Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - How God Hauled Me Kicking & Screaming into the Catholic Church, Introduction...

OK, so remember that saga of me acquiring our book, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, from the public library in ebook form that I detailed a few weeks back? Right. Well, the saga continues. 😂But I have a plan and am still able to start our book club! Pull up a comfy chair with your morning beverage.

So, I have been incensed patiently waiting my turn in the queue for the ebook copy of our book. Let the record reflect that I not only originally requested that the library purchase this book, but that I added myself to the ridiculous waiting list on June 28th. I was at that time #2 in the queue. JUNE 28TH.

It is now July 18th as I write this, and I This is a real problem with ebooks in public libraries, imo. People do not necessarily "return" the book when they're done reading it the way they do with print books. So the loan period is always reaching it's max before the next person in line can have the book. Granted, the loan period is shorter with ebooks than it is for print, but the waiting lists for ebooks is absolutely absurd. You can wait *months* for popular titles, and it is not nearly that bad with their print counterparts.

Anyway, enough complaining about that. Just under 2 weeks ago, I moved to #1 in the queue. The maximum borrowing period for an ebook is 14 days. So, by mathematical certainly, I will have the book Friday. (**edited to add that on July 19th, I now have the book! *streamers!*)

In the meantime, I was able to score a preview of the book that allowed me to read the foreword, Introduction,  chapter 1, and part of chapter 2. My thought is that this will serve as the introductory post to our book club, and then next week we'll discuss the remainder of Part 1, and then Part 2 on August 2nd. I know that I could just purchase the ebook and have immediate access to it. But at this point, it's an official Point of Pride that I await the library copy. :0 All right, ready to discuss the concept and beginning of this book?


I noted right off the bat that the foreword was written by Scott Hahn, a Catholic apologist whose conversion story I'm very familiar with. He and his wife's book, Rome Sweet Home, was a huge influence in my own faith walk in my twenties. Let's have a quick moment with definitions, shall we? Apologetics:

reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine

So, when we speak of Catholic apologetics, and Catholic apologists, we are speaking of men and women who dedicate time to defending our faith in an academic sense. Such work can be very instrumental in drawing others to the Church.

We learn quickly that like Dr. Hahn, our author, Kevin Lowry, is a former Presbyterian.  Growing up in the haven of cradle, cultural, Catholicism that I did, I was very unfamiliar with Protestant denominations growing up. As a young adult, one of my fascinations with reading conversion stories was learning about the faith background of others that differed from my own. In all cases, the authors were grateful for their Protestant upbringing and had nothing but respect for the Christian values that it instilled. Which is is as it should be, and very pleasing to my empathetic heart.

As we move into the Introduction, our author emphasizes to us how unexpected his conversion was, and how conversion should, in a sense, be a daily occurrence, even for cradle Catholics.We should not become stagnant in our faith, and take it for granted. Regular conversion of heart is key to our spiritual sustenance.

I love the way that he starts chapter 1, with an overview of a crucial moment in time: his baptism at age 25. He had not previously been baptized in the Presbyterian church, so this sacrament was also his initiation into the Catholic faith. We find out that his parents are devout Presbyterians, his father a minister, but they support his decision to convert. We also find out that his wife is being received into the Church alongside him, but he was unsure as to whether or not she would decide to do this until the very last minute.

He recalls that when he first started attending Mass, the community seemed "cold" to him, and I understand what he means in that the culture in Catholic parishes is very different from what I hear others relate about their churches. Catholicism oftentimes is deeply ingrained into a community's culture, and it can become insular. It's not ill intended, but I think that for someone who is new or visiting the community, it can feel off-putting, especially if they are used to a church with greeters and tons of small group fellowship opportunities.

After this exciting whirlwind of thoughts, the author then moves into story of how he came to this crucial event. Chapter 2 begins with the author describing himself as a cocky teenager who did not take to heart the deep Christian faith of his parents. He grew up in Toronto (hey neighbor!), and as he began to explore colleges in late high school, his father suggests the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Dun dun DUN!

This is obviously where he met Dr. Hahn (who has taught theology there for many years), and heralds the beginning of his interest in Catholicism, one would think. And did his father know that the vibrant faith alive at this campus would dramatically impact his son, even if it was not within Presbyterianism? But this is also where my sample ended, so I'm on pins and needles waiting for my turn with the ebook. :0

The waiting list for the ebook at my public library now has 4 people on it, I'll have you know. I like to think that my purchase request was it's own little form of apologetics. ;-)

What were your thoughts on the very beginning of this conversion story? Has formal apologetics had an impact on your own faith journey? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences. We'll fully discuss Part 1 next Thursday on July 26th!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Self-conscious mishaps at Mass, and lots of other updates...

Happy mid-July everybody! As ever, the summer is going by very quickly. The kids are home, and we've had to develop a summer routine of sorts, which I talk about in this month's piece, if you're interested in such notions. :) I'm also in heavy dance rehearsal mode for the summer festivals coming up. We have a few new group dances that we're polishing up, and I need to pick music for a solo. I should really get on that, shouldn't I? 😬

...I'm back, I actually deviated from this post for 10 minutes to pick through music, ha ha! I have a few ideas, but I need to solidify that. For festival solos, I don't stress about music selection so much. Anything upbeat and fun will do, 3 and a half minutes or less, if you please! I'm just praying that it's not sweltering hot and miserable, because we have 2 long days coming up at the end of July, and also one in the first weekend of August.

In other July news, I am currently #1 in the waiting list queue for How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church. Assuming the person who currently possess the book only borrowed it for 1 week rather than 2 (please God), we're good to go for Summer Book Club next Thursday, July 19th!

*trumpets blare!*

Hope springs eternal. I *really* don't want to ask you guys to wait another week, so I'm hoping to have the ebook in my virtual hot little hands within the next few days.

I also promised a Great Crafting Obstacles update, and here it is!

*drum roll*

There has been progress! *online high five* I finished Anne's Little Lighthouse pullover for the fall:

I also cast on for the first of the 2 school uniform cardigans, and since it's knit with bulky weight yarn, it's going very quickly. Hopefully I'll have another update soon!

It's been a lovely summer so far. It's certainly been a year of reflection and growth for me, and the summer has only advanced that. I have an amusing anecdote to share in illustration...

This past Sunday morning, Henry was scheduled to serve at the 8 am Mass. I often ask Mike to take him when he has the early slot like this (Mike is a much earlier riser than I) and then Anne and I go to the 11 am Mass. But Henry was going to be serving alone for this particular Mass, and I wanted to be there to support him. We had all attended a local minor league baseball game the night before, and thus got to bed later than usual. Come 7 am, I blearily rolled out of bed, and decided not to wake Anne. She had another full day ahead with a birthday party to attend, and swimming at my parents' house, and I knew she needed her rest. Her regular night of sleep was curtailed the most out of all of us.

So Henry and I readied, and Anne was still not awake, so we departed just the two of us. I got Henry there nice and early to set up, and settled into a pew. I was EXHAUSTED. Like, could hardly keep my eyes open. And my seasonal allergies were not helping.

Right before Mass started, an usher hurried to the front of the church, looking expectant:

"We need some volunteers to bring up the gifts. Who would like to volunteer?"

He looked around, super eager, all dapper in his suit and tweed bow tie. Given that I was by myself, I did not volunteer. When Anne and I have attended the 8 am Mass in the past, we always volunteer together. Well, not a single other soul volunteered. And the usher looked crushed. So I volunteered, and he looked relieved.

Mass started. We had a visiting priest that day, from an African mission. The deacon was also in attendance. When the collection started, I was on alert, awaiting my duty. I was tired, and wanted to be sure not to miss my cue.

Well. 😂

I see the ushers deposit the collection money into the sealable bags in the back, and then head up the aisle. This is the time that they approach the small table with the gifts, and then we all proceed together up to the altar. I hustle over, carefully pick up both the chalice and the dish with the not-yet-consecrated hosts, and walk solemnly up to the altar. Do you want to know what happened then, good and gentle reader?

Right. I was up there alone with the priest, deacon and Henry, still seated, all looking at me quizzically. I got a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There was a second collection, and the ushers were going about that, nowhere near ready for the gifts to be brought up.


See, we don't often have a second collection at my parish. It's not a regular occurrence, and thus my brain just did not register this as a possibility. Granted, the lector had made an announcement that there would be a second collection that day for the visiting priest's mission, but I had simply forgotten. An honest mistake, but all the same, I was now in a very uncomfortable pickle right up in front of the entire congregation.

I was mortified. I'm a self-conscious person in the best of circumstances, and now I have the entire, somewhat stoic, populace of the 8 am Mass wondering if I've lost my mind:

"These young people and their newfangled ideas!"

I didn't really have a lot of options at that point. I had to stand, as gracefully as possible, to the side of the altar and wait for the ushers.

Luckily, the deacon caught my eye and came to my rescue. He prompted the priest to proceed up to retrieve the chalice and hosts from me ahead of the offering basket, and just go about their business preparing for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I obviously need to bake him something, or buy him a drink.

After the Mass, the adorable usher came up to thank me for bringing up the gifts, and I was still in a mental frenzy of horror and beating myself up:

"Gosh, I'm so sorry, I completely forgot about the second collection and jumped the gun!"

Bless him, my Hero Usher looked shocked and offended that I had even mentioned this alleged "offense.":

"Oh heavens, you did your job! No worries. You volunteer and pitch in. So many people here cannot be bothered to ever help out at all." With this, he straightened his bow tie and cast a narrowed eye at his fellow senior citizens.

He made me feel better, to be sure. And it caused me to reflect on something much deeper within myself.

I'm a people pleaser. I want to make everybody happy, and do everything right in my quest of this goal. I am far from perfect, and I need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly as a result. But one quality about myself that I relish is kindness. I always endeavor to be kind, I have tremendous empathy for others, and I want them to feel at ease. I will throw myself under the bus to make other people comfortable and feel accepted. Always, always, always, I have been this way, even as a young child.

This all sounds warm and fuzzy, right? Well, as you all probably know (because you have these qualities too), it gets you into trouble sometimes. Despite your good intentions, sometimes you do not do everything right. You make mistakes. You misread a situation. Your timing is off. To take it to a deeper, but related, level: You trust people and ignore red flags when you should be more discerning. You get taken advantage of. You get hurt.

This is all pretty philosophical for bringing up the gifts at Mass too early, right? 😂But it was an important conversation to have with myself. Just because sometimes I make mistakes, does that mean that I should no longer volunteer to help out, no longer trust in, and be kind to, people? Of course not. Can I endeavor, though, to be wiser in my decisions and in my reading of situations so as to avoid these types of painful situations in the future? Absolutely, yes.

After all of that exhausting physical and emotional activity, I collected Henry, went home, and drank coffee on the couch in my comfy clothes for a full hour. I also knit and watched Christmas in July movies on the Hallmark Channel because I have no shame in such matters.


All right, friends, your turn. Have you ever had a Moment of Mortification at Mass? How do you deal with feelings of self-consciousness, with recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses? Age has helped me to be more discerning, but MAN, do I still have a lot to learn in such matters! I would love to hear your experiences as well. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer heat waves, and book club conspiracy theories...

Happy long holiday weekend (?!) to my fellow American readers! Independence Day falls oddly this year, does it not? It fell on a Wednesday, and can we agree that this is the absolute worst possible day for July 4th to land on? You either have a day off right in the middle of the week, making your work week all choppy and awkward, or you use up more vacation days than you really wanted to just to make your week not completely ridiculous:

Monday - work. Next day - ugh, work. Should I just take this day off? Next day - holiday, woo hoo! Next day -  I should take a vacation day, right? Right! Staying home, woo hoo! Next day - wait. I have to go into work? What the heck day of the week is it anyway?!

Mike and I both went for option (2), and so here we are, sweating our booties off at home with both kids during a heat wave in our un-airconditioned house.


Togetherness. And lots of it. ;-)

You'll also be happy to know that I have continued misting our bedroom with anti-mosquito oils at night, AND I have an order in for Avon Skin So Soft. :-0 Thus, I have not had any new mosquito bites since last week, and my old ones are healing.

*trumpet blare!*

Despite the heat, I have been knitting, and making progress on my Great Crafting Obstacles List, and I will post an update to that towards the end of July. *halo*

So, next week we are scheduled for our first Summer Book Club discussion on How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church. Apologetics, I love it. I have to be honest and admit that I find the title of this book incredibly awkward, but I suppose they were going for the dramatic impact. ;-)

At any rate, I did not find this book in any of the library collections I have access to, so I requested that it be purchased as an ebook via my local public library. I've been trying to be a good girl and not spend so much money on Kindle books. I have a bit of a habit, and it's become addicting. ;-) The library wrote back to me later that day saying that they were purchasing the ebook, and that it would appear in the catalog within 48 hours. Grand.

Granted, ebooks usually appear way sooner than they say, and I should have headed over the very next morning to investigate and check it out. This was mistake #1. :0 I didn't, and 2 days later, I innocently logged into my account at the public library to check on the ebook. It was checked out. To somebody else.


I will admit, I figured: how big of a market IS there for Catholic conversion stories? No need to be rushy, right?! I was banking on the niche market theory, to be sure. It was still mid-June, so I didn't panic. I figured, closer to the book club, I'll come back, it'll be available, and I'll check it out then. This was mistake #2.


Last week, I logged back in, and it WAS STILL CHECKED OUT. Not only that, but now there was also a person on the waiting list. What is this blasphemy?!

The only reason the library even HAS the book is because of me, and now there's all of these other apologetics fans swarming. I did finally place myself on the waiting list, but that was last week, and I'm still quite impatiently in the queue awaiting my turn.

All of this is to say the following: do you mind bumping the first discussion post for the book another week? That would make it July 19th and 26th, instead of starting on the 12th. I mean, I could just buy the book. Is God telling me to just buy the book? He obviously had me request this book from the library so that other people could read it and become Catholic, so maybe I'm supposed to be grateful to be part of God's plan for the universe and fork over the $10 to support the author?

It's a quandary, to be sure.

If you all don't mind, it would be fabulous to wait/read for an additional week, and chat slightly later in the month. Now that I've requested the book and it was purchased, I feel stubborn that I want to read that particular copy. 😂 Thoughts?

In the meantime, I carry on with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I will update you all next week! What are you plans for this summer weekend? :)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer routines, and adventures with odious insects...

Summer means a few things for me, though really, for everybody. Thing #1 is that routines change. The mornings with the kids bear no resemblance to what they do during the school year, and weekends often get packed with family parties and other celebrations. And this particular summer, for me personally, it means that a nefarious family of insects are eating me alive IN THE PRIVACY OF MY OWN HOME.


See, this is one of the reasons I like living in a climate that is frozen over for part of the year. Horrible little creatures who bite and sting cannot survive in the tundra. :0

The past 5-6 mornings, I have woken up with red bumps on my arms that quickly escalate to puffy, itchy things of misery. Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately Googled:

"bed bug images."

Good and gentle reader, unless it is a true apocalyptic emergency, NEVER DO THIS. You're welcome.

Their bite marks are innocuous enough to look like so many other insect bites (this is part of their powerful evil empire, to be sure) however, the other signs of bed bugs in one's house were lacking in ours (thank you Jesus), so I felt fairly confident that my bites were not from them. But I was puzzled, because I haven't been outdoors very much, I'm discovering the new bites in the mornings even when I wear long sleeved nightgowns, and I have not seen nary an infiltrating insect, winged or otherwise, in our house.

I was dropping the kids off at my in-laws' on my way to work yesterday morning, and I showed them to my mother-in-law, a former nurse. She gently told me that they were mosquito bites.

Well, that was anti-climactic. I was lodging a full fledged conspiracy theory of the insect kingdom.

I don't often get mosquito bites, so that's why I didn't immediately jump to that logical conclusion. I'm not much of an outdoors gal, truth be told. I have hyper sensitive skin that reacts if a dandelion looks at me sideways, and the sun and I have a decidedly love/hate relationship. And I live in western New York, where no living insect can dwell for 5ish months out of the year. In other words, I'm not often exposed to mosquitoes. But that is what has been biting me.

Given the fact that I scour my arms each morning upon waking up, and find 1-2 new bites, I know for a fact the following:

(1) he or she has taken up residence in my house;

(2) he or she is going hog wild overnight and biting me as I sleep;

(3) he or she is clandestinely hiding during the day, as I glimpse no flying objects nor hear any buzzing during waking hours; and


I'm not normally speaking such virulent hatred towards other living beings, but this one (and it's family too, I have no shame) have got to go. My arms are a mess. The previous bites are healing only very slowly, and my poor arms have these unattractive red puffy bumps all over them. I'm itching and rubbing lavender oil on them like crazy.

Last night, I did have a victory. I diffused lemon and peppermint (I don't have any Citronella oil, though some is currently on order; fly little Citronella oil, fly!) which I read that mosquitoes hate (*snort* did they poll the mosquitoes?) and I did not have any new bites this morning. Just an escalating one from the morning before that is at peak itch form and growing redder.


And you know what unfair thing is? My husband, sleeping contentedly *right beside me* in our double bed, has nary a bite on him. Apparently, MOSQUITOES DO NOT LIKE HIM. What is this nonsensical crazy talk? Mosquitoes have *preferences* as to which people they bite? Whenever I've mentioned this little problem I've been having to others, this has been bandied about *multiple times*:

"Oh yes. Mosquitoes love certain people and never bite others."

Well, how do I get to be one of these vaulted OTHER people? Is this like that second group on the island on "Lost?" I mean, what the heck?

I'll be on mosquito patrol for the short term foreseeable future. My diffuser will be misting off anti-mosquito propaganda each night, and Mike is spraying something my mother-in-law claims will work around the doors and windows. We'll see.

But I got off track, didn't I? :0 I was going to talk about summer routines, because ours is all loosey goosey, like I imagine yours are too. I'm taking way longer than I should to get me and the kids out of the house in the mornings because there isn't the rushy impetus that there is during the fall and spring semesters, and Mike is teaching summer classes with his hours kind of wonky as well. I suppose that's the way summer is supposed to be though, yes?

The kids LOVE being off from school, though to me, the lack of structure is problematic for them. Sure, they can amuse themselves, but they need to be encouraged to move off the couch and away from video games. And by "encouraged," I mean "directly told that their game time is up and that they are duty bound to play outside for the rest of the afternoon." I'm not the best at coming up with crafts and summer activity ideas (because those usually involve going outside) but I do what I can. So my summer routine means coming up with ideas for my kids' summer routine.

I wish all summer days were like this past Sunday, wherein a gentle rain fell outside as I knitted and drank tea in my leggings and comfy top. What is this that you say? That I am delusional? Indeed. 😂

What does your summer routine look like? I need ideas, people! :0

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Great Crafting Obstacles list of 2018...

Well. I've spent a ridiculous amount of brain power preparing for this post this week,  which isn't unusual for me. ;-) It's nice to have a sense of purpose about my crafting again. I had really lost my crafting mojo after a difficult winter, and right now it's providing me with a lovely sense of peace and serenity. Life can be hard sometimes, and so we all need the little joys in life, yes? In my case, that means reams and reams of yarn.


I have a personal goal this summer of using as much stash yarn as I possibly can, rather than buying new. This sounds quite virtuous and economical, but the real reason is that I'm going to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival in October, and I want to feel unfettered and free to buy as much hand spun, hand dyed yarn as my little heart desires. Carpe Diem, right? Following this logic, one of you needs to go in my will to inherit my inevitably still voluminous yarn stash when I die, so let me know if you're interested!

*virtual high five!*

And so here we have it! This list is a combination of Things I've Just Needed To Knit For The Past Decade, and Things That Truly Scare Me. :0


Big and Frightening Cabled Cardigan

I've knit cables before, but they're still pretty new to me. Also, never in a man's sweater. I have had "Sweater for Mike" on my Christmas crafting list for approximately the past 5 years. At least 3 years ago (maybe more 😳) I bought a truckload of tweed yarn in a neutral color that men seem to like. I'm thinking of one of those fisherman-like cabled sweaters with cables out the wazoo. This one of those projects that I just need to pick a pattern for and cast on for lest I lose my nerve indefinitely. Mike will be excited.


Scary Seamed Socks

My comfort zone with socks are cuff down, basic ribbed socks, knit on double pointed needles. You know, those ferocious-looking ones with points on both ends. THAT was scary to me at first, but I have mastered knitting socks in this way. There are, however, *many* other ways to knit socks, and this is one of them. I want to make socks that are knit flat into a complicated-looking pattern, and then seamed. I loathe seaming. Probably because I'm so bad at it. But these socks are awesome-looking enough to warrant the possibility of a thick and uncomfortable seam on the back of my ankles:

"Smokey Zickzacks" by Natalia Vasilieva
Tentative Toe Up Socks

I tried toe-up socks once. Let's just say it didn't go very well. Rather than a happy load of 64ish cuff stitches, you start out with relatively few stitches on your needles and gradually increase up. The kicker is that, until that happens, things tend to get all twisty and tangled. I was so determined to make those falling leaves socks, too! It was a curse called down on those freaking falling leaves, let me tell you. It's been years now, and I'd like to try again. I WANT THOSE FALLING LEAVES, #@%! IT.

"Falling Leaves Socks" by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence

How Could They Not Be Trouble When They're Called Fox Socks?! 

I like stranded colorwork knitting. But stranded knitting in socks in an entirely different animal. Indeed, we do have the Great Argyle Sock Incident of which we will not again speak. Picture Tiffany painstakingly knitting the argyle pattern with multiple strands of yarn going at once all the way down the cuff, knitting the heel flap and turning the heel, knitting the gusset, then starting the pattern again on the foot, and then finally trying them on. This all took WEEKS. For a single sock. Do you want to know what happened next, good and gentle reader? Imagine your Catholic Librarian trying to force her giant size 9 foot into this sock like one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters intent on the glass slipper. Stranded knitting dramatically changes your tension, making it tighter than usual. Did Tiffany knit a gauge swatch to try and prevent this from happening? No. No, she did not.

And so I have not yet successfully knit a sock with a stranded pattern. I want the fox socks, people, and I want them badly!

Did you ever?! "Fox Isle Socks" by Life is Cozy

"Am I Going To Regret This?! Intricate Stranded Hat That Will Actually Fit A Human Head

Speaking of tension issues with regards to stranded knitting... Stranded knitting requires a particular kind of patience. Socks that do not fit size 9 feet = hats that would fit a baby bird. And Henry would like a stranded hat made with an image of Hedwig from Harry Potter on it. I have gray and white yarn, so I have no excuse not to try this. But...eeks. This is going to require swatching. 😭

"The Owlery" by Ingrid Carre

Praying That It Will Be Gorgeous, Complicated Lace Shawl

I have knit a lace shawl before. But only one. And it did involve some blood, sweat, and tears, especially when I dropped a stitch in the main lace section.


I want to knit a lace shawl before Rhinebeck with a design inspired by the mid-Hudson bridge. The pattern is not available online, but it is *beautiful* and I have hand dyed yarn with a colorway intended for this specific pattern. That's a lot of pressure if I screw it up! :0

A Rhinebeck Sweater

Speaking of Rhinebeck, a "Rhinebeck sweater" is a traditional rite of passage each year for all knitters, and I *really* want to knit one that I've had in my queue for all time and eternity:

"Autumn's End" by Alana Dakos
Yes, more falling leaves, because I am obsessed with them. Don't judge. :0 I even have this very featured yarn in my stash!

Colorwork Sweater For Anne

More sweaters! I've been promising Anne one for a few years now, and I just cast on for this one:

"Little Lighthouse" by Carrie Bostick Hoge
She picked out a bright blue/green yarn, and I'm using neutral colors from my stash for the colorwork yoke. 😇 I'm hoping to have this done for her for the fall.

School Cardigans for Anne and Autumn

Anne and her adorable friend Autumn both attend Catholic schools with a navy blue uniform. I said last year that I'd like to knit them navy blue cardigans that are comfy, rather than the scratchy wool ones a person tends to find in the uniform stores or JCPenney. It is also infinitely less expensive to buy a navy blue cotton/acrylic blend yarn than to buy the sweaters.  I excitedly bought the yarn during a sale, and well...I haven't knit them. :0 Do you think I could get both done by September? eeks!

"Little Hiker's Cardigan" by Melissa LaBarre
I'm really enthused about this pattern. I think the garter stitch will be so stretchy and comfy!

Finish Up a UFO That I Don't Even Like Anymore


This is not an alien invasion, UFO here stands for "Unfinished Object" in the crafting world. There are...let's just say, a NUMBER of possibilities for this category. I like to start new craft projects. I get all excited in the planning phase, and then after I cast on and the item takes shape, it's just bliss. And then, for some projects, the fever sometimes wanes. The pattern begins to bore me, the color starts to sicken me, whatever. And so I innocently tuck it into the bottom of my knitting basket, telling myself that "I'll get back to it later." For some innocent UFO's, later never comes. I know they're starting to resent me, casting on for bright new sweaters, while they languish amongst knitting notions and lost pencils. There's a cream colored, tweed poncho. There's a summer top in peach linen. There's a colorblock shawl. I can feel their beady eyes on me right now as I think about which I'll choose, and it's making me shiver. 😁

Double Knitting Bonanza 

Double knitting is a technique that I've never learned, so I can't even describe it to you, ha! I know that it makes a fabric appear on both sides of your item with no "wrong side," if you will. For example, I've always admired this scarf which is knit using this technique:

"Snowstorm Scarf" by Rose Stewart
See how the one side has white snowflakes with a colored background, and the other side is the reverse? Cool, right? Melanie, you mentioned double knitting. Want to do a winter double knit-along? *halo* I'm open to the Harry Potter scarf, if so!

The Ultimate Terrifying Knitting Project - Steeking

OK. This one is the Big Mama. All of this other stuff? Yeah, I want to make/learn this stuff. But steeking? I'm actually afraid of steeking. Steeking is related to Fair Isle/stranded knitting, which in many ways explains it's intimidation factor. *eyes narrow* Essentially, when you knit using a lot of different colors, the most expeditious way to do it is to knit in the round, wherein you never need to purl. Now, this is all great and everything if you're knitting a pullover with no sleeves. :0 But the instant you need to make an opening for sleeves, or God forbid, a center opening for a cardigan 😱, you need a steek. To steek, means TO CUT YOUR BEAUTIFUL KNITTED GARMENT THAT YOU JUST SHED BLOOD OVER.

I literally don't understand how this is possible. There's something about reinforcing the fabric with sewing prior to taking your scissors to it, but I'm feeling woozy, so I do not understand these words.

This is the last knitting frontier for me. I NEED to try this and live to tell about it.

Before I'm willing to go there for a sweater, I need a smaller steek. A baby steek. A steek with training wheels. So I'm going to knit Fair Isle slippers:

"Frost Slippers" by Emily Kintigh

Don't laugh. I may need you to come and hold my weeping form before this takes place.  You may also need to bring a bottle of vodka.

I will grant, it's going to take me many months to accomplish all of these items. I'll update the blog as I make my way through each project, but it may take me a year or more! :0

Here is out Bingo card to keep track!

 Anne's sweater is already on the needles, so there's a start. *halo* Are you excited to join along with my crafting adventures? What new adventures are you up to this beautiful June day? Have you gotten your book club book, the time is getting closer!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Ongoing summer reading, and sometimes we all need to challenge ourselves to try new things...

Well, isn't it just a splendid June day! The weather has been perfectly lovely here (by which I mean sunny and pleasant, sometimes cloudy, seasonal temperatures, and no scorching humidity that causes my hair to balloon or my skin to break out in a bumpy heat rash. Gross :0) and I'm reveling in the quiet serenity that the summer provides. My kids finish up school next week (they go late here, indeed), and are both excited by a few summer road trips they have coming their way with both us and their grandparents.

For my part, I've been enjoying the increased quiet time with more reading and crafting than I can normally manage during the academic year. If you're looking for some recommendations, I have your back! As always. 😇

I recently finished up reading Flowers and Foul Play, by Amanda Flower:

I read this with Sam, and we both absolutely LOVED IT. It's a cozy fantasy/mystery set in Scotland, and it has me dreaming of windswept coastlines, and knitting rugged cabled sweaters (we'll come back to that shortly :0). I highly recommend this author, I just love her! I pre-order all of her books, I enjoy them that much and want to support her!

I'm currently in a small aviation-related book club with my new friend Janel, and we are reading Scapegoat, by Emilio Corsetti:

This is INTERESTING. It's about TWA flight 841, which plunged from 39,000 feet inexplicably, and nearly crashed, in 1979. It was saved by it's crew within a few thousand feet from the ground, and this book details the incident from multiple perspectives, as well as the investigation and the dramatic saga of the crew afterwards. A fascinating non-fiction read!

As ever in the summertime, I have also picked back up with the Harry Potter series. I'm currently on Order of the Phoenix:

It may take me all summer just to read this particular volume in the series. :0 It's a long book, and as you know, I'm always reading other things as well! I am not monogamous when it comes to book reading. ;-)

Based upon the above (plus one previously read title), I'd say I ticked off 3 items on my Summer Reading List! Memoir, contemporary secular fiction, and historical non-fiction. Boo-yah! I just need historical fiction, and SNORT. That's easy. I have like 30 titles on my Kindle that fit the bill. :0

In other news, my crafting continues to bring me solace and joy. Never a gal to leave well enough alone and make things easy on myself, I have decided to issue a challenge. I have been crocheting since my teens, and knitting since I was pregnant with Henry (who is now 12). I've got a lot of experience under my belt. And it's not that I've gotten into a rut, but there are certain types of projects that are my comfort zone. I like my comfort zone. It's safe there. :0

But there are certain techniques that I have either never tried, or have attempted only rarely with mixed success. I think there is a greater life lesson in here that extends WAY beyond my humble crafting world. We often fall into comfortable habits without our hobbies and activities. After a time, we cease trying new things and motivating ourselves to improve beyond what we can already do well. This summer I have resolved that I'd like to challenge myself again. Try projects that intimidate me, and techniques that make me whimper to think of them. I'm hoping that all of this brain power will mean I'm less likely to develop dementia many decades from now like the research promises. 😁

I am actually so excited about this undertaking that I am merely teasing it in this week's post. Next week, I am working on a full-on list, with pattern links and pictures, and an accompanying bingo-like graphic, of the projects I'd like to challenge myself with over the course of the next year. It is complete and utter ridiculousness, and I am LOVING IT!!

*trumpets blare*

I feel strongly that as a child and young woman, I did not challenge myself all that often. I was shy and reserved, and even making a new friend was putting myself WAY out there. In a sense, this time of my life is making up for lost time. One of the biggest leaps I took in my life was in my very late 20's, when I left my legal career and went back to graduate school for librarianship. I didn't start taking belly dance lessons until I was in my 30's, and that's also when I learned to knit (which bears no resemblance to crocheting, despite them both using yarn, so it was a totally new skill). More recently, I became a professional belly dancer and learned to drive a stick shift, two things that I thought I would never have the courage to do. These are healthy things on which to challenge myself, and I want to continue that trend.

So. Next week. Dun dun DUN! The big crafting challenge list! I'm super excited. I can make it a little saga as we travel through the year together, with accompanying graphics and see how I do, lol. Do you have a bucket list of sorts? Generally, or within a specific hobby? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Summer structure, and Harry Potter knits. Because apparently that is a summer activity for me...

Hello, and happy week to you all! I'm in full out summer mode - absolutely LOVING the quiet campus where I work, the kids are winding down their school year, I'm preparing for our Summer Book Club and starting my Christmas crafting in July list, dance routines for summer festivals are being firmed up, and Mike and I are finalizing the details of our summer road trips.

*woo hoo!*

It's all good.  So, in terms of our little blog here, these are the updates: last week I asked for opinions on a timeline for our Summer Book Club, in which we will read How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry. Our options are either a month long read-along, or tackling it in a 2 week time span in mid-July given that it is a shorter book. Most people said either option was fine, though they were unavailable surrounding the 4th of July holiday.

I'm inclined to go with the second, 2 week, option. The book is 160 pages, and divided into 2 parts. That's about 80 pages per week, and we can just read part 1 and then part 2. Boom! Hearty dose of summer apologetics. It would break down like this:

July 12th - Part 1
July 19th - Part 2

Sound good? If so, we all have our mission...go in search of the book! I'm going to start reading in early July. *virtual high five*

In other community news, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the Tea Time podcast for the summer. To be honest, I haven't been struck by any fancy inspiration. The thought of a saint series came to mind, and I like that idea, but it just did not summon the energy needed to actually make it happen. I'm taking that as a sign that it just isn't meant to be right now. I've been very busy lately with my family, and at work with finishing up my scripture study for women that is BEING PUBLISHED THIS YEAR, stay tuned for more information on that. :0 We're also, yet again, redesigning the course that I teach for the fall, and so available time for recording, editing, and getting out podcast episodes just doesn't seem feasible right now, even for short episodes. It's possible that inspiration may strike before the end of the summer, I'll keep you posted. If it doesn't, I still plan to do special series during Advent and Lent each year in video/audio form. I really enjoyed those this past year, and the liturgical seasons really lend themselves to special themes. It's nice to set aside that time during penitential seasons to focus on faith and community, which is what we do in the Tea Time podcast. So, that's where that all stands. Like I said, I'll keep you posted! My priority is blogging each week, and hosting the book club. That is the foundation of why I started this blog to begin with, and so I want to prioritize time for those things. *heart*

All right, in crafting update, I finished the Little Shoreline baby vest I mentioned last week:

I'm very pleased with how this came out! It is being packaged with a bear cub hat and sent off to it's new owner! I already cast on for a cardigan for my new nephew. *gold star* He lives in Maine, so I figure he needs sleeves. ;-)

I've been really enjoying my crafting lately. I had lost my craft mojo a bit this spring. Has that ever happened to anybody else? I just felt sad and uninspired by it. But it always comes back, and it is back with a vengeance. The baby knitting has really re-energized me. As well, the kids and I are planning to rewatch the Harry Potter movies this summer, and are excitedly planning a HP themed snack menu for the big event, which got me to re-seeking out a Harry Potter community on Ravelry.

I had peeked at them last summer when I was reading the books and watching the movies with my family, and there are several forums on Ravelry devoted to Harry Potter. It's a bit complicated, they all involve "taking classes" and submitting projects in specific ways to get your house credit for your efforts, and I was a bit overwhelmed and confused as to how to become involved. You need to "be sorted" to belong to a certain house, and that can only happen at specific parts of the year. Before then, you need to participate as a non-sorted student to be eligible for sorting, and that's about as far as I got before I panicked and gave up. 😂

This time, I poked my nose into a group called Hogwarts at Ravelry, and though it functions much the way I described above, I found it less confusing this time after thoroughly reading through the instructions. I've been participating in the Platform 9 3/4 thread for unsorted students, and even managed to successfully submit my first project over there!

Socks to keep my feet warm once school starts back up in September!
Thus, I am now eligible to be sorted in late June, and thus I am VERY EXCITED! I also encountered our beloved CL community member Melanie over there in Hufflepuff house, hi Melanie!!

*waves enthusiastically*

This is all to say that I now have extra motivation to actually *finish* the projects that I start, and I also have the warmth of a crafting community supporting me, and it's a giant warm and fuzzy. It's been making me very happy, and I feel super grateful. I can't wait to see which house I get sorted into!

*beams* 😇

OK, your turn. What's going on with you this lovely June day? Are you excited for the book club? Let's hear all about it!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Summertime planning, including fun with yarny crafts...

Hey all! Happy End of May to all of you. I'm pretty sad to see May go, frankly, it's one of my favorite months of the entire year, certainly my favorite month of the spring/summertime. So I'm mourning it's end a bit, but I am indeed excited by what is to come this summer!

A few blog housekeeping things, and then I thought we could have some crafty time together. 🤗I posted last week about the Tea Time podcast, looking for ideas on where to take that project this summer. I heard from a few of you, and so far I'm still very undecided on themes for the summer! These would be super short episodes, less than 10 minutes. I was thinking that I would start up next week, but I just don't have my act together yet, :0 so I'll keep you posted! I want it to feel inspired, like all of the pieces fall into place. Otherwise, maybe the timing isn't quite right, you know? So we'll see. I shall keep you apprised!

Summer Book Club time is definitely approaching! This year we have chosen How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry. In that sense, our theme this summer is apologetics, hurray! So, I'm thinking July. That gives us plenty of time to procure the book from your local library or bookstore. I'd like your opinion on how we should section off and discuss the content. This is a fairly short book for nonfiction, at 160 pages, divided into 15 chapters. Would you rather:

(1) Take the month of July to discuss it in weekly posts, so a 4 week time period, reading 3-4 chapters per week, or

(2) Read it in a more condensed time frame, say 2-3 weeks in mid-July after the holiday, discussing 5 or more short chapters at a time?

Vote in the comments, please!

In other news, springtime crafting has hit me with an inspired vengeance. I do tend to do this as June approaches, and ultimately I go into full fledged Christmas in July mode. I plan out all my holiday gifts and other fall/winter accessories I'd like to make, and then go hog wild with the summer yarn sale at Knit Picks. Granted, I'm on a yarn fast this year. Yes, this is actually a thing. I have a LOT OF YARN. A LOT. So I'm trying to use what I have. *halo* We'll see, because occasionally a pattern will call for something that I do not already have in my yarn stash, because *sometimes miracles really do happen*, and then I am completely justified in ordering what I need. Or so I tell myself.

Right now, I'm in the baby knitting zone. My sister recently had a baby, and my good friend Allison is due in June. I finished up 2 bear cub hats, one for each little head:

Pattern is Itty Bitty Bear Cubs, and is available for free!
And now I want to make each of them a sweater. Allison lives in the Pacific Northwest, so I decided to knit her baby a cotton vest that will be a nice layering piece for the late summer and fall:

Pattern is Little Shoreline Vest, from "Swoon Maine"
Right now, it looks like a ribbed amoeba, I know, but eventually it will look like a baby vest. ;-) The pattern called for a technique that was new to me, called Sunday Short Rows, and I really enjoyed learning a new skill!

For my nephew, who lives in Maine, I will make a full fledged wool cardigan. He will need it, hee! I think I'm going to go with the Little Shore Cardigan, also from "Swoon Maine." If you couldn't already tell, I absolutely love that book! I also have my eye on the Little Lighthouse Pullover for Anne.

I now have a full queue over at Ravelry of sweaters, wraps, accessories and socks. Check out the featured patterns in "New Directions in Sock Knitting" which a friend gave me for Christmas. Those crazy zig zag ones in the upper left corner? I MUST MAKE THEM!! I just ordered a new yarn winder, and I'm all set to go for my summer project goals!

*virtual fist bump*

Are you crafting anything this summer? What is your vote for the Summer Book Club - all of July or a shorter 2-3 week span? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Tea Time brainstorm!

So I've been thinking about the Tea Time podcast. Summer is quickly approaching, and I plan to have a season during the stretch of Ordinary Time leading up to the fall. My preliminary thought is that it would start after the feast of Corpus Christi, so the week of June 4th, and would air weekly in both video and audio forms.

I've experimented with a few different things on Tea Time, and have enjoyed all of them for different reasons. As you all know, Tea Time started as a weekly vlog, and then moved to an audio podcast option as well, which I think was a crucial and necessary change to involve as many community members as possible.  Everyone has their format preference, and this accommodates all of them. I tried having different segments on the show, and I think all of them were quite pleasant. Eventually, I had to move away from it being weekly, because I simply couldn't keep up with it, and that's when I came up with the seasonal idea. Although my show will never have a large listenership as a result, that wasn't going to happen anyway, so what the heck, right? :0 So now, Tea Time airs weekly during Advent, Lent, and a portion of what I call "Summer Ordinary Time."

During Advent, the shows were longer, between 20 and 30 minutes, and I incorporated in the book club. Although that worked out fine, not everybody participates in the book club, so I switched things up for Lent. I kept the podcast to under 10 minutes, and had a theme every week. Moving forward into the summer, I think that is the format I'd like to retain. The shorter shows, and with a specific theme each week, rather than any sort of segments. It worked out very well for Lent, and all of the feedback I received was positive, for both video and audio folks.

So here's where you all come in: what sort of themes should I be focusing on? For Lent, obviously I picked Lenten themes. For the summer, the world is our oyster. :) Catholic themes? Maybe specific devotions or Marian themes? Saints? They are a great interest of mine, to be sure. Or, general life themes? Family, dance, creativity and inspiration? The nice thing is, every summer can have a different focus. So all suggested ideas will get used at some point!

Please offer your suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adventures with family prayer time...

This is a topic very near and dear to my heart, and I would love all of your input on it, whether or not you have small kids in your house at present. It takes a village, right? 😎

My kids are now 12 and 7. Translation:

"I don't want to go to church! It's SO BORINNNNNGGGGG!"

"I don't want to pray the rosary in the car, can't we listen to music instead?!"

"Prayer intentions? What do you mean?"

This is all exacerbated by the fact that I am the only adult (practicing) Catholic in my household. My husband is incredibly supportive of my raising our kids Catholic, but he does not consider himself a Catholic and comes to Mass with us only occasionally. He has my back with getting the kids off to Mass despite their whining, and he is also wonderful about assuring that they pray before eating with respect and reverence, including a full, and not hurried, sign of the cross. He attends the required parent pre-sacrament meetings, and plans the baptism and First Communion parties with gusto. I am very blessed.

When it comes to the nitty gritty, though...well, as I knew when I signed up for this job, it's up to me. And God. Whoops, this is true, I can't forget Him. :0

Henry and I have read saint stories together before bed now for years. He still very much enjoys this tradition, despite me thinking that maybe he was growing out of it. I know, though, that he is at an age wherein I need to be vigilant and do more with him to instill his faith in Christ. In our diocese, children are not confirmed until *11th grade*. So we have a ways to go until he receives the grace of that sacrament.

Anne and I have no bedtime prayer routine, we read a story (non-Biblical) together, and that is our tradition. But I really feel like we should have one. Every few weeks, she receives a school assignment to pray a specific number of decades of the rosary that evening, and we always do that together. But we rarely pray the rosary together without that impetus. Whenever I try, I am met with a chorus of groans.

It's difficult. I am not at all surprised by any of this - I too am a person that many decades ago used to complain about Mass being boring. I did not pray the rosary until I became a young adult. I did occasionally pray in general, but only if a crisis of some sort hit, and I asked God for help.

I do my best to be a good example for my kids. I very much love the liturgy, and try to talk about why I find it not only soothing but fascinating, especially on specific feast days or liturgical seasons. We attend Mass every week, and I incorporate elements of faith into our family life as much as I can. During Advent and Lent, for sure, but also during other times of the year.

But am I perfect in this way? Or in any way? :0 Of course not. So I know that I could do more to make the faith real and exciting to my kids. To be a good example of a Catholic Christian living out her faith.

One of those ways is regular prayer time. I've experimented through the years with making a set aside prayer moment special with candles, new rosary beads, and a calm and lovely setting. Those things worked, but only for the short term. I want to make a permanent addition to our routine that will nurture their fledgling faith.

My kids are getting older, and I feel like we are at a crucial juncture. Henry is well into middle school (and an altar boy), and Anne will make her First Communion in two years. It's an important time for them to associate their faith with strong memories of compassion, trust and security that will aid them for the rest of their lives.

Here's where the advice village comes into play. ;-) Thoughts? Ideas? Each child may have different faith needs given their age difference, so something separate for each kid, or more of a family effort? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!