Friday, August 16, 2019

Unexpected blessings at Mass on the road...

Hudson River, at Corinth, NY
So I had a lovely experience this past weekend, one of those times wherein you're sort of cruising along on spiritual auto-pilot, and then something comes up and grabs your attention in a completely unexpected way, kwim? To be sure, things haven't been poor for me in the spiritual realm, but it has definitely been a bit dry of late. I think this happens to most, if not all, people, and for me it's quite cyclical. A cycle might go for a year or more in either direction. And for me, it's been "just OK" for a number of months now.

This past weekend, my entire family took a weekend trip together for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. My 2 sisters live in other states, so we all met in the middle, rented a huge house with a pool through Airbnb, and all 15 of us stayed there together for a few days. It was SOOO nice to see everyone, and to spend quality time together.

Having some time to blissfully talk to my sister Shauna'h in person, we quite naturally navigated over to spiritual topics. Catholic podcasts we both listen to, books we've read, etc. And a book she was using for her morning devotional time really struck a chord with me. In a total teaser, that is the subject of *next* week's post, so you have to wait a bit for the big reveal on this particular book. :-0 But I'm soooo excited about it, and to share it with you! At any rate, she and I were talking about this book, and about prayer routines and scripture study, and it really got the Catholic Nerd in me re-energized, big time. More on this next week. ;-)

And so on Sunday morning, I was really looking forward to going to Mass. I'm going to be honest and admit that lately, Mass is something I attend because I know it's the right thing to do, not because I feel spiritually edified when I'm there. It happens. We must soldier through, and so that's what I've been doing. I was even wondering if we were going to make it, given that many of us hadn't slept well the night before, and things at the house were moving slowly Sunday morning due to an electrical outage.

But we made it. The Google Maps lady got us there safely, and I was feeling optimistic and much more enthusiastic about attending Mass than I have in quite some time. As we were walking into the tiny church for the 10:45 am Mass (open only seasonally to accommodate tourist season in the Adirondacks), a man standing at the door greeting people stopped us and asked Henry if he could help him carry something heavy. Henry, always the first to complain about church being boring, could use a job to do to keep his mind occupied, so I encouraged him to help out. The rest of us bustled into a pew.

Next thing I know, I see the man directing Henry into retrieving the cross from up at the front of the church. In most parishes, the portable cross for processing up the aisle is made of wood, but this one appeared to be made of wrought iron. :-0 Henry got it out, no problem, and carried it to the back of the church. I was pleased to see him being so cooperative.

Within minutes, the man reappeared, and this time he was wearing priestly vestments.

😂

Who knew?! He wasn't wearing a collar before then, so I assumed he was an usher. But I should have realized that this tiny church did not need ushers. At any rate, the opening song begins, Henry and the priest proceed to the front of the church, and Henry efficiently tucks the cross into it's holder and carefully turned it so that Jesus was facing out at the congregation. As he started to walk back to our pew, the priest stopped him, and they had a quick sidebar. Apparently, Henry's deliberate pause at the altar with the cross, waiting for the priest, and then coordinating their bows, gave away his skills as an altar server. Father recruited him on the spot to serve at the Mass. Which is hilarious, because Henry was on the schedule to serve at our home parish that exact same Sunday, and had to find a sub due to our trip. Apparently, he wasn't going to get out of serving on this particular day!

The experience gave the Mass a truly serendipitous feel, like it was meant to be for us to be there for that specific Mass. I loved watching Henry pitch hit on the altar, figuring out the system at this parish as he went along. Afterwards, we chatted with Father for awhile, and it was just lovely. He was thrilled to have an altar server at Mass, as he usually doesn't have one at this particular location, and enjoyed talking to us about our story and where we were from. I left with the happiest feeling of contentment and joy in my chest.

It's little moments like this that cause me to remember that God is always looking out for us, even when we're not adept at recognizing the signs. It was a wonderful experience that has left my faith feeling rejuvenated.

Have you ever had an experience like this one? Just a small God-incident moment? Any good Mass on the road stories from Sundays of travel? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! Also, next week we'll chat about devotionals. 😀

Friday, August 9, 2019

Back-to-school prayer, and knitting as a distraction from worry...

Welcome back friends! I hope you're enjoying the fresh start to August as much as I am. I am going to freely admit that I am quite odd, and find July to be my least favorite month every single year. I like certain aspects of July, like the 4th of July holiday and swimming/picnics, festival dancing, extra socializing with friends. But the weather?

👎

It's the most humid month of the year here in WNY, and that's my least favorite weather ever. Yes, even more so than winter. So, with July done, besides panicking a bit about the approach of my dance competition finals in late September, I'm enjoying the slight turn in the weather that August brings. There are still warm and humid days ahead, don't get me wrong, but they tend not to cluster so much, and to be less oppressive than July. I'll take it.

August also heralds other changes in our lives. K-12 schools in my part of the world don't start back until after Labor Day in September, but back-to-school is IN THE AIR now, if you know what I mean. Lots of sales and pictures on Facebook of back-to-schoolers, since most other areas of the country start back before we do. This is a situation that I have tucked away firmly in my heart for daily prayer. This new school year means lots of changes for our kids: they will no longer be at the same school, Henry will start high school, and Anne is officially in Big Kid Land as she starts 3rd grade. I have this rosary on my desk at work, made by the lovely Allison, and just holding it and looking at it gives me a sense of peace:

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us!

I have a feeling that I'll be using it for more than admiration purposes as we transition into fall. I think her courage and faith are exactly what I need next month, to be sure. I'm downright weepy about all of these changes, and the worry that accompanies them. So I've been knitting for both children up a storm, because in my mind this keeps them safe.

?

I know, I know. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to make me feel better! I started a pair of green self-striping socks for Henry (who is suddenly an ADULT LARGE in terms of shoe size), and I made a robin playset for Anne. Not exactly conventional, but that's how we roll in my avian friendly household.

This summer, we had a robin family nest in our neighbor’s yard. Anne, ever the avid birder, kept vigil with her binoculars over Memorial Day weekend, and got to see the entire process - from the parents building the nest, to mom incubating the eggs, and finally three little beaks starting to push up over the top of the nest as mom and dad arrived back with worm reinforcements. The babies fledged a few weeks later, and now we see them in juvenile form, hopping around our back yarn with their spotted breasts, learning how to look for food on their own. It was just so special! So I found a robin pattern to make my Anne her own commemorative robin:

Pattern is Spring Robin, and is available for free!

This is Mother Robin. And she's super inquisitive. ;-)



Never content to leave well enough alone, I made a nest for Mother Robin. She needs a comfy home for her family!




And of course, my little helper is so excited about her new bird friend.


Instructions for the nest are included in the pattern, and it was MUCH easier than I expected! You essentially make a yarn snarl in your lap that you baste together with a separate strand of yarn, threaded through a tapestry needle, into the shape of a nest.

And here, HERE, is the best part. Mother Robin has her triplets!

:-0
I mean, did you ever? Instructions on how to knit the nestlings (squeal!) are included right in the pattern as well. I will admit, I found it a bit more cumbersome to knit a stuffed toy, especially small ones, as opposed to crochet. But this was an enjoyable process that I learned a lot from, and I'm thrilled with the results!

Anne made some "worms" out of scrap yarn, so now we have Mother Robin and babies posing all over the house in various scenes of feeding frenzy. It's all so cute, and I'm glad that I tried out the new skills I had to learn in order to make these. The satisfaction of all of this took my mind off of how freaked out I am about several key dates in September. 😂

So that's what I've been up to. How about you? Do you have any intentions you would like the community to pray for? Just let us know!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dancing around dogs and potholes - festival dancing adventures 2019...

TGIF everyone, and as ever, weeks with summer festival dancing are full of adventure. I have to admit that heat and humidity are not my favorite conditions to dance in, but when you perform a cultural dance form, outdoor festivals are sort of your jam, whether you like it or not. So I've adapted as best I can (gigantic clip to get hair off of neck for in-between dances and changing of costumes is absolutely ESSENTIAL) but it's always an interesting stretch, especially the last full weekend in July, when our studio has traditionally danced 2 full afternoons at one particular art festival.

This year, there was no stage for performers, so we danced out at ground level throughout the festival grounds. This is another less then ideal situation, because it means that we're dancing on a road surface that is inevitably uneven and full of divots and loose gravel. It's just, you know. Not very glamorous. :-0 And a little bit uncomfortable!

Saturday was about 85 degrees, and quite humid, so my very strength of will was girded about what we were about to experience. Which is to say: sweat. So much sweat. And the un-air conditioned dressing space is the gateway to this situation, for sure and for certain. 😂

We were dressed in Saidi gowns, which means that the sweat situation was a bit more intense than usual, as they are full length and have long sleeves. I know, I know, but we are performing a number of folkloric pieces this summer, so the costuming is very specific. Hence, the sweat. But people dance in Egypt in gowns heavier than this, so I figure I cannot complain. ;-)

Saidi gowns!

And everything went very well. It's always difficult to carve out dance space in these situation, but people are super curious, so they tend to give way. I don't like dancing on slightly inclined surfaces, because I lose my balance much more easily when turning, but I did what I could:

Tiffany's Thought Bubble: "Well, maybe if I just step/step/step around it'll be better? Oof. Where did that hole come from?"

As we were lining up for our drum piece, I heard a troupemate whisper:

"Could you guys scoot forward just a bit? We're in a pot hole over here."

Very typical festival conditions, to be sure. 😂

Each day required an immediate shower afterward and complete laundering of costume and accessories, but such is life in summer festival season. We're performing again tonight, and I'm expecting more of the same! It's draining, but fun to dance with my girls. 🤗

What are you all up to this first weekend in August?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Summer crafting updates...

Happy Friday everyone! We're coming up on the last weekend in July, which is an art festival weekend for my dance studio every year. Although I love dancing, I have to admit that doing so outside in heat and humidity is not my favorite. But I'm sure that it'll go great, and that I'll have a wonderful time with my dance girls. Updates on that next week, festival weekends are always amusing. :-0

I promised a craft update this week, and in between dance rehearsals, that has been keeping my mind and hands busy, which is a good thing. As otherwise, I'd be a puddle of worry by the end of the summer. ;-)

Summer is always Harry Potter time in my house, and we re-watch all of the movies and I continue on my quest to read the entire series. This summer, I'm reading Half Blood Prince. I'm going to be honest and admit that I could not finish Order of the Phoenix last year, and I feel super guilty about this. 😬 From what I hear from others, I am not alone in my feelings that, although the story was compelling, this particular book was just far too long. I kept reading, and reading, and reading, and my Kindle progress would move up a single percentage point. 😂 I think I got to about 70-75% when I finally gave up. It just wasn't holding my interest, and consequently, I wasn't picking it up enough and my progress got even SLOWER. Half Blood Prince is going WAY better, and I'm already quite absorbed in the story.

When we start re-watching the movies, I start wanting to create some Harry Potter crafts. And so here we have Hedwig:


Pattern is Hedwig the Owl, by Erin Shirley, available for free!
Don't you just love her wings?!


Anne, who was clamoring to bring this Hedwig up to bed with her that night, was trying to make the case that Hedwig didn't need wings, but let's be real. Hedwig has to deliver the mail, she needs wings. ;-)

Since I had originally intended Hedwig for my desk at work, and Anne stole her, I decided to make another one. This one has different eyes, so Hedwig #2 has her own new look:


She's keeping me company at work and I just love her. *heart*

Over in my Hogwarts at Ravelry group (where I'm Gryffindor Head Girl *beams*) I'm participating in a Mystery Knit-along and Mystery Crochet-along hosted by Ravenclaw. Both items are dishcloths, and clues are being released one per week, alternating between the cloths. This has been a lot of fun! This is the in-progress MKAL cloth:

Definitely looks like a bird :-0
And this is the MCAL cloth:


The clue that we'll be receiving this weekend is for the MCAL, so that will be the one to grow this week. I love how the variegated colors are working up on that one! Yarn is Knit Picks' Dishie Multi in Cabin (colorway is unfortunately discontinued).

In non-Harry Potter Land, I'm working diligently on the back piece of Mike's long awaited cabled cardigan:

Pattern is 0-850 Rambling Man, by Drops Design, and is available for free!
I'm taking my time with this, but I'm determined to finish it up for Christmas! I'm almost to where I'll need to divide for the arm holes, so I have to figure out how to do that. ;-)

And finally, the long term work-in-progress I decided to pick up this summer in order to finish for fall, is this:

Looks like an unexciting rectangle, I know
Although this currently looks like nothing special, it will ultimately turn into an adorable poncho, perfect for autumn:

Pattern is Oakwood Poncho, by Nikki Wagner, available via Knit Picks
Rather than the blue, gray and black stripes you see in the original pattern, I chose forest green, burgundy and brown stripes for mine. I'm excited to see how it turns out! I'm just now diving for the front panels, so things have gotten more interesting!

I'm really happy with my summer crafting plans. I also have additional Christmas gift ideas, which will be implemented very soon.

😇

Do you have late summer crafting or gardening plans? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

New news on my book! And assorted other family updates...

Happy July heat wave, everybody, and hope you are doing well this week! We're busy, busy as always, but somewhat less hectic than last week. Anne made it though Girl Scout camp, and now this week Henry is working at his new Catholic high school, earning a bit of credit towards his tuition (which we definitely need him to keep doing). The school is quite close to our house, so this week's morning routine is vastly improved over Girl Scout week! Mike's summer teaching schedule changes after this week, too. He's teaching 2 classes right now, but they finish up today, and starting next week he'll just be teaching a section of Logic each morning. Easier schedules make for overall family happiness, to be sure.

For my part, I'm hanging in there with all of the emotional changes and doing pretty well with it.

*virtual fist bump*

Working quite hard on dance, I'll have a full post devoted to that sometime this summer. I've also been busily crafting. I'll likely post an update on that next week.

In other news, my book, and indeed the entire Stay Connected Journals series, is now being published by Our Sunday Visitor. This is a large Catholic publisher, and we're quite thrilled that they've been picked up by OSV! So my book now has a new home on Amazon, and the price is just $11.95. It's also for sale in OSV's shop, and they offer free shipping on all of their books. :-) This is a happy place for the books, and we're excited to see what the new publisher will do with them. I was on their webcast yesterday as part of OSV's author series to talk about the series and about my book specifically. You can view the recorded webcast by registering for the event here. :)

I just absolutely love this beautiful trio of books as a great gift idea, and I really hope that small group Bible studies get something out of them. It's such an exciting collaboration to be a part of, and I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of this project.

For my own part, I'd really like to get back to daily scripture reading, but that has decidedly not been happening. This is all on my own (part of the problem) because I don't have a small group study that I'm a part of. How about you? Do you attend a faith sharing or Bible study group of any kind? What type of routine works for you in terms of adding scripture reading to your day? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July always needs some St. Kateri...

http://catholicmom.com/2019/07/08/a-special-devotion-for-july/
Hey everyone, and welcome to a humid and uncomfortable early-July edition with the Catholic Librarian. :-0 Thank you so much to everyone who reached out and wished me well following my post last week about my upcoming adventures as a finalist in my very first (and let's be real, probably only) dance competition!  I'm super nervous about it. 😬 But I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'll definitely devote a whole post to my preparation process sometime this summer! Finals are in late September.

😬😬😬

But onward and upwards! This is a summer of many changes, as I've talked about several times in recent weeks. The kids are growing and changing soooo quickly. Anne is at Girl Scout camp this week, and she had a rough first day. 😢 My kids are both introverts, just like Mike and I, and so new situations, especially those that:

(a) involve lots of unknown people,
(b) are loud, and
(c) involve games and singing

...are very hard on them. I completely relate to this, and I'm a soft touch, so tears of not wanting to go back make me want to crumble. But of course, perseverance is also important (she wanted to go to this camp, I wouldn't have signed up up otherwise) and so I told her that she needed to give it at least 1 more day. If after the second day it was clear that it was a bad fit and was actively making her miserable, I would not have pushed her. But the first day is never a perfect indicator of how things will be going forward, you need to give it just a wee bit more time. So I took her on the second day feeling uber guilty, and she came home exhausted and hangry again. However, she also chirped on about the woodsy things that they had done, the other girls, and the homemade beef and macaroni dish they had for lunch. She had a good time. And wanted to go back the next day.

HUGE sigh of relief. But the week has been emotionally draining as a result. Therefore my July piece over at CatholicMom comes at a perfect time and on an ideal topic. St. Kateri is a huge source of consolation for me, as I mention in this article (and there is a link back to the original piece fully detailing St. Kateri's place in my and my family's faith journey in there), and right now, I need her more than ever. So, if you need a dose of St. Kateri too, I'd love it if you would check out my piece over there. Comments on the CatholicMom website are always super welcome!

Who are you favorite summer saints? My kids' feast days are also in July: St. Henry on July 13th, and Sts. Anne and Joachim on July 26th. July is a great saint month. 😀

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Is there such a thing as too much dance excitement? A tale of exciting anxiety :0

Well, I'm here to tell you that there is. 😂 This week, I think we need wine instead of hot cocoa, but whatever your preference, settle in for a chat!


My mind has been all a whirl for quite some time now. There have been so many changes, as I've spoken of recently. And more are to come, as Henry starts high school this fall, Mike will begin a new teaching position, and even my own teaching responsibilities will look somewhat different next semester due to changes in the way our program will be administered. It's just a lot to deal with for someone who is quite averse to change. :-0

And then there's dance changes. Dance has been a constant in my life for just over 10 years now, and it was a staple in my childhood as well. It's something that has given me stability in my active life, and inspiration in my creative life. Those two things have grown over the most recent 3-5 years, for sure. I've kept on tackling new challenges in dance, and it has been the best thing that I have ever done.

I remember when I was in the beginner class thinking that all of the people who performed at haflas were so brave, that I could never do that. Well. 😳

I did that, and it was a downright BIG DEAL, performing with my class for the very first time. That's a HARD thing to do, I think back on it so fondly when I see new students at the studio getting the jitters about this, because I so completely understand. To be sure, I STILL get performance jitters before dancing. As in, major ones. But we'll come back to that.

So, first I took the leap and began performing with my class at haflas. Then I moved up to the troupe, and it was a given that I would perform more with them, since they perform at festivals and other events. At that point, that was a pretty seamless and natural transition. Also, right around that same time, I tried something ELSE I swore I'd never do: I performed a solo. THAT was a really huge milestone, if I'm being honest. That was one of the hardest things I've ever done in dance; to look out and see everybody waiting for you to start, because, you know, it's just YOU out there and they're all. Looking. At. YOU.

😬

It was scary, for a shy person, it must be said. But I did it. That was one of my proudest dance moments. I did a solo at every hafla after that, and I remember each of them. But that first one holds a special place in my heart.

After a few years, I got my first pro restaurant gig, and I have to say, that was a pretty scary leap too. 😂 And my pro experiences built up pretty slowly, so in-between those gigs it was like I was starting from scratch, sick to my stomach before each event and/or New Year's Eve. But I made it, and I got better at it, and I was proud.

And then, well. I did something a little crazy. I entered a dance competition.

😨😨😨

I'm not really sure why I did that. :-0 Well, my mentors encouraged me to, and this particular one is fairly local to us, AND the first stage involved simply filming and entering a video. Pshaw, I said. A video? I can do that. Well.

It's not as easy as it sounds. :-0 And you all know me, I'm an improvisational dancer. I LOVE to improvise, I'm good at it, and I feel comfortable doing it. What I'm NOT good at is creating choreography, and that's what I needed to do for this video. I mean, I *suppose* you could improvise in this situation, but that didn't strike me as a good idea for a competition. You want to assure that you showcase a range of movements and musical expressions, and with improvisation, you never know what the heck is going to happen. You may plan certain parts of it, to fit specific spots in the music, but in the moment, you may or may not remember to do those things. At least if my improv experience is any indication. It makes for beautiful, emotive, dancing, but in this particular case, it didn't seem to be the right fit. So I chose music and started a choreography. 5 months later...

:-0

I finished and filmed the video. 😂 For 3 minutes of choreography, yes, it took me 5 months. Because I kept changing and fine tuning things, and then I wanted to work on my technique and expression within the choreography. That took a lot out of me, I tell you. :-0 This was HARD! Really, really hard. And then the filming itself.

My teacher helped me to film the video. She has better equipment then I have, and offered up the studio as a nice big spot to film. This was fantastic, especially since the alternative was my small living room. We filmed 3 takes, and they went as follows:

Take 1: Went well, but I was nervous and stiffer in my execution.

Take 2: I'm all relaxed and into it. My favorite take by far. Figuring I'll use this one.

Take 3: I'm all sweaty and exhausted, and the adrenaline is starting to wear off. But I film one more just in case. I have a memory lapse towards the end, and forget a movement, but keep going. No matter, because I'm not using that one anyway.

A few days later, I look at the takes:

Take 1: is fine, but I know I can do better.

Take 2: Approximately 25 seconds into the 3 minute video, a thick portion of hair sticks to the sweat on my forehead and lodges there quite noticeably. All glamour, all the time, over here. I figure the hair flips and such I have coming up will fix that, but NOPE. It stays there for the entire.rest.of.the.song. Crap!

Take 3: I'm sweaty. But clearly more relaxed. There's that mistake at the end that doesn't look noticeable to the outside observer, but *I* notice it and it's bugging me. Now what?!

😭

This was all very stressful, I tell you. Sure, I could re-film, but my teacher had warned me about this phenomena: when you care about your art, there comes a point after which, when you have to ability to keep trying, you'll never be happy with it. You care so much that you always feel that it can be better. But at a certain point you have to call it enough. And that's where I was at. Plus, I did not want to inconvenience my teacher to take time out of her busy schedule to film me again. So I did the only sensible thing:

I roped my long suffering husband into moving the carpet and furniture out of our small living room so that I could do another take there. :-0

That was an amusing morning, it must be said. Me in a belly dance costume at 8 am, Mike rolling up an area rug and wedging the coffee table into our hallway. And both of us rigging up my small iPad mini to try and film. The things we'll do for love. Well.

The experience was worthwhile, but I didn't end up using that video. The picture and sound quality were just so much lower, and though we tried to control the natural light, it was still reflecting in at a bad angle and washing me out on one side of the room. I was glad that I had tried, because it made me feel like I had at least exhausted every possibility. And in comparing the videos, it made me appreciate the studio videos anew.

So what did I end up picking? Take 3, of course. I had a few friends watch them, and my teachers, and all picked Take 3 as their favorite. So I submitted that one and tried not to obsess about it. That was the end of May.

In June: Well OK, I obsessed a *little*, but I really think I kept it reigned in pretty well. :-0

Then on Monday, I got word: I was chosen as a finalist in my category. And I now have to perform live in September for the final round of the competition.

And this is the point at which we circle back to the performance jitters issue. WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING?! Now I have to go perform in a competition and I'm scared to death! 😂 Why do I torture myself this way?!

Because if we don't challenge ourselves, we won't grow. And if we don't grow, our art will die. When we grow, we are alive. And that's a good, good feeling, even if it's mixed with nausea. ;-)

The process of working on the choreography, and working to improve my dance within it, was more beneficial than I could have possibly realized. And even if nothing more comes of it than the stage I'm at right now (which is to say, I don't achieve a placing finish in the final competition, and of course, this is a very likely scenario given that all of the dancers at this level are extremely talented!) I'm so glad that I did this. I'm continuing to challenge and trying to improve myself, and that's an excellent thing. Plus, this business of me being a finalist in a competition is staying on my dance Instagram profile for all time and eternity. :-0

So, this summer will be dedicated to working on my choreography again. Your video submission earns you judges' comments, and they are SO HELPFUL, I can't even begin to tell you. So I'll be working on technique and a few small changes. In the end, all I can do is work to showcase my personal best. I'm going into September with no expectations beyond trying to achieve that.

Honestly, though. I cannot believe I went through with this. :-0 Don't get me wrong, I'm so glad for it! But this is nerve wracking. I hope that I feel really, really alive in late September. 😂

How do you continue to challenge yourself in the things you love? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, June 28, 2019

The happy distraction of summer crafting...

My crafting has been occupying my busy mind this summer, and believe me, the distraction is quite welcome and needed. This is also the time of year I get all into Christmas in July mode (even if it's not quite yet July; apparently I'm just as bad as the Hallmark Channel ;-)), and start planning items I want to make for holiday gifts. Want to see? :-0

Soooo, I may or may not have been promising Mike a cabled cardigan for approximately the past 5 years.

😬

I know, I know. Time just kinda got away from me! And I kept putting it off because a men's cabled cardigan is going to take some serious time to complete. But after I wrapped up a few longer term projects this spring I was itching for a new challenge. And look who finally got cast on?

Pattern is Rambling Man by Drops Design, and is free!

This is the back piece, and I have to say that I am IN LOVE. It is SO fun to watch the magic of cabling come alive, and the moss stitch texture in-between is just to die for. Currently, I'm working my way towards where I'll accommodate for the arm holes. I'd say I have about 2 more repeats of the chart before I'm there. After I finish this piece, I'll have 2 front pieces to knit, plus the sleeves, and a large ribbed collar and button band. Relatively speaking, I'm making quick and excellent progress! My goal is to have this completed by Christmas.

*virtual fist bump*

So that's officially gift #1. Anne has asked for an alpaca hat. I have yarn from an alpaca, but I think she also wants it to look like an alpaca? :-0 More research needed on this one. She's also asked for a snowman mug cosy, and I have yarn and buttons to make the most adorable one:

Pattern is Chill Chaser Cup Cosy, and is available for free!
I'm planning to make some stuffed animals this summer, many of which can be gifts, and I know that Anne wants a robin. I haven't told you all about the robin family that has been in and out of our back yard this summer, but it's absolutely precious, and we can commemorate this particular summer in this way. I need to look at patterns for this still!

For Henry, he always loves handknit socks, and the poor child, the last pair I knit him, I didn't remember to accommodate for how much his feet had been growing as he starts to go through puberty, and his toes burst through them within a few weeks. 😬 So I need to measure and make him a new pair for Christmas.

So that's:

(1) Mike's Cabled Cardigan
(2) Anne's alpaca hat
(3) mug cosy
(4) stuffed things, including robins
(5) socks for Henry

No problem. If anybody has any requests, you must tell me know now. ;-)

I'm also planning some treats for myself, one of which is a Hogwarts Express shawl with this lovely yarn I bought in Rhinebeck last fall:

Yarn is Dragonfly Fibers Birch Pixie
*blissful sigh*

I'm not planning to go to Rhinebeck this fall (*sobs!* But we have Catholic high school tuition, so you do what you gotta do) and so I'm planning to revel in the beautiful yarn that I bought last year. And my friend Nancy is attending and will bring back some yarn and alpaca socks for me and the kids.

*halo*

Do you have any crafting plans this summer? Gardening? Any "Christmas in July" plans of your own? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Some graduation related tears...

Hello friends, and welcome back! I'm a little bit emotional this week, and I just need to chat about life in general, so let's settle in for a cup of coffee!


This past Tuesday was Henry's 8th grade graduation from the K-8 Catholic school he's been at since 1st grade (that's quite a trip down memory lane, that link I just posted. I'm going to try not to cry again 😭). I took it HARD. This was surprising even to me: "Tiffany. It's 8th grade. It's not even a real graduation! Get a grip!" But there it is. I had a very difficult time with it.


I went to public school. The longest I was ever at any school was 6 years from kindergarten through 6th grade, and I don't have particularly fond memories from any of the three schools I attended before college. But my kids' school...it's different. It's a family. Everybody knows your name there. Everybody cares. Many of the people working there, as well as parents of other kids, are alumni of the school. The class sizes are small, and a warm and fuzzy sense pervades. A few pertinent anecdotes:

A beloved kindergarten teacher passed away two years ago, after teaching at this school for *37 years*. The Pre-k and kindergarten wing of the school is now named for her, because she was such a fixture there, teaching kindergarten to multiple generations of families. The school was emotionally gutted when she died.

Henry's 8th grade class held a tribute to the Pre-k 4 teacher, who came to the school the year that this particular class started Pre-k. Now those 4 year olds are leaving and going to high school. There wasn't a dry eye in the house for that one.

I never had a school experience like this. And Henry has been there for 8 years. He started there when I was pregnant with Anne, and I had prayed a novena for Mike to be won over to this school, to provide the impetus to move him from where he was to somewhere we'd have to pay tuition for him to attend. And he was. And it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

This school is a place of comfort and solace to me. It's warm and welcoming, and it's a community filled with faith. Anne will still be there for 6 more years, and the alumni certainly seem to keep up with the school, so I'm certain that it will always be in our lives. But my Henry, my first child, my guinea pig, the one I fretted over whenever we had to make a big change like this one due to his shyness and sweet nature, the one who spearheaded our foray into Catholic education...he won't be there anymore. My kids headed off to school, together, for the very last time. When I drive by the building every day on my way to work, and pray a Hail Mary for each of them, he won't be inside anymore. He's headed to a Catholic boys high school that he is SO EXCITED about, and I know that he will be in excellent hands there, but I keep coming back to something that repeatedly makes me cry:

It's the end of an era.

Anne owns a soft spot in my heart because she is my baby, but Henry owns an equally large soft spot because he is my first child, my beloved little boy who changed my life forever when he was born. Now he's heading off to something much larger and in some ways scarier, and certainly something that we have not experienced before with our kids: high school. He's becoming a young man, and while it's exciting to see, I'm also dreading all of these changes and all of the new worries that come along with them. I'm trying very hard, but I've been crying every single day. And my anxiety has been flaring up quite badly. But I keep trying.

Henry has some basketball goings on this summer at his new school, and he's also starting a work study program there to help fund his tuition. He'll ease in, to be sure, and they have an entire freshman welcome program designed to aid the kids in the transition. Most of the boys from his 8th grade class are also attending there, so he will see some familiar faces. And that's a good situation, because they're all really good kids. But it's going to be a BIG change.

I'm trying to hang in there over here, I promise. Mike hasn't started summer term teaching yet, so he's been home in the mornings after the kids go to school, and we've been talking a lot. About all of this and how we're struggling to handle it, each in our own way. It helps to have someone to talk to about it. My crafting has been a happy distraction, as has my dancing. I'll be posting about each of those in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep slogging on and hope that these emotional reactions to every little thing abate. I suppose it's part of the parenting journey, but it sure is cramping my style. :-0

I hope the rest of you are having a good week. I appreciate all virtual hugs and prayers! I guess I'm a little needy right now. 🤗

Thursday, June 13, 2019

It's a planning frenzy for this organization nerd...

Happy almost-summer everyone! It *finally* feels like spring here in WNY, just in time for summer, yay. :-0 But it's been lovely, truly, albeit a bit rainy. But we need the rain for the flowers and plants to grow, yes?

I have an organizational topic for us to share today, and although that may sound totally uninspiring, I have to tell you that the excitement of all of this has taken over my life, and I'm not being sarcastic. 😂 I've *really* enjoyed my foray into the previously unknown-to-me paper planner world, and picking something out for myself. Yes, I still use a paper planner. Although I do use the Google Calendar on my phone, I still thrive only when having something physical to look at when planning my days and weeks. I'm also a daily to-do list maker, and I love the ease of keeping all of that in one place.

This all got started because I forgot to put my order in during the pre-order phase for a new Blessed Is She planner, which is what I've been using for the past 2 years. That is a fantastic planner. Since I missed the pre-order, I thought to myself: "maybe I'll take a look at what else is out there." Well.

*falls down YouTube rabbit hole*

I had no idea that there were planner launches twice per year (fall and spring), planner conferences, and people who make planning and decorating their planners with stickers a full blown hobby. Scrapbooking is certainly a hobby, and this seems to be an offshoot of that, so it makes sense, but I had just never thought about it before. Although I don't see myself taking up the scrapbooking path, I'm quite fascinated by those who do. And there are so many planner options! Layouts, daily/weekly/monthly options, vertical vs. horizontal, to-do list placement, meal planning opportunities...my head was spinning, but after my first lunchtime YouTube marathon, I felt all invigorated.

Let's do this! :-0

I knew that what I was looking for was a planner with an hourly layout for each day (I absolutely NEED this for my sanity with my crazy, always evolving teaching schedule each fall and spring semester, but also to keep track of meeting times, appointments, and other good stuff like that) but I also like to see the entire week in one shot. This is apparently called a weekly planner with hourly layout (who knew?) and they're actually not as prevalent as I thought.

Weekly planner with hourly layout

Before I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole I was looking on Amazon, and almost none of the ones I found had this sort of layout. The big planner companies (that I didn't even know existed prior to this little adventure) all do, but I had to know the name for what I was looking for. Once I got that figured out, the video watching continued in earnest, and I eagerly lapped up videos of women unboxing their new planners (which is definitely a THING, believe you me), as apparently I was just in time for the nationwide academic year planner launch. I prefer academic year planners, to be sure. As a person who went to school for many, many years, they are uber comforting to me, like a solid old friend, and as I now work on a college campus, the academic option that begins in July or August each year works perfectly for me. I found that there were all these planner companies with enthusiastic followers filming videos on how awesome their planners are, and I admit it, I got caught up in Planner Frenzy. :-0 I'm telling you, I really had fun with this. Happy Planner, Emily Ley Simplified Planners, Inkwell Press, Plum Paper...my head was spinning with all of the customization options, and all of the beautiful planner covers. I had no idea that I could become so overwhelmed picking out a planner. 😂

I ended up ordering an Erin Condren Life Planner, which is apparently the Cadillac of planners. I chose the academic year start, hourly layout, a neutral/pastel color scheme for the interior, and I customized my outside cover. It just arrived yesterday, and I'm kind of in love with it:

😍
This planner is the cutest size ever (7x9), has a SUPER sturdy laminated cover and awesome, indestructible gigantic coil that this company is known for, absolutely gorgeous, thick paper that pens do not bleed through, and I just CAN'T EVEN with how much I love it. I have my beloved hourly spread for each week, to-do list area for each day PLUS one on the side where I can put weekly tasks that don't need to be done on a specific day, note and goal pages for each month, a cover with fall leaves that is absolute perfection, and it even has my name on it. 😍 I mean, I LOVE it. It comes with pockets, a separate perpetual calendar to keep track of birthdays and holidays, and a snap-in ruler to keep your place. I also purchased a separate snappy-in thing (this is called a DASHBOARD, I feel so fancy and planner savvy 😎) that lays out meal planning for an entire week, with grocery list on the back, and it's WET ERASE (sorry to keep shouting, but this is all just so INGENIUS) so that it won't smudge, and some wet erase markers. I am in NERD HEAVEN, I cannot even tell you. It does come with a few seasonal stickers, and so I went wild last night applying them to their correct holidays and occasions. I don't even recognize myself anymore. 😂

Cute extra pouch I bought to keep all my pens, markers, and other planner supplies in

I have been really enjoying this, for sure, and I'm all motivated to keep better track not only of my own stuff, but appointments and other commitments for the kids (which grow and grow the older they get, it seems) that we usually only keep on the family monthly calendar in the kitchen. But then...sometimes I forget about those things, and you know, I need to ferry them there, so I need to know those things! I'm slowly filling in my calendar for July and August with Anne's Girl Scout camp dates, Henry's high school work study schedule, basketball camp, and altar serving dates. It's definitely a calming experience for me, and is helping me to not feel like I may cry all the time with all of the changes happening right now in our lives.

How do you keep track of your daily and weekly schedules? Do you use a paper planner or another system? If so, you KNOW I want to know what type of planner you have, what features you like about it, and photos would be even better. 😍 Post in the comments!