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.

πŸ‘Ό

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. πŸ˜‡ I'm hoping to have this done for her for the fall.

School Cardigans for Anne and Autumn

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


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


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

😨

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

Double Knitting Bonanza 

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

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

The Ultimate Terrifying Knitting Project - Steeking

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

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

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

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

"Frost Slippers" by Emily Kintigh

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

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

Here is out Bingo card to keep track!


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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

*trumpets blare*

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

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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

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

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

*woo hoo!*

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

*waves enthusiastically*

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

*beams* πŸ˜‡

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Summertime planning, including fun with yarny crafts...

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

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

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

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

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

Vote in the comments, please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

*virtual fist bump*

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Tea Time brainstorm!

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

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

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

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

Please offer your suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adventures with family prayer time...

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

My kids are now 12 and 7. Translation:

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

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

"Prayer intentions? What do you mean?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Writing has picked up again, and summer reading lists...

Happy Feast of the Ascension, everybody! I'm in one of the few dioceses that does not transfer this feast to the following Sunday, so I scrambled about this morning in order to make it to 8 am Mass. *halo* I felt all rushy rushy, but I have to say, it was very worth it. I felt like a million bucks when I got back into my little Honda Fit afterwards.

And speaking of good things...I'm definitely in full-out summer mode, and this year in particular, that is ALL FANTASTIC STUFF.

Is the winter finally over? Let me just check outside again, because you never know, given the way things have gone this year. It may go from sunny and mild, to complete squalling snowstorm during the time it takes me to do a spin in a dance choreography I'm practicing on my lunch break, like it did just a few weeks ago.

😳

After what we went through this year, I give you my word that I will not complain about being hot this summer. I may crack jokes about how large my hair expands in the humidity, but I will not complain, no sir.

And this summer will be LOVELY. Lots of fun dance events and gigs. A few short road trips with Mike and the kids. Visits with family and friends. Life is good.

I've also been hard at work on a long-term project! Remember, oh, sometime last year (actually maybe it was closer to 2 years ago 😢) I first mentioned that I was involved in writing a scripture study for women? Well, that is finally going to be a reality!

*trumpets blare!*

I wrote a full draft of my part of the series (focusing on the spiritual classics) last summer, and I know I talked about it then, but it had sat in it's draft form since August 2017. The editor (our beloved Allison Gingras!) was working on firming up a publisher, and I was so busy teaching I did not even look at it until my classes wrapped up this spring.

Things are finally in go-mode now, and there are three of us ready with the first installments in the series: Stay Connected: A Faith Sharing Journal Series. It will be published by Gracewatch Media, and we're optimistic that these first three books will be out this coming fall 2018! So much excitement!

We've been busily editing our own work, as well as going through the feedback we receive from additional sets of eyes. It's been intense, but a *tremendous* blessing. I have been filled with such a sense of peace since we picked this back up after my teaching was finished for the semester. I will keep you apprised of publication details as they become available to me!

Working on a writing project again, along with more room in my brain to *think* with no teaching for the next few months, has also brought my mind back to reading. Obviously, you know that I am a prolific reader. I tend, though, to read a lot of the same types of books: inspirational and/or cozy fiction. I love those books. However, every once in awhile, it's good to branch out and challenge ourselves. So, this summer, I made myself a list:

  • Historical Fiction
  • Contemporary secular fiction
  • Historical non-fiction
  • Memoir

These are all genres that I do not often read, but I want to read more often! Already, I have embarked on a memoir: Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger. This is about that United flight 1549 that lots both engines after takeoff from La Guardian airport back in 2009, and landed on the Hudson River, with all passengers and crew surviving.




I have to say, I'm *really* enjoying it! I'm reading it along with an online friend from a podcast community we're both a part of. It volleys back and forth in time from that fateful trip back into his childhood and training as a military pilot, and also his family life. It's absolutely fascinating, and I'm so glad that I branched out! We also have our Summer Book Club coming up, and that is also a memoir.  I'm thinking we'll tackle that in July, and I'll post about it more in a few weeks. Anticipation! :0

Historical fiction is pretty easy, I have several books meeting that criteria on my Kindle. Secular fiction, I'm certain I will find something to catch my fancy. I've been using the public library's ebook system more to borrow books, and it's been saving me a lot of money. πŸ˜‚ They have a ton of books in this category. The toughie is historical non-fiction. I do not do well with long, dry reads, hee! Does anybody have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them!

Also, do you have your own summer reading list? If so, please share!

    Thursday, May 3, 2018

    "Eh, no worries. Everyone will just think you're a crazy person!" Adventures in love and marriage...

    Life is an adventure, is it not? And we're often navigating it with our lifelong partner by our side. Even re-reading the title of the post makes me smile, because it brings back a happy and joyful memory from this past weekend. One that I shared with Mike. And that got me to thinking about larger life issues, as my mind is wont to do. :)

    So, this weekend I had a dance gig. It was a birthday party, and I was totally solo in terms of other dancers. I navigated the entire thing by myself, setting it up, getting the contract together, and finalizing details of what they were looking for. I haven't done this by myself in a couple of years; my gigs more recently have always involved having another dancer with me. And that other experience a few years ago, wherein I set it up by myself, was the only other one I've ever done. Thus, needless to say, my stomach was in butterflies over this one in the 2 weeks leading up to it. I wanted it to go smoothly, and for everyone to have a good experience. I felt like it was an important milestone in my little career as a pro dancer.

    Saturday arrives, and my stomach is doing flip flops all day long. As I was texting with the woman who had hired me (heretofore known as Nice Hiring Lady), I thought to confirm with her that the birthday party was in a banquet room in the restaurant. I don't know why, but I just had a sense of foreboding. πŸ˜‚She texted back that, nope! They were out in the main restaurant, but not to worry, we would figure it all out when I arrived. And what she meant by that is that my presence was a surprise for the two birthday honorees. So my surprise arrival was not going to be at ALL the way I planned. :0

    Not only that, but there was a live band there, and it was LOUD. And crowded. And loud, did I mention that already? I had a standard aux cable for my music, but when we got there we found out that it wasn't compatible with the band's sound system. We had to use my little iPod speakers, and let's just say that wasn't going to make a dent at ALL in that large crowd.

    When we arrived, Nice Hiring Lady came out to meet us, and said that I could clandestinely slip in without being seen, so that I could enter just from a tucked away spot within the restaurant. I have to admit, I was dubious: I was wearing a florescent pink costume coverup with a long orange sweater over top because it was so cold. Also because of the cold, I was wearing socks and boots, which *really* made the costume, as I'm sure you can imagine. ;-) My bag holding my music accoutrements and silk veil was covered with bright pink sequins. Mike was carrying my sword in it's sheath. Blending in, we were not. That's when Nice Hiring Lady made the comment from the title, and I knew how much I liked her. πŸ˜€I love people with a solid sense of humor!

    So we get inside and squeeze our way through the crowd to the dance floor area. I tuck myself into the servers' station, where staff members keep coming out to tell me that I can't be in there, but there's really no where else for me to go without giving away the surprise.  So I'm hopping around on one foot over there peeling off my socks and boots, while Mike struggles with the music on the other side of the dance floor. I was expecting the band to take a full break and vacate, and hopefully then the crowd would quiet down a bit, but also nope! Suddenly, they're announcing this surprise arrival (oh right, THAT'S ME), but my music cannot be heard over the din. I waited for a few beats, peeking out while shrouded by my veil like a freak, and saw Mike finagle up my iPod speakers to the band's microphone. Suddenly, my music could be heard. The first song was already WELL past my precise climactic entrance part, but by that point there was nothing to be done. I sailed out with Veil onto the small dance floor.

    Yes, everybody was surprised. Everybody was also still quite loud. :0 But luckily the microphone at least made the sound situation palatable.

    It was not at all what I expected. People quickly sealed around me on the small dance floor and there wasn't a lot of room to be flourishy. Therefore, Veil's debut was pretty short lived. This part of the situation was particularly dicey for Sword, but I will say, he did GREAT. Everybody loved him, like usual. Sword and I definitely have a new and happy understanding for gigs like this. ;-) Everything went fantastic, and I had an excellent experience, despite the unexpected circumstances. I could tell that Nice Hiring Lady was also quite ecstatic.

    So, at some point, I turn around, and there is my husband: balancing a microphone in one hand, and my sword in another, beaming at me while I belly dance in approximately 5 feet of space at a surprise birthday party, dragging willing women into the circle to dance with me like there was no tomorrow, and I thought to myself...I bet this isn't what he pictured when he married me. πŸ˜‚ That his bookish wife would become a professional belly dancer, and that we would have weekend adventures with me blinding people with my sheer volume of costume beads, and him brandishing a sword that I will balance on my head. Life does not always turn out the way we plan. But I have to say...I am SO GLAD for that!

    Our life is not perfect, and neither he nor I are perfect people. On paper: him a baptized Catholic that currently professes atheism, me a devout Catholic, it seems like an odd match, right? However, we are not only happily married, but more in love than ever. Again, that does not mean that we are without bad days and disagreements. ALL marriages have those, or else the couple is not being honest! But I look at my husband now, and think about how freaking adorable I find him, and that I'm so glad that he's the "party guest" I will be escorting home, and I know that he feels the same way. ;-) It's as we feared when we were all kids: old people really DO still think about and do *those things*, and not only that, but it's WAY BETTER than when we were younger! :0

    My marriage is a sweet gift that I do not feel worthy of. This year has had some tough moments in it for me, and Mike has never given up on me. He is always there to support and reassure me. I know that he will always be there for me. Our marriage means as much to him as it does to me. And that means THE WORLD to me.

    Someday, (hopefully, many, many decades from now) one of us will pass away, and our marriage will come to it's natural end. It's until death parts us. But until then, I want to enjoy every moment that I have with this wonderful man. I hope that we still have hundreds of adventures in our future, many memories still to be made.

    Apparently, this is a sappy post! Would you also like to sing the praises of your significant other? Have at it in the comments!

    Thursday, April 26, 2018

    Our Lady of Fatima has a hold on my heart...

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/allisonkinyon
    As May approaches, my thoughts automatically turn towards the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which we celebrate on the Church calendar May 13th. There are lots of other exciting things going on in May: May Crowning at the kids' school, Anne's birthday, Sam's birthday, confirmation season, Pentecost, my dance family returns from Egypt, the long Memorial Day weekend...all fantastic stuff that I cannot wait for. Always though, my mind turns to our Blessed Mother, and the role she is known for amongst three young Portuguese children in the early twentieth century.There is something about her that has become special to me in my adulthood, and in my role as wife and mother. That image of her is so appealing to me, so filled with tender understanding.

    The week before Holy Week, I stopped in at our parish for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been dealing with (and continue to deal with) the aftermath of a few difficult emotional situations. It's all part of life, you know? But for someone with a personality like mine: very gentle-natured, always wanting to please others, experiencing a great deal of empathy for others at all times - it's hard to climb out of a dark abyss like that. It's hard to feel like myself again, because my mind always wants to take me back to things that have hurt me and that I cannot control. It's something I've dealt with my whole life, but as an adult it has helped a bit to do some research (*pins on librarian super cape*) and realize that these qualities about myself are not only God-given (and thus, I cannot change them even if I wanted to) but they are in fact positive characteristics that I should not see as weaknesses. I should revel in being compassionate, loving and trusting, and in the resulting beautiful and lasting relationships I have in my life. It has given me a lot of peace and healing to focus on those things.

    And so, as I was leaving the confessional that recent week late in Lent, I was struck by inspiration - Our Lady of Fatima. Her feast day is in the spring, and I just felt compelled to carry her with me on a day-to-day basis. So I texted Allison to see if she would accept a custom order for a one decade, springy rosary with an Our Lady of Fatima center, and she did. It is, of course, the rosary you see featured in this post. Isn't it lovely?!

    I love one decade rosaries for the ease of being able to tuck them into your pocket. If you need a little extra courage or strength on a given day, you can easily reach for the rosary and feel the solace that it offers. I'm so thrilled with this particular rosary and the association I have with it for Our Lady in a particularly sweet, motherly role. Granted, I don't think we ever see Mary in a non-motherly role :) but this one strikes a special chord with me. I am relying heavily on Our Lady of Fatima this spring.

    Maybe we could pray her novena this year? It would start next week, on May 4th, I believe. I can dig up the prayers if anyone would like to join me!

    Thursday, April 19, 2018

    "Spring"time malaise, and ruminations on performing in our daily lives...

    Hi all! It's been an interesting week as I wrap up my grading and course-related work, and segue back into writing project mode.  It's been a refreshing change, to be sure, as I do tend to get burned out from the intensive teaching that we do for the first 10 weeks of every semester (anywhere from 8-13 sections of the same library research lab). This semester I had the lowest number I've ever had, which is 8, and while it was much more manageable in terms of preparation, grading, and email management, it still very much crushes my spirit a bit. It's draining, it's monotonous, and frankly, it can be unfulfilling. It *can* be fulfilling, depends on the class and the week, to be sure. But every semester, when we are wrapping up this portion of our duties, I breathe a sigh of relief for a break from that harried routine. It's extremely refreshing to have other tasks for a spell, to have a chance to recharge and feel inspired again to teach in the fall.

    Earlier this winter, I mentioned that I was struggling quite a bit with seasonal depression. I know, though, that it was also related to what I just discussed above. I took it hard when the spring semester started in late January, and my lovely holiday break and winter quiet time turned into chaos once again. I've been working on mitigating that with some natural remedies and prayer, and it has indeed helped. With the summer approaching, I know that the break from teaching will be the most important factor of all in helping me to recover my perkiness.

    But the weather? Let's just say that is decidedly NOT helping.


    April is not very springy in WNY. It's a factor of living on the volatile Great Lakes, it's just part of our climate. April is a transition month, very akin to November. Following the gorgeous foliage and cozy cool temperatures of September and October, November is gray, rainy, cold and gloomy, interspersed with occasional pleasant days. So is April. And that's OK. But every once in a while, you get an April like this one. And April 2018 is gray, rainy, cold and gloomy, but interspersed with high wind warnings, pelting mixed precipitation, snow squalls, hail, winter storm watches, and regular ice dams on your windshield. It has been rather miserable, and I'm getting weary of bracing myself for the walk out to my little Honda Fit every evening after work.

    Everybody has been talking about the effect this long winter has had on our emotional well-being. We're looking to bust out of this funk we've been in. :0

    In other, but related, news, I have some professional dance gigs coming up, and it's caused me to realize what a dramatic turn my life has taken over the years. We went from:

    (A) voted shyest in her high school senior class; to

    (B) gets up in front of people daily for either public speaking or dramatic Middle Eastern dancing.

    It's quite the 360, let me tell you. And the thing is, although I've gotten slightly more confident as I've aged, the reality of the situation is that both of the things mentioned in (B) still make me all:

    😳😬😳

    I need to psych myself up to both daily, and afterward, both leave me drained. My dance instructors are going to Egypt for nearly a month, and are passing on gigs to me while they're away. All I could think when they told me this was:

    "Please God. Let them hurry back!!"

    Because I may be a quivering mass of sparkles in the corner by the time they return in mid-May. Restaurants on New Year's Eve are one thing. Surprise birthday parties, with their potential for countless instances of social awkwardness, are quite another. 😱

    It's interesting, but *that* is what I worry about with teaching, too. Embarrassing myself. Saying something stupid. Tripping over my own feet and collapsing in a heap at the front of the classroom. I want to do a good job, sure. But more than anything, I fear feeling incompetent and letting myself down. The shy little girl from my K-12 years hasn't totally gone away. I tamp her down a lot better then I ever have, but I don't think a person ever completely changes inherent parts of who they are.

    Life takes lots of unexpected turns, to be sure. I'll take my life now over my younger self, any day. It does still have it's challenges, though.

    As we await summer, I've been busily knitting some baby gifts and catching up on my reading. My current reads are Lethal Licorice (Amish Candy Shop Mystery #2), and The Tomb (Living Water series, book 3). I'm thinking we can start up our summer book club (which will be apologetics themed!) in July. Sound like a plan?

    How is this spring season treating you? Has it been as spring-less for you as it has for me? ;-) Write in and regale me with details!