Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Adventures with swords and winged insects on a hill - more festival dancing, 2018...

You know, when I was a shy, mousey kid with glasses and an overbite in elementary school, I suppose that I didn't think my life would turn out in a particularly interesting way. I wanted to be quietly happy, and that is indeed how it turned out, but I will admit that my adult life includes some elements that I did not foresee all those decades ago. The librarian part is not a surprise. Nor is the wife and mother part (though I did fear at one point that that may never come to pass due to aforementioned shy, mousey, teeth situation I mentioned above). I guess I saw myself perpetually wearing a collared shirt and knee length skirt, my hair in a bun or braid, pushing a book cart around a small public library like Aurora Teagarden. I'd go home, make dinner for my husband and kids, and read a lot. That was pretty much it. :0

My belly dancing adventures have added a layer of excitement and fun to every arena of my life. It brings me unending creative inspiration, a beautiful community of women who support me emotionally, and events that I share with Mike and the kids. And the unexpected fun and laughter at some of the situations that we find ourselves in? Well, there's just no way I can ever put into words the joy it has brought me.

Friday night my troupe and I were slated to perform at an outdoor event memorializing a local musician who passed away a few years ago. After two full days of performing in the daytime heat last weekend, we were really looking forward to this much shorter, more informal gig. And indeed, it was a fun and wonderful adventure!

We arrived about a half hour in advance of our 8:15 pm performance slot, all gussied up in our hot pink costume coverups. :0 There was a band playing on the grass beneath a tent cover. We've danced on a multitude of different surfaces, but grass was a first for us!

The event organizer greeted us warmly and, shouting over the neighboring band, told us that he was so excited we were there, and that we'd be performing on "the main stage." There was a beat of confusion, because we all assumed that we were standing next to the main stage. Then he pointed to the top of a hill.

Yep. The main stage was UP THERE. 😂

I had a hard time believing anybody would hike up that thing to watch us dance, but up we went, me wishing the entire time I had a decorative band for my Fitbit so that I could have captured those awesome steps. ;-) At the top, we found a sound system, and a couple making out. I am not making this up. :0 We discreetly made camp at the sound system, tried to find as even a spot as possible that we could dance on, and waited for the band to finish playing.

They did, and people actually hiked up that hill to watch us dance. :0 The evening was taking on a surreal feeling, but hey. That's part of the fun.

We organized ourselves as the sun set, swatting away mosquitoes all the while. This is officially the first performance wherein I wished that I had slathered myself with bug spray ahead of time. ALTHOUGH, the bug spray would have been a decidedly bad combination with the sheer volume of sweat that I accumulated on my face and hair. It was still quite warm and humid, even up on a hill. ;-) We danced several group pieces, and interspersed solos in-between. Sword and I had our big moment towards the end of the set:

Sword having his time in the spotlight ;-)
And Sword was a good boy. But I tell you, belly dancing, while balancing a sword on your sweaty head, up on an uneven hillside...well, it's not all it's cracked up to be. 😂 In the past, once I got Sword balanced, I was only taking him off my head in case of apocalypse, or maybe just moderate cataclysm. I was much more leery of re-balancing it, so would live with terrible sliding sensations and other crazy crooked concoctions while I danced. Now? Every professional gig I've ever done has requested that I balance the sword. So I do, and now have a lot more experience. Sword goes on and off my head with lightening efficiency depending upon the conditions and his stability up there. So after balancing him for a spell, I swooped him off my head and did a bunch of swirly things with him. Then when I heard my song nearing it's end, I re-balanced him like a champ and ended with the sword on my head. Sword did good. :0

By our final number, my hair was sticking to my back and we all had at least one bug bite. The crowd was lovely, though, and we all have a fun and wonderful time. The event organizer is of Middle Eastern descent, and was thrilled to have us there.To me, this is what being a belly dancer is all about. We are representing a culture, and we have a responsibility to do it correctly and authentically. We are proud to present Egyptian dance, and to do it with joy.

And we have fall belly adventures coming out way! More performances, a workshop weekend in Toronto, an exciting new class, and the semi-annual hafla. I also have lots of yarn crafting adventures on tap as well, so there will be updates on that front too! How is your August going, dear reader? Share at will in the comments!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - Spotlight on Catholic apologetics, Part II...

This summer is really flying by, yes? Hard to believe, but it's our final installment in the 2018 Summer Book Club! This summer, we've been discussing Kevin Lowry's How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, and last week we chatted about how how we all enjoyed his conversion story. Let's pick up where we left off!

So the second part of the book changes course, and Kevin then moves into a discussion of 8 "things" that were obstacles he had to overcome prior to becoming Catholic. I've seen discussions like this in many other conversion memoirs that I've read, and as a cradle Catholic who grew up in the Northeast, they have always been a source of fascination for me. Beliefs that I just took for granted (i.e. a devotion to Mary, that getting to heaven involves more than faith alone) were a huge source of controversy to others, and I had no idea until I was an adult!

It's been awhile since I read a conversion story like this, so I was interested to see Kevin's list as well. It included:

(1) The Eucharist
(2) Confession
(3) The Mystical Body of Christ
(4) Mary
(5) Faith vs. Works
(6) Authority
(7) The Church's Imperfections
(8) Himself

No big surprises there. :) These are all things that are very different for non-Catholics coming from a Protestant background, and these individuals may have some biases worked up against the Catholic belief system on these issues. He touches upon this in #8. I think he also makes an excellent point about #7, which in our modern times is an increasing tragedy for all involved. 

Numbers 1 through 6 I have read about in just about every other conversion story I've encountered, so they are certainly poignant items for those looking into the Church. This is an educational list, to be sure, and his discussion is on point. I do feel like the discussion was a bit abbreviated in this section, as compared to other books like this that I have read. Beth Anne mentioned this issue last week as well, with regards to the latter part of his conversion story in part I, that suddenly we went from a more detailed-driven narrative, to it being more cursory. This discussion felt more cursory to me than its' peers in this genre. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Since I have in fact read a lot of conversion stories, I have explored extensively on all of these issues, but if this is the first book of this type that a person has picked up, they would likely be left wanting a lot more information about these doctrines. The amount of information provided here is not necessarily convincing, I don't think, as to why the author converted to Catholicism. Obviously, he did a lot more research that he simply chose not to include here, and he may have been going for a shorter book that is easier to read. I get it.

Those are my impressions of the second half of the book! What were yours? I'd love to hear them!

Thank you so much, friends, for spending July reading along with me on the topic of apologetics! Our next book club will be for Advent, and sometime in the late fall I'll post a list for us to vote from. That'll be super fun, won't it?! 😃

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Adventures with sweat and high powered wind - summer festival dancing, 2018 edition...

Hello all! I had time for a short dance post, and I promised last week that I'd get an update in prior to our last Summer Book Club installment.

*beams*

And so here I am, reporting in for duty. On the whole, it went very well! We danced on both Saturday and Sunday, and they were definitely long days, no doubt about that. We danced in what we call "pop ups" around the festival in the early afternoons, and then danced in a stage show during the later afternoons. All numbers went well, but as is always the case during the last weekend of July every single year, it was hot, and so we get very, very hot and sweaty. That does not make for the most pleasant of costume situations, to be sure. ;-) And dancing down on the road during the pop ups is uneven and makes turns a tad precarious. Our drum solo tried to knock us off in this fashion one-by-one, but we managed to thwart it. :0

The stage shows were beautiful. I was tired, no doubt about that, but I was very happy with how all of the pieces went, both solo and group. It was windy though, which always makes veil work a bit dicey. I practiced veil entrances for both of my solo pieces, and well...

...let's just say that didn't work out exactly as I had planned. 😂 On Saturday, I stubbornly still entered with a veil, determined not to let the wind foil my beautiful swishing sequence. I got on stage, the veil flew over my face, and I beat it back behind me so that I could release it, pretending like I planned for that to happen. :0 I left it at the back of the stage so that I wouldn't accidentally step on it and slip, and it FOLLOWED ME ALL THE WAY UP TO THE FRONT, then blew right into the center of the space, slowly balled itself up and rolled around like a tumbleweed, before finally blowing right off and into the audience.

Sure. I meant for that to happen, as well. ;-)

Sunday, I gave up the ghost and entered without Veil. That went great, aside from the fact that sweat rolled into my right eye while I was dancing, causing my eyes to blink and water uncontrollably for the remainder of the piece.

All glamour, all the time, in the life of your belly dancing Catholic Librarian. 😎

And the group pieces were lovely as well. There were a lot of them, and thus a lot of quick costume changes, resulting in a bit of...:

"Wait. What dance are we doing?!"

...even as we were about to get on stage. :0 But hey, we're professionals. Which means we pull it off no matter what! And that we did.

It was a fun weekend, and I can't wait to do it again. Which we will. On Friday.

*collapses*

I haven't fully recovered from the last one yet, that's all. 😂 And guess who's coming along for the ride? Our good friend Sword.

😨

I'll let you know how it all goes next week! How was your weekend, dear reader? Book Club post will be up tomorrow!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - Spotlight on Catholic apologetics, Part I...

Here we are, at last ready for the entire first part of our Summer Book Club, as we read How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry! We had an introduction to the book last week, but I *finally* procured my library ebook copy. I actually read this book in a few days, so I returned my library copy such that the next person on the waiting list could have it.

*halo*

So, what are we waiting for? Let's dive in!

The author divided up his story into 2 parts, with this first one being devoted to background information on his life, and his conversion story. I truly loved his story. Memoirs have always fascinated me - we all have a story to tell, and they are all compelling! Of course, they have to be told in a way that holds our attention, and Kevin does that beautifully with his funny and endearing narrative.

By his own description, he was a somewhat rebellious teenager who did not take the deeply ingrained Presbyterian faith of his parents very seriously. Nor does he take his college education very seriously, at least at first. His father is the one who suggests the Franciscan University of Steubenville, interestingly, and encourages him to attend there. While they are there touring the campus, Kevin sneaks away with his fake i.d. to procure beer and generally act in ways that teenagers do that make us cringe. These are things that we all either did, or thought were cool, at the exact same age, but now make us flare our nostrils and talk about how youth is wasted on the young. One thing I was confused about that the author does not clarify is why he starting attending college at age 16? Maybe he was homeschooled?

So he gets accepted, but his immaturity and general lack of wisdom (which we are all afflicted with at this stage of our lives; such painful memories! :0) cause him to make poor choices. He doesn't do his school work and gets very poor grades. He drinks a lot of beer and has a frightening experience in which he has no memory of an entire night. He does not attend church and his spiritual life is totally adrift. He flunks out of Franciscan University.

While he was there, he DOES meet very nice students, and many of his experiences cause him to wonder what it is about their Catholic faith that draws them to it. One morning after Sunday morning Mass lets out, he finally approaches the chapel, but does not go in. He feels an unmistakable peace, and is confused about it. He still thinks that Catholics are a bit odd and does not pursue it at this point, but I related very much to his story at this juncture. I felt that peace outside of a Catholic college chapel too, right before my reversion of heart back to the faith, while I was law school in my twenties.

So he goes to work back home in Toronto and matures a bit. Eventually, he wants to return to college, but finds that his nearly nonexistent grade point average is going to make this very difficult for him. He realizes that returning to Franciscan is truly his best shot at ever getting a college degree, and he pleads his case. They allow him to return under strict academic conditions, and he works very hard to meet them. He does so, and also meets a woman who will become his wife, Kathi. She too is not Catholic.

Ultimately, they graduate, marry and start a family together. They seek out a spiritual home, and Kevin begins to be bothered by how difficult this is, and how different each of the churches is. He eventually contact Scott Hahn for a chat, and Dr. Hahn gives him a rosary to pray. This is the beginning of the end of Kevin being a non-Catholic. :0

I was expecting that he would take Dr. Hahn's classes at Steubenville, and that this was partly what led to his conversion, but that isn't what happened from what I can glean. Although his heart softened towards Catholics during his time at Franciscan University, and he became intrigued by the fervor he saw in his Catholic classmates, all of the research he did that ultimately led to his conversion happened AFTER he graduated. Scott Hahn became his sponsor when he was baptized and confirmed into the faith. We knew that Kathi also decided to come into the Church with Kevin, but we also find out that Kevin's parents too become Catholic at a later time! So, obviously his dad had a soft spot for the Church all along.

I enjoy conversion stories, and this one is no exception. I found the story poignant and touching, and I laughed out loud in places. It was a joy to read. What were your thoughts on this part of the book?

Next week we will move into the main obstacles Kevin faced as a Presbyterian contemplating the Catholic Church, and how he overcame them. Join us again then!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer updates, and some big book news! (finally :))

Summer Book Club post is coming tomorrow, don't worry! I actually devoured the book in a few days, so I'm all ready to go for our discussion! Part I is tomorrow, Part II is next week. I even returned the ebook to the library so that the next person on the waiting list could have immediate access to Catholic apologetics goodness.

😇

I'm also busy frantically preparing for our big summer festival this weekend. This year is a whole new level. I'm in something like 500 dances. 😂 I'm not really exaggerating by all that much, unfortunately. It's...a LOT. We're doing pop up dances throughout the festival both days, and then a 90 minute stage show on Saturday, 60 minutes on Sunday. I have many group pieces pervading, and then a solo on both days, a longer one on Saturday. The sheer volume of costumes and accessories that I need to pack is making me increasingly paranoid about forgetting something and/or generally screwing something up majorly. I'll be there close to 6 hours on each day.

😳

Pray for me. :0 I'm certain that I'll be reporting in on all of the amusing details next week!

All right, so the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

*trumpet blares*

The book that I've been mentioning for about 2 years now, and working on for well over a year, is now in the printing process, and available for pre-order as part of a scripture study series for Catholic women!


https://igg.me/at/stay-connected

Aren't they STUNNING?! Look at those pretty pastel colors!! My baby is the lavender one 😍:

*heart*
These books are down-to-earth, and easy-to-read, and are designed either for small group study, or from the comfort of your own couch with nothing but comfy clothes and a cup of tea as your companions on the journey. Each book has a different theme: the invitations of Jesus, classical works of Catholic literature, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All 3 books are organized into 7 chapters with opening and closing prayers, reflections on the chapter topic (in the case of my book, a different Catholic classic is featured in each chapter), connections to scripture, and discussion questions. These have journal prompts and space built right into the book, so there is plenty of room throughout to record yours/your groups' thoughts and experiences. You can see this below in the delightful interior design!


I could not be more pleased with how these books turned out. I plan to work my through all 3 as scripture studies and journals, and am just about jumping up and down with excitement! If you join the pre-order campaign, you will have your journal(s) in September!

🎉

We are trying to gather initial printing costs for our lovely publisher, Gracewatch Media, and a successful campaign also means more journals will come out in 2019! The pre-order comes with MAJOR discounts for you. Each journal is available for $9 (25% off), or you can buy all 3 for just $25 (30% off). There are also bulk discounts available for each book, so you could also procure 3 copies of any 1 book for 30% off, 5 copies for 38% off, or 10 copies for 50% off! This is *perfect* for a Bible study group to go in on together! Domestic shipping costs are extremely reasonable as well. Ordering during the campaign also means that you'll get your journals way sooner than waiting for the full launch.

🤗

If you'd like to support our humble campaign, I would be most grateful! These are marketed towards Catholic women, but I do truly feel that these journals are quite applicable to men as well! They also make great gifts for the women in your life.

The campaign is open for 20 more days! There WILL be online book clubs for these books as well, keep your eyes peeled, and I will keep you in the know. ;-)

Do you need a daily way to delve into scripture? Are you a journaler? I'd love to hear from you!

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 still.do.not.have.the.book. 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 CatholicMom.com 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.

#victoryismine

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.

yyyaaaayyyyyyy.

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.

d'oh!

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

(4) he or she MUST BE ERADICATED WITH RUTHLESS EFFICIENCY.

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

GREAT CRAFTING OBSTACLES LIST OF 2018 (AND WHO AM I KIDDING? ALSO 2019 AND 2020)...

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!!