March. You’ve been a mix of the good and the meh. It’s been the month of low motivation and believing with each fresh snowfall that this must be the last snow of the season, only to be proven wrong a few days later. But it’s also been a month of baby showers and parties and drinks at the Mudam and meals with good friends. It’s been a month of planning and budgeting for some exciting future trips.
And I get to end the month with my parents, my little sister, my Grandpa and a whole bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins as we celebrate the Easter weekend together. There’s not a lot better than that. So here’s to an April full of inspiration and self-discipline. And many more wonderful memories with friends and family.
This month I’ve been…
I started Holy Week with Nick Page’s fantastic book The Longest Week. I read his The Wrong Messiah last year and it had a big impact on me. By the end of that book I felt like I was one of the disciples walking towards Jerusalem with Jesus, so in love, so inspired, but so entirely bewildered by why he was not conforming to my expectations.
The Longest Week is the follow up book, and looks entirely at Holy Week, so it seemed fitting to finally pick it off the bookshelf now. I planned to spend the week reading it, but then got 3/4 of the way through all on Sunday because I couldn’t put it down. It’s packed full of facts and knowledge of first century Jerusalem and opens up the intrigue, the political workings, the religious drama that was all swirling that pivotal week. It tells a familiar-to-me story in a way that is fresh and exciting and tense (even though I know how it ends). Now I’m hoping this weekend I can
steal borrow from my dad the third book in the series, Kingdom of Fools, on the unlikely rise of the early church.
I’m also still working my way slowly through Madeleine L’Engel’s beautiful and thought-provoking Walking on Water, about art and creativity from a spiritual perspective. I have a week of holiday in the UK coming up with lots of train and air travel, so I have a few books hoping to be picked for the journeys…
No new favourites this month. All Sons and Daughters is a strong favourite, as is Of Monsters and Men. And in anticipation of the Mumford and Sons concert in Luxembourg TONIGHT (!!!), Babel has been accompanying me through my days.
Through a twitter chat with Alece Ronzino and my cousin Helen, I discovered Coffitivity – a website that plays the ambient background noise of a cafe. As someone who hates to work in silence and dislikes being on her own all day, this is just perfect for those days I need to pretend I’m surrounded by happy, caffeine-fuelled people.
I went to see Silver Linings Playbook with some girlfriends in the middle of the month. It was one I’d not heard of before Jennifer Lawrence won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in it. But it was also one of the few Oscar-nominations still playing so we picked it to see.
I really liked it and was still pondering it days later. The general story follows two characters who struggle with mental illness. He has just been released from an institute following his attack on his wife’s lover. She was fired after sleeping with everyone in the office as a not-so-good reaction to the tragic death of her husband. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a happy-ending film and yet it was.
The biggest realisation for me (and maybe this was hugely obvious to everyone else but it was an aha moment for me) was that the two main characters are the ones with the “mentally ill” label, the ones that everyone whispers are “crazy”. And yet nobody else in the film is mentally healthy. No one. It startled me to consider how we label people in this way, how we stigmatise and misunderstand mental illness. As Jennifer Lawrence said in her fantastic press conference, “If you have asthma you take asthma medicine, if you have diabetes you take diabetes medicine, but as soon as you have to take medication for your mind, there’s such a stigma behind it.”
Full disclosure: I may be a little in love with Jennifer Lawrence.
At home, Rasmus and I have also started watching Sherlock from the BBC. Living abroad means we’re always hopelessly behind following the series that come out back home (in the UK or in DK) but we’ve been loving this one. Each episode is 90 minutes long and each season is just three episodes but that didn’t stop us getting through the whole first season on one blissfully lazy Sunday afternoon…
I also watched this thought-provoking Ted talk by Dan Pallotta, challenging our assumptions about the way Charities should work. This makes me wish I was still in my Brussels job, so I could call together my much-more-intelligent colleagues and get their opinion. This video is worth 20 minutes of your day.
It’s been a month of fun cooking. I made buttermilk fig scones for one babyshower, mini chocolate meringue pies and petit fours for another. My good friend came over and we made steak and ale pie followed by strawberry white chocolate muffins. There was a delicious loaf of seed-full soda bread last weekend, and what Rasmus declared “the best burger I’ve ever had in my life”. (It was a chicken, blue cheese, and apple burger topped with crispy bacon, chilli sauce, and caramelised onions, in a multigrain bread roll. You can stop drooling now…)
There’s a new coffee shop in town! My friend Melanie introduced me to The Golden Bean last week and I’ve been back a few times already. The decor is a little unimaginative and less comfortable than my still-to-be-beaten-favourite Konrad’s but the coffee is really good and the guys working there are super friendly. Also, they have a loyalty program and I’m never one to turn down the prospect of free coffee…
There’s been lots of goodness online this month. Here are the few of the blog posts and articles I bookmarked this month to come back and read again because they were so good…
Six Months Later – a beautiful post about miscarriage by Anna at the Any Other Woman blog (thanks to Amanda for sending this one my way). So much I could relate to here, and I’m just glad when women can talk openly about their lost babies.
God-Shaped Hole, by Addie Zierman – Addie had a miscarriage this month and she writes tenderly and honestly about it: “We are, all of us, punched through with holes, living with a little bit more emptiness every year. And it’s possible to be filled with the Spirit and still feel the void.”
Notes from the Margins: What We Talk About When We Talk About Abuse in the Church, by D.L. Mayfield. It’s a heartbreaking topic and she deals with it with compassion and strength.
“This is happening, all around us. Now is the time to be honest about the potential for abuse, even in our sacred institutions.”
Nora Ephron’s Final Act, by her son Jacob Bernstein for the NY Times. This is the beautifully written story of his mother’s final days before she died and a poignant look at how we face death. Definitely worth reading all seven pages.
For every Francis, a Clare. By Maureen O’Connell, for the Washington Post. This was the month the world got a new Pope and I’ve enjoyed reading about him. I also had a long coffee with a sweet Catholic friend who illuminated so much of her faith to me. I loved this article from Maureen O’Connell, confirming the key role of women in the church.
“Since such partnerships remain a rarity, Francis and Clare might remind the new pope: if you want reform, work with tenacious women.”
So tell me, what did I miss this March? What have you been into?