Friday, October 30, 2009

My blog hits the big time...

Well, not exactly :) But I'm honored that my humble blog was highlighted by Cam at A Woman's Place (one of my favorites, btw :) as being a favorite of hers, and worthy of the award cited above. I'm thrilled!

In passing on the tradition, the following are the blogs I would cite as my favorites, in addition to Cam's:

Blair at Blair's Blessings
Emmy at Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer
Jennifer at Conversion Diary

I feel privileged to (a) have this blog as a creative outlet, and (b) to know that people actually care and read it! This is a good day.

In other news, I have more crochet pictures to post, so I'll take those and post them Monday. I finished Henry's crayon-hued mittens and scarf. I'll take a photo of him modeling them that will leave us all breathless with his sheer adorableness :) I want to also make him a matching hat, but my eyes needed a break from that yarn for a bit... I'm about to embark on a shawl for my friend Irena, in a lovely deep pink color. And I finished a hat for myself.

So, the hat...I think it's ok now. I fetched a pattern for a basic cloche from Crafty Beaver and set to work with a lovely deep green yarn. I crocheted away, and finished in only 2 nights. It's a quick pattern using a J hook and two strands of yarn at once. A few nights ago as I finished off and tucked in my end, I felt triumphant. Granted, the hat looked a tad large. But I was still optimistic, and raced to the bathroom mirror to pop it on my head.

The only way I can possibly describe how I looked is that my head looked like a giant green mushroom. Not the look I was going for. I moved it around a bit on my head (and believe me, there was a *lot* of room for movement) trying to get a better angle. I found that if I put my long hair forward on my shoulders, it looked passable, but I wasn't going for passable - I was going for super cute. And if a hat has rules for looking decent, well, that's just not a good hat.

Despite my husband's protestations that it looked great (he knows how to win brownie points) I tucked it away in the storage. That day, I thought to myself - why make another hat? The beauty of crochet is that you can rip stitches out wily nily with no repurcussions whatsoever. So that's what I did.

Mike took Henry up to bed, and I pulled the entire hat out save for the first few rounds. Mike came downstairs and it looked like some sort of vicious hat murder had just taken place. Yarn was strewn everywhere. But I stitched away, and, with an enormous pile of yarn still at my feet, I redid the hat in a smaller size. I mean, the leftover pile was HUGE. That tells you how big the hat used to be. *shudders* (oh, and I figured out one reason why it was so big before - I was crocheting into the slip stitch at the end of each round; oops :)

So, I hurry into the bathroom. I pop it on my head...ok, well, it wasn't so easy to "pop" it on my head this time. In fact, I had to downright squeeze. And Voila! It looks a bit ski cappish, but overall it's cute. It looks like a normal hat rather than something I clearly made myself and screwed up.

After all that, the bottom line is that I will take a picture over the weekend and post it on Monday. I started a pair of matching mittens a the knitting lunch today, and those didn't go so well. It's a shell pattern, and I had shells flying everywhere. By the end of round 3 the thing looked like an 80's hair scrunchy. I pulled it out. We'll start afresh with a cable pattern. All will be well, never fear, pretty green yarn!

Happy All Hallows Eve and Feast of all Saints everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cuter than a speeding bullet...

My little superhero this morning, on his way to his first school Halloween party:

My precious little angel. I miss him already - wish I were home snuggling with him.

So, last night, as I mentioned, I stopped off at the local Catholic store to purchase a pair of children's rosary beads for my precious Catholic child. They had a couple pairs of the same set, which were cute, but larger than I anticipated. They look similar to these except huger and with white flowers painted on each bead. They were guaranteed non-toxic, so I think they were designed for drooling babies to suck on. They were big. I looked at a few other corded rosaries (the cord is the key here; those little chain links don't do well with toddlers/preschoolers), but finally decided on the official children's model - each decade contained beads of bright colors, and Henry is really into his colors right now. I knew he would love them, so I bought them. They were under $10.

Naturally, me being me, I couldn't resist browsing a bit. I gravitated to the children's book section and pawed through the St. Joseph Picture Books. I think everyone raised Catholic has seen these things - they're thin little paperback filled with old fashioned illustrations and solid, traditional Catholic teaching. Their solemnity can instill a bit of a giggle here and there, but overall I love these books. There are seriously like 100 different books in this series. Henry already owns The Holy Rosary and My First Prayer Book. I looked through quite a few of them; at only $1.25 each, I felt I could splurge :) I ended up choosing My First Catechism and The Sacramentals of the Church. I figured we could add the Catechism to his nightly Bible stories. What I liked about the sacramentals book is that it talks about a bunch of things he's expressed interest in, like lighting candles, ashes, palms, blessing of the throats on St. Blaise's feast day, etc.

So, I brought them home and Henry quickly discovered them. He *loves* the rosary; he carried it around the house with him and kept touching the beads in amazement. He noticed right away that the simple wooden cross was missing Jesus' body, and asked "Where's God?" Oh my gosh, don't you just love him?!

About a half hour before bed, he asked if we could "say" our rosaries. I brought a pair of mine down and showed him the mysteries in his little rosary book. He selected the Luminous Mysteries, so we agreed to meditate upon Jesus' baptism. He leapt from decade to decade wily nily based solely upon bead color, but overall he did a *fabulous* job. He's learning the Our Father, so we said that together. But when it came to the Haily Mary, we seriously had a prayer group style rosary going - I'd say one part, and he'd jump right in with the other.

I enjoyed it so, so much. I think we're going to do a Feast of All Saints thing on Sunday, and we'll start delving into his new books at bedtime.

When he went to bed, we tucked his new beads into his "chooch" book drawer - a drawer in our end table where he keeps his St. Joseph board books and the new picture books. Not sure how all the religious books ended up in that one spot, but it works. He put his beads in there and I put mine next to them - so our rosaries are resting comfortably until tonight :) My precious little dumpling...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Catholic home

Recently, I blogged about my efforts in passing on my Catholic faith to my son, Henry. I mentioned my heading to the public library to pick up a book that interested me on the subject, The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day, by Meredith Gould.

So, I picked it up. And I delved into it a bit to see if there are any helpful suggestions therein.

Overall, this is a cute book. It's quite short - no extensive tome here. And in a sense, that's good. I own a book similar to this one, and I haven't really used it much; it has items listed for just about every single day of the year, and they overwhelm me a bit. There was lots of baking and crafting involved; I'm good at those activities only in limited form, particularly the baking bit. Within minutes of beginning any baking project, I'm covered in flour, Henry is making paste from the gunk on the counter top, and swear words are threatening to burst forth at any second. Not exactly a holy moment. I'm looking for traditions that I may have already heard of but have forgotten, common things (or at least, they used to be common) to employ for major feasts.

So anyway, we start with the author's personal story in the beginning about how her faith life unfolded and the traditions her family practiced at home when she was growing up. I like this part very much, gives the book some oomph. The section I was most interested in was that which divided the liturgical seasons up (Advent, Ordinary Time, Lent and Easter) and suggested activities parent and child could do on feast days within each. I zoomed right to the Ordinary Time: Summer & Fall area, and honed in on October. It's a mixed bag, but overall I liked the ideas:

For the Feast of the Guardian Angels (Oct. 2nd), she suggests teaching your child the Guardian Angel prayer and making angel food cake. I love this.

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (Oct. 7th). Start praying the rosary with your child, definitely. The author suggests making a rosary with your child, but I have to be honest and say that I see this particular project ending in disaster, at least if Henry were involved. I'd be finding beads under the rug and wedged into the baseboard trim for *years.* This section did inspire me though to place a call today to my local Catholic goods store and inquire as to whether they carried heavy duty children's rosaries. They do. I'm stopping on my way home from work today to fetch one for my dumpling.

All Hallows Eve (Oct. 31st). There are some suggestions about donating to UNICEF here, and I'm not saying this isn't a good cause, but not exactly what I was looking for.

All Saints Day (Nov. 1st). Apparently making homemade pretzels is a custom on All Saints Day somewhere in the world. Not too sure I'd try this one out.

All Souls Day (Nov. 2nd). Light a votive candle at home for the souls of the faithful departed. Love this idea. Very simple, but I hadn't thought of it before, and it's very profound. She also pitches creating a home altar, which is ambitious, but I like it.

The author also includes chapters on daily devotions and honoring the sacraments in the home.

Pretty decent. Henry is pretty well introduced to his faith, and he is an *excellent* downright angelic boy at Mass each Sunday. (Don't hate me - this is a developed gift; I had my share of racing out of the sanctuary carrying the screaming, clawing toddler many, many times). He seemes interested in the rituals of his faith and asks good questions. I get squeamish talking about death with him, and inevitably that comes into play when discussing a saint or Jesus on the cross. I'll have to get over that. Overall though, I like what Henry and I have done together and I'm looking forward to building both of our faith and prayer lives together.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eschewing seasonal cheer and not so much Loving Frank...

So, I'm a terrible neighbor. Well, I suppose that's not entirely true, but every year I'm put in a conundrum. And that conundrum involves 'boo baskets.'

I'm all about community involvement, and I do what I can, especially considering I'm an introvert. We gamely attend the block party each year, socialize when we run into a fellow neighbor outside doing yard work, and chat up a storm with everyone while the kids are trick-or-treating on Halloween. Our street contains some super nice families and I'm very grateful to live where we do. Our parish is right down the road, the elementary school is 2 blocks away, within walking distance is a grocery store, several restaurants, the public library and the post office. We live in a beautiful community.

But every year I'm vexed by these blasted boo baskets. I have to be honest - I don't like them. Every year I pray that we won't get one, and then one morning I open the side door, and BAM! We've been booed. The concept is that someone anonymously leaves this basket of Halloween related items on your doorstep. The basket also contains an instruction sheet and a photocopy of a ghost to hang in your window, identifying you as someone who has already been booed. You photocopy that stuff, put it in a fresh basket of goodies, and pass the booing on to someone else. This year the instructions said to pass things on to *2* houses.

Sigh. Here's what happens next, every single time. For about a week, I forget to get to the store to buy stuff. And I (and I presume the whole street) don't want to spend a ton of money on little trinkets that you don't even know if the person will like. So I want to get to a store in which I can get a decent amount of stuff for a reasonable price. I work full-time (I know a lot of people do as well, I'm just saying) and I only have limited opportunities to shop. So, after the week, I bookmark it in my brain that I need to make this boo basket and I make a concerted effort to get to a store. Last year, it worked. I went to Dollar Tree and picked out a nice set of harvest votive candles, a decorative candle plate, a hand towel with a pumpkin on it, and something else cute. I left it on our next door neighbor's stoop and felt pleased with myself.

Well guess what happened this year? It was still a week and a half away from Halloween, and the stores were cleaned out of any recognizable Halloween stuff. Halloween hasn't even happened yet, and all the stuff is pushed into the 60% off bin and is the picked over, leftover junky stuff that you wouldn't want to give anybody. And why would this be? Well, because the Halloween stuff has been in the stores since like mid-summer. And *this* is where my other beef comes in - the watering down of holidays and other fun seasonal activities because stores insist on putting merchandise out ridiculously early.

Ok, seriously. Who is buying Christmas trees in at the end of *August*?! Tell me, anybody, anybody? Jack-0-lanterns in July? Who is doing this?! It drives me *crazy* and it seems to get worse every year. So anyway, last week, it was evident from my shopping that stores consider Halloween *sssoooo* yesterday, and it hasn't even taken place yet! My search for Halloween cut out cookies to bring for Hank's class party on Friday? Gone. Reindeer, Santa and Snowmen have taken their place. It's as if Thanksgiving doesn't even exist, either. Halloween is pushed in the summer, and then Christmas starts before Labor Day. It annoys the snot out of me.

Some things are special because they take place only once a year; if for 4-5 months we're seeing all the seasonal merchandise for it, it's just not the same. I want the magic of the advent season starting after Thanksgiving; and for heaven's sake, I don't want to see a pumpkin before Septemter 1st. It's just ludicrous.

So, once again, I've dropped the boo ball. My grandfather was ill this weekend, and that pretty much ended all hope of a shopping trip that would yield boo basket items. I notice a paltry number of houses with those annoying ghosts hanging in the window. I hope they don't know it's my fault :)

So, on to other annoying topics. You may remember that I mentioned wanting to get involved in the library book club, and that I was reading Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, as my first monthly installment. Well, I'm still super excited about being a part of the book club, but this particular book left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. To say that I didn't like this book doesn't fully convey the loathing I feel for it. This book actually made me *angry* which, for a book, is pretty darn hard to do.

This is the author's first novel, and she based it on historical events involving the famous twentieth century architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Here in Western New York, Wright designed several homes and buildings, including the well-known Darwin D. Martin house, so there's a local interest tie-in. The author examined Wright's life at the turn of the century, and his scandalous affair at that time with the wife of one of his clients; based upon the historical record, she crafted this novel about their "love story."

I don't even know where to begin. The author isn't a terrible writer, but it's evident that this is her first novel. It's choppy, and she falls into the common trap of "telling" us things, instead of "showing" us. It feels like she took known events and forced this narrative around them. We're left wondering, "why do these two people even like each other?" We're just not shown how their feelings truly developed.

Anyway, that's small potatoes compared to my other criticisms. What we are presented with are two people that are utterly unlikeable and do morally reprehensible things. And the author presented this to us as some sort of fascinating love story. By the end, I hated Frank, Mamah (the girlfriend) *and* the author. I real love fest goin' on there.

Here's my problem: two people engage unapologetically in an adulterous affair. We won't even go any further with that one, as there is *so much more* to object to. Both were married, and both left their spouses and *multiple, baby children* for TWO YEARS to go play around in Europe and "find themselves." Yes, you read that correctly, for TWO YEARS neither saw their small, vulnerable children. And the given explanation is some sort of confusing nonsense about it being "more loving" to "be true to themselves" and "see if this relationship could work." And wait! We're not done.

In the course of all of this, we discover that apparently Frank Lloyd Wright had some sort of problem with paying for things. He would obtain things ("I need beautiful things around me") on credit and then just not pay the bills. And he was totally unconcerned with this. Rules just didn't apply to him, you know. He was special. And then there were the comments about "unlearned" people who liked traditional architecture being "small minded" and "unappreciative of true art." The more I learned about this guy, the less I liked him.

And then there was Mamah, who would spout off about the importance of finding yourself as a woman (at the expense of your children), and sided with an early feminist who claimed that soon we simpletons would all evolve past needing laws monitoring marriage and divorce. Oh, and something about marriage without love being akin to prostitution.

I'm not sure what the author wanted us to see here - a dramatic, romantic story of two revolutionaries that were ahead of their times? I think not. I saw two selfish, self absorbed people who sacrified the happiness and well being of everyone that they loved. I actually cheered toward the end when Mamah's unmarried sister, Lizzie (who had to step in and assist Mamah's husband raise the children in her absence) told her off, articulating that because Mamah thought she was entitled to chase her dreams, she took all life choices away from the rest of her family.

Then comes the ending, and if you don't know it already, it's a terrible one. I mean, a terrible, terrible tragedy. No one deserves that ending, even people as unlikeable as these. I had to struggle to finish the book, and tripped over myself in my haste to return it to the library.

So, with this ringing endorsement, I bet you can't wait to go read it :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day in the life of a reference librarian...

It's a busy, busy part of the semester right now. I've got a ton of things going on at work, and many more waiting in the wings. Amidst all of this, are my weekly tasks of working on the reference desk and teaching single session library instruction classes. This week featured a couple of classic examples of librarian frustration.

Example #1 - The Reference Desk Encounter with a Student From One of the Classes I Taught that Obviously Did Not Pay Attention - This example has the added con of hurting my ego. We'd all like to think that we are constantly dazzling audiences with our sparkling personalities and engaging lecture style, no? And my teaching has been going great this semester, I've felt really good about it. Well. here we have it:

*CatholicLibrarian sits at reference desk, smiling winningly* *2 female students wander right past without a second glance. They are super cute and perky, and I remember them from a class I taught a few weeks back*

*5 minutes later, after wandering about in the office area, they reemerge*

"Like, HI!! We're, um, looking for books? Yeah, books. On an ancient civilization?"

"Are you in World Civ.?"

"YES!! Yes, that's right. World Civ. In fact, I think you came to my class!!"

*endearing smile* "Right. Ok. Well, what ancient civilization are you going to research?"

"Yeah, well, that's a bit of a problem. We're not sure. Like, on whatever one we can find a book on? Yeah."

"Ok. Well, we'll pick one together and do a few searches in the catalog. Do you know what sub-topic you want to explore within the civilization you choose?"

"No. Maybe medicine or women? But we're hoping to share the same books."

*a buddy system for library book check-out. Interesting. Why not?*

*conducts several catalog searches*

"Oh, like WOW! This is awesome. Can you show us how to find articles too?"


I mean, of course, that's my job, and they were very sweet. But I wanted to demand where they put the handout I gave them during class that reviewed all of this. And that's not even going into the thorough run through we did in class together for a full hour. Alas.

Example #2 - Enter into Class Situation in Which the Instructor Did Not Provide All Necessary Information and I am Blindsided by Some Odd Event - This one is particularly nefarious, but I like to think I handle things well on the fly.

So, yesterday, I traveled briskly to teach a fifty minute English Composition class. I recognized the name of the teaching assistant; I've taught classes for her before. On the library instruction request form, there was a clear paucity of information about the given assignment. "Topics: global warming and economic reform. 21 students," but I did what I could. She did clarify nicely the types of sources that students were expected to find, which helped a lot. I even emailed with her last week to assure that my lesson plan covered what she wanted it to, and that she didn't have anything new to add about the class. All good.

So I arrive in the library's computer classroom nice and early (Type A) to set the room up. I turn on all the machines, open up browsers, write my sample topics on the white board, fasten a smile on my face, and begin to sweat. All in a day's work.

About five minutes to the hour I start to wonder why no one has shown up. Usually, the students wander in shortly after I first arrive, wanting to get their hot little hands on the computers and access to their Facebook pages. Suddenly, the door opens and a student emerges.

"HI! I'm Megan Jones."

Well, she's super friendly, I think to myself.

"Hi Megan! Have a seat wherever you like."

We wait in awkward silence for a few minutes, so I strike up a conversation about how oddly the library building was constructed. It was built in the 60's. Enough said.

Suddenly, the door opens again, and the teaching assistant appears. I breathe a large sigh of relief. We greet each other, and Megan looks decidedly confused.

"Oh. I thought you were my teacher." *points to me*

Now, I'm confused. Suddenly, the teaching assistant turns to me with a flourish.

"OH! I haven't mentioned that, have I? This is an online class."

Well. No, she hadn't mentioned that. And that's sort of an important fact, since we have no way of knowing how many students, enrolled in an online course, will actually travel to the physical library for my presentation. Sigh.

Right at two o'clock, a male student wanders in, looking like he recently awoke from a nap. The teaching assistant chats with both of them while I go out to the main entrance to see if I can round up any more students.

*crickets chirp*

On my way back, a single student passes me and enters the computer classroom. To add to the fun, a new librarian had asked me ahead of time if she could observe me teach, as a way of embarking on her instruction training. I said sure. Now, I was feeling terribly guilty for having her take time out of her day for this strange class. It's now close to ten minutes past the hour, and we're sitting there awkwardly with a total of 3 students and their instructor.

The teaching assistant asks if any of the students has chosen their topic yet for the final paper that we're going to be addressing. Heads shake 'no' all around, eyes wide. This just keeps getting better and better.

I totally redesign my lesson plan on the fly, created with over 20 students in mind, and wing it. It's times like these that I feel like I'm actually more effective, because I loosen up and really let spontaneity lead me. It's not like the situation could have gotten weirder or more awkward, so what's to lose?

I stand up, tell them my name, and that they pretty much have no choice but to "volunteer" whenever I demand that they provide an answer, and laugh at my jokes.

It actually went pretty well, despite the surreal nature of the situation. But now, I'm glad to be facing the weekend and to have teaching behind me for yet another week. Much crocheting to follow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Henry gem of the day...

I'm thinking about my little button a lot today, because I'm working the evening reference shift and won't see him tonight. I miss him so on these evenings :(

Anyway, I got home from work last night and Henry greets me at the door, like always. He announces (those of you that don't have boys, prepare yourself; this is what awaits you when you do embark on raising a little boy):

"Mommy! Guess what happened at school today? Sam and I were going potty at the same time, and the pee pee can make an X!"

Mike comes up behind him, shaking his head, hands up in the air, as if he were under arrest:

"I swear it, I didn't teach him. They just figured it out on their own. Isn't that amazing?"

Well, I wouldn't exactly put it on par with the parting of the Red Sea, but I suppose it's cute, in it's own way.

Recent projects

Last night I put the socks out of their misery: I pulled them out - the beauty of crochet. You can undo your mistakes so easily. I think that's one thing that intimidates me about knitting; it's not so easy to get the bad stuff out of there. I was just getting some bad mojo from those socks. They were frightening in their gargantuan nature. I still have my pink/green sock yarn, and I may attempt another pattern, but for now the socks are at rest, and at peace.

I got out the ugly kids yarn and embarked on Hank's mittens. As soon as he spotted it, he went into another litany of his love for this yarn: "Mommy, it's so beautiful!!" He hugged it and squeeze it, giving it his blessing before it is transformed into warm mittens and a hat for him.

He and I did a photo session last night to try and capture the prayer shawl I made for my mom, and the cascade scarf I made for my sister, Shauna'h. The scarf is really, really cool. The first picture is of me wearing the scarf, and it's not the best picture of me ever taken. However, Henry took the picture, and given that he's 3, I think it's pretty decent:

Here's Henry wearing the scarf:

And the scarf doing it's own thing:This pattern is actually quite easy, and is free on Lion Brand Yarn's website. You have to sign up to access the pattern, but sign-up is also free. It's pretty cool.

I had a harder time getting some good pictures of the shawl, but I did what I could. Henry is our model:A back view:Doing it's own thing:

I'm pretty excited about all my crochet projects. Aside from the ill fated socks, I'm getting a real sense of accomplishment from the whole thing. Little things make me very happy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crocheting away...

With the holidays fast approaching, my crochet hook has been working overtime completing presents. I finished my mom's prayer shawl, and I also completed a cascade scarf for my sister, Shauna'h. I will post pictures tomorrow :) They turned out good.

I bought a skein of sock yarn that I've been dying to try, and finally I commenced. Unfortunately, it's not going as successfully as my other projects. I was crocheting at our regular knitting lunch here in the library (a wonderful group of ladies that I hooked up with earlier this fall) and my friend Karen asked after my project; a baby hat? :) Yes, my sock indeed looks like a baby (perhaps a preemie, granted, but still) could squeeze his/her cute little cone head into it. They just feel sort of...loose. Slippers maybe? Probably wishful thinking. Sock for someone with a cast over a broken leg? More likely. And the person will have to be a female, because the socks are pink. So we'll see. They're definitely "training socks;" I've never made socks before, and the learning curve is obviously very high for me here.

I may abandon them, we'll see. I'm just getting a bad vibe from them. They're taking on a bit of a life of their own. At least I got some practice with learning the sock lingo; on another pattern maybe they'll turn out better. And really, I should learn to knit socks. That'll definitely tighten them up.

Anyway, tonight I'm going to start some mittens and a hat for Hank. I hope they turn out good for my little pumpkin. As always, I can insert a cute Henry anecdote here. Yesterday evening, Mike was teaching, so I was trying to entertain Hank between dinner and bedtime. Given that it's my favorite time of year, we headed outside to play in the leaves and look at some Halloween decorations. His favorite is the "spooky cat" and Halloween train blow-up balloon-like things that someone a few blocks down has on their front lawn. I sort of hate those, but they sure are kid pleasers. Anyway, we went outside, and Hank went immediately over to inspect the grass. He announced "Mommy, there are no little flowers for me to pick for you." (He means dandelions and other vile little weeds, but who cares; isn't that sweet?!?!) I told him the flowers would be back in the spring. And then Henry, in his infinite sweetness, picked up a beautiful yellow maple tree leaf and handed it to me, saying "Here Mommy, this is for you. I'll get one for Daddy too." Oh. It just made me tear right up. Little dumpling. I hope the mittens that I make him don't look as though they're designed for a grizzly bear.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cookery, anyone? And other fascinating old books...

This morning, I awoke with a distinct lack of enthusiasm for my day. I was also sweltering. It's like our radiators are suddenly coming alive in a way that they never did last winter. I will grant that I was probably overbundled in my flannel gingerbread men jammies, but still. I was cranky, sweaty, and frankly dreading my morning. I had a World Civilizations class to teach at noon, and prior to that, I was scheduled to attend a training session.

I am guilty of routinely wishing I were at the dentist receiving a root canal rather than attend these monthly training sessions we have scheduled during the fall and spring semesters. They're often long, dry, and unmemorable. I didn't expect this morning to be any different.

Well. I was in for an extremely pleasant surprise. Two of my colleagues presented on finding e-books in the humanities, and it was *excellent*. The way that they approached the session was to give us with a topic that we'd be researching for the duration of our time together, and the topic that they chose was nineteenth century cookbooks, particularly those immediately surrounding the American Civil War. At once, my interest was snagged.

Cookbooks fall prey to having an odd Library of Congress subject heading attached to them. Cookery. Who uses that word? Well, apparently, lots of people, many years ago. Another one is pigs - whenever I see "swine" listed in the subject headings I start to giggle. But I digress.

So, the sources that they showed us were fascinating. They included some subsciption sources that the library makes available to faculty and students, but what I enjoyed the most were the free sources that they demonstrated. Google Book Search is actually an amazing source of information. Many times, you can access a free blurb of recently published titles, but that's not it's main allure. Importantly, books that have copyrights which have passed into the public domain are available completely full text there. You can search by keyword and find a ton of awesome stuff.

Next, we looked at Feeding America, an online book project put together by the Michican State University library chronicling historic American cookbooks. You *must* check this out. For example, see a recipe for tea biscuits from The Woman Suffrage Cook Book, dated 1886. I immediately latched onto a book titled The American Woman's Home: Or, Principles of Domestic Science; Being a Guide to the Formation and Maintenance of Economical, Healthful, Beautiful and Christian Homes, by Catharine Esther Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Interesting, interesting stuff.

This all struck a chord with me because the fictional quilting series that I'm reading right now (by Jennifer Chiaverini) is dealing with the historical hypotheses that quilts played a part around the time of the Civil War in the Underground Railroad; they may have been used as maps and signals that a particular home was a safe haven. So, with that in mind, I settled in for some post-class down time and started searching...

Going back to Google Book Search, check out the memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet A. Jacobs, available full text. How cool is this, that we can access this historic information totally free. While poking around on the quilt issue, I also found a site called Documenting the American South, put out by the University of North Carolina. There are some fabulous primary sources to be found here, including narratives from a slew of different folks living during the Civil War, and a collection specifically addressing the church in the life of the Southern African American community.

It all got my creative neurons going a bit. For one thing, the history of the American South isn't something I'm terribly proud of; but there is a lot that we can learn today from the lives of those that lived during that time. As well, the training session was incredibly effective at engaging the audience into the material, and it gave me lots of good ideas for my classes. All in all, a good Friday morning. And I have bellydance tonight; bonus :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Soft clothes and book clubs...

It's toward the end of another long week, and I need a break from work. I'm kind of sick of it :) It's just a particularly busy time of the semester, and the constant feeling of putting out fires is getting old. We'll get there.

This morning, in between creating yet another lesson plan, I took a break to look online for some long sleeved shirts for Henry. *Important Alert* has a special 15% off code available today only for a birthday celebration. Seize this opportunity :) I actually found some great long sleeved shirts for Henry in 5T with his favorite characters on them. Heaven forbid he should wear anything without a super hero or a construction vehicle on it. He's very particular these days.

While on there, I took it upon myself to browse the new micro fleece offerings. This is a winter weakness of mine every single year. I *love* Old Navy performance fleece. It's just so soft and cozy. Somehow, I wound up with a cowl neck fleece top in a gorgeous rich purple, 2 pairs of fleece pants for around the house (practical black and dark gray), 1 pair of chenille socks (cute stripes), a fleece tote bag (black and silver)and a long sleeved black/white striped cotton tee in my cart, along with Hank's stuff. It's just a mystery as to how this happened...

But at any rate, with 15% off already reasonable Old Navy prices, Henry and I are now the proud owners of some new clothes. *Happy*

So now, I'm on the reference desk, and between patrons, I'm working filling out the voting form for the library book club. I went to the first couple meetings of the book club several years back, because, well, it's totally up my alley. Librarian + books = CatholicLibrarian. But I bowed out after a few meetings because I wasn't regularly able to read the selected book on time. I read every day, but sometimes I wasn't all that into the selection of the month, and I'd read the books in my own personal queue, and time would get away from me.

So now, I'm reapproaching the book club with a fresh attitude. It makes no sense for me to not go - it's *so* me. So, on months that I don't care for the book selected, I simply will plan not to attend. But at least half the time, I'm going to want to give the monthly selection a whirl, and I can happily attend and enjoy camraderie with my librarian colleagues.

With that in mind, I picked up November's selection from the public library - Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan. Frank Lloyd Wright is pretty big in Western New York, and certainly has a well known "interesting" personal life, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm going to read it after I finish my current quilt book.

So, when I received an email asking me to vote on the books that the book club will read over the course of the next two years, I jumped on that like an excited Golden Retriever puppy. I was pleased with the sheer volume of categories represented. Some, granted, are not my cup of tea - graphic novels, science fiction/fantasy. But even within those genres, within the provided book descriptions, I was able to find a few to vote for that sounded pretty interesting. I was happy to find tons of entries in women's and general fiction, biographies/memoirs, historical fiction, general nonfiction, and mysteries/thrillers. There's even an Amish fiction title on the list (!) as well as a women's fiction entry featuring knitting and one featuring a cooking school. Happy day.

So I voted, and I'm anxiously awaiting the results that will be announced in a few weeks. It's true, this is the most exciting thing that happened to me today. Not exactly glamorous, the life of a Catholic Librarian, but it is such a good, good life...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Henry

I survived another long instruction day, and am happy to be relaxing a bit more both at home and work. I'm still working on the prayer shawl for my mom, and it's coming along smashingly well. I should finish edging it by the weekend. I'll post a picture :)

Over the weekend, Henry accompanied me to Jo Ann Fabrics to collect yarn for a few other presents I want to make for Christmas. As we were browsing, Henry stopped his incessant grabbing of items off the shelves to gasp and point:

"Oh, MOMMY!! Look! That yarn is *BEAUTIFUL*!"

One would have thought that he had spotted yarn spun from 24 karat gold. Instead, he had spotted the ugliest yarn I'd ever seen. Red Heart Kids yarn, in a variegated variety of primary colors, entitled "Crayon." I tried to bypass it, but he insisted that we stop, so that he could touch the priceless yarn. Well, he is their targeted demographic, so I suppose they did a good marketing job.

"Mommy I love this yarn. Could we buy it?"

"*sigh* Well, it *is* only $2 per skein. Do you want mommy to make you something in it, sweetheart? Mittens? Or a hat?"

"Oh yes, Mommy! A HAT!!"

So, I'm now making a crayon hat for Christmas. Good stuff. I have to say, despite my aversion to the yarn, I'm really looking forward to it. When it comes to my dumpling, I have a serious soft spot.

The other night, before bedtime, Henry brought me The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, to read to him. I actually don't like reading this book to him, because it makes me very emotional. We start out:

Page 1: "There once was a tree..."
Page 2: "and she loved a little boy."
*CatholicLibrarian bursts into tears*

I don't know what it is, but that line gets me every time. I (as we all are with regard to our kids) am at my most vulnerable with regard to my son. Nothing comes close in my order of priorities than protecting him and nurturing him. Nothing.

The rest of the story is isn't exactly an uplifter. The tree loves the boy so much that throughout his life, when he comes to her asking for something, she just keeps giving and giving him what she has until she's nothing more than a stump. And the kid never appreciates her, the little ingrate. I suppose it's a true metaphor of parenthood, but I always finish the book vaugely annoyed at the boy. I'm emotionally drained and he can't even thank the tree. Ah, well.

On a lighter note, I thought I'd take a moment to rave about a book that my mom got for Henry that he and I have been reading together lately. It's called Take Care, Good Knight, by Shelley Moore Thomas. I had no idea that this was such a gem when I cracked it open for the first time.

The story revolves around a trio of little dragons that are bloody adorable. They have on these cute little outfits with holes cut out for their wings. The illustrations in this book *really* make it, no way around it. Anyway, the little dragons live in a cave in the woods, and each morning and night, the Good Knight comes to wake them and get them started on their day, and then tuck them in later. Their cave has a photo of him on the wall. *SNORTS*

So, one morning, our after the Good Knight departs, an old wizard comes to see the dragons, and requests that they care for his cats while he goes on vacation for a day. Knowing that the Good Knight always told them to do good deeds and help others, they agree, even though they've never cared for a cat before.

Well. They arrive at the wizard's house, and find it packed to the gills with suspicious-eyed cats. Inside, a note from the wizard directs them to give the cats water, feed them from the food stash in the cupboard, and tuck them into their beds at night. Unfortunately, the dragons can't read. Thus, they try to interpret the pictures that the wizard drew on the note as clues to what they're supposed to do.

First, they see the water drawing, and assume that they're supposed to take the cats swimming in the lake. They pack the cats up and drive them in a mule cart caravan to the lake, where they also stumble upon an ice cream stand in the shape of a castle turret with a giant cone on top. At this point, I was already dying laughing. Out come the cats, and the next page shows them unhappily swimming in the lake, some deflating inner tubes with their claws, others yowling in protest. The Good Knight happens by, and is immediately perplexed. He asks the dragons what they're doing, and they reply that the wizard asked them to take the cats swimming.

"Cats? Swimming? I've never heard of that. But if the wizard said to do it, then it must be all right."

The same thing happens again, as the dragons take the cats home, towel them off, and examine item #2 on their list. The take the picture of the food cupboard to mean that they are supposed to stuff the cats *inside* the cupboard. The cats are handed up in an assembly line into the cupboard, and then squeezed in as the door is latched. Fur flies, cat paws jutting out every which way. The Good Knight wanders by again, but figures that if the wizard said to do so, who is he to doubt his methods?

Items #3 is to put the cats to bed, but the dragons are convinced that the wizard wants them to camp outside with the cats. The illustrations show cats miserably latching onto tent flaps with their claws, and getting gooey marshmellow fluff stuck in their pads from the s'mores the dragons are forcing on them. Finally, the Good Knight intervenes. He finds the note, and points out the dragons' misinterpretation. They quickly feed and water the cats, and tuck them into bed.

The Good Knight gets the dragons themselves home, and into bed.

"Good night, good dragons."
"Good night, Good Knight."

OMG. This book was so cute, clever, and funny, that I was holding my sides by time we got to the end. I insist on reading it to Henry every night, though I suspect he's ready to move on at this point :) I also discovered, via Amazon, that there are other books in this series. *Christmas present alert* Hank will be receiving the full set.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prayerful crafts

Well, it's a happy, happy day in the world of the Catholic Librarian when she actually finishes a craft project that she's undertaken. Two nights ago, I completed the baby blanket that I embarked upon for our neighbor, Alyssa. It was a simple crochet pattern of single crochet and puff stitches, but afghans always take time, regardless. And I finished :) Here it is:

Thrilled with my success, I decided to start on the prayer shawl that I want to make for my mom for Christmas. A few weeks ago, I picked up a pattern book called Quick-to-Stitch Prayer Shawls; the pattern that I chose is Prayer for Comfort, and comes complete with a prayer, that I absolutely love:


Bless the shawl that my hands are about to create and make it a comfort and a blessing to the person who receives it. May she find peace during life's trials, setbacks, disappointments and hardships as she wraps herself in Your love and in this shawl. May it be a sign of Your loving presence and a reminder that she is surrounded by prayers asking You to give her wings to fly above her troubles.


My mom loves purple, so I picked out a deep plum yarn for it, and so far, the fledgling shawl is coming along nicely. I started it yesterday during my knit/crochet group lunch, and you know how it is when you first start a project. I'm sitting hunched over, staring at the pattern, with this teeny tiny, absolutely unidentifiable purple object cupped in the palm of my hand.

"Ok, I made the loop with the slip stitch, but the double crochets are supposed to go *where*?!"

I did finally figure it out, and made a ton of progress while watching Wall Street with Mike last night after Henry went to bed. I now have a small purple triangle and I'm very proud of it. By the end of the weekend, I should have a downright juvenile-sized shawl.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Passing on the faith...

Well, I made it through the 5 classes that I had this week. I'm exhausted, but no rest for the weary. I have 2 more next week that I need to plan for, plus I need to get my Catholic behind in gear and finish the book chapter that I have due the second week of November. I'll get there.

Yesterday, while taking my dinner break before my evening reference shift, I was browsing on Amazon and thinking about a topic that has been on my mind lately. That is, passing on my Catholic faith to Henry. I take this very seriously.

Certainly, when he's adult he has to make the faith his own; my prayer is that he does this. There's always the possibility that he will choose to do something else, and when he's adult, I can do nothing but pray for him. But while he's a child, I believe that it is my job to raise him in the faith and show him the beauty of its traditions. In fact, I took a vow to do this during my and Mike's Nuptial Mass. I hope, as all Catholic parents do, I'm sure, that the things that I do now will have a positive impact and cause him to study the faith on his own as an adult and choose to live it out and pass it on to his own children.

A complication in all of this is that my husband is not a practicing Catholic, and I feel a heavy responsibility to be the prime Catholic example for Henry. Mike was raised Catholic (his mother is a weekly Mass-goer; I believe that her prayers and mine were what brought Mike and I together :), has an appreciation for the faith, and is 100% supportive of Henry being raised Catholic. I pray daily for his return to faith; please join me :)

So anyway, I was pondering all of this and thinking about the things I've done so far. Henry is 3, about to be 4 next month. (my baby!) And given his age, I think my efforts have been pretty good with introducing him to the faith. Together, Henry and I:

(1) Attend Mass weekly. There have been short stretches when I didn't take him with me because it was just too hard to keep him quiet for an hour; par for the course with young children. But really, for most of his life, he has come to church weekly. He loves the holy water font, knows how to haphazardly cross himself, puts our envelope in the collection basket, and enjoys walking up in the communion line with me. He also enjoys lighting candles with me in church and receiving an individual blessing from the priest.

(2) Pray the traditional Catholic prayers. He knows the Hail Mary pretty much cold. We're working on the Our Father and the Glory Be. We always pray for daddy when he has a test to take at school, and after communion at Mass we pray for a bunch of people.

(3) Read a children's Bible. Henry received a copy of The Beginner's Bible as a gift, and we read a few stories from it each night before he goes to bed. He loves it, and retains the information to an unbelievable level. He breaks into discussions of poor water-logged Jonah and Daniel with those pesky lions in everyday conversation. And he actually pointed out the Stations of the Cross to me in church the other week and noted how it showed the story of Jesus carrying the cross from his little Bible.

(4) Read Catholic children's books. I got him the St. Joseph's 'Carry-Me-Along' Board Books collection a few years ago, and he still loves them. His favorite is We Go to Mass.

(5) Practice Advent traditions. Last year, I got him an Advent calendar filled with chocolate, and as you can imagine, it was a huge hit. I could barely get in the door from work and he'd be begging to open the little window of the day. I have another for him this year, but I also received a traditional Advent calendar as a gift last year that we can use come December 1st. It's a beautiful wood one, and each day you take out a tiny piece of the nativity scene that you hook on. We can do that together. I also purchased an Advent wreath last year and we lit the appropriate candle(s) each Sunday after dinner.

Ok, so, this is all good. But I would like to incorporate things a bit more into a daily routine, along with the nightly Bible reading. Lots of thoughts pop into my mind - prayers each night? It's tough because Mike is usually the one that takes Henry up to bed. But I put him to bed 2 nights per week while Mike is in class, so I could at least do it then. Grace before meals? We never did that in my house growing up, so even I have not been able to develop this habit.

The rosary is something that I'd really like to develop a daily practice with. Henry knows about the rosary; he's had 2, and broken them both. Now that he's a bit older, I think maybe I should try having us say a decade together each day. And this time, I'm eyeing up a rosary specifically for children, like this one. Super duper extra strength cord.

In my Amazon browsing, I found a book entitled The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Everyday. I'm intrigued. The public library has it, so I'll be hitting that on my way home. Has anybody found this book helpful? Any suggestions for other ways to have a Catholic home? My younger sister recently starting teaching CCD for her parish in North Carolina, and her lessons have been so creative and interesting that it's inspired me to want to take a more proactive approach to my Catholic mothering.

When I was growing up we really didn't do anything special to keep a Catholic home. I'll have to blog about my faith 'reversion,' if you will, in a future post. But suffice it to say that my sisters and I attended Mass twice a year on Christmas and Easter and went to CCD classes because my mom made us. The faith wasn't meaningful to any of us at that time. When I was in high school, my mom came into a deeper union with God and her faith, and my dad converted to become Catholic. We started going to Mass weekly, and then my own faith deepened. So I don't have a real grasp of what things would make a young child appreciate the faith

Thoughts? Suggestions? Please post a comment :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Power instruction day mercifully over...

Yesterday, I had 3 classes to teach, which is a lot for me. During the busy library instruction season, I'll typically have 1 to 2 classes to teach per week, and usually they are on separate days. Occasionally (like tomorrow, actually) I'll have 2 to teach in one day. But 3 in one day is pretty rare, and even though I know that k-12 teachers do this all the time, this wasn't exactly what I signed up for when I became a *librarian* so it stresses me out quite a bit. When I decided to leave my old career as an attorney and go to school to obtain an MLS, I envisioned myself, hair in bun, glasses perched cutely on nose, answering questions at a reference desk and assisting library patrons in finding books in the online catalog or in the stacks. As I've mentioned before, teaching did not come naturally to me, and it's a struggle for someone with an introverted personality.

That being said, I've definitely evolved as a teacher, and in a positive direction. I did notice that right before my first class yesterday, I wasn't sweating nearly as much as I would have thought, and not once did I feel like I had to throw up. I've come a long way.

My situation yesterday was that I was teaching 3 recitations (small class segments) from the same larger course. So, it was the same material 3 separate times. The first class, I was witty. The second class, I was still pretty funny. Those students were more lively too, that was the best of the bunch, I think. The third class, I was exhausted and tired of hearing myself make the same jokes, and all I could think about was finishing so that I could go home, snuggle with Mike and Hank, and have a glass of wine.

Class #1 - "So, this feature of the online library catalog allows you to 'spy' a bit on the classmate that had the audacity to snag the book ahead of you..."
Class #2 - "This 'check availibility' link allows you to employ a bit of espionage in your catalog searches..."
Class #3 - "Click here if someone already has the book checked out."

Mercifully, I made it through to live to plan another lesson. Tomorrow morning I have an English 102 class at 9, and then another World Civilizations recitation at 3. It'll be another long day, but not nearly as bad as yesterday.

On to our Living Faith devotion for today...

What Martha Did Right, Luke 10:38

Hank loves this one from his children's Bible. He always asks why Martha looks so frantic in the kitchen. It makes me laugh, because I'm totally Martha. Mary is in the living room, lounging at Jesus' feet, and I'd be in the kitchen, a broom in one hand, a mixing bowl in the other, flour in my hair and a scowl on my face. I just can't let the dishes go until company leaves; I can't help it, I have a Type A personality.

Anyway, I digress. Our devotion notes: "We who are blessed with the gift of faith also encounter Jesus as he enters our own villages. Whether in the sacraments, in personal prayer or in the people around us, Jesus makes himself available and gives us an opportunity to welcome him."

I liked this thought. All of us can partake in Jesus' presence within whatever circumstances we find ourselves in by frequenting the sacraments, and taking time out for prayer. This reminds me; it's been a few months since I've been to Confession, and I should go. That's always a pick-me-up. The priest at my parish does an awesome job with Confession. As soon as you are settled in the confessional, he prays a prayer for you to have a good confession. It's very soothing :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A 'blah' kind of a week

After the excitement of a weekend spent bellydancing, this week has rather dragged. Work itself is a bit of a grind these days. Everyone has so much to do, that you never get time to invest the kind of quality that you want into things. I work at a state university, and the budget situation here is quite dire. People leave or retire, and they are not replaced. Everyone has an increasing workload, with no letup in sight. Of course, I'm grateful that I even have a job. Many people are not that lucky. But it's tough times for all, to be sure.

I'm dying to get to my writing projects, and it's a real effort to put aside the time I need to do it. I did get to some of the book chapter that I'm writing this past Wednesday, so minor victory there. I'm writing a chapter about assessment in credit-bearing library courses. I've taught such a class, twice, a true victory for a girl voted shyest in her senior high school class. The book that I'm going to be contributing to is a collection of case studies, and I'm enjoying writing my chapter. I (shockingly :) enjoyed teaching the class, and it's fun to write about the techniques that I used to gauge student progress and achievement of course learning outcomes.

The first time I taught the course, I had a talkative, engaged group. My experience was really excellent in every way. I was really learning my way with effective teaching styles. I teach single session library instruction classes all of the time - it's part of my job as an academic librarian. But teaching the same group of students twice a week for an entire semester - that's a whole 'nother ballgame. I desperately, desperately did not want to bore them. I'm anti-boredom. We've all had teachers that put little effort into their teaching presentation; sure, they're experts at the content, but actually conveying that content to an actual student? Not so good at it.

I had a teacher in college that I consider to be the best instructor I ever had. And I went to school for a llloooottt of years; perpetual student, that's me. What can I say, I'm a bookworm; I like school :) Anyway, this teacher always engaged his class and made all of his material come alive. He used humorous and entertaining anecdotes to relate the material to an understandable level, and often told us funny stories about events in his life to lighten the heavy lecture time. He once told us that his secret is never to let a full 20 minutes go by in a lecture without interjecting a short anecdote or otherwise actively involving the students into the class - otherwise, people will be sleeping. Thus, I have tried to incorporate this type of philosophy into my own teaching. The first time I taught a full semester course, I really felt the positive effects. The students responded. I loved them :)

The second time I taught the course, you would have thought someone had threatened the very life of each of them right before class should they dare utter a word. Or crack a smile.

*thought bubble over the head of CL's student* "She just made a joke, but I WILL NOT laugh..."

I made fun of myself in gentle ways; I told all kinds of stories about Henry and Mike and the amusing goings on in the life of the Catholic Librarian. I had them do interesting in-class exercises that did things like relate the Library of Congress call number system to their iTunes library. Getting them to even arch a brow was a Herculean effort.

When the course evaluation comments finally made their way to me, I have to admit that I was very apprehensive about looking at them. My feelings are hurt very easily; pretty much any criticism is destructive to me. So I opened up the electronic file...and the evaluations were good. And one student made a comment about me and my teaching style that was so positive and so touching that I actually started crying right there in my office.

Hum. This all makes me feel better. Which is good, because although I'm not teaching the full semester course this semester, I have a slew of single class sessions coming up starting Monday and I'm decidedly not looking forward to them. I have a little secret - when I teach I wear dark colors because no anti-perspirant in the WORLD can work it's magic against the level of anxiety that I put forth. Not to be tmi, it's not an odor issue (thank the Lord God) but when I'm nervous, I will sweat. And teaching makes me *very* nervous. In fact, I'm getting nervous right now just thinking about it. But somehow, I manage to do it, and I think that I do a pretty good job. All that nervous energy has to produce a positive benefit *somehow*, right?

So Monday I'm going to be teaching 3 classes; this will pretty much be the worst day of the entire semester. I can guarantee 2 things (1) I will be wearing a black shirt, and (2) I will consume a glass of wine when I get home.