Thursday, November 7, 2019

November/December novena plans!

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

*praise hands*

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

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

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

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

*heart*

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

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

With November approaching, a prayer plan emerges...

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

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

*beams*

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

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

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

Friday, October 25, 2019

Pondering the rosary...

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Friday, October 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Reflecting on reflecting... ;-)

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



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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2019

Uplifting fall vibes...

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

"The horse is out of the barn at this point. sweetie." Adventures in an epic amount of nervous energy...

My husband is loving, but very practical. ;-) And he's right. As I write this, it's Thursday. The dance competition finals are Saturday afternoon. I've prepared, I've reheared, I've fine tuned. I've practiced everything from technique to fluid arms and hands to projecting emotion with my face. And honestly, this is the biggest benefit of participating in a competition: it's not the results, it's the preparation. I suppose one enters a competition partially because they would like some recognition that their efforts have paid off and that they are good at what they do; but it's mostly because you care so deeply about your art and know that to continue to grow, you need to challenge yourself and make yourself vulnerable. And indeed, I feel very vulnerable right now. :-0

I will continue to rehearse over the next 2 days, but it's pretty much a done deal at this point. It is what it is, and it showcases the best that I'm capable of at this point of my journey. There's no use mentally comparing myself to the other dancers, because I cannot change any of that. They're all going to be really talented, and I need to just focus on myself. Tough to do, but necessary. I actually expected this week to be much more difficult mentally than it has turned out to be. Because although the thought of the unease I'll face on Saturday is certainly present in my mind, it has not consumed me. My piece is done, I think that's what is soothing me. It's completely done, there are no arms/weird things left that have been bugging me and I want to change. It's finished, and I'm resting easy in that. It is what it is, and I hope that the audience enjoys it!

So anyway, that's pretty much all that's on my mind right now. πŸ˜‚And I am *definitely* looking forward to my post-competition life in which I think of other things in terms of my creative realm! Even within dancing, I've been fixated on this piece for so long, I can hardly hear the music anymore without inwardly groaning. :-0 It's time to move on to other things! I have some awesome dance plans for later this fall and winter that I cannot wait for! 😍

Coming up, I'll certainly report in on the competition experience next week. After that, as we move into October, I have some Fall into the Season Catholic plans as we gear up for the end of the liturgical year. ;-) Stay tuned!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Adventures in new school routines and last minute restaurant dancing...

Well, it may not be pretty, but I'm makin' it. πŸ˜‚ The weeks are long right now, but we're getting there. Let's settle in for a drink!


I've lived through another week, which these days, is an enormous accomplishment. I feel like this each day lately when I get up in the morning:


Life is a marathon right now, but I'm trying to sprint through each day. I'm getting there, but each evening when I am trying to keep my eyes open before collapsing into bed I am very aware that I am trying to do too much and that I cannot keep up this pace forever. But in the short term, until the competition finals are over, I'm not really sure what else to do. So I'm hanging on for dear life and doing the best I can.

Henry is loving his new high school. I'm quite shocked at how he's clearly acclimated already and thriving. We're still figuring out how we're getting him to and from school each day, since he starts and finishes at completely different times from Anne, but we'll get there. We live close enough that he always has the option to walk/bike, which is absolutely clutch. 

As for Anne, things are still a struggle. She has not acclimated to her new class, and is not thriving in any way. I'm anxious to talk to her teacher, but unfortunately, her teacher's mom passed away this week, and so there has been a substitute. Therefore (quite understandably) it's going to be awhile before I'll be able to get a sense of how she's doing when she's actually at school. I just know that at home, she's been quite unhappy and down about school. Mike and I are both, consequently, quite anxious about all of this. It's been challenging, for sure.

My car goes in to be repaired on Monday, thankfully. But my litany of other appointments remain, and I'm just balancing them all in the short term as best I can. My classes are finally all scheduled, so that's something.

In my dance world, it's been complete and total chaos. :-0 I've been preparing for the competition, and my troupe is preparing for a hafla that is coming up in just a few weeks, but everything is on hold at the studio right now because one of our instructors is getting married this weekend. And in the midst of all this, I've had several paid gigs. I hadn't had a paid gig since New Year's Eve, and now I've had 2 in the past 3 weeks. 😳 And it's great, don't get me wrong. But it's been so stressful at a time when I've had so much else going on, I can hardly think straight.

Last week, my instructor and main dancing partner in gigging situations messaged me to see if I was available to dance at the grand re-opening of a restaurant we frequently dance at on New Year's Eve. They had had a fire, and had been closed for 5 months. They wanted to hire us to dance, but the re-opening was in 3 days.

😬

Now, here's the thing: we're belly dancers. We improvise for a living. I can put together a set list and dance to it with 5 minutes of notice. But emotionally, paying gigs take a lot out of me. You're in costume and performing to the utmost of your ability for anywhere from 12-20+ minutes, and it's exhausting. Restaurant sets are usually 20 minutes for us, and we each dance 2 or 3. It takes a lot of physical stamina and emotional well being. And the emotional thing has been a bit low of late. :-0

But this is a great restaurant, a great opportunity, and great extra pay. So we agreed to do it.

That Friday found me applying stage makeup as Mike and the kids ripped up carpets in the upstairs hallway, remember that? I'm stepping over staples and disintegrated carpet pad as I frantically race around looking for my 4D mascara and extra facial glitter. Claire and I arrive at 5 pm for a 4 hour stretch of waiting amongst straw wrappers and sugar packets, interspersed with 20 minute sets of dancing. This restaurant is lovely, but their sound system is not the best, and stress abounded with getting the music to play loudly, all while people keep coming up to ask me if I can seat them at a table. :-0 It's always a little wacky at these adventures. I will also say that it adds an element of interest to improvisational dancing when you don't even remember what you put on your set list. :-0

But it went great, and I went home a limp noodle after a very long day. I don't know how much longer I can keep up this pace, but I have to until September 22nd. Then I can start worry about my crazy teaching load (5 classes that next day alone) and the hafla that I don't even know the dance for yet. πŸ˜‚I don't know, I guess we'll figure it all out! But I have to admit, I don't like things to be *quite* this exciting all at the same time!

What's new with you as September reaches it's mid point?

Friday, September 6, 2019

When God tells you to slow down...

Since we last spoke, things have been a whirlwind in the world of your Catholic Librarian. And, don't get me wrong, it's not like I have it worse than anybody else. Everyone's lives are busy right now. We're all in this together. *hug*

But I've been having a hard time managing it all, both physically and emotionally. In the past week:

(1) Henry started high school, as well as the after school work study program to earn money towards his tuition, which runs every day. Our previous morning/afternoon routines are now in shambles.

(2) Anne started 3rd grade, and was decidedly NOT looking forward to going back. I think she's a little envious of Henry's exciting new situation in his new Catholic high school while she's back in the hum drum world of their K-8 school. I also think that, although she won't admit it, she misses Henry being there, and is lonely. Her class is very small this year, and although that's great for individual attention, I think she's sad about not being around more kids. She has a hang dog face each morning, and I'm a bit worried about this.

(3) My teaching schedule at work is still up in the air, despite it being the second week of the semester, and things are generally a bit chaotic right now with regards to our lesson planning. I'm stressed about it.

(4) My dance competition is in just over two weeks, and I have a pit in my stomach about it. We're also learning a new group choreography that we haven't finished yet, but need to perform with just a few weeks to practice at our next showcase. And now I'm going to be missing class this week due to a last minute restaurant booking. 😬

(5) We're getting our upstairs carpet replaced on Saturday, and the house is in complete disarray in preparation for that, with furniture moved to and fro, painting happening, and carpet being slowly pulled up from the staircase.

(6) I'm undergoing physical therapy for my recurring calf injury, and suddenly have appointments out the wazoo on my calendar intermixed with the teaching that is to come. Whenever that's finally all scheduled that is. πŸ˜“

And all week long, I've been battling what I thought were fall seasonal allergies, but I haven't been this sick with allergies in a long, long time: lethargy, congestion (both head and chest), sore throat, fever rash, the entire works. The night before last, I coughed so much I could barely sleep. When the alarm went off for the morning, I was like:

😳

I couldn't do it. I was at that point, I just couldn't do it. My mind was awhirl with my to-do list of approximately 146,783 items, but my body wouldn't let me. I was exhausted, and I physically had no energy to do any of it.

I got up, and helped the kids get ready for school. Got the lunches all set to go. Mike drove Anne to school, and I took Henry. Then I came home, called in sick, climbed back into bed, and dozed off. It's the best thing I could have done.

I had a physical therapy appointment at lunchtime, and I dragged myself to that. But otherwise, I stayed home, in my jammies, and rested up. I would get small bursts of normal feeling energy, but within the hour, my eyes were drooping closed and I'd lay down.

I'm back at work today, and the feelings of being overwhelmed are still very much present. I'm trying to manage them the best I can. But I think that yesterday, God was telling me that I had no choice, I had to rest. There was a lot that needed doing, and I couldn't do any of it. That's really hard for me to accept.

But it's life, you know? I can't always do and control everything. It's part of my personality, but I need to accept that sometimes things are going to be different and I have to accept that. I'm a work in progress on this, to be sure.

How about you? How does God get your attention when He needs to communicate an important message to you? ;-)