Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mad Men Recap - Time & Life

It was the end of SC&P in this week's episode of Mad Men; the end of Don and Roger's dreams of running their own successful and creative ad agency, the end of Joan's hard earned position as a partner, the end of what we've watched grow and change and experience such unexpected twists and turns. "Time & Life" felt like the end of the ad agency's story in many ways, the partners are finally faced with the reality that although they've cashed in on their agency, they've also given away their independence and that they have no control over what happens to the staff they've built, their own creative aesthetic, and clients. We've witnessed so many deals, and hair-brained plans to control the company in the past that we assumed Don's last grasp to head to California would pan out, but no, this is the end.

And yet Don is left literally alone as the rest of the partners go home to cry on the shoulder of their boyfriend/kooky-French-Megan's mom/college girlfriend/slightly, less bitter ex-wife. It is a contrast that each of the partners except Don leave to a slightly better personal situation than they had before, while Don is left with no one. Startling as well, was Roger's drunken and impassioned assurance to Don: "You are okay."

But does Don have any personal integrity, strength of character, or courage to pick up the pieces of his life now that his creative independence has vanished? Is he okay if he is alone? Don couldn't even find solace or a diversion in a move to California where he has gone time and time again in his life to recreate himself and re-spark his desire for importance in his field,  and sometimes even find the courage to reevaluate the mistakes he had made towards his family. Not even the hope of California is an option to him anymore. No more SC&P, no California, Don is very much alone.

But seen alongside of Don's loneliness we gain a window into Pete's relationship with Trudy. Surprisingly, Pete wasn't his usual vindictive self, he even came to Trudy's defence with the crazy principal of a prospective school for Tammy. Another absolutely perfect Pete punching scene! It was also very heartwarming that as both Pete and Trudy opened up to each other about the difficulties they have faced since separating, sharing that divorce has not been the promised land of freedom and new beginnings it's obvious they thought it would be. They are both maturing and at the same time recognizing their bond of marriage. It was nice to see that Pete had affection and care towards Trudy, and even went to check on her after their terrible day at McCann.

But the scene that had me in tears this week was Peggy's beautiful opening up to Stan. Peggy gets into a heated argument with a stage mom after the precocious young daughter staples herself with Peggy's stapler. The stage mom yells at Peggy that she can do what she likes with her kids, and Peggy can do what she likes with hers. It's very evident that the woman believes Peggy has no children. And so Peggy explains to Stan that she isn't a coldhearted person who just doesn't like kids, no -- she followed her heart and ended up in trouble, has since moved on with her life, but still cares deeply for her child who now lives with another family.

Now I know that her revelation is given through the lens that she continues to suffer for giving up her child so that she could have a career, and that she cannot move on like a man could. But that is precisely what brought me to tears. No, Peggy couldn't just walk away from her unintended pregnancy. Yes, her decision to give her child a family has cost her dearly. Yes, she still cares. And it is exactly because she cares still, after all these years, that makes her a mother. It is an indelible mark, an inimitable gift, that women's hearts are branded and changed by carrying life, and no matter how hard society, feminist ideology, and equal pay try to irradiate this fact, it remains that women are meant to be mother's and that motherhood changes you.

The scene to me was so powerful because it has been so long in coming. Peggy has never spoken of her child to anyone. None of her former boyfriends, even Ted Chaugh, were ever intimate enough with Peggy to be given the honour of this knowledge. It happened with such emotional power by being shared with Stan in the office. She said it in a dignified yet completely heartbreaking way.

Peggy has become a successful woman, but also a mature woman who acknowledges and accepts her past. Her acknowledgement is so honest that it can't help but betray everything the sexual revolution promised the young, teenage Peggy who started out as a secretary. But it's the honesty that may provide Peggy with healing, she is a mother, she does deeply care that she has a child.

And so Mad Men has shown that business ventures may end, the times may change, yet the fundamental truths of life return to family and these essential relationships that define us. Motherhood is one of these essential things.

Some quick things:

- Does anyone really think Roger and Marie are a match?? She's no Mona.
- "Meredith, we should get you a bell."
- I'm still laughing at the hilarious principal scene!
- And Lou, another hilarious tie-up of a much hated character.
- Ken's moment to shut Pete and Roger down was perfect.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Mystical and the Practical in Sigrid Undset's St. Catherine of Siena

Sometimes saints are so strange and wonderful that we can’t wrap our minds around them. This is a marvelous expression of God’s unique creating power as well as His ability to love each of us in individual, and personal ways that may never be understandable to anyone else. If not for these strange saints we would expect that God could only love us in a few ways, and consequently that our lives could only be lived in a few ways. With a saint such as Catherine of Siena there is an intriguing mix of strange and yet very ordinary and it all comes to life in Sigrid Undset's remarkable biography.

Sigrid Undset is the author of the Nobel prize-winning trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, another work that focuses on a strong woman living in medieval times with skillful insight. I recently delved into Undset’s biography without many expectations of how Undset would approach this saint who at once was a remarkable mystic who experienced many visions of Christ, as well as a saint who was firmly entrenched in the daily political affairs of the Church at the time. What Undset brings in her biography is a seamless view of how the mystical and ordinary are more intertwined than we would presume.

St. Catherine’s staggering holiness was evidenced at a very young age. In her early teens she committed herself wholly to virginity and became a Third Order Dominican. Her mystical experiences also began at a young age and so Catherine desired to give all her time and energy to prayer and solitude so that she could experience these amazing visions and encounters with Christ as often as possible.

But these mystical experiences happened to her while she was dealing with very normal aspects of life; especially family life. Because she was a beautiful girl of a moderately wealthy cloth dyer the family expected her to make a prosperous marriage that would increase the family’s political and social clout in the city of Siena. Catherine however, stood strong against this wish of her family even to the point of her brothers and mother becoming furious with her determination to remain a virgin for God. Her mother would demand her to clean and cook for the entire household just to keep her from what she thought was too much time spent alone praying. Throughout Catherine’s life, even as she became somewhat famous for her holiness and developed a following of priests and other men and women, her mother continued to badger her with her own worries and desire to continually be with Catherine.

This reminded me of how often we encounter struggle within our own families to live our faith or vocations, and how we feel that our family life is burdensome and somehow keeping us from God and our earthly mission. St. Catherine never whined about her family, and as Undset is careful to document she did have to sometimes write pointed letters to her mother emphasizing her own duties and what God was calling her to do. Catherine seems so very practical and full of common sense when dealing with her overbearing mother, but she always did so with great love and respectful obedience to her.

The other aspect that surprised me between the mystical and the earthly in St. Catherine’s life was the popes Catherine advised and how they themselves were far from what we would consider saintly. Undset has a great gift for describing medieval life clearly for the modern reader which is so helpful since there are many layers of secular and Church politics that kept the papacy out of Rome at that time. Pope Gregory XI was securely installed in Avignon, his life was extravagant and luxurious, and he himself was used to bending to the political whims of both the Church and the French to remain in Avignon. Along came St. Catherine, an uneducated young woman who claimed to be a mystic, and after her many pleading letters and finally meeting with her in person he summoned what little courage he had and returned to Rome. But his successor who would become the true pope in a time of the Western Schism, Urban VI, was not at all likable, had no diplomatic skills, and was keen to use armies against his enemies within the Church. But even though this man may have been unliked, Catherine remained his staunch defender because of Christ’s instructions to him and for his possession of the chair of Peter.

While reading this episode in Catherine’s life I was struck with how straightforward Undset describes this time. Catherine was at once experiencing deeply intense and intimate encounters and visions of Christ, yet she was dealing with what amounted to very difficult and undeserving people on earth. Just because she was a mystic did not mean she avoided the difficult people of which life seems to be full. Just because she was literally hearing Christ call her his bride did not mean she didn’t have critics and detractors. Even though she was giving direct messages from Christ to the Pope, the Pope did not hold her in high esteem or even take her messages very seriously.

I don’t think this fact surprised Undset as she describes beautifully how Catherine never took her focus off of Christ and His mission for her. But it surprised me. In the back of my mind there is always this false suspicion that somehow saints don’t face the everyday, ordinary, and seemingly banal disagreeable aspects of life. I always assume that their holiness makes them impervious to annoyances, difficult people, and simple hardships. But as Sigrid Undset skillfully depicts her life, the brilliance of St. Catherine’s mysticism is seen alongside the dull and frustrating earthly difficulties. St. Catherine lived an extraordinary life and experienced mystical experiences we moderns see as very strange and incomprehensible, but she also dealt with practical, ordinary life with love and courage and sometimes it’s seeing the ordinary alongside the strange and wonderful that boosts our faith.  

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Some Great First Communion (and Confession!)-Prep Books

This year we've been preparing our oldest child to receive her First Holy Communion and First Reconciliation. Our situation is a little different than most in that our parish has no religious education classes so the whole responsibility of making sure she's figuring things out about the Faith, and answering her questions have fallen on my shoulders, which is a little daunting when I think about it!

I've tried to get a few different resources for her so that the different aspects of what she should know for around this age gets covered a few times. When it comes to religious education I think it's valuable to have the different aspects of the faith presented in different ways because you never know what will resonate the best for another person, and especially a small child.

I'm also a big fan of religious texts for kids having actual substance. I won't link to what was provided by the diocese, but let's just say I found it really lacking and hardly talked about "faith" at all. It hardly veered from the very disappointing script of "Jesus is your friend". Our children are exceeding keen to the truth and they deserve to have the fullness given to them, I don't want my kids pandered to but given the whole experience of their rich faith.

All that being said, I'm sure I haven't done a perfect job, but I'm also sure that the Holy Spirit will make up for my lack. It's always good to remember that this isn't a one time thing, this is more getting her in the door to keep receiving knowledge of the Faith. We've got a month and a half left to go until she'll be receiving her First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation so I'm hoping she'll be well prepared by then. These books have been the best help to us!

We use the Faith and Life series for our religion text for school, so we've been working on this book for the whole school year. I still appreciate this series for it's clarity and simply approach while explaining the doctrine of the Church in an age appropriate way.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book, but I found it to be a nicely presented way of bringing together Biblical stories and doctrines of the faith while explaining the Sacraments and the Mass. The pictures are bright, but not perfect, and engage young eyes. I think this is a nice compliment to the text-book like books. My only criticism is it's clunky prose, at first I thought this may be a translation, but the book page clearly states it was written by an English speaker and nothing can be blamed on poor translators. But it doesn't effect the overall good quality of teaching this book provides, just bugs a picky mom.

Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism

I'm not going to lie. I'm using this primarily to keep my from teaching heresy! There's just something reassuring in the pat question and answer catechism that you just can't find anywhere else. I know I don't want it to be the only way my kids learn their faith, but it is helpful in clearly up important things like, "How many persons in the Holy Trinity?" This little book isn't too intimidating and knowing that the questions cover the basics helps me know that I'm covering them in depth in other places. It's a little catechetical insurance policy.

This book is so good at presenting the teaching and meaning of the Sacrament of Penance to children in a straightforward, understandable, and clear way. I love that it's laid out with questions and answers, that it respects children and their capability to understand their own need for forgiveness and capability for sin -- two things which are so daunting to most catechetical writers that they ignore it altogether. I know this book has given my daughter confidence when at first she seemed tentative and unsure what Confession meant. 

This is a devotional type book which actually makes a great compliment to the more catechetical books we've been using. Each reflection by Pope Francis has a nice, bright illustration and the reflections are straight forward and easy to understand even for children while at the same time being beautiful and substantial! I also just love that this is a book of actual papal writings presented to children! This is the type of thing that needs to be more present in catechesis from the very beginning--presenting the teachings of the popes early helps us realize that the teachings are important, approachable, and necessary for our everyday life. This book would also make a really great First Communion gift. 

Ignatius Press kindly provided me review copies of two of these books, but my opinions are entirely my own...clearly! 

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 118

Joining Kelly for some quick takes today, everyone go look at her hair!!


Friday again and as usual I don't know what happened to the time. Oh wait, it was swallowed up by feeding and cleaning five kids! Haha, I say it in jest, but we all know that that takes up a lot of time. A lot of unpaid time ;) We started out the week with two gloriously spring-like, warm days then a really windy day, and now two gloomy cold days but without any rain. I love rain, and since it rains so infrequently here I feel cheated when we have gloomy days without actual moisture!


Wednesday we went to the zoo with a homeschool group and had a really nice day. I'm not sure if the kids learned any more than the average Wild Kratts episode (btw, we love Wild Kratts and Theresa's post is great!), but it can't have hurt! The zoo is an older one and has a very eldery Asian elephant that just walks around the zoo with the zookeepers, I guess for exercise? Everybody else seemed totally nonplussed being ten feet away from an elephant walking down the road, but I was freaking out with excitement. It's so clear I'm easily impressed...


Guys! I'm having the worst time shopping for spring clothes! The worst. I thought I'd spring for Boden because I just want a dress that fits me properly and I ended up paying through the nose for shipping only to have both dresses be too big, even after I talked to an online stylist. Of course they'll refund me if I ship them back, the only problem is I have to pay return shipping to Britain and they shipped these dresses in a box the size of one of my children. I could cry - I hate paying shipping with every fibre of my being!!

Side note - could StitchFix please start serving Canada?? Because I'd use that in a second! I love online shopping as much as the next person, but I barely have time for that and the shipping to Canada from any decent store is brutal. Anyway, I know this is a super first world problem, but I thought you'd like to know my plight!


I've been having a rough couple weeks with Max rebelling against afternoon naps. I admit I'm a nap time nazi, but he's not sleeping at all and refusing to stay in a room because he can hear the older kids up and awake. The whole problem would be solved if I had 5 bedrooms for each child in which I could lock them for quiet time. The problem is I don't, and inevitably the couple kids that are together for "quiet time" aren't so quiet because I just want to take a break, then Max hears them, then he pitches a fit and then I go crazy. I really just want and need a bit of time to myself by the time 2 o clock rolls around. It's hard to homeschool, and have 5 little kids in a small house, because I need some kid-free moments. And I just don't know how I'm going to quite fix this problem. I have a feeling it's me having to discipline more and be firmer and just the thought of that makes me exhausted let alone holding strong and doing it. So. There's that fun toddler life tidbit. 


We had a great time talking to our friend Molly in this week's podcast episode. We tackle the whole mom work/home "balance" issue, but with Molly's creativity and inspiration it makes for such a great conversation. Have you listened yet? What did you think? 


Because this week has been Infertility Awareness Week Jenny has been running great posts talking about the subject from a Catholic perspective. It's really great to read such honest posts about such a difficult topic. Mandi and Molly's posts are must reads. 


It's going to snow this weekend!! Ahh!! Also; I've got 4 outta five children currently feeding barking coughs that came from who knows where so it looks as if I'm in for a rocking weekend. I might have to clean my floors or something! Help! I hope your weekend is full of warmer weather and a bit more fun that having a couple kids cough on you at the same time...

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mad Men Recap - The Forecast

Oh, hello there, I'm finally here with a recap to Sunday's Mad Men episode! It's literally taken me four days to unbefuddle myself about this week's episode and come to some conclusions. I've also consulted my experts, Kathryn and Matthew Weiner. So we should be good to go now. I hope.

Firstly: ALL OF JOAN'S OUTFITS. I was loving this episode solely because of the variety of killer Joan outfits. From long nightgowns, to polka dots; it was perfection! I'm still thinking about that stunning brocade affair she wore out on her New York date with Richard because it was a feat of costume design!

Ok. I got that out of the way -- let's get to the serious stuff.

At face value this episode almost appears like deja vu all over again instead of a portent of the future like it's title "The Forecast" describes. Here we have Don again flat on his face, he's completely unfulfilled and to put the cherry on top he is living in an empty apartment he can't get rid. We continue feeling the deja vu as creepy Glen returns to surprise Betty with his sideburns and general manliness. Then Joan hitting it off with another rich silver fox.

Don's getting told be everyone in his life that he's a big loser. First, it's the spunky blonde realtor who makes no bones about how depressing and sad his life appears when looking at his apartment. Then, after giving some very misconstrued advice to Mathias, Don is told by Mathias in an angry tell-off that he is nothing but a handsome face, devoid of character. I think it's extremely important that the word "character" was used because that's the source of Don's current listlessness and wandering. Few people in his life have pointed to the lack of character, because they're usually pointing out the terrible things he has done, but now it is the essential lack of substance that Matthias points out and you can tell it hits home with Don.

Don then takes Sally and her friends out for Chinese before they leave on a bus trip and Sally deftly watches on as Don pours his charm on her very young friends and in return the girls eat it up. As Sally gets on the bus she confronts him for not even being able to help his "ooze", or in other words the fact that he only relates to people sexually. She's disgusted that this shallow way of relating seems to be the only way her parents are able to deal with people, (she just witnessed Betty ooze with the appearance of Glen at their door). But it's Don's response to this teenage outburst tell Sally that she is just like them because she is beautiful but that she has to do more with her beauty. I think what this is foretelling is Don's acknowledgement that character is needed to understand how to deal with that beauty, that sexuality, that is present in Don and Betty, but also burgeoning in Sally.

I love that this beautiful, human truth is coming to the light in Don's relationship with Sally. I feel like Sally is really the guide to Don becoming a whole person and it's evidenced again here in this episode. Sally's storyline was really exceptional throughout. Her dealing with Glen and Betty, then her heartbreaking phone call to Glen's mother, begging to talk to him before she leaves and he ships out.

Mirroring Don in this episode is Betty and her encounter with Glen. She's surprised by Glen being grown and joining up, but she approaches him with the compassion and understanding just as she did when Glen was a boy. Their relationship is so different from Betty's relationship with Sally, she treats Glen with a tenderness and respect that is much more close to real motherly love than her dealings with her own children. It comes from Glen seeing her as a type of goddess of beauty, he values her for her beauty in a purely idolizing way which is what she has always craved and which the love of her husbands has never quite live up to, let alone the love of her children which is far more demanding than any other love she experiences. Betty again shows that she doesn't know how to accept or give love unconditionally, but with Glen in this episode she does project a certain introspection that lets on the fact that she has influenced Glen in a way which makes her somewhat responsible for joining the army, and going into harm's way. I am hoping that this is a forecast of Betty realizing that her love means a responsibility to her children, that something is required of her, a sacrifice that she has resisted from the very beginning.

But now back to Joan! She's quickly fallen for rich, divorced, older man who seems charming and gallant while in LA on business. He surprises her by coming to New York, and it is on there next date that Joan tells her about her son. Richard is upfront and says he's got no interest in helping raise a child, or let a child ruin his jet-setting, divorced with money lifestyle. Joan walks out, but we then see her voice her frustration as she leaves her son on her way out to work by saying "You're ruining my life!" But then before she closes the door she hears a little "I love you" from Kevin. It was heartbreaking and to be honest, all to relatable. That is why the next scene with Joan when she is at the office and Richard brings her flowers as a peace offering she tells him she thinks she's going to send Kevin away. The way that Joan delivers these few quick statements seems almost flippant and sarcastic. They did indeed leave me confused for the last couple days on whether or not Joan really meant she'd give up her son for a man, but I've since watched this clip with Matthew Weiner and I'm taking it to mean that in light of Joan's exit from her apartment in the morning, her remarks of sending Kevin away are meant sarcastically - almost as a taunt towards Richard, another man who wants her to give up her dreams and what is really important to her but in a way that promises she'll crush him if that is what he demands. Weiner says that he loves the way Joan stands up for herself in that scene, and that's why I feel that Joan is placing her son first and that the remark was a sarcastic one and not something she'd seriously follow through on. Richard then apologizes and realizes his mistake of potentially giving up a wonderful woman because he's too selfish to welcome her son into his life. Here Richard is doing a very un-Roger thing in both apologizing to Joan, and admitting his own selfishness. I think we're going to see that Richard is the second coming of Roger, and is an older man who values and respects Joan completely while at the same time giving up his own selfish ways.

I think this basically covers what I wanted to cover although there is plenty to talk about especially when we look at Don trying to come up with anything when it comes to looking into the future. He sees no future at work, even Peggy can't rally hope for him in that aspect, nor at home as he's shoved out of his own apartment at then end of the episode. I think this may show that the change Don desires for the future won't come from without, but from within, even if he doesn't know yet how to make it happen.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mad Men Recap - New Business

Since I was out of town this week I'm woefully behind in giving my little Mad Men updates. I should almost rewatch last week's episode to have a better handle on it, it was a very tightly written episode and after some discussion with Kathryn this episode was saying a lot about Don. Let's hop to it.

This episode entitled "New Business" centres around whether or not Don is ready for new business in his personal life or whether he's going to continue to spin on the merry-go-round of misery he's been on for so long. This episode also has great hints and insights towards psychology -- the jumping off point being Betty's declaration that she's pursuing a masters degree in psychology come fall, because people just love talking to her! All of her visits to the psychologists offices from the first couple of seasons have pushed her into that direction it would seem. Unfortunately, her interest in psychology has failed her in her relationships with Don and her children time and time again, but maybe for Betty this is a case of "If you can't do - teach"?

Either way this hinting at psychology has us looking at Don's actions in this episode and especially his actions towards both Diana and Megan. (As Kathryn pointed out to me!) With one woman he's seeing a reflection of his own attitudes and underlying psychology with how he deals with life, with another woman he's come to the conclusion that the only way he can make up for past marital failings is a million dollar cheque.

As the episode continues Don further pursues Diana, she comes to his apartment, they sleep together again and we begin to hear part of her story. Diana is still giving off that Rachel vibe, and this episode cements the idea of Diana as another Rachel in Don's life. She's left her family in Racine, Wisconsin and as we find out, a daughter who died two years previous. Diana is grieving, looking to start again in New York, but cannot rid herself of her past and now the added shame of leaving her other daughter at home as well. This is eerily similar to Don. Don also ran away from his previous life, he sought out a new identity, and has plunged himself into the self-destructive cycle of searching for love and comfort in sex.

What I saw within this interaction with Diana, and especially as she pushes him away saying she doesn't want anything from Don, is a glimmer of Don realizing that the cycle of searching for comfort and love in random sexual encounters has not given him the intimacy and love that he has been continually searching for his whole life.

In Diana we also see that she's lost her family, her children; through death and in leaving her leaving home. Don has lost his home, twice over now, but his children are still here - will this be the revelation to him that this is where he will find the real love he has been seeking? I found the scene with Don making milkshakes with Bobby and Gene so sweet, yet so painful as he longingly looks at Betty and Francis carrying on as a normal family as he goes to leave. Real family is still within his grasp in his relationship with his children.

As Don is trying to begin again as he claims with Diana, he is also wrapping up the divorce to Megan. I found this storyline with Megan to be the final unmasking of Megan as someone completely opposite of Betty as she has been set up through the past seasons. Megan's career has tanked, she's out of money and dependent on Don financially (I think most of her money must be going to her fake hair!), yet she views their marriage breakdown as something completely Don's fault. Megan's own selfish choices were present at every step of their marriage, which makes their marriage breakdown worse in a way than Betty and Don's marriage. Betty didn't have as many choices and opportunities to pursue her own interests and passions, Betty didn't know the truth about Don from the beginning. Megan has always been very similar to Betty; dependent on Don, yet completely self-serving in their marriage. In her interactions with her mother Megan reveals that she's completely altered her view of her own marriage to conform with outside presumptions of what must surely have happened, which is very similar to Betty's past stubborn ideas regarding Don.

I thought Megan's mom Marie and her clearing out the apartment after Megan left to be hilarious. Although her own attitudes about marriage are obviously very toxic and she's now run out on her children and husband as well by the end of the episode.

What was also interesting about the divorce was the ways in which Roger and Pete talk to Don about it. Roger of course is still dismissive of his past experiences with divorce, claiming that Jane gave up nothing to be married to him and only reaped financial rewards. Pete however is showing a little more insight into his experience with divorce, alluding to the false idea that divorce promises a whole new life when really he's only found "new beginnings" and not a new life since his divorce. Pete's few scenes in these two episodes have been so great, the writing has been impeccable and Pete still figures large within the Mad Men world with only a few important lines.

Meanwhile Peggy and Stan are creating a photo shoot with Pima, a photographer who is known as an "artist" instead of the usual photographers who work in advertising. This storyline is interesting in what becomes a sexual power play as Pima seduces Stan in the dark room, then makes a pass at Peggy. Pima obviously isn't just an "artist" but is someone who is willing to use sex for power and gain in business. It's especially jarring as Peggy instantly recognizes this, but Stan falls hook, line, and sinker. It's a switch up from the usual seduction of women in the workplace that's been with Mad Men since the beginning, and speaks to how far Peggy has come to instantly realize it as such instead of part of normal business practice. I also like how it speaks to the myth that art is simply art or somehow different than the art that is necessary for advertising. It's an interesting comment on how there is no black and white in the business or art world but that they mess much more fluidly than both sides would admit.

I better stop here, but I'd love to hear what you all thought of the Megan fall-out and Diana's rise in importance. I also could have gone into the amazing elevator scene with Don and Diana and Arnold and Sylvia -- it was again a meticulously written scene full of tension and parallels between Don's past encounters and what's currently happening. I really loved it!

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 117 - Road trip!

Joining Kelly and the gang for Friday frivolity!


Well, this week flew by as we took a little trip to Calgary for a few days. As a testament to how little I leave the house, this was a big deal! Since my husband was taking a week-long course for work there, he thought instead of me languishing, suffering, whining, moaning, at home by myself slowing being taken over by tiny humans who only want to impose there individual wills upon me, that we all go down for a couple of the days. Which in theory sounds fine. It just required some pre-planning, two hotel rooms, and an ample supply of courage for me who had to travel in the car alone with all the kids for about six hours both ways.


We visited dear friends, enjoyed the fine dining experience that is the continental breakfast with small kids, and partook of city extravagances like ordering pizza directly to the hotel room. It was really great seeing friends I don't get to see nearly enough, and the kids had a great time as we hit up the big science centre and let them go crazy at the hotel pool with waterslide. 


Since the husband was in his course during the day I handled everything with the kids including breakfast solo. The first morning at breakfast there were chuckles from the whole room as Nora yelled at me for "MO MILK, MOMMEEE!" I brought the little dictator her desired beverage only to find her scooping jam out of the tiny packages with her fingers and promptly applying said jam to every surface within a fifteen square foot area. It was like free breakfast entertainment for the whole hotel!

That night one of my offspring, whom I feel I should protect by not giving his name, ended up puking in the hotel pool. He was swallowing water and well...let's just say our embarrassment was slightly lessened by the fact we were the only ones in the pool...but it's looking like it'll be a family tale told every time we stay at a hotel.

The following morning we journeyed back to the continental breakfast room, but I was half way down the hall from our room when I heard four of my five children yell from the elevator, "Oh no - the door's CLOSING!" By the time Nora and I got to the elevator I could hear them all freaking out and yelling at each other as they descended sans-parent to the lobby. Of course I had to wait about half an hour for the other elevator, and by the time I got down to the lobby they were gone, so I figured they went back up to our room's floor and by the time the elevator slowly opened for me on the second floor I saw four slightly panicked faces hoping really badly it was me in that elevator. Just me and my superb parenting...


I even made it through the drive home Wednesday, although I felt as if I were run over by a truck by the time we got back at the wee hour of 6 pm. I felt like I was in a nerves of steel contest which made the whole trip home feel as if it were at least 12 hours worth of driving. I swear. I'm not winning any ironman-traveling-with-kids awards, and I'm probably good to not leave the house again until...July. 


I hope everyone's gotten a chance to listen to the Fountains of Carrots Podcast episode from this week because it's all about my favourite G.K. Chesterton! I think we had a really fun conversation with Michael Lichens about Chesterton without getting too pedantic. The only problem with Chesterton is that his career and writings cover so much that it's hard to cram it all into just one podcast! But we tried!  


I'm really excited to share that I've contributed to an upcoming book that will be released next month!  It's a book complied by the lovely Michele of My Domestic Monastery and she's brought together some really wonderful writers and mothers to talk about the mysteries of the rosary from a mother's perspective. From what little I've read it's going to be excellent, and I just hope that my contribution isn't bringing the whole thing down. It'll be available in May, and I'll let you know the details when it's released! 


I feel as if April is really flying by quickly. We've been lucky to not have any April snowstorms this week or last, and I'm feeling like I can aaallmost pack up the kid's snow clothes. Almost. I'm not going to start packing things up and go and jinx everything now! Or, much more likely, I'm not that organized! But I will feel gloriously lighter when I have those mounds of clothes packed up for a few months and the non-sight of snow boots will not be taken for granted. 

Hope you all have a lovely spring weekend!

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Monday, April 13, 2015

When Easter Feels Harder Than Lent

There is so much talk about Lent. Offering things up, focusing on penance and fasting bringing us closer to God, embracing the difficult alongside Christ's suffering on the cross. And all that talk of Lent is good! As a mom of young kids it's great and hopeful to hear that my small insignificant discomforts, sacrifices, or difficulties are redeemed when offered alongside Jesus. It gives all the miserable and difficult things in daily life with small people a dignity and light that I usually ignore altogether. But what about Easter? It's not just a one day event, it's given 50 days of celebration and observance by the Church each and every year because it is the thing that matters. But what happens when our days don't look like Easter?

I didn't give up anything extreme or take up a rigorous spiritual discipline this Lent. I talked it over with my spiritual director and concluded that I was barely getting through the daily grind of 5 small people in my care, the need to take on more to embrace suffering seemed superfluous at best, and unfair to everyone else at worst. I was supposed to focus more one the little everyday things: like looking to stop snapping at the fiftieth request for water during a 15 minute period, or gracefully living through the meal-time tantrums, or having patience when no one could find their shoes or zip up jackets when we were supposed to be out the door ten minutes ago. As moms we don't have to go to look for sackcloth and ashes because there's always a rogue virus or another ear infection to require constant, unrelenting attention and compassion and unknown hours of lost sleep and the incurring exhaustion. There's not a lot more self-mortifying than dealing with diaper disasters, or the umpteenth bathroom "accident" in your normal day. Lent happens all the time around us in our own homes, provided by our own offspring.

But what happens after Easter Sunday? We're supposed to embrace our new life, rejoice in Christ's triumph over sin, see renewal in our souls and our lives. And yet...our days look identical to Lent. We still deal with, day in and day out, the same small annoyances, the same challenges to embrace love when it's difficult, the same bathroom messes.

I'm trying to find Easter renewal as a mom. But the weariness of the constant life as mom has no room for renewal. There are no "days off" or even time off the mounting laundry or the three meals a day that are always needed. Renewal and new life seem to mean something drastic and changing, or at least some kind of visible change from the days of fasting and penance, don't they? Tell that to the mom who still has sick kids, still wakes up three times a night to nurse her baby, still gets up everyday to face the whining and tantrums.

I believe in Easter. I believe in the miraculous and astounding fact of the Resurrection. I know that this Resurrection and promise of new life completely transforms. I know the miracle of new life as I've held my newborn baby and felt my breath taken away. New life is staggering and marvellous. It changes things.

But that's why Easter is so hard when our outward situation, our outward circumstances have no reflection of our spiritual reality of our liturgical year. We've got to admit it's not even just us moms who have it rough, it's the human condition. It's so much easier for us to see the difficult and sufferings rather than the joys and triumphs.

But we're an Easter people, we all have to figure out how to live the joy of the Resurrection. I don't know how to do that right now to be honest. I'm not sure how I change what I've been seeing for all of Lent (and all my life) as annoyances, frustrations, and sufferings to things that should be taken with joy. I'm not saying that an attitude will change how hard and downright crumby all those things can be. But I do want to find renewal, somehow even in the midst of all this...mothering that never ceases. It might take me more years, my whole mothering career, my whole life. This is one of the reasons why the Church celebrates Easter every single year for 50 days. It takes practice for all of us.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter, Smeaster

I'm trying hard to get back in the mommy blogger saddle, so I might as well get things off to a bang with massive amounts of photographic evidence of our Easter! Does Easter always go by for you in a pastel hued blur? I feel as if I blink and it's over, but only after a lot of hours worth of forethought and effort put in by myself, of course.

Dying eggs was not Nora's all.

Holy Week didn't go off as I'd hoped of course. I feel as if I should just give up the idea of ever getting to every Triduum liturgy until all my kids are out of the house and/or I move. We only had Easter Vigil in our home parish, the other services being about 45 minutes away. But it turned out I couldn't even load myself into a vehicle because last Tuesday I came down with this nasty cold that by Friday I couldn't even get out of bed with. I should have offered up my sufferings, but naturally I threw myself a giant pity party and was just so angry that I had to so sick on the days that I wanted to be healthy or at least attempting to get to places. It felt so anticlimactic after 40 long days of Lent to get hit with another sad bout of sickness on the holiest days of the year.

I figured I had to dress them alike one time in their lives. And I thought it should be sooner rather than later because I don't have long until the boys are going to be bigger than me!

Does every family picture dissolve into multiple children picking their noses? Because it really, really feels like it does.

But with the help of an unknown combination and quantity of cold medication I made it to Easter Vigil. With all the kids.

Don't nominate us for sainthood just yet, because it was our only Easter option and I had already committed myself to doing the the husband got to put up with five kids for two hours far after everyone should have been in bed. They all did pretty well though, we didn't have to take anyone out and only dealt with a couple dozen meltdowns, tantrums, fights, crying episodes. Nora was in full party mode by the end of Mass and walked out with some strangers. We found her...she didn't get too far.

Sunday turned out to be nice and relaxed although the weather was typically horribly cold. My green Easter dream has yet to come true. One year tropical climate...I'll come for Easter! The kids had Easter baskets with books and a few small treats, then an indoor egg hunt, then a frigid outdoor egg hunt in the afternoon because we're Canadian and no weather is going to stop an egg hunt, dammit!

Thankfully I didn't have to worry about any food because we just schlepped a couple steps down the road to my parent's house and everything was taken care of. And yet...I was still pretty exhausted and relished putting the exhausted Easter kids to bed early Sunday night, cracking open some Reese eggs and Riesling (just kidding I never drink white wine by myself!), soak up Mad Men and go to bed by 10:00.

Here's to 50 days of living the Easter season - Alleluia!

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Mad Men's Back!

Oh, I love Mad Men. I can't describe how it's impending ending makes me feel. I'm definitely overly attached. But I thought I'd just leave some thoughts here because what are blogs for, amiright? I wish I could say I have all the answers or understand all the underlying themes and ideas, but I don't have the time of a film student in a master's program, nor the weird mind of Matthew Weiner himself. But I do love talking about it, and warning for spoilers ahead!

Hitting the road running in this episode we're back with philandering Don, splashy swingin' 60's dresses, and Roger's hilarious moustache. The foreshadowing is also strong in this episode as Don dreams about Rachael - Rachael from the first season!! I had to hit pause to scream that Rachael was back just like all the conspiracy theorists had warned. She's modelling fur coats, and leave's with the ever so ominous "I'm supposed to tell you you missed your flight."

The next day Don wants to get in touch with her under the auspices of selling cheap department store pantyhose and dear ditzy Meredith has to break the bad news that she had just died last week. Ominous!! Foreboding!! Death!! Is this the warning that Don's death is approaching?? I can't help but feel that the ultimate ending of this series has to end with his death/possible redemption. It's been headed in that direction since the beginning, but how will it happen and what will it mean is what's killing all of us right now. Will Don figure out what is important in life? What real love is?? I know...we just have six more episodes to go...

On to Ken. I've always loved, loved, loved Ken. He's been my one of my favourites from the very beginning and the seasons where his character is largely ignored alway pain me. In this episode his father in law from Dow is retiring, his wife is imploring him to quit the job he hates and finally write his sad, sweet novel, while Roger is giving him the axe because McCann hates him. I was so routing for his introspective moment in the telephone booth to come to fruition, that he'd leave the torrid world of advertising with a clean break, but in the final scene he ever so perfectly shows up to announce how he's screwing Roger and Pete by becoming head of advertising for Dow. Fairly awesome, but the novel!!

Pete wasn't a major figure in this episode, but the lines he did have were so perfectly Pete that I watched them and laughed with relish. Poor Pete and his apartment building.

Peggy and Joan and their parallel yet disparate rise in the business has always been one of the best story lines of the show and last night's episode played it up perfectly. Peggy and Joan endure a torturous meeting with some McCann asses who say some truly reprehensible things to Joan. I thought she was going to leap across the boardroom table and rip them all new ones, but she makes it through the meeting only to say to Peggy in a perfect elevator scene that she wants to burn the place down. Peggy tries to commiserate but can't help but say what she really thinks: that Joan can't have it both ways. She can't rise in the business because she's a beautiful woman, become a partner and recently extremely wealthy, while not putting up with the catcalls of the piggish men they work with. Peggy also goes on to remind Joan that she's now filthy rich because of the recent takeover, and she doesn't have to do anything now. But it's also fairly obvious that Joan is frustrated and disappointed that her job title and wealth don't even affect the way men treat her, even these things she's long aspired towards don't get her the respect that she deserves.

It's always interesting to see how although Peggy and Joan should be on the same side because they're both extremely smart women, they face the sexist working world in completely different ways. Although Joan is an office and advertising genius, would she have been so valued by the partners if she wasn't beautiful? Would she have had to crawl up the ladder the same as Peggy? Would Peggy have become a wunderkind a la Megan if she had been more curvy? It's another reminder that the world is unfair in a myriad of ways.

And then goes Joan goes shopping. And it was awesome. I hope she's going to use those new boots to walk all over someone in an upcoming episode!

We also got to see Peggy go out on a really weird date. But I have to say that I was so cheered by the fact that Peggy stopped the date when she did. Maybe her smarts about men are finally coming to fruition. Maybe she's finally getting it! Maybe this is a foreshadowing of her happy ending!! (Maybe I'm deluding myself?)

Can someone remind me if Ted Chaugh got divorced while he was in California? He seemed really eager for that Vogue party and those rising hemlines! His moustache was also amazing.

I don't really want to get into the weird waitress situation. I have a feeling that it was yet another weird prophetess sexual encounter for Don. I would really love to read someone flesh out the idea that Don comes to personal realizations through women and some kind of sexual encounter. I'm sure this has to do with his past and his mother, but it's an idea that I'd like to see completely fleshed out in a linear way so I could wrap my head around it a little better. Because it's been seven seasons and it's still really weird.

Other than that I thought it was an almost perfect episode. Crisp, spot-on writing that moved quickly through the office. There is of course much to find out about all those we didn't see in the episode, and Don's empty sad apartment which I'm sure was symbolic of his inner life.

My baby's almost up from her nap, I'm leaving now.

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