Friday, December 6, 2019

A wintertime hygge reading list...

Hello all, and I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! (or just a nice week, if the holiday does not apply to your geographic location ;-)). Getting back into my routine coming off of the week-long vacation, I was feeling a bit melancholy on Monday morning, and setting up a strict to-do list for myself to keep on task. One of the things that I needed to do was write my monthly piece for Catholic Mom, and as would be expected given my sunken spirits, I was having a difficult time coming up with an idea for a topic.

🤔

So, yes, I had to think on it for a few days. 😁By Wednesday, I was *really* up against the deadline for the next day, and so inspiration was truly needed at that point.

😬

That day, my team at work (those of us who are primarily teaching librarians) was putting together a few baskets for the annual auction to benefit a university-wide charitable effort. One of them had a "warm and cozy theme" and included things like fuzzy slippers, tea, big campfire mugs, and a copy of a book on hygge. Inspiration struck!

😎

I'm familiar with the Danish concept of hygge from reading a memoir last year (recommended by my colleague who came up with the hygge basket idea!) and I absolutely loved it. That memoir is this one:


Hygge is the idea of enjoying cozy indoor time, spending time with the people you love. There are a lot of other ideas that go into this overall philosophy of happiness, including having an inviting living space and enjoying good food and drinks, but essentially it focuses on ways to thrive while being mostly indoors for the long winter months. And in Denmark, as you can imagine given it's location near the Arctic Circle, has a very long winter with significantly reduced sunlight. Yet, they are rated as the happiest country in the world! Intriguing, yes? I had been thinking about writing my Catholic Mom piece with a winter theme, and knew that a hygge tie-in would be perfect.

So, that's what I did, including a spiritual angle with a winter rosary connection, yay, and that piece will be published next week (I'll link it in the comments when it is live :)). In the meantime, I thought it would be pleasant to include a little hygge reading list here on the blog. I haven't done that in awhile! And the librarian loves her readers advisory, it must be said.

The book that was in our basket is this one:


Popped that right onto my Amazon wish list. I mean, look at that cover imagery. Makes me want to dive right onto my couch in my fleecy robe and slippers! As well as this one:


The cover art on this book also makes my heart so happy. Those blues, alpine green, snowy white, and the brown from the log cabin. In fact, looking at this picture gives me an idea for a blanket that I could make for one of our bedrooms! A hygge themed blanket. This stuff makes me so happy! 🤗

This book was also recommended quite a bit as I navigated my way through this happy rabbit hole:


As I read some articles online about hygge, this was the book I saw discussed the most, interestingly. I kinda want all three. Hoping for some Amazon love this Christmas, for sure. 😁 I've already set up a project page on Ravelry for the hygge blanket, ha! I don't even have the yarn for it yet. WHAT AN OUTSTANDING PROBLEM TO HAVE! 😃

This reading lists barely brushes the surface, but I think it gives us a nice place to start! Have you read any books on hygge or Denmark? Leave them in the comments to continue on with our list!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

St. Therese Thanksgiving Novena starts today!

Good morning friends! Our community-wide St. Therese Thanksgiving Novena begins TODAY! If you'd like to join along with us, all of the information that you need is below! I won't be posting the prayers to the blog daily, but today's post serves as a reminder to begin praying, and to pray each day through Thursday, November 28th.


Here is the link to the pdf of the prayers that you need! :-)

I am including day 1 below, but you can take it from here. If you would keep the intentions of the entire community in prayer during this novena, we would be most grateful. Know that we are all praying for you as well! You are welcome to join us in our Facebook group if you like, where we host weekly prayer threads, and where the novena prayers will also be posted daily for ease.



Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'll be back after the holiday with more lifey merriment, dance posts, novenas and more. :-)

Friday, November 15, 2019

First of our seasonal novenas set to begin next week!

TGIF everyone! The first of our planned community novenas is scheduled to start Wednesday, November 20th. And our gal up on deck is one of my very favorites, St. Therese!



We'll be praying the St. Therese Thanksgiving Novena, which is ever so lovely, and I had not heard of until my good friend Tracy directed me to it!

Link to Thanksgiving Novena prayers
Here's how this will work: I'll be posting a thread on Monday in our community Facebook group wherein people can add their intentions for the duration of this novena. If you're not on Facebook, you are welcome to leave your intention(s) in a comment to this post, and I can pop them in the thread over there so that everyone sees it. And of course, feel free to post "for a personal intention" if you do not feel comfortable revealing specifics.

On Wednesday, November 20th, I'll begin posting the daily prayers in the Facebook. I'll also put up a blog post on that particular Wednesday with the prayer for day 1 and also a link to the full pdf with all 9 days. After day 1, I'll only be posting the daily prayers in Facebook, it would be too tedious to do daily blog posts. But you'll have the link, so I would just keep that as an open tab on your browser or phone so that you can refer to it each day through Thanksgiving!

I think it is so lovely to pray together as a community, and to focus on the needs of others, especially at this time of year. I know that when my own intentions are clouding up my mind, my prayer time tends to get anxious (yikes!), but when I'm praying for the intentions of others, everything is all serenity and light. Win/win!

I hope that you will join us! *virtual hug*

Thursday, November 7, 2019

November/December novena plans!

We have actual prayer plans based on feedback that I received last week!

*praise hands*

I received the most votes for praying, as a community, the St. Andrew Christmas Novena:

St. Andrew Christmas Novena
This will begin on November 30th, and run everyday until Christmas, so it's not a traditional 9 day novena. It involves praying a short prayer multiple times through out each day. I will post a reminder before this starts! 

The next one is a totally new-to-me novena called the St. Therese Thanksgiving novena:

St. Therese Thanksgiving Novena
We will begin this one on Wednesday November 20th, and pray until Thanksgiving day.

*heart*

I will post about each of these in detail before the novenas begin, but I won't be posting daily reminders or links to the prayers here on the blog, that would get messy in a hurry. If you're on Facebook (and I know Facebook has it's flaws, but it's an excellent way of keeping up with beloved family and friends), we have a community Facebook group wherein I'll be posting daily reminders and the text of the prayers. That's definitely an easier way of keeping up with the prayers if you'd like me to do a lot of the work for you! I'll also be creating threads in the Facebook group wherein you can post your prayer intentions for each novena, and we will pray for each other's needs!

I'm very excited about these! I've heard of the St. Andrew novena before, but I've never prayed it. Has anyone else prayed either of these novenas before? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

With November approaching, a prayer plan emerges...

Rosaries by Allison
Happy Halloeen, everyone! This morning, I raided my embarrassingly large rosary supply 😬 and brought out my Dia de los Muertos rosary, which is absolutely *perfect* for November, the month of All Souls! It's a great time to remember our family and friends who have passed before us, and to ask them to intercede for us. Speaking of that specific rosary, it is made by my dear friend, Allison, and she's having a special in her Etsy shop for 3 days only! So if you'd like to grab one of these rosaries, definitely hop onto her site and order asap!

As I was praying and driving into work this morning (for an 8 am class 😴), it occurred to me I'd like to plan another community novena. I ended up posting the St. John Paul II novena in our Facebook group recently, kind of spur of the moment, and it was very well received. I thought we could select an upcoming feast day and decide to pray as a community for those 9 days. I can post the prayers daily in the Facebook group, for those who follow along there, and I'll link to them here, of course, so that you can follow along regardless of if you participate over at Facebook or not. So! This begs an important question...

*beams*

Which novena would you like to pray? I'll include some ideas below, and please comment on this post with your vote!

St. Cecilia (feast Nov. 22nd)
All Souls (sort of a general November theme, feast is Nov. 2nd)
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini (feast Nov. 13th)
Christ the King (feast Nov. 24th)
St. Andrew Christmas novena (this would start on his feast of Nov. 30th, and is 25 days long leading up to Christmas)

Oh gosh, I'm getting so excited. :-0 Let me know your thoughts! We could potentially pray more than one of these!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Pondering the rosary...

I've been on a rosary kick lately, as I talked about last week. :-) It's hard for me to develop and stick with spiritual habits, but so far, this one is going pretty well. I pray the rosary a lot in the car, but sometimes on the weekends I'll pray it while I'm waiting for Mass to begin. This week, I was home sick one day with a horrible headache/24 hour bug, and I prayed a rosary while flat on my back in bed, because I had no choice but to lay there. The act of finding and wrenching my St. Francis rosary out of the pocket of my robe while it was still tangled around my body is not a rosary experience I'm looking to repeat, but I'll take what I can get. :-0 The point is that I have been committed to praying it daily, and it's stuck.

Towards that end, my ears perked recently when my sister Shauna'h mentioned that she'd been going through a short Bible study aimed towards better understanding the mysteries of the rosary. When she said that it was designed to last about a month, I offiically looked into it, as Advent is just over a month away. Once I espied it on Amazon, I knew that I had to get it. It's called Ponder, by Elizabeth Foss, and it's published by Take Up and Read.

I'm not particularly good at sticking with daily devotionals like this. But given that this one is designed to last 28 days, I'm cautiously optimistic that I can stick with it for the duration. Each day is only a short time commitment, and takes you through one of the 20 mysteries of the rosary. The other 8 days introduce the mysteries, or have you reflect on them when you complete all five in that set. I received my copy this week, and have just completed day three. The first day was an introduction to how the study will run, and then I've made my way through the first two Joyful Mysteries, the Annunciation and the Visitation. You're provided with the relevant scripture right there in the book, as well as a personal story by the author relating to the mystery. You also have space to answer questions each day:


  • What personal message does the text have for me?
  • What do I say to the Lord in response to His word?
  • What conversion of mind, heart, and life is He asking of me today?


These are the same each day, but I'm already seeing how different my answers are each day depending upon the mystery and the scripture. You're also provided with some action item suggestions related to the mystery.

I have been agog the past two days over how much the discussion of the mystery for that day has related back to things I'm going through in my life right now involving my kids, the worry that I'm carrying in my heart each day. I'm getting a lot out of this! And I'm slated to finish up around November 19th. This works out well, because if for some reason I miss a day, I still have over a week before Advent begins. My goal is to have gone through the entire devotional, spanning all four mysteries of the rosary, before Advent. I'm particularly excited about getting to the Luminous mysteries! When I re-started my rosary quest recently, I was shocked to realize that it had been so long since I'd prayed them, that I had actually forgotten them. 😳 That has happily been remedied.

Has anyone else used Ponder, or another devotional in the Take Up and Read series? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, October 18, 2019

During a tough season, the rosary has been a soothing balm...

Rosaries by Allison
So, I've been going through a period of spiritual dryness. It's been going on for quite some time, come to think. I had a brief respite in the late summer, but then as the dance competition loomed closer and the kids started back to school, I fell off doing the small bit of daily prayer that I had worked back into my routine, and things deteriorated once again. They weren't terrible, I still felt comfort from my faith and from going to Mass on Sundays, but that richness was lacking. It felt like I was trying to do everything myself, rather than letting God in to help me. The more that I was worried about (and the items piled up especially as September unfolded) the less I would seek out God. I knew He was there, but I had a difficult time asking for help.

About a week ago, my sister asked me about starting a daily challenge to pray a full rosary. I haven't prayed a full rosary in two years, and do you want to know why? Because of my car. I used to always pray the rosary in my car.

In September 2017, I had to replace my aged Honda Civic, and I wound up getting a 2017 Honda Fit that had a stick shift. I didn't know how to drive a stick shift, and thus I learned how. It was not easy, but I got it. However, the newness of the experience made me reluctant to give my hands something else to worry about when they were now so busy simply making the car go. And so for 2 years, I have not prayed a rosary with all 5 decades!

Shauna'h's query got me to thinking: I've been driving a stick now for 2 years, and I'm quite good at it. I also, of course, live in North America, and so I'm shifting with my right hand. My left hand is pretty passive, even when driving the stick. So last Friday, I got out my gorgeous new St. Jerome rosary and took it for a spin. I could easily keep count on the rosary tucked in my left hand while it was also placed on the steering wheel doing what it needed to do. I prayed half on my way into work, and half on my way home. I finished the entire rosary, with no impact on my driving the car.

Since then, I had prayed a full rosary every single day. Oftentimes in the car, but also before mass starts or in other spots throughout my day. I tend to not finish praying a rosary in a single sitting, but this works well for me with my contantly-on-overdrive brain.

I've noticed my anxiety abating a bit. I'm also feeling more positive about things that were previously eating me up inside. I look forward to getting into my car and going to work (where things have been quite stressful with teaching) so that I can have that quiet interior prayer time. I'm loving it.

It's really helped. And I'm hoping to keep it up. I know that sometimes I'll miss a day, things happen, and we're human. But the perseverence is what I need, especially as we move closer to Advent and the holiday season.

Do you have a daily rosary habit? Where do you pray it? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Reflecting on reflecting... ;-)

This week, I had a slight break in my busy teaching schedule (2 of the next 3 weeks are going to be quite unpleasant), and so I disciplined myself to work on my 2020 Gospel Reflections for CatholicMom.com. I've been a monthly contributor for Catholic Mom since 2015, when I met Lisa Hendey at the Catholic New Media Conference in Atlanta. I have such happy memories of that event, and everything associated with it, so that whenever I settle in to write one of my contributions, I think back on that time with a smile on my face. Some months, it's a rush to come up with an idea for a piece, but I've never missed a deadline.



I've also been a member of the Gospel Reflection team for the past several years. That involves taking on 3-4 short reflections that will appear on specific dates throughout the following year. I really enjoy those, because preparing for them means that I need to settle my mind a bit, read some scripture, and reflect on what that specific set of verses mean for my life at that particular point in time.

Each time I sit down to write a piece for Catholic Mom, I think about how lucky I am to have not only my faith, but the community that surrounds it. We are blessed to have a large, readymade group of friends to share our lives with. And each time I start typing up my contributions, I think about you all as I write them: What are we all going through right now, and/or what would you like to read about? I do tend to theme my pieces by the current season, liturgical and otherwise. Writing these really helps me to prepare and settle into the different milestones on the liturgical calendar, as well as the changing weather and seasons in my life: my kids getting older, changes in my job, etc. It seems like such a small writing gig, but it has been monumental for me personally as the years have gone by. You can check out all of the pieces I've written for them, including the Gospel Reflections, via my author page. :-)

This month, my piece isn't up quite yet (next week!) but it deals with birds. Yes, I know that must sound like a strange topic choice for Catholic Mom. :-0 But they give give us a lot of leeway on what to write about, because they want the pieces to be personal, and relatable. I wrote about birds because Anne and I love to birdwatch, and it's something that she and I share right now. Anne has been resistant to praying with me for a little while now, and I talk about that in the article. We share together when we watch birds, and it's an important bonding and emotional connection for us. I've also been finding it difficult to pray myself lately, as I've been experiencing a spell of spiritual dryness. This is cyclical thoughout my life, as I think it is for pretty much everyone. And it's lovely that I can express what I'm going through spiritually, even when it's not particularly exciting.

So be on the lookout for a piece on CatholicMom.com next week with an American robin as the featured photo. ;-) I love writing for them, and I can't wait to see what next year holds in terms of my writing inspiration! *beams*

Is writing a way for you to reflect on your own spirituality as well? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Uplifting fall vibes...

St. Jerome rosary, photo credit Rosaries by Allison
Happy Friday, friends, and although the weekend is here, my stress level continues to be high. :-0 There's been a lot going on for my family and I these past 6 weeks or so, and I'm just trying to manage it as best I can.

I've been trying to focus a lot on how much I love this time of year, when the air gets cooler and the leaves turn. I live in a beautiful part of the country to be able to enjoy it all. Often, as has been the case the past 3 years, work is busy and stressful for me right at this exact time (September through October) which has had the effect of me not taking advantage of the gorgeous fall weather and the fun activities that it can entail. This year, I endeavored to enjoy fall despite the stress, and I do think it's, for the most part, working. Even with the dance competition recently, some crazy teaching weeks, and increased concern about both kids at their adjustment to new school life, I've taken some moments to enjoy the beautiful fall we're having here in WNY. The skies are gray a lot, but for me, the fact that the air is crisp, the leaves are beginning to show color, and harvest/Halloween decor is out in abundance makes up for it completely.

It's definitely the little things, and the lack of uncomfortable heat and humidity, is a small, but important, joy for me. I've also been trying to really drink in the time that I get to spend on my hobbies: escaping to Hogwarts with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, immersing myself in the combinations we're learning in my dance classes, the new flow segment in my lunchtime Piyo class on Mondays. I've never been good at doing this in the past, but something has changed. Does age really bring wisdom? ;-) I'm able to do it more so now, because I know how important it is to be able to recharge before tackling the stressful things again.

As you can see from the photo in this post, I commissioned my dear friend Allison to create a fall themed St. Jerome rosary for me, and I heart it so much I can hardly stand it. 😍 I have it tucked into the pocket on the driver's side door of my little Honda Fit, and I reach for it often to just hold, or pray a single decade. I may not get a whole rosary in, but I don't think that's anything to fret over. It comforts me to see the fall colors, and feel the smooth beads. St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians, and so he's my buddy when I go off to teach a stressful 5 hour stretch of back-to-back classes. It's definitely the small things.

What are the small things you're grateful for this weekend? *heart* I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, September 27, 2019

"Is there still time for me to get out of this?!" Adventures in dance competition finals...

OK, so I'm BACK and STILL ALIVE! 😂 But I tell you, I asked a lot of myself this past weekend. This took "stretching your comfort zone" to a whole new level!

I woke up Saturday ready to go. Mostly. You know, after coffee. ;-) But the time was nigh, and I was as ready as I would ever be. I kept telling myself that all I was doing was going to perform at an event. I was going to get up on a stage and dance my choreography. I perform all the time, so no big deal!

But of course, this was different. With the event being a competition, I was putting myself out there in a different way than I ever had before, and I was definitley feelin' it. I put my makeup on and packed my bag, and gathered up my army of dance supporters in the form of Mike, my instructor and mentor, Claire, and one of my best friends, Brandy. We set off amidst a sea of nerves.

The drive took us over an hour, so we had plenty of time to chat and try to relax a bit. Our arrival was what was making me most nervous, because then the anticipation wait would begin. And that was tough, but all told it was less than 2 hours, since my category was up first. And once at the venue, I met SO MANY kind and beautiful dancers. The environment could not have been more supportive and pleasant, even amongst people dancing in the same category! I can't say enough about how positive this entire event was.

I danced second to last in my category, and when the dancing started, something became very clear: the level of talent at this event was VERY HIGH. I mean, VERY, VERY HIGH. 😂 I felt pretty in awe that I was included as a finalist among them! Over the course of the afternoon, I learned that dancers came in for this event from several large cities where they study with internationally known teachers, and all had been in competitions before. Their dancing was absolutely spectacular!

So when your Catholic Librarian's turn came up, I made my way to the stage with as much courage and bravado as I could muster. First, I summoned my internal patronus. ;-) Then, I danced my best, and gave it everything that I had in me, but I was not surprised when I did not secure a placing finish, and that's totally OK! What I did receive was some outstanding and incredibly helpful feedback from the judges, and the experience of pushing myself to take place in an event like this has changed my dance forever in the best way possible. It was an extremely positive and transformative experience, and to be a finalist at an event of that level has left me all aglow. I feel so inspired to move forward in my dance career, and to continue to grow based on what I learned. I'm also now friends on social media with a number of these dancers, and it's all so cute and warm and fuzzy. 😍 I absolutely love it!

Honestly, the fact that I didn't chicken out has me feeling pretty good about myself. :-0 Being in a competition is an intimidating situation, albeit a healthy one, and the fact that the shyest gal in school pulled that off is a personal milestone, to be sure! I seem to keep choosing to do things that terrify me more and more, so I'm not sure what this means about what is next. ;-) But it's certainly keeping things interesting and exciting! I definitely feel an increased sense of inspiration for studying my art, and I can't wait to see what comes next!

What's the scariest thing you've ever challenged yourself to do in order to grow in something that you care about? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!