Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Catholic parenting thing doesn't get any easier...

Happy mid-January, everybody! How is the winter treating you so far?



Things are great over here. We're still in winter term at the university for which I work, so the campus is blissfully quiet and peaceful. Classes don't begin again until January 28th, and I don't start teaching my library lab again until 2 weeks after *that*, owing to the drop/add period.

*praise hands*

This quiet winter Ordinary Time has had other benefits. January tends to be a performance lull for dancing, which is fine with me. One needs time to recharge and hone their craft, and I have a bunch of classes and workshops coming up. In faith stuff, I've been thinking a lot about the kids. For the first time, I have a teenager in my house, and I'm finding it a new challenge to think of ways to continue to share the faith with him aside from weekly Mass attendance. I touch upon sharing my faith with my maturing brood of youngsters, as well as this general post-Epiphany winter theme, in my piece over at CatholicMom.com for January:


This time of year definitely lends itself to contemplation for me. Ironically, it's *after* Advent, and yet still before Lent, but there you have it. This year, a big impetus is Henry's 8th grade retreat.

Somehow, my first baby is going to high school next year. 😭 And he'll also be leaving the school that he has attended for 8 years, and has shared with Anne for the past 3. I'm pretty emotional about the whole thing, as you can imagine. The 8th graders have a special retreat just prior to Catholic Schools week in late January, and just prior to when the Catholic high schools mail out their acceptance letters and financial aid packages. Parents were invited to write letters to their kids that they would read, privately, during the retreat. I wrote mine yesterday. Well.

😭😭😭

Let's just say that I cried. A lot. There was so much that I wanted to say, but I also didn't want to overwhelm my 13 year old with the emotional baggage of a woman in her 40's. So it wasn't easy. But I wanted him to know how proud we are of him, how much we love him. How he reminds me so much of myself, and that it's more than OK to be introverted and reserved - he will only continue to blossom into the kind, sweet and empathetic young man that God has so clearly created him to be. How the most important things in life aren't grades or what high school or college you attend, but discerning and making good choices, seeking God's will, helping others, nourishing healthy relationships, and making an impact with the causes and people that you love.

It was a heavy task, both emotionally and spiritually. But one that I am privileged to have. Henry, in particular, challenges me to be a better person because he is my first and oldest child. Inevitably, when something new comes up with regard to his life and development, I have no idea what I'm doing. 😂I feel like I'm winging it a lot. And that's one thing with dance, and quite another when it's your kid, a precious, eternal soul given into your protective care!

This whole parenting thing is a journey, an adventure, and as my mom always said (and aren't moms ALWAYS right about these sorts of things?): "babies don't come with instruction manuals." You just have to figure it out as you go along, and you're going to make mistakes along the way.

I hope that we're doing a good job for Henry. I know that we're doing a good job *with* him since he's always been such a kind and good soul. But maybe that's not really our doing anyway, but God's alone. Deep thoughts for a Thursday morning. ;-)

This year for Lent, I want to single him out for some more mature spiritual time with me. Exactly what this will entail, I do not know. I will wing it. :0 But I'll figure something out!

Any words of wisdom to share for Adventures in Catholic Parenting? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

New Year's Dancing amusements, 2019 edition...

A continued Happy New Year to you all! 🤗I'm really riding this New Year's wave to it's maximum, so just know this going forward. ;-) I miss the lovely visiting time of the holidays, but I'm really treasuring the freshness of January this year.

I promised last week a synopsis of my always entertaining New Year's Eve performance exploits, and I always keep my promises. You have your beverage with you to sip?


Rather than the sub-arctic temperatures of last Near Year's Eve, this year the temperatures were mild, and thus the chosen precipitation of the day was pouring rain. And it being the very beginning of the winter, it was pitch black outside when Claire arrived to fetch me, my big rolling suitcase and my sword at 5:30 pm. We hustled down to the restaurant, managed city parking like champs, and wrangled our wet stuff inside. It was about 6 pm.

The restaurant owner and staff were very gracious and happy to see us. They escorted us to our dressing room, otherwise known as the supply room. ;-) To be sure, we are very grateful to have a place other than the public restroom in which to change, so no complaints here. But it's always a comical game of Twister with 2 of us and our poufy costumes smashed into a small space, also occupied by various and sundry restaurant supplies: stacks of tablecloths, cases of takeout containers, and various candles. We wedged in there, and as we began to change, I quickly lost track of a shoe. I decided not to worry about that until we had to leave, and stashed Sword atop an open box of sugar packets.

Once changed and in our coverups, we scouted the Music Situation. No matter what, the music is always a Situation in these encounters. :0 They had a sound system, but it was up at the front of the restaurant behind the greeting/checkout counter, the opposite end of the building from our home base. We quickly conferred about aux cables and using each other's devices, and hurried back to our safe space. It wasn't yet 6:30, and they had wanted us to wait, but suddenly an employee appeared with the request that people were asking for us, and could we begin RIGHT THEN?

😳

Claire hurried to the front to start my music, and I concentrated on sweating profusely and straining my ears to hear the music switch over to my entrance piece. I heard the first strains of the overture, thankfully, and burst out from the back room with my veil aloft. Well.

My music supports a grand and beautiful veil entrance, and let's just say that a crowded, small space does not support a grand veil entrance. :0 I had never danced at this restaurant before, but I've danced in restaurants with small eating areas. I've always been able to enter with a veil and find a spot at the front where you can do some veil work before discarding it. This restaurant is set up differently, and the 2 more open areas leading into the 2 seating spaces were crowded with servers moving back and forth with food and drinks, and with people waiting to be seated or to gather food from the buffet.

I swirled out and immediately was swallowed up into a sea of humanity. There was no room to do anything with the veil, or even lower it very easily. Every time I turned around, there was a server backing away from me carefully, balancing a tray of water glasses. I got up to where Claire was holding vigil with the music, and unceremoniously discarded Veil in her general direction. Things got a wee bit easier after that, but I have to say that this was the tightest space I've ever dealt with in restaurant dancing. The place was hopping, and the New Year's Eve menu was only buffet. So there were people up and about constantly, not just the servers. Me moving from place to place caused a ripple effect of gentle scattering of other bodies. The section with the buffet in it was almost completely inaccessible, and I had to give up trying to shimmy between tables over there and only dance at the small entrance spots. Even there, I risked accidentally slapping servers left and right.

In a nutshell, Set 1 featured:


  • Incredibly tight spaces and range of movement. Near disaster with Veil.
  • A baby who loved me and did a back bend in his highchair to watch me.
  • Lots of people moving around me, wide eyed and clutching plates, as I made my way around.
  • Music glitching in and out a bit in the sound system, but the general noise of the place was so loud I doubt anybody noticed but me.


When my drum solo finished up, I was relieved to have that set behind me and swirled to the dressing room. Claire and I conferred, and she confessed nervousness about the giant fan veils she planned for her set. 😬 The owner asked her to wait to start her set, because he was hoping some of the tables would clear out and turn over to new guests. So we waited. And waited. And eventually he came back to say that nobody was leaving. 😂 We took that as a sign that everybody loved us and wanted to see more dancing. 😇

Eventually, he asked Claire to start, and I hustled over in my coverup to set up her music behind the host counter. Immediately, people began asking me about their reservations and how long the wait was. I suppose hostesses in Indian restaurants often wear hot pink dance coverups? ;-)

I got Claire's music going, and the place was now even MORE crowded than it was for my set. People were up trying to pay their bill as new people were coming in and waiting. Her music was doing the glitchy thing too, and I kept trying to assure that the aux cable was attached as firmly as it could be.

After she finished, we changed for our second, and final, sets. We waited again for the tables to fully turn over at the owner's request. Our dressing room, formerly quite toasty warm with all of our necessary shenanigans to get into full costume, and then coming back sweaty from performing, had grown a tad chilly, and cold sweat was now my constant companion. I had decided not to enter with Veil this time, but Sword is featured in song 2 of the second set. He always brings a measure of anxiety in his wake. ;-)

The request for us to start anew came quickly again, and as Claire moved to the front to start my music, I readied and assured my costume was all smoothed. I heard my entrance overture, and got ready to burst out, only then noticing that I had an empty straw wrapper stuck to my bare foot. Glamour, glamour ALL THE TIME.

I danced out, and this time the restaurant was at a much more normal capacity, rather than bursting at the seams, which was a welcome relief. It was still tight over by the buffet, but not as claustrophobic as before. And the audience, because they were seated and eating for the most part, rather than standing in line, were very engaged and responsive. As well, Sword had his big moment, which is always a crowd pleaser.

Set 2 highlights:


  • A little brother and sister excitedly followed me around the restaurant.
  • Their mom stopped me several times to take pictures with them.
  • Their toddler littlest sister came over and burst into tears, I hope it wasn't me. :0
  • Their grandfather stopped me to take a picture right in the middle of my baladi song, that was a first.
  • Same baby still loved me.
  • Several women conversed with me *while I was dancing 😂* to tell me how much they were enjoying the show.
  • Sword behaved and I actually kept him with me for the entire second song. Early discard of Sword means that Tiffany is not having a Good Sword Day. ;-) 


It was great, I really enjoyed that set. Claire was able to start her second set soon after mine ended, and we both breathed a sigh of relief that all went well. The owner was very happy and wants to have us back next year. A win/win.

As I packed Sword up and looked for my shoe, spilling the sugar packets all through the open wire shelving unit, :0 I reflected on how much I enjoy my eclectic set of interests. Egyptian dance is much more to me than a hobby, truth be told - it's my passion, it's my (granted, secondary) profession, it is the creative inspiration for everything else that I do, and it gives me a significant sense of creative purpose and meaning. The dancing life is good, truly it is.

I'm signed up for two Egyptian folkloric dance workshops this winter, as well as a Turkish dance intensive in March. Turkish - I'm branching out. ;-) I am very blessed to be able to do what I love. This New Year is going to be a good one, I just feel it. 🤗 In terms of dancing, I want to work on studying and learning as much as I can, and challenging myself in new ways.

How is your January shaping up? Any New Year's resolutions that you're working on? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year's gratitude

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

🎉

I'm all aglow from my wonderful holiday season, and I hope yours was just as special. *hug*

This particular New Year's Eve was very meaningful to me. I was performing again (which I'll circle back to) and that makes the day both nerve-wracking and exciting, as I've experienced the past couple years. But it was more then that this year.

2018 started out pretty rough for me. Although I share a lot here on this blog, I don't share everything, and this is one of those times, as I'm sure you can understand. So forgive the vagueness, if you please, but last winter and early spring were very, very emotionally difficult. And although it got better and emotional healing took place, I carried the wound with me throughout the year. In that way, I was glad to see 2018 come to an end, and a fresh start with 2019 come to fruition.

HOWEVER. I realized something very significant as New Year's Eve crept up on me. I was allowing that one very difficult situation to remain at the forefront of my mind and in my assessment of the year, when in fact, many, MANY joyful developments actually crowded that single painful one out, but I was ignoring that bit of reality. In 2018:


  • My kids have both grown tremendously, with Henry becoming a teenager and Anne solidifying herself in second grade as a fully entrenched school aged kid. Henry made the basketball team and Anne started Girl Scouts, which she LOVES.
  • My husband wrote a novel that is going to be published by a traditional press! I am SO PROUD of him! This is a lifelong dream of his, and it is finally becoming a reality for him. 🤗
  • My own Bible study for women, which had been in the works for a year, finally became a reality, and working with dear Allison Gingras is a total joy. *heart*
  • A new and adorable nephew was born into my family!
  • I found a lovely Zumba community near my house that I attend on as many Saturday mornings as I'm able. The women there are warm, kind and absolutely WONDERFUL. The teacher is a woman named Sue who is am absolute treasure. I am so grateful to have found her and this community!
  • My dance career has taken a gentle turn to more opportunities to both perform and study. I am so excited to continue to see where this journey takes me, and I'm enjoying every single moment. I have workshop plans in 2019 that I cannot wait to dive into!
  • Last, but certainly not least, I had some cherished friendships deepen and strengthen this past year. Some were newer, others were established several years back, and in all cases they grew by leaps and bounds in 2018. I cannot possibly express how much these ladies mean to me.


And this January, on the 8th, Mike and I celebrate 14 years of marriage. Not quite a milestone, but it's an even numbered year, which I love! And we've been together fully for 16 years. That's a long time! :0 We're going away this weekend, just the two of us, to celebrate, and I am SO looking forward to it.

Life is GOOD, it truly is. And I learned an important lesson about not taking things for granted, and seeing them (and people) for what they are. Sometimes they're not good, but oftentimes they're *fantastic*, and seeing them in an honest light is so, so important. I should never again allow the negative to overshadow the abundance of positive.

And speaking of good (and never forget HUMOROUS!) I have fun dance stories from New Year's Eve! They're self-deprecating, they're somewhat ridiculous, and above all, I hope they make you laugh out loud! AND...

*drum roll*

...you will hear all about them next week!

👼

Hey! I need to preserve good blogging fodder when I can. ;-) Eagerly anticipate this with me my friends, where else do you get such a strange eclectic mix of topics?! 😀

I'll chat with you then! In the mean time, how was your Christmas? What did you do for New Year's Eve/day? Did you choose a saint for the year? Mine is St. Francis of Assisi! I'd love to hear all about it in the comments!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 4 - Abandonment

Advent has moved swiftly, as usual. 😬 Somehow, we're almost at the 4th Sunday of Advent, and the final week of our Advent Book Club! I've found this to be a peaceful little foray, and I hope that you have as well. 🤗 There will be a short hiatus on the blog between Christmas and the new year, but we'll reconvene in early January with lots of fun stuff! A new year is always something to celebrate and be refreshed by, and I know that I'm embracing that more than ever right now. We're in this journey together!

All right, this week we only have one chapter left to go, and we're spending time with Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I knew the least about this friend prior to our adventure, so let's dive in and see what he has to teach us. :)

And it is this same Jesus, ever living and ever active, who still surprises us if our faith is not strong and clear-sighted enough. There is never a moment when God does not come forward in the guise of some suffering or some duty, and all that takes place within us, around us and through us both includes and hides his activity. Yet, because it is invisible, we are always taken by surprise and do not recognize his operation until it has passed us by. If we could lift the veil and if we watched with vigilant attention, God would endlessly reveal himself to us and we should see and rejoice in his active presence in all that befalls us. 
- "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

To Reflect: In what ways do I struggle on a daily basis with having faith and trust in what God is asking me to do?

Throughout my days, faith and trust and things that weave in and out of the decisions that I make, and I suspect that I am not alone. Sometimes I reflect on things with a lot of discernment and prayer and make good decisions. Other times, I do not. 😬 Even after all these years, sometimes I feel like I know better about what I want and need than God does. I muddle things up and make them more difficult for myself than they need to be. The bottom line is that faith and trust can be HARD. I love Fr. de Caussade's words about how God is invisible, but still very much real and there with us all the time. His presence is "active" all around us. Hidden, but active, that really struck a chord with me. Especially at Advent, we must look for the quiet, still voice amidst the chaos.

A few times recently, I've encountered a challenge (mixing up the time of an appointment, minor damage to the passenger side mirror on my car) that immediately prior, I've had a little niggling thought that I should proceed differently or verify a detail I thought was all finalized. Both times, I assured myself that I had it right, and both times resulted in major stress for myself and inconvenience for others. I've been dwelling on the fact that I need to listen to that small voice in the back of my mind. Sometimes, he knows more than I do. ;-)

Those are my thoughts for the week! What are yours? Leave them below!

I'll chat with you all again in the new year! Happy holidays! *heart*

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Musings on the New Year, just a bit early...

Well, it's almost the end of 2018, and I'll skip bemoaning how quickly time goes by when you get old and how humbling that is.

😬

Since we've been focusing on the Advent Book Club for the past several weeks, I thought a little update post would be nice, just about general life stuff. That's one of my favorite things about this blog. :)

So, the kids.

😬😬😬

Henry is in 8th grade this year 😭 and has taken the Catholic High School Entrance Exam. We should get his scores and a financial aid package at the end of January. Please pray for us that it is manageable to send him to the Catholic boys high school he'd like to attend, if you please! We would love to send him there, I think he would thrive, and it's literally blocks from our house. But, you know...$$$$. He has also made the basketball team at his current school and has been doing very well. Henry is a more reserved kid, and it's good to see him socializing and fitting in. Warms my heart.

Anne is in 2nd grade and as sassy as ever. She's suddenly very tall and it's hard to believe that this is my little baby. 😭 She's made great strides with her reading abilities, and has a brand new subscription to Magnifikid magazine to show for it. She joined up with a Brownie troop out of a local parish this year, and so far we're both really enjoying it. A good friend of mine is the troop leader, and it's been a fun and warm experience for all. She went camping with them a few weekends ago, and was away from us overnight (without being with a grandparent) for the very first time. 😢 It's hard, but it's so lovely to see her growing and thriving.

Both of my kids are precious souls with good hearts. They drive me crazy more than 50% of the time, but this means that, you know, they're NORMAL. Anne helped me set up our new Shining Light nativity set back at the beginning of Advent, and she now has the wise men slowly traversing the dining room each day to get to the manger in time for the Epiphany. This means that daily, I accidentally kick them over because they're walking right in the path from the kitchen :0 but it's SO ADORABLE that I don't have the heart to move them. It's moments like that that I remember why life is so good.

My Mike is between semesters of teaching and enjoying the time to refresh and recharge prior to the new semester. He's teaching something in the spring called Phenomenology and Existentialism.

!

If anybody can decipher that for me, I'd be much obliged. :0 Our 14th wedding anniversary is coming up in early January, and we're planning a little weekend trip away!  *heart*

In other news, I'm dancing again on New Year's Eve, and I'm actually looking forward to it rather than being frozen in fear, that's a nice change. ;-) Granted, the morning of December 31st, I'll wake up feeling like I'd rather face a trip to the gallows, but no need worrying about that now! :0 I have lots of dance workshop plans in the new year, and I'm SO EXCITED. In addition to Egyptian belly dance, I've been really into studying folkloric dance lately. I study Egyptian folkloric dance as part of my regular classes, but I'm wanting to really delve more into these as there are quite a few different styles in Egypt, (can one procure an advanced degree in belly dance history? 🤔) as well as into Turkish folkloric dance. I took a workshop a few weeks ago on Turkish Roman dance, and I LOVED IT. I've never studied Turkish style dance at all, and this is just one very specific folkloric style. It's wonderful to learn about a new-to-me culture and their dance, the possibilities are endless! But I'm a dance nerd, I can't help myself. ;-)

So, lots of dance research and fun in the new year, and just generally a Life Is Good mentality. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I never want to take that for granted. There were some hard things this year, but I made it, and most importantly, I learned from them. Not all lessons are pleasant, but they are important and vital to our long term well-being. Maybe we won't make the same mistake again next time, you know?

I suppose this is a New Year's Resolution post just a tad early. In the near year, I want to:


  • practice a lot of gratitude
  • take advantage of every opportunity to grow in my dance hobby that I am so passionate about
  • take time, with intentionality, (is this even a real word?!) to be the best that I can be in my main vocation as wife and mother, and in my career as a librarian

How about you? Any goals for the new year? I'd love to hear them!

The final Advent Book Club will be up tomorrow morning!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 3 - The Eucharist, and the importance of trust...

brrrrrrr, it's getting pretty wintry here in WNY, and I hope that you are all keeping warm and cozy.

*virtual hug*

I have lots going on over here (all good stuff) and I plan a separate post for that in addition to our final Advent Book Club post next week. Our Book Club selections are only for a single chapter next week, so that works out very well.

This week, we are snugging up with two modern saints, St. Edith Stein and St. John Paul II. Is this an awesome duo or what?! I'm super excited to dive into what they have to tell us about our faith, and how specifically we can tie that into Advent. Are you ready?! Grab your mug of hot cocoa!


It is most important that the Holy Eucharist become life's focal point: that the Eucharistic Savior is the center of existence; that every day is received from His hand and laid back therein; that the day's happenings are deliberated with Him. In this way, God is given the best opportunity to be heard in the heart, to form the soul, and to make its faculties clear-sighted and alert for the supernatural. 
- "On Woman" by St. Edith Stein
To Reflect: How can I improve the way that I make the Eucharist the focal point of my day?

The Eucharist, YES. Whenever our faith needs a boost, the Eucharist is where we need to be. I used to be able to attend daily Mass, and I miss those days so, so much. My schedule and state in life make that something that just isn't happening right now. But if we're receiving on Sunday only, how can we carry the Eucharist with us in our hearts throughout the week?

We can make an Act of Spiritual Communion. From EWTN:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and united myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Fabulous, right?  We could incorporate this into our daily prayer for Advent quite easily. When we make the Eucharist the center of our faith, we can hear God so much more clearly. He is able to speak to us much more clearly this way. This makes me really appreciate Sunday Mass that much more when I dwell on this!
Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter's Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words 'Be not afraid!' 
- "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" by St. John Paul II
To Reflect: Do I fully trust in God's mercy and goodness, or does fear play a role in my everyday life?

John Paul II. 😍 I just love this man so much. And being that one of the messages he is most known for in his papacy is that of releasing fear, he is even dearer to my heart. As someone who struggles with anxiety daily, being afraid of things is something I'm very used to. And St. John Paul II tells us to NOT be afraid, because God has redeemed us. In the end, isn't this the only thing that is important? Yes, we have daily challenges and worries, but nothing can truly harm us because God has us. He has redeemed us, and we have hope for eternal life with Him. I personally *know* that I struggle with trust and with fear. It's a daily source of consternation for me. But I keep trying, and we're all in this together!

I find this Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life SO HELPFUL, and I have a printed copy of it in my office. Definitely check it out! It is absolutely perfect for the Advent season.

All right, those are my thoughts for the week. Please leave yours in the comments! Next week, we are finishing up with Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence!"

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 2 - Prayer & Interior Silence...

Welcome back to week 2 of our book club for this Advent, reflecting along with the saints in Exploring the Catholic Classics! :) Today we are scheduled to touch base with St. Teresa of Avila, and St Francis de Sales, so we will have a mix of high mystical wisdom offered to cloistered contemplatives, and practical spirituality for the layperson. :0 I love it!

#eclectic

Our themes for the week, as you can see from the title, are prayer and interior silence. I 'm actually writing about this very topic for Catholic Mom this month, if you'd like a little more to dig into this Advent! I'll post the link as soon as it's up early next week. :) All right, let's get started, shall we?
Let us now return to our vocal prayer so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at once: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion--and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly he is teaching you...He will help you in all your trials and you will have him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you? 
- "The Way of Perfection" by St. Teresa of Avila
To Reflect: In what ways can we create a domestic monastery for ourselves in our prayer lives and in our homes?

St. Teresa's life in the convent was certainly different than our own life experiences, and she did not have laypeople in mind when she wrote her work! However, I think that, in our own way, we can all cultivate a little "domestic monastery" for ourselves within our homes, and within our hearts. I like to have little nooks around my house where I have holy reminders that make a nice focal point for prayer. Small pictures and statutes of our Lord, Blessed Mother and the saints make perfect fodder. I'll leave rosary beads in each room for easy access if the mood strikes. ;-) Inspiring things to look at help to inspire us to pray, no doubt about it.

And during Advent, as we try to cultivate that peace and silence within ourselves, inspiration to pray is the perfect way to keep this cycle going. Even amidst noisy chaos, we can harbor quiet joy within. Thinking of that special night, the feelings that Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing, the expectant excitement mingled with fear of the unknown...I like to take time to dwell on those things, and they help to keep my inner being at peace. Thinking of our Lord right beside us as we contemplate these things, as we pray and ask for protection over our loved ones...the quiet intimacy that St. Teresa lays out here is absolutely perfect for the season of Advent.
After finishing your mental prayer, watch against disturbing the inner peace it bestows. If possible, keep silence for a while and quietly transfer your heart from prayer to other duties. Should you meet someone on the way home, or even at the church door, with whom you must converse, do so, of course, but still try to preserve your tranquility. You must learn how to go from prayer to duties brought on by your vocation and state of life...Since both prayer and the duties of your state in life are both in conformity with God's will, you must pass from one to the other with a devout and quiet mind. 
- "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St. Francis de Sales
To Reflect: What is a practical way to start our days with prayer as St. Francis suggests? In what ways can we carry the resulting sense of interior peace throughout an entire day?

And then we come to our practical guy, St. Francis de Sales. ;-) He is a favorite of mine, for sure! He talks further about bridging that gap between our mental prayer and busy states in life. I love how he emphasizes that both things (prayer AND your daily responsibilities as a lay person) are God's will for your life, and there is no need to fear that we are failing in some way as a good, holy person if our minds and time are so often taken up with changing diapers or the expense reports that you need to complete by the end of the fiscal year. These are things that need our attention, and there is nothing wrong with that. We can just do our best to keep our minds quiet; when we have a free moment, offer your day and it's challenges up to God, and wing up a prayer for continued peace and tranquility. During Advent, this is more important than ever!

What are your thoughts on maintaining quiet prayer and a sense of inner tranquility during Advent? Have any experiences to share about previous reading with St. Teresa of Avila or St. Francis de Sales? Do comment away! Next week, we will turn to modern saints Edith Stein and one of my absolute favorite guys ever, St. John Paul II! 😍

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 1 - Peace & Simplicity...

Welcome, welcome to the 2018 edition of the Advent Book Club here at humble little Life of a Catholic Librarian! This is becoming quite a lovely annual tradition. In the past, I've also resurrected the Tea Time podcast for Advent and Lent, but I have to come clean and admit that I don't see that happening right now. Just not enough time in this stage of my life to do both blog and podcast, and if I have to pick one, I'm stickin' with old faithful: the blog. :) I've been blogging for about 10 years now!

At any rate, the 1st Sunday of Advent is this weekend, and we're starting our book club in anticipation of that big day. We're beginning with an excerpt and reflection question from chapters 1 and 2 of "Exploring the Catholic Classics," and getting ourselves all serene and anticipatory for Sunday. ;-) Chapters 1 and 2 feature the work of St. Thomas a Kempis and St. Therese of Lisieux. I'm going to put a distinctive Advent spin on the selections I'm pulling out, and you could certainly do this come Lent as well. :-) Let's see what these two holy individuals have to share with us that can boost our prayerfulness and quiet anticipation of joy during Advent:

Much peace could be ours if we did not occupy ourselves with what others say and do, for such things are of no concern to us. How can we long to remain in peace if we involve ourselves in other people's business, if we seek outside distractions, and if we are rarely, or only to a small degree, interiorly recollected? Blessed are they who keep to themselves, for they shall enjoy much peace. 
- "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis 
To Reflect: In what ways can I structure a prayer routine that will help me to focus on Jesus and the cross as I go about the other daily tasks of my work?

In my adult years, peace is what I am striving for most during Advent, rather than the chaotic frenzy that is the Christmas shopping season in our secular world. Don't get me wrong - I love that everyone joins in the happiness of the Christmas season. But in terms of our faith, Advent should not be frenetic, even if we do have a lot of shopping to accomplish. It should be quiet and serene, focused on the simple joy of the expectant parents. Our world may not be quiet, but we can be in the silence of our hearts. Even where noise reigns, we can carry the precious feelings of new hope in a special child on a cold winter's night.

And in this way, our daily prayer during Advent is ever so important. Each morning, we can read from our Advent devotional of choice to carry the words in our hearts throughout our day, keeping Advent quiet and peaceful in our own way throughout the day. Focused on Jesus and what He did for us, but during Advent thinking specifically of His Incarnation.

He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers he has created are lovely. The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daily of its simple charm...It is just the same in the world of souls-which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever he glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be. 
- "The Story of a Soul" by Therese of Lisieux
To Reflect: Do I allow feelings of unworthiness to bring me to despair, to not continue to strive to improve myself? If so, in what way can I remind myself daily that God has chosen me and wants me for himself?

Simplicity is big for us during Advent, yes? And St. Therese is our queen of being small and simple before the Lord! We are like small, but still beautiful flowers, to our God. Thinking of flowers during the cold of winter brings such a smile to my face. Our gardens will bloom again in the spring, that is another simple joy that can remind us of the message of Advent.

Simply because we are small does not mean that we are unworthy of God's love, or that we in some way are failing at our lives. God has made us in His image, and wants us for Himself. We don't need to be a celebrity in order for this to happen, God wants everybody. Even the small things that we do during Advent to keep God in the forefront of our minds, and to keep the spirit of quiet anticipation alive in our hearts, are all incredibly pleasing to Him! We should take joy and serenity in this.

Thank you so much for joining me for this exploration of the Catholic classics! This book is a self-paced journal designed to be consumed at your leisure, so feel free to join in at any time! I would love to hear your responses to the excerpts and reflection questions in the comments, so have at it! 😀 We'll be discussing chapters 3 and 4 next week, featuring St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales!

*swoon*

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! No full post today, as we're all busily baking and cleaning, I am sure. ;-) Just best wishes, and a reminder that if you'd like to join in our Advent Book Club, to procure your book! We are going to be leisurely making our way through Exploring the Catholic Classics, examining 2 excerpts and going through 2 reflection questions per week. :) Schedule and all the deets can be found here!

I'll be doing lots of knitting, visiting, and relaxing over the next week, and I hope you will as well. :) Enjoy, and chat with you next week for our first book club post! We'll kick off right before the first Sunday of Advent.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

More holiday plans, Catholic Vitamins, and Preparing for Advent!

Happy mid-November to all of you! How are those holiday plans coming?!

😬

We're getting there, I promise. Let's do a quick round robin of the past week, and then talk Advent planning!

Last week we talked a bit about The Nutcracker in it's film adaptation, and although that doesn't replace a live performance, I was thinking about skipping that this year in the interest of time. However, Anne and I agree that it just wouldn't be the same without dressing up for our annual pilgrimage to the Center for the Arts here on campus to see a local production of The Nutcracker. So I'm procuring tickets for us later this week. These are special memories that I hope Anne treasures as much as I do!

Every Thanksgiving season, I look forward to the feast of St. Cecilia, and I talk about that for my November offering over at CatholicMom.com. I'd love for you to check it out and comment over there if you also have an interest in, or devotion to, this lovely saint! I think of her so fondly at this time of year.

In other Catholic news, I was on the Catholic Vitamins podcast this past week, along with Allison, talking with the positively delightful Deacon Tom Fox about the Stay Connected series of journals. Allison and I each also talk a bit about of faith journeys and some amusing anecdotes along the way. We'd love for you to give it a listen as we approach Advent!

OK, so Advent, the big news around here right now. ;-)  I received positive feedback on using my journal, Exploring the Catholic Classics, for our Advent Book Club, and I'm so excited about this! I'm thinking we'll work it like this:

Everybody procure their books in the next 1-2 weeks, and we'll start our posts the weeks after Thanksgiving. You can order on Amazon for $14.95 (eligible for Amazon Prime 2-day shipping), or via GraceWatch Media for $11.90 and free shipping with coupon code GRACE15.

Posts will be one per week, starting Thursday November 29. There are more chapters than there are weeks we'll be meeting, so what we can do is tackle 2 chapters per week, but let's keep it light. You can work through the journal at your own pace (which is what it's designed for!) but each week I'll post one of the excerpts from each of the 2 chapters, along with one of the reflection questions that speaks to each passage. We can all discuss our answers to the questions. :) Then you can go back to the rest of the content during the week, or another time altogether, your choice. Here's the schedule!


  • November 29th - Chapters 1 and 2
  • December 6th - Chapters 3 and 4
  • December 13th - Chapters 5 and 6
  • December 20th - Chapter 7


I think that this will keep us nice and grounded during Advent for a contemplative and serene experience. 😇 Are you planning other devotional activities for your Advent this year? I'd love to hear about it!

ooo, P.S. I'm sort of feeling a fiction book club after Christmas, maybe a Winter Book Club installment? Lent doesn't start until March this year, so perhaps we could do something in January or February for this, inspirational or secular fiction is what I'm thinking. Thoughts? :)