Monday, September 28, 2009

Adventures in Bellydancing

I haven't blogged about my bellydancing in a while, I think because I've had so many other things on my mind. But this weekend was our annual fall hafla, and it reignited all of the reasons why I love it so much. So I thought I would dedicate a wordy post to it :)

I enjoyed dance even as a child. I took the traditional tap/jazz/ballet route from age 4 to early high school. Of the three, ballet was always my clear favorite. I'm very traditional in oh so many ways. Tap was ok; I liked the clear rhythms that went along with tap dancing. But I never really took to jazz. Too free form for me, I suppose.

When I got to college, I thought about taking back up with ballet and never got around to it. After I had Henry, and got into the frenzied routine of motherhood, plus working, I eventually realized that I need a creative outlet for myself. Not anything that would take me away from my husband and son for any length of time. But I longed for something that I could do out of the house, once per week, that would satiate my desire to just "be me" for an hour.

So I picked up the continuing education bulletin for our town. I gravitated to the dancing classes, and honed right in on Middle Eastern dance. I've always admired that form of dance, and my sister had given me a few workout videos that featured bellydancing moves. Plus sparkly costumes...that speaks for itself. I was intrigued, and consulted with Mike about it. He told me to go for it. So I did.

And I loved it. And I made new friends. Each week I looked forward to going and learning new moves. What I like about bellydancing is the 'earthy' feel I get from it. It kind of reminds me of Native American dance in that way. You're very in tune with yourself and your surroundings. Bellydance is very feminine and celebrates the female form at all ages and body shapes. This is not a dance form that promotes unhealthy body image and emaciation. You need hips to bellydance :) Many of the most famous bellydancers in the world would be considered "plus sized" by our society's standards, but are in fact beautiful, healthy women that are mesmerizing to watch.

What bellydancing does NOT involve is anything lascivious, which is a common misconception. My instructor, Claire, always says that bellydance is "not lewd or crude;" it's totally G-rated and family friendly. It's true, that bellydancers expose their, well, bellies. But everything else should be attractively, but modestly, covered.

So, the hafla. I arrived for the 7 pm show at about 6:45, my cute maroon costume in tow. I noticed right off that the upstairs dressing area that we used last year was cordoned off, with an ominous sounding note indicating that it was "structurally unsound." Well, that doesn't exactly instill a sense of confidence in the entire facility, no? Alas, it's an American Legion. I don't think they often have bellydancers bouncing around on the floor.

I find the alternative dressing area, and it wasn't very private. It was a room right off the kitchen, and a male caterer was in there, preparing food. I think he was getting a little bit more than he bargained for when he signed up for this gig. We all took turns using the single stall ladies room or squeezing into this little crawl space area next to the bathroom that was away from the open kitchen door. After costuming, we all quickly donned our coverups. It is considered terribly inappropriate and gauche to be seen in your bellydancing costume unless you are actually performing. I don't yet own a proper coverup (I need to acquire one pretty quickly if I'm going to continue bellydancing) but Claire taught us how to wrap our veils around ourselves as a coverup, in a pinch. So I did that.

My class is a conservative bunch, even when not in costume. Pretty soon, a featured soloist, a lovely young woman, came in to change and started to undress right there in that not-so-private area by the kitchen. We all exchanged looks of alarm, feeling protective of her. Do we (a) form a modesty panel around her with our bodies, or (b) tell her about the loose males loitering in the kitchen so that she gravitate to a more private location? We opted to be on the safe side and did both. Around this same time, members of another class started to drift in and take turns in the ladies room. My class assisted with any needed pinning and zipper fastening. One woman came out of the ladies room and asked if I would zip her up. Within 1.7 seconds of me touching the zipper, it was broken. In my mind, I said a very bad word. As if I wasn't sweating enough already. Very unglamorous, I assure you. Sweat and chiffon don't mix well together.

It wasn't totally my fault. Apparently, this had been a prolematic zipper from the start. It was a puny little thing, not nearly industrial enough for a costume someone is going to be dancing in. I fumbled with it for a few minutes and soon resorted to trying to force it back on track. I was getting nowhere. Luckily, one of my classmates came to my rescue and managed to get the zipper back onto the track while I squeezed the fabric of the costume together in the back.

We were up first to dance, for which I was immensely grateful. This meant that we could relax immediately thereafter and enjoy the rest of the evening of dancing. I needed some relaxation pretty badly at this point. So, Claire introduces us and we walk out. I'm a librarian - I'm shy. Performing is just not natural to my disposition. More sweat ensued. But it went very well. We all remembered our combinations and smiled cutely. We hip dropped like pros. Our number is very short - a peppy number performed to the song "Bellydance" by Saad. Claire always has us (I nearly wrote "makes us" :) do a little solo 8 counts at the end of every number, so that each of us "our moment." I would happily exchange my moment for just about anything, but alas. I did a few hip circles and hoped for the best.

After we changed (all of smashed back into the crawl space) I watched a few solos before the intermission. Intermission = necessary stop at the cash bar for a glass of Chardonnay. I felt like I'd earned it. As I entered with a few classmates, every man in the bar turned to stare at us.

"LOOK! *gauffaw* It's the girls from upstairs. What are they again?"



We were all wearing pants and long sleeved tops, nothing belly or dancery about it. I think they meant the attention as a compliment, but it sort of annoyed me. We pointedly ignored them.

Back upstairs, I gulped my wine and enjoyed the rest of the show. When the open dancing improv section began, I even allowed myself to be coerced into joining in. It's amazing how much my shimmies improved with a little Chardonnay.

So today, instead of getting more work done, I'm dreaming of buying a new hip scarf. I'm thinking of going pink this time...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Slow Down, Smell the Flowers

I've been getting a lot of inspiration from my Living Faith daily devotional readings. Today's selection includes the following:

"My life can be very busy, but at times the busyness involves so much skimming of the surface that I end my day having done all I should do, but still unsatisfied, cold and anything but exhilarated. God is in the details, they say. Perhaps I need to slow down and consider those details. God, help me live in an awareness of your constant presence."

I was thinking about this this morning, as I raced around the house getting things ready. I wanted to prepare dinner, so that Mike and Henry could just pop the casserole bowl into the oven around 4:45 this afternoon, before I would arrive home. I needed to pack my lunch. Henry needed to be readied for preschool. Mike has 8 am class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he was off by 7:30. Busy, busy, busy. Today at work I want to finish a book review that I'm working on, then I have about a dozen other things that need immediate attention. I'm on the reference desk for an hour at noon. I have a student coming to see me at 4:00. I want to take a few hours of comp. time to get some shopping in. I am a person that is very pleased with small things, and I need to not get so consumed with the larger picture that I lose sight of that. Taking the time each morning to read a daily devotional has done me a lot of good.

With regard to the shopping, on a different topic, I'm very excited :) I'm seizing the opportunity to go to the craft store without Henry in tow throwing yarn into the aisles. I would like some yarn to make Christmas gifts and I'm armed with Sunday ad coupons. I'm also making a Home Depot run and to Sherwin Williams for paint. I've been driving my sister crazy with my paint selection process this week. She has a good eye for color, what can I say? The other alternative is my husband, whom I love dearly, but if I ask him to assist in color choices, he says they all look the same. I think it's a man thing :)

Anyway, the last room that I want to paint this year is our guest room and I want to paint it red. You wouldn't think that would be so difficult, but I tell you, there are a *lot* of variations of red, and I got tangled up in each of them. I have a fall bouquet in there, and the colors inspired me to want a red in there with an orange hue to it. No easy feat, I assure you. I've finally decided on a color called Red Cent. I think Sherwin Williams should give me a free gallon of paint for all the product placement I do. We always use their paints - good stuff. So, I'm excited. More paint in my hair tomorrow, oh joy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Wednesdays are my "writing day" at work; I block off the whole day on the calendar to work on my writing projects. As an academic librarian, I'm eligible for tenure, and professional publications are a key part of one's tenure dossier. They tend to be quiet, low key days for me at the office, and I look forward to them. I'm often able to attend the daily Mass at the campus Newman Center on Wednesdays, too. Wednesdays are good.

Well, then came this morning. It didn't start out that bad. We overslept by about 20 minutes, so that didn't help, but it wasn't catastrohic. We still had a solid hour to ready ourselves to leave the house. At 7:50, I was ready to go, but Henry was still finishing up watching Blue's Clues. I let him finish, and then told him it was time to go. He procrastinated. He wanted to watch the ABC song, then the Noggin song of the month, then he had to run upstairs to get one of his Franklin books to read in the car...Pretty soon, it's 8 o'clock and I'm feeling extremely impatient. I hustle him to the door and tell him that he has to get right in his car seat; no playing in the driver's seat for a few minutes like he usually does.

Well. This does not go over very well. Henry bursts into tears and has a temper tantrum right in the middle of the driveway. Fabulous. I coax him into the car where he throws himself on the car floor and refuses to get into his car seat. *sighs* This leads to the inevitable acrobatic act entitled Strapping Flailing Child into Car Seat Against His Will, and it's not pretty. Following the main act, we have Mommy Cringing as Child Screams in Small Civic Sedan for the Entire Ride.

We arrive at preschool, and I deposit a sniffling Henry and his Transformers sneakers onto the parking lot pavement. He's more docile, holding my hand and walking cooperatively into the building, but he complains the whole way that he doesn't like the stairs and would rather take the elevator up to the second floor. As I drop him off, I'm sad because I have to work the evening reference shift tonight and won't see him before he goes to bed, and our morning...well, it stunk.

But that's the way it goes sometimes. Three year olds can be tough little people to please. So I arrive at work. And I'm feeling a little disjointed. I have several tasky items to get completed right away - emails to answer, something to fax, something to mail that I need to walk to the campus post office to get a stamp for...

Finally, I sit down at my computer. I pop open my Living Faith to today's devotional, and find that it's the feast day of Padre Pio. I love him. It's hard not to be fascinated by this guy. Bore the stigmata; a very well known saint that was involved in lots of savory miracle stuff when he was alive, such as the ability to bilocate and read the souls of those he counseled in the confessional.

I read a book about him when I was in law school that I cherish to this day. I saved it for my commute of a bus/subway cocktail and would look forward to whipping it out of my backpack each morning. The book was written by a Lutheran pastor, and it an extremely fair and engaging account of Padre Pio's life. It's called Padre Pio: The True Story, by Bernard Ruffin. I highly recommend it.

To me, it's always refreshing to read the personal accounts of people that really live out their Catholic faith in their everyday activities, even despite opposition from the world. Padre Pio certainly didn't experience an ordinary expression of his faith, with the supernatural events attributed to him. I don't see myself bearing the stigmata anytime soon. But Padre Pio didn't revel in the attention that he received as a consequence of the fantastic events surrounding him; he tolerated it because he believed it was what God was asking him to do. He is a good reminder to us that we are all called by God to live out our faith, in our given circumstances, to the best of our ability. To be courageous in our faith. To act as salt and light just by quietly living out our faith.

My Living Faith reading puts it like this:

"I put myself in the company of the Twelve. These words are meant for all. We have been summoned by Christ. We, too, are anointed ones who have been given power...That is why Jesus explains to the disciples that when they go forth to heal and teach it is unnecessary to take a lot of stuff along. 'Take nothing on your journey,' Jesus says. The power he has bequeathed to them is quite enough."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend adventures and Monday morning whining

So, it's Monday and I'm back at work, book ordering my little heart out. Seems like lately my days at work are consumed with putting out small fires and not getting to larger projects, particularly professional writing. So, for instance, on my agenda for the day are writing a book review (I'm a regular reviewer for a religious library periodical), and then getting back to the book chapter I'm writing on assessment in credit bearing library courses. Right. So, I get in this morning, and discover the following:

(1) 4 messages waiting in the email account I monitor regarding an online library research workbook that all students here are required to take. 2 of them are from faculty wanting me to check on the status of some students for them. The other 2 are from students that contain (a) no identifying name, and (b) confusing sentence fragments asking about information that is clearly stated in the directions. I answer all of them, part of which involves me dragging our assistant into the mess to help out with some of the student status checking. 45 minutes.

(2) Slew of email in my work email account, 2 of which are from desperate graduate students in my new liaison department, American Studies. (very excited about this American Studies thing, btw). Each starts with something like, "oh thank God you're there! I need help." I answer each of those. 30 minutes.

(3) Several phone calls that needed to be made, and forms that needed to be filled out, regarding our benefits. Made those. 20 minutes.

(4) Field a phone call from my mom in which she frets about the doctor that we share leaving her original practice, which is one of the benefit situations mentioned in (3) above that I had to deal with. 10 minutes.

(5) Deal with a handful of questions from people that stop by my office. Go through a pile of damaged books and euthanize most of them. 30 minutes.

(6) Find a forgotten, thick printout from Choice Reviews Online of new books in the subject areas that I collect in. I grab it, and continue my process of selecting and ordering. Still ongoing.

Sigh. I do what I can.

The weekend was rather mixed. Saturday, I attempted to make a crock pot recipe that involved butternut squash. Anybody ever sliced up a butternut squash before? I hadn't. Being my eager beaver self, I quickly chopped up the 2 called for Granny Smith apples and then approached the squash. It didn't take too well to the little knife I was using on the apples. I had to forge into unchartered territory and get the big scary knife out of the chopping block. I do a reapproach. The squash was still intimidating me quite a bit. Finally, I dove in and sliced it down the middle. Know what I discovered? Butternut squash have seeds inside them. Who knew?

I certainly didn't. So I do my best to scoop out the seeds and chop up the squash. As I'm sure you''re unsurprised to learn, I sliced my thumb open and had to bind it off with the only bandaids we had in the house - it was a choice between Dora and Diego. The wound is in a really bad spot too, right near the top of my thumb. I keep bumping it and making it sore. Not good. And I have *Dora* on my thumb. Anyway, the recipe did turn out pretty good, if I do say so myself. But next time, I think I'm going to ask Mike to chop the squash.

After the squash adventures, I took Henry shopping at Target for new clothes. It was one of those shopping experiences in which half the time Henry was an absolute angel and the rest of the time he drove me absolutely out of my mind. Pretty much a typical outing with a 3 year old.

Later, Mike and I escorted Henry to a pool party in which he cavorted in the kidde pool and used up tons of energy. Then he consumed a cupcake and ice cream and got all worked up again. We finally got him to sleep later and were pretty exhausted ourselves.

Sunday, Mike and I traveled to one of our favorite local destinations, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. I got to use my new enhanced drivers license, too, to cross the border. I always get so nervous at the customs booth. I don't know why; we're not smuggling anything or involved in any illegal and/or violent activities. I hardly think the suburban couple carrying back 2 bottles of local wine, fudge and homemade jam is top on their list of people to investigate further. But I always break into a sweat whenever we approach that little booth. Must be because you know that the customs people can do whatever they want to you and you really have no recourse.

Anyway, we had a great time. We ate lunch in one of the vintage hotels there, in a lounge that is decorated like a library. Did you ever? We then proceeded to buy and consume homemade fudge and peanut brittle. We then walked to the lake, to walk off the calories... Saw some adorable black squirrels. Went to the jam store. On the drive back we stopped at a winery and picked up a local cabernet and a late harvest riesling that is to die for. I'm a very happy Catholic Librarian.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Assorted rambling...

Some weeks I'm bursting with blog ideas, and others I feel sapped of all my creative energy. This is one of those weeks. I'm not sure why; certainly, it's been busy, both at work and at home. But I don't think that's what it is. Maybe it's my allergies. I have them every year at this time, disrupting my otherwise favorite time of year. This year they have been particularly vile. Perhaps they're slowly killing off my brain cells. I'm going to go with that theory.

At any rate, I believe Henry has also inherited them; he's been sneezy and runny for weeks. Cute anecedote: while I was warming dinner last night and chatting with Mike in the kitchen, Hank runs in. He opens the refrigerator, carefully takes out his open Spider Man cup of milk (I usually still force sippy cups on him because he's SO bad with spilling) and promptly sneezes right into the open refrigerator. All over every item inside. He slams the refrigerator shut, races off, and I hear...

*Cute sneeze* "Uh ohhhh... Sowy, Mommy. It's just a little milk. Rewy, just a little."

At any rate, tonight will be the first evening all week that Mike, Henry and I will all be home together from dinner to bedtime. Mike teaches Monday and Tuesday evenings this semester, and yesterday I went out for a glass of wine with my best girlfriends. We do that once per month and feel very cute and sophisticated while we do it. So tonight I'm back at home, armed with my crochet needle and my current volume of Amish fiction. Oh, the wild times at the home of the Catholic Librarian.

I'm nearly a full skein into my baby blanket and very pleased with the way it's turning out. The yarn is really pretty. It's a Red Heart baby yarn; the color is a variegated one called "Giggle Print." It's a lovely combination of blue, yellow, green, pink, purple, and white. Alyssa, my neighbor, is having a girl (awww...) but you know how it is when baby's gender is known before birth. Pretty soon, her house will look like a gallon of Pepto Bismol exploded in it. I didn't know Henry's gender before birth, and we were inundated with yellow/green, which was fine with me. But it was nice to eventually get some blue to even everything out. I had my hot little crafty hands on a variegated pink/green baby yarn, but I figured, she's going to acquire a heck of a lot of pink. Why not be the balancer in the mix?

While I crochet on most nights, after Henry is sleeping, Mike and I have been watching the AMC series Mad Men. Anybody else watch that? We're loving it. It's centered around a group of men working at an ad agency in 1960. I *love* the subplots with their wives and the secretaries; basically, all the female characters :) That's where the real drama comes in... We're on the last 4 episodes of Season 1, and we'll be watching 2 of those tonight. We're nerdily excited.

In what could turn into real drama in the Catholic Librarian household, I'm plotting to make applesauce next month. I know, this doesn't sound all that dramatic (read: exciting, or even remotely interesting) but I've never made applesauce before, and while I'm a decent cook, when things do go wrong for me in the kitchen, they go REALLY wrong. Think chopped carrots flying through the air from an open food processor or soupy consistency where there should be puff.

In two weeks we're going apple picking, a new family tradition we started last year. As you know, I love autumn, and nothing says autumn like picking apples right off the tree. Of, if you're Henry, nothing says autumn like playing in hay and riding on a choo choo train into an orchard. We bought a 1/4 peck bag last year, which was the smallest size, and still had to give a ton of apples away, lest they go bad. We like apples, but you can only eat so many fresh, kwim? But if I make some applesauce, or OOHHH! apple pie! We could be good to go. Apple cake? Anybody have any good recipes to share? :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mary: One With Us

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister..."

Today is the feast of our Lady of Sorrows, and the entry in my Living Faith booklet discusses Mary's suffering. I've always admired Mary, the mother of our Lord, but I find that I identify even more with her now that I'm also a mother. It's no easy thing, being a mother. It's a combination of extreme highs and lows, and requires a staggering amount of self-sacrifice. Whenever I pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, I dwell on this theme: The annunciation to Mary that she would be the mother of God's son, as a young, unmarried woman; her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth during their mutual pregnancies (need that female support time); Jesus' birth; his dedication in the Temple; and then his being lost and found amongst the teachers in the Temple. That one always gets me - how can he not know what he put his mother through?!

Last night, providentially enough, Henry and I picked up his little children's Bible and opened to our bookmark. We were at the Last Supper. We've been reading the stories all the way from the Creation, and I've been dreading this point since then. This Bible doesn't dwell on the Crucifixtion, but obviously, it's covered. It's a pretty important detail. But we haven't talked to Henry much yet about death, and I wasn't sure how I was going to explain everything.

As would be expected, I was peppered with questions throughout:

"Mommy, who's that? Judas? Why does he have that beard? What is he doing? He's bad? How come he's bad? Why is he talking to those bad men? How come he's doing that? Where's Peter, Mommy? Where is his bread? Oh, look at that cross, Mommy! Like at chooch. Where is he taking it? Why is he doing that? Is that Mary? What's she doing? How come she's hugging the cross? Why is Jesus on that cross?

Henry was particularly interested in the picture of Mary standing in front of the cross, with the bottom of the cross, Jesus' legs included, visible behind her. He was demanding to know what everybody was doing, and I did my best to explain it to him.

Precious little angel. Someday he's going to grow up and make his own choices, and sometimes they're going to be painful ones. And I'm going to have to live with the results. It won't be easy, but it's part of my vocation as his mother.

Friday, September 11, 2009

End of the week chatter

It's Friday, and I'm very glad. I spent all of yesterday evening savoring my time with Henry. This semester I'm working the Wednesday evening reference shift (only every other week, but still) and I didn't get to see him before he went to bed Wednesday night. I loved every minute of yesterday night, even when we spent 20 full minutes on the potty - him working on production and me reading Franklin and the Thunderstorm - in a bathroom that quickly needed some serious air freshener. We looked at all of his library books together and generally snuggled. He's also doing markedly better with his new big boy bed. He's been staying in it nearly all night, only coming out in the early morning to camp outside our door until Mike and I awaken. Here he is, on his new big boy bed quilt:

My precious little angel.

In other news, my frequent spells at the public library have led to my uncovering of a nefarious cataloging issue that I simply had to report. Yes, I did use the word 'nefarious' to refer to an issue regarding *book cataloging*; I know, only on this blog, right? Anyway, around here, we have a large county library system that encompasses dozens of local branches. I first noticed the problem a few months ago when I borrowed a slew of Amish fiction. On my receipt, I noted that one of the books was listed simply as "generic paperback." Well, that's not very helpful. I then noticed that in the online catalog, that book was not listed as being at the branch location that I borrowed it from. Super Librarian immediately leapt into action.

When I returned the book, I made it a special point to go up to the desk and report that the book was not cataloged as being in this branch's collection, so people can't find it at that library unless they happen upon it while browsing. This is a major access problem, as you can see :) Amish fiction readers being denied the information that the next book in the series they're reading is right at their local branch, the horror!

Well, the person behind the counter for my big announcement appeared to be a college student or otherwise part-time library volunteer, and didn't seem too impressed with my discovery. He mentioned that the 'generic' indication meant that the book was a donation, and tossed it into the return bin. Well, that's fine, but why shouldn't donated books be properly cataloged? You want people to read them, right? They have to be able to find them.

Well, in my furious quilt fiction gathering, I found the same problem several more times at the branch near work. This is obviously a large-scale problem with donations to the local branches. The books never get entered into the larger catalog record in the location field. So, a person may give up on a book, not seeing it listed as being at a local branch, and not wanting to travel to a farther location nor pay the transfer fee, when it's right at a stack near them. I'm likely the only person to (1) notice this and (2) be bothered by it, so I suppose I should leave it there.

Anyway, I'm really making progress with my new baby blanket project:

I finally have the puff stitch rows down pat. It needs to be done by late October. I also just found out that a friend of mine is expecting a new baby in May. Another baby project, yay!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Where You Go to Chooch?"

That would be Henry, my little inquisitor. Guaranteed that whenever he encounters a new person, he will ask where they attend church. Many of the people that I know are Catholics or otherwise devout Christians, so they happily tell him, and he's fascinated every time. There is the inevitable squirming that comes about when Henry asks this question of someone who does not regularly attend church, but I like to think that it plants an important seed :) He always goes on to inform everyone, "I go to St. Paul's" so that they will have this vital piece of information. It's very, very cute. He's a great little Catholic. And he has wonderful cheeks, to boot. I could kiss them forever.

In other news, I picked up the fledgling baby blanket I'm making for my neighbor's new baby last night. I'm really enjoying making it. I have to be honest and admit that I love having a deadline - it keeps me motivated. It's the Type A personality, I can't help it. I worked on a row last night with puff stitiches, and for whatever reason, it gave me a heck of a time. Not the puff stitches themselves. Once I loosened my stitches, that is. I think it's the personality again, but my stitiches are often wound pretty tightly. So, after that remedy, I puffed away with much success. However, the pattern calls for a chain or two between each puff stitch, and I kept getting distracted talking to my husband and losing count. So, once I moved to the next row, my single crochet stitch count was quickly falling to the brink of disaster. I ended up having to pull out a bunch of puffs and chains and re-do them. So, I did get the row done, but not much more then that, sigh. With the baby due October 28th, I really need to get my crochet needle in gear.

I have to work a short evening reference shift tonight. I plan to race home, grab a quick shower, and be crocheting by 8 pm. Excited.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crafty things

So. Coming off a long weekend, most people would be glowing about all of their social plans. Me, on the other hand, am glowing about my blanket projects. I've always enjoyed crocheting, and over the summer picked it back up again on a regular basis. I'm realizing this is going to be a long post, about crocheting, knitting, quilting and books, so take your tea and settle in.

About 6 months ago, when cleaning out our storage area, I happened upon my yarn basket. It reignited my love of crochet, and I decided to pick it back up. Well, as is typical of me, my yarn basket was full of half completed projects that had been abandoned after I had lost steam for one reason or the other. Well, more specifically, because I had made mistakes and they bothered me so much I didn't want to finish. (Type A personality...) They were a pathetic-looking lot, all uneven rows and bad color transitions. So, I determined that if I was serious about crocheting again, I would finish some of those projects before starting a new one. It's easy to get stimulated in JoAnn Fabrics from all of the pretty yarn and new patterns and want to begin something new, but true commitment comes from sticking it out with a scratchy old fragment that has holes in all the wrong places.

So, I pulled down my half finished Christmas afghan. That baby took me *forever* to finish, but I did, and I'm very proud of it:

I had repressed all of the other things lurking in the yarn basket, and was optimistically thinking that I could start something new after Project Christmas Afghan was finally over. Alas. I uncovered the baby blanket that I had started when I was pregnant with Henry. 4 years ago. So, I picked that up, thinking I could finish it in a few short weeks. took longer then that :) But last night, I finished it. *angels sing*

And with the addition of Henry, eating a banana:

I was pregnant in 2005, and I remember working on that afghan when our beloved Pope John Paul II died. This blanket has a lot of history :)

Thus, finally, I could start a new project. *again with the angels* I have a harvest afghan kit on order from Herrschners that I'm excited about, and will match in our guest room (once I paint it). I also ordered a small pattern book for knitting socks. I've never ventured beyond afghans and scarfs, and I'm determined to make working socks. I'm praying that we don't end up with little balls of unraveled yarn in our dryer after washing them, but we'll have to wait and see. My neighbor is expecting a baby at the end of October, so I'd like to make her a few pairs of baby socks. And yesterday, armed with a 10% off coupon from JoAnn Fabrics, I went and bought some bright multi-colored yarn for a baby blanket. Very excited. I started it last night. It's a very simple pattern of single crochet mixed with some puff stitches. Since I need to get it done in a month and a half, I need simple.

So, in other craft news, I've gotten into the idea of quilting lately. I'm reading an excellent fiction book featuring quilters called The Quilter's Apprentice, and I'm totally digging it. I found out that the author, Jennifer Chiaverini has a whole series of books featuring aforementioned quilters; I'm certain you are unsurprised to learn that the public library can be expecting me to invade the instant I get out of work to fetch the next couple in the series. Check out her web site (linked above) if you're interested; she's a good writer and the stories are wholesome and fun.

I've been toying with taking a beginners' quilting class, but my schedule just doesn't permit it right now. Bellydance is in full swing for our fall hafla, and I don't want to be out of the house for another evening each week; I need to be home with my boys. But perhaps over the winter, I may skip a bellydance session so that I can learn to quilt. I can't thread a needle, so this should be interesting...

Any quilters out there? Do you love it?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Take a Moment for Gratitude

My morning started off a bit trying today, and I had to take a zone out period in the middle of my morning meeting to say my favorite morning offering. It is:

"Dear Lord, I do not know what will happen to me today. I only know that nothing will happen that was not forseen by you, and directed for my greater good from all eternity. I adore your holy and unfathomable plans, and submit to you with all my heart; for love of you, the pope, and the immaculate heart of Mary. Amen."

Later, back in my office, I picked up my copy of Living Faith to do the daily reflection. It was entitled "Take a Moment for gratitude":

Give thanks to him, bless his name; for he is good. Psalm 100:4-5

"Saint Ignatius Loyola recommended a prayer called the Examen as a helpful method of reflecting on one's day. The first step...after one settles down and focuses on prayer, is to replay the day in your mind and express gratitude for those things that you consider blessings from God, but may have missed while they occurred. This can be a beautiful sunrise, a child's smile...Perhaps over the next week, we can try to stop during the day, reflect for a few minutes and tell God how grateful we are for everything."

This really made me feel better. When I get frustrated with things, I tend to focus only on that and forget about how totally wonderful my life really is. So, I feel better. And going into a 3 day weekend, this is a very good thing :)

In an amusing aside, my Enhanced Drivers License came in the mail yesterday. I immediately tore into it and examined my picture. Not awful. Probably the least objectionable photo I've ever had appear on my drivers license. Mike came up behind me:

"Oh wow, that's a really nice picture of you. Are you wearing lipstick?!"

The last time I had worn lipstick prior to that was at our wedding, hence his shock. In fact, it was the exact same tube that I used in both instances; it's the only one that I own. I'm just not a lipstick person; gloss I'm all for, but I can't stand lipstick on my lips. However, the level of my desperation for a cute photo trumps my dislike for lipstick, so there you have it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I catch up on blogs, and Henry's shared love of reading

I see that I now have 5 followers - thrilled! Feel free to post comments whenever you'd like :) I promise to respond. This month, I've maintained this blog for 1 year. *proud of self* *lights birthday candle* When I started, I sincerely hoped that I'd keep up regular posts and turn this into an enjoyable creative outlet. It has become that and more. As part of the St. Blogs Parish community, I also wanted to make this a spiritual blog that explored Catholic topics and challeneged me to deepen my faith. I'm very happy with how this evolution has taken place, and I look forward to many more years of faithful blogging :)

As for my own blog reading, I recently discovered the wonders of Google Reader. How on earth did I not know about this sooner? Certainly, I'd heard of rss feed aggregators, but I never contemplated them any deeper than an emerging technology that other people use. How vastly, vastly I tell you! it has transformed my blog reading habits. All of these blogs that I'd bookmarked in a "Catholic Blogs" folder but would rarely read because it took too much time to navigate to all of them and check for new posts.

Well. I popped them all into Google Reader and voila!! My blog reading has been transformed. You can make folders in Google Reader too, so I have "Personal Blogs," "Catholic News," "Other Religious," "Books," etc. and I couldn't possibly be happier. Downright simpering, I tell you. And then, then! I went into my "My Blog List" area here on Blogger to update it, and Blogger asked me if I wanted it to import all the blogs from my Google Reader. Why, yes, YES I DO!! I am one happy Catholic Librarian.

Speaking of libraries, the other day I stopped off on my way home from work at the branch of our public library system closest to campus (love that place) to pick up a biography. I'm a sucker for biographies, as you know. While there, I grabbed a few books for Henry, since my adorable little guy is as big a book lover as his librarian mommy. I brought home a stack of about 5 children's titles, and after his usual at the door hug to mommy, he grabbed the books out of my arms and squealed. A child after my own heart.

What I ended up grabbing were 1 Curious George title (decent), 2 Franklin titles (excellent), and 2 Dora titles (not so hot). If anyone wants to defend Dora, feel free to comment. But even though I think she's cute and all, I'm always left unsatisfied with the actual stories in her books. Total commercialistic ploys, really. The kids love Dora, so the parents will buy books featuring Dora. And the stories just leave a lot to be desired. I don't know, they're kind of choppy and boring. I do like Map; both of my guys love maps, so he goes over well :) And Swiper. He always provides some much needed tension. But otherwise...blah. Franklin on the other hand, love that turtle. Hank really isn't interested in watching Franklin on tv, which is fine with me. But the books are adorable. And they have...well, they have a plot. Pretty important in a book, even a children's book. I'm being pretty hard on Dora here, sorry Dora. I do love the Franklin books, and so does Hank. They're his clear favorites from all of the books I checked out for him. There are plenty more at the public library, so we're already plotting his next big haul. Right now, each night we're reading about Franklin's fear of thunderstorms, and his first day of school. I love reading with my little guy; one of the great joys of my life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The allure of memoirs...

While taking a much needed breather from my deluge of business-related emails this morning, I jumped onto Amazon to research some new reading material. As you already know, if I don't have a book lined up to read (ok, ok, a backlist of at *least* a half dozen) I will die. I *love* reading, and well, it's why I became a librarian. I love books, and I love being around them. They soothe me and make me happy. Books have the power to transport me to different places and to experience different lives. I read every single day; even with the demands of a small child, a home and husband to care for, and a full-time job, I find time to read. It keeps me sane and is a little time carved out just for me.

One of my favorite genres is memoir. I read a good deal of fiction, but when it comes to non-fiction, I want personal stories. Long, short, whatever; as long as they're about a specific individual and their account of something in their life, I'm interested. My preference is religious memoir, but I do also read general biographies, etc.

So anyway, I read a book recently that I haven't stopped thinking about. It is The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, by Kevin Roose. The author is from a secular upbringing devoid of faith aside from a few holiday visits to a local Quaker meetinghouse, and is a journalism student at Brown University. He becomes intrigued with Christian colleges, and spends a semester at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, in Virginia. He wants to be utterly immersed in the evangelical culture present at the school, and thus he aims to fit in, i.e. have others believe that he shares their faith, without actually lying. He makes a genuine effort to understand the beliefs of his new friends, and does so in a manner that in no way mocks the Christian faith; in fact, he defends it against some skeptical inquiries from his well-meaning, but non-religious, family.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is extrmely well-written, funny, charming and an engrossing personal story. I *loved* it, and was a bit teed off when, before I was finished reading it, I was notified that someone else put in a request for it and I had to return it. Since it's from the university libraries' collection, I put aside my annoyance to be thrilled that someone at this school wants to read the book. I did order it for the collection, after all; my efforts are obviously appreciated :) Besides, I had a week to return it, so I had plenty of time to finish the book. This book is wonderful; get it; read it.

Based on my Unlikely Disciple fever (don't you hate it when you finish a book that you absolutely love? It's so sad!), I grabbed another one of my collection development efforts to re-read - God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, by Hanna Rosin. This one is about Patrick Henry College, also in Virginia. It's a bit more "academic" than Unlikely Disciple, so it's not quite as grabbing, to me at least. But the author does include some personal stories involving students that I think make this worth checking out.

I think the reason why I was so attracted to these two books in particular is that they address something I discussed with regard to why I love those Amish fiction books so much - a close community of like-minded believers. Certainly, we are called to be salt and light to the world, so we need to intermingle with the whole of society. But something about having your faith nourished by an encompassing community of your peers is very appealing to me. I went to a Catholic college, but it wasn't, well, overtly Catholic. I loved my experience there, don't get me wrong. My faith wasn't as strong then either, so I think that I didn't get as much out of its Catholic identity as I could have based on my own lack of initiative. I wish I could go back and do things differently sometimes. Alas...

Anyway, back to memoirs. Another one of my "to be read" pile is In Due Season: A Catholic Life, by Paul Wilkes. Very excited about this one. I read another of this author's books, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life years ago, and really liked it. I think In Due Season goes more into his life story and conversion to Catholicism which is so totally up the alley of the Catholic Librarian.

Other memoirs from my morning research that I have on my "to be retrieved from the public library" list are:

Home is Always the Place You Just Left: A Memoir of Restless Longing and Persistent Grace, by Betty Smartt Carter.

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir, by Susan Isaacs.

Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity, by Anna Broadway.

Others that I noticed are compilations of short stories, which can also still be good. You have to be discerning though; some are excellent, some are superficial, well, crap :) The public library does have a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith which did get great reviews on Amazon. Since it's at the library, I'd like to give it a go.

I'm more interested in the series of short compilations edited by Sister Patricia Proctor. Years ago, I purchased 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary and loved it. I've actually re-read some fo the stories in there. Since then, she's published a whole litany of similar titles on different Catholic topics. The other day I was in a Christian bookstore shopping for a prayer journal for my cousin, when I happened upon 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. Naturally, I had to buy it. I'm chomping at the bit to read it, too. These are titles that the public library likely will never acquire, so I feel totally justified in buying them :) Also now appearing on my Amazon wish list are: 201 Inspirational Stories of the Eucharist, 101 Inspirational Stories of the Priesthood, and 101 Inspirational Stories of the Power of Prayer.

When I have new books on my radar screen, I cannot articulate the joyful anticipation that overtakes your Catholic Librarian. It makes her feel very, very fulfilled...