideration, as well. Eddie Redmayne is my age (yes, we’re in our early thirties), and he’s going to do more things–we hope. 🙂 (I hope!). I’m not saying this is a good way to give Oscars, but it’s often done. Jimmy Stewart won his Oscar for The Philadelphia Story, when it wasn’t really his strongest performance. The ways of the Acting Oscars are strange, indeed.

Both actors give strong, textured, impressive performances. Either one would be a well-deserved winner. I’m going to bet that Keaton wins, though, because of the above. But if I’m wrong, I’d be OK with that. (Assuming Redmayne wins. 🙂 ).

Oscars 2014: Birdman


So, the first Best Picture nominee I’ve seen thus far: Birdman.

I was predisposed to like this, because of Michael Keaton. He’s from Pittsburgh (a suburb near my dad’s hometown, actually), and he did sit next to my mom in church one time (so I’m, what, two degrees from Michael Keaton?). And Mr. Mom is one of my favorite movies, ever.

But the concept of this film was sort of evading me until I saw it.

Birdman is the story of actor Riggan Thompson (Keaton), who was the face of a (apparently?) very successful action movie franchise called Birdman. But since the end of the movies, his career has petered out, and he wants to revive it and bring some gravitas to it by directing, writing, and starring in a Broadway play based on a Raymond Chandler novel. When the movie begins, the play is just about to go into previews, and things are sort of falling apart. His ex-wife is in town, he’s having problems with his fresh-out-of-rehab daughter (Emma Stone), there’s no money, and one of the other actors (Edward Norton) is making his life very difficult with his constant “improvements” to the play (including changing lines, trashing the set during a preview performance, and attempting to have sex with his wife (Naomi Watts) onstage before the play’s climax [while the characters are supposed to be ‘in bed’ with each other, they’re not supposed to, um…well, you know]).

The play was shot on location at the St. James Theater, which is right across from the Majestic, where Phantom has been playing for 25+ years, so I enjoyed all the exterior shots. I also enjoyed the inside look at a Broadway theater, because I’m a theater nerd like that. The movie itself has great cinematography–the much-lauded “one shot” idea (meaning there are very few obvious scene cuts, like there are in other movies)–and production values.

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton give the best performances here. They play off each other really well and their scenes are fun to watch. Norton is a cliche of the actor who wants to give the audience “real life”, who lives entirely for the stage, and, in the process, really screws up his off-stage life. Keaton’s Riggan is trying to keep it all together, and isn’t doing it very well. We can see the frayed edges of his character get even more tattered as the movie progresses.

Keaton does a great job with the character, creating a desperate, Hollywood -has-been who’s trying desperately to reinvent himself, while shunning overt manifestations of that idea (his daughter shouts at him, “You don’t even have a Facebook page!”).  The play, to him, is truly THE THING: if the play is a success, then Riggan can remake his life. If it’s not, then his life is over.  There’s so much riding on this show, it’s crazy.

The movie is hard to talk about since it’s pretty unconventional. It really needs to be seen. As far as the Oscars go, conventional wisdom is saying that it will probably upset Boyhood for best picture, and I wouldn’t say it’s undeserved. It’s about actors being actors, doing Broadway, so it has a built-in cache anyway (A movie about actors acting? Sure!). There’s a nice mix of comedy and pathos happening, it’s an unconventional film style (but not as much as Boyhood)  and it has a strong plot that is nicely brought to life by a dedicated cast. Edward Norton certainly deserves to win Best Supporting Actor for his work here.

The Best Actor category is hard for me, because I like both Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne (and I’ve also seen The Theory of Everything, which I’ll talk about next). So I’ll write more about that race in the next entry. One of the big things, though, is that Keaton is creating a character out of whole cloth. He doesn’t have anything to model Riggan on, like Redmayne had Stephen Hawking. And yet you root for Riggan. You want the play to do well. You want him to have a good relationship with his daughter and current girlfriend. You basically want him to get his life together and be better. So that’s strongly in Keaton’s favor.

Yarn Along No. 17

So I’m showing you the yarn reality. 🙂


I actually just cast off on that bookmark. Don’t you love that color? It’s called custard, and I adore it. The scarf is getting longer and it’s almost done! Yay! I know you’ll all be happy to see new projects, right? 🙂


The books are my Lent books, all stacked up on the table. I read most of these every year, but A Time of Renewal is new, and I think it’ll be a great edition. (The Rosary and Prayer are books I have there to dip in and out of; they’re not Lent specific, as it were.:) ).

Why I Give Up Facebook for Lent

For the past few years I’ve given up two things for Lent: Facebook and Book Buying.

The book buying because, well, let’s be real. Emily has a lot of books, and she doesn’t need that many. So I usually donate the money I would’ve spent on books to a worthy cause. And no, this doesn’t mean I go hog-wild on Amazon right before Lent, either. 🙂

Giving up Facebook is harder.

One of the reasons I like Facebook is that it enables me to connect with people that live far away from me (friends in Boston, in the UK, family spread all over), theater friends, and people I may not see on a regular basis. I love being able to see photos of people’s babies and know what’s going on in their day-to-day lives. And really, that’s why I keep facebook–for those great connections.


A lot of the time, it’s a time suck. I’m there because I’m procrastinating: I don’t want to write, I don’t want to clean, I don’t want to do something I should be doing. It also encourages unhealthy comparison: this person has the life I want. This person is going to Italy for two weeks. This person just got a new car.

That’s not healthy: mentally, spiritually, emotionally. It’s just not. This is a big, gaping hole in my life that I need to work on (and I know I’m not alone. )

I’m happier when I spend less time on Facebook. All through 2015, I’ve been sort of easing my way off it. I will never get rid of it completely, for the good pockets I mention above. And being a writer in the 21st century almost demands that you have a “social media platform”. (And why yes, I do have an author page. Sorry. Plug.)

I do not need more comparisons in my life. I don’t need to feel like I am “less than.” What I need is to spend more time with God. By eliminating Facebook use during Lent, I’m cutting down on a distraction that keeps me from Him.

To reiterate: There are GOOD PARTS of Facebook. I have wonderful friends there, people that I never would have connected with if I didn’t have Facebook (I’m thinking of some awesome Catholic writers and other Catholic women that I’ve met through their blogs, but on Facebook I’ve been able to chat with them and share things more deeply.).

However, we have to keep the right balance in these things. Food is good–to a point. (Like the piece of Guinness cake I may or may not have had for breakfast). Wine is good–to a point. See where I’m going?

Books and Facebook are not bad in and of themselves (unless the book is 50 Shades of Grey…..or the Da Vinci Code). It’s how we use them.

So that’s why I give up Facebook for Lent. It’s so I can focus on the better part.