Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weekend enjoyment, more belly dancing, and Tudor scandals...

Happy Tuesday all :) I've been immersed in the article I'm writing (and that I really need to finish this summer) so I got side tracked from blogging yesterday. But I had a fabulous weekend. We swam, played, read, and watched movies. I also went down to that outdoor festival to see the belly dancers on Saturday morning. It started to rain, but I stayed to watch them anyway. They were pretty good. The only thing I noticed is that most of them didn't smile. This inspired me to persist in my forced beaming ways. Lots of Non-Plussed Dancer faces going on. I'm sure they were just nervous and concentrating (to which I relate with every fiber of my being) but as an audience member, I have to admit, it's not inviting.

I've been practicing away. It's going well, but I've developed a new problem. I call it: Hip Scarf Hip Syndrome. I know that I mentioned that I had moved to a non-coined hip scarf, but I reverted. For a performance, I figured I should go all out. Coin away! The only problem, as I mentioned, is that I have found that the coins actually *weigh down* my hips. In one particular hip drop move, I want to move my hips front and back as I drop, and well... they're not cooperating. Who knew? I guess I have to work on strengthening my hip muscles, whatever those are.

Other weekend activities included starting a new series of books that my sister Shauna'h lent me that I'm quickly becoming obsessed with. It's the Tudor fiction series, by Philippa Gregory. I started with the book she is most known for, The Other Boleyn Girl. Fascinating stuff.

I always found Anne Boleyn particularly interesting (and I love her name; possible little Anne Catholic Librarian, coming your way within the next few years :) but this book has opened my eyes a bit to Katherine of Aragon. All accounts are that she was a very dignified and admirable woman. And she was a devout Catholic. I've enjoyed reading about her. Apparently, she was well known as wearing a hair shirt under her clothes as a personal form of penance, and she was very devoted to our Blessed Mother, praying the rosary every night.

The situation with her marriage to the King being "annulled" was a very nasty business. The King himself, well... stick a snout on that man, oink OINK. What a pig, I'm sorry. I have yet to read a single flattering thing about him, and I feel certain that I never will. Not a star of humanity, that one.

I've also learned a lot about the lives of women during that time period, and it's a very humbling thing to behold. We take so much for granted these days, and I do not identify with the modern day feminist movement at all, but reading things about this time period make me wince in horror at the plight of women. They were given no choices about how their lives would unfold, and were married off at the whim of their fathers.

And... I'm going to say the 'c' word again, CHILDBIRTH. My God, what a nightmare. These poor women had to go into "confinement" for up to a month prior to birth, for fear of any stimulation disturbing the birth. We're not talking relaxation by any stretch of the imagination here, or even bed rest for a high risk pregnancy. This was just expected of all healthy women imminent to deliver, and they would be sealed in a dark, airtight room for this time period, except per chance a few candles to light the way for reading or sewing. Hopefully, someone would visit them. And then following the birth, another month of bed rest would follow, after which time they were "churched" (not at all certain what that means) and their child taken away to be reared in the country. I'm pretty speechless on this whole account. It sounds so, SO awful. They were then lucky to see their children once or twice a year.

When I finish the book I'll write more, since I'm really into it now. Yesterday, I stopped off at the public library to fetch season 1 of the Showtime series The Tudors. I made Mike watch episode 1 with me last night, and even he thought it was good :) Episode 2 to follow tonight...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fun with baby hats and amigurumi, and weekend plans...

Allison commented on how much she liked amigurumi, so I thought I'd post a bit more on that today :) I haven't started my bear yet, but I did start a baby hat. The bear is next. His pattern comes out of the Vanna's Choice Baby Giggles & Grins pattern book. Here he is, in the top left corner of this photo:

I mean, did you ever? How unfathomably adorable is that? I didn't see the point in buying 3 full skeins of yarn to make that little sweater, so instead of as pictured, I'm going to make him a 2-color sweater in just mint green and duckie yellow. And I have a giant bag of stuffing to stuff him with! Knowing my crochet gauge, he'll probably turn out fairly large, so I'm all prepared. I'm also not going to sew on those "safety buttons" they recommend for the eyes. I know that they claim that they are safe, but I mean, really. If a baby got one of those off there, it's just perfectly throat sized. No thank you. I'm going to muddle my way through embroidering for his eyes and nose. Hopefully, he won't look deformed. I'll definitely be posting pictures on this one. I'll probably start him over the weekend.

"Before I knit you in the womb, I knew you..."


So, other then that, I have a fun weekend planned. I don't have dance class tonight (graduation conflict for our instructor) so I have a nice home date night planned with Mike. We're going the
economical route of eating a nice dinner in and getting a movie from Redbox for $1. Hank will be all tuckered out from his end-of-the-school-year party at pre-k, complete with sugary treats and bounce house, so he should be out like a light. Bonus :) I'll kiss his face up lots before he goes down.

We're going to try to do some swimming this weekend (my parents have a very nice in-ground pool), and there are some local outdoor events that the town is sponsoring that I'd like to pop in on. Belly dancers are scheduled to be dancing down the road from me late tomorrow morning, so assuming it's not raining, I'm going to go to that. This is a nice thing about living in a cold weather climate - in the summer, fun, free outdoor events come out of the woodwork like gangbusters.

We'll have Mass too, of course. I'm hoping to hear more about Vacation Bible School, since that is next month already. They did have one organizational meeting, but it was the night of Hank's graduation, and I couldn't attend. I want to make sure I stay in the loop on that one. I also wanted to review Hank's new children's Bible this week, but since he's boycotting it, I don't have a real good sense of it yet, sigh. He is still attached to his old (now falling apart) one and insists that we read that one before bed instead. So, stay tuned :)

Next week I'll review some new (used, but new to me :) belly dance DVD's, and some more books. Perhaps Hank will let us crack open the new Bible. And I'm sure more summer news will abound :) Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New happenings, and a belly dancing book review

Afternoon all :) I've been a busy bee, working on my article. Tenure, tenure, always on the mind... I'm not making rapid progress, but I'm making steady progress, and that's what is important.

And not too much new is going on. All good, summery, stuff, really. Mike is teaching, Hank is being cute, all that stuff. I've been knitting, although summer is really not knitting's season. We don't have central air conditioning, so sitting in the humid house in the evenings with a giant afghan on your lap isn't all that fun. Certainly, it would be wiser to only work on smaller projects during the summer, some that wouldn't heat ones lap, but I never plan ahead well. Plus, I have an afghan obsession. I love them. I can't help it.

Recently, I was working on a baby afghan for some friends. I got a pattern for a "Quick Knit" afghan, hoping that it would be done in about a week, but 'twas not to be. 6 weeks later, and I've still got a giant mint green afghan on my lap each night. Well, last night, *drum roll*... I finally finished it! There is nothing that invigorates my craft creativity more than finally finishing a long project. *feels good*

So, I'm all excited to work on some other things now. I have a dish cloth I'm finishing up, a sweater for myself in a lovely mermaid green, and a taupe shrug. I'm also going to start some baby gifts for one of my beloved knitting group friends, which include my very first attempt at amigurumi! I'm ridiculously excited.

So, that's that. I've also been perfecting my belly dance routine. It's looking better. I made an important realization the other night - even though I kept telling myself to smile, smile, smile! while I was practicing, I wasn't actually smiling. I was merely *thinking about* how I needed to remember to smile when I was actually performing. I would occasionally remember to crack a beam, but otherwise, I had my concentration face on. Thus, I've remedied this, and I have to say, it's helping. I do smile more now, and I don't think that I look quite so hideous doing so. Smiling is muscle work, and you have to get that into your muscle memory, just like your other choreographed steps, as part of your practice routine, to translate into a flawless performance routine. It really is helping. So far, my audience consists only of Hank's Planet Heroes, but hey, I'm doing what I can. If I can be playful for Jupiter, I can be playful for a group of random strangers.

So, book review time. This is one of my favorite memoirs of all time:

Snake Hips: Belly Dancing and How I Found True Love, by Anne Thomas Soffee. As we start the book, we learn a bit about Anne and find that she has recently been on the receiving end of a breakup with her live-in boyfriend. She winds up back home with her parents, heartbroken, and trying to figure out what to do with her life while unexpectedly single again at 30. She ultimately discovers a belly dancing class through her local communication education center, and being half-Lebanese, decides to check it out. The rest of the book chronicles her journey into emotional well-being through belly dance, as well as her romantic journey toward love and marriage.

I love, love, love this book. The author is an excellent writer, and is very funny. Super endearing. We even have a Catholic angle in here in that she was raised Maronite Catholic. She admits to being only a Christmas/Easter Mass attender, which is too bad given her family's rich history with the Church (detailed more in the book), but she remains firm in her Catholic identity. One caveat, given that this is a religious blog :) : the dating sequences are definitely not of the completely chaste variety. Nothing is graphic, mind you, but we all know what can be involved there, so if that kind of allusion bothers you, you may want to stay away. But overall, I adore this book. I re-read it every few years. I identified with her heartbreak and rooted for her to find Mr. Right, and I found it a fun way to learn a bit more about belly dance. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My belly dance milestone

I'm officially taking a break from writing the article I'm working on to write about my belly dance solo demo on Friday. It was a biggie for me, so I wanted to be able to take my time :)

So, Friday I left work early to factor in extra practice time and a quick shower. And practice I did, many, many times. Soon, I was sick of the music, which is always my cue to pack it in for the day. I was due to arrive at the studio a half hour early for the demo, so I packed up my water bottle, costume, dance bag and iPod, and headed out.

Thank God I remembered the water bottle. It was already a warm day, and additional anxiety sweating began in earnest the instant I arrived. I took my time putting on my hip scarf and half soles, drawing things out a bit. But pretty soon it was time to face the iPod-produced music.

And I knew precisely why I was nervous. As we were eating dinner, Mike asked, "why are you so nervous? Claire watches you dance all the time."

Well, yes, but in a larger group, while I know that she watches me to some degree, I never know *when* she's precisely watching *me.* There's such security in a group, kwim? Now, I know that she'll be watching *only me* *the whole time.* This is actually more intimidating than dancing in front of a gigantic group of random strangers. There may be more of them, but you care about their opinion a whole lot less. You have a single person whose opinion you really respect and you want them to really, really like you.

So, I get organized center floor and my music starts. I try to pin on my beatific beam that I've been practicing so hard, but as one would expect, it's much, much harder when someone is really watching you. At some early point in the dance, I blanked on my next choreographed movement, and stuck in a step that I had tried at that juncture at some previous point but had changed. It still worked fine. I was happy that even in my state of heightened performance anxiety, blanking didn't cause me to stop dancing altogether and alert anyone watching that I wasn't really Confident, Successful Dancer after all. As long as you keep moving, no one knows the difference.

I remembered everything else just fine. About 3/4 of the way through, my hip scarf started to slip, which distracted me to no end, but I made it. Claire clapped happily and told me that she really liked it. This was a tremendous relief. She gave me a few pointers on arms and a more dramatic turning sequence towards the end, all of which I liked.

In the mean time, some of my classmates had arrived out in the greeting area, and Claire asked if I minded if she called them in and had me do it again. More practice, you know? I sweated some more and agreed. So I did it again, and this time I remembered the entire choreography as I had planned it. Happy day. As Claire asked me to run through it a third time, I could actually feel sweat trickling on my forehead. But it went very well. I struck my final pose, then just discreetly went into the waiting area to freshen up and drink about a half gallon of my water.

I still had the hour-long class to go, plus at least 30 minutes of performance group practice. I made it, and hurried home with my empty water bottle. The next morning, I saw that Claire had posted a Facebook status update about how much she liked my solo, which pretty much made my whole week. I was a very happy belly dancer.

I've adjusted some arms, added a more dramatic turn, and I keep trying away on the smiling. "Playful" is not something I've ever really strived for, sigh. But I'm working on it! Confident, Successful Dancer, come be my guide...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Adventures at Regal Cinema

I'm dying to write about my belly dance class on Friday, but my time to blog is limited today, so I'll save it for tomorrow :) I did want to write quickly about my experience taking Hank to see Toy Story 3 this weekend, since it has been quite some time since I've been to the theater to see a first run movie.

It was a bit of a culture shock :) I wanted to treat Hank for his graduation, and believe me, when you find out what I'm about to tell you about how much things cost me, you will agree with me that this was a *treat*.

I first got the idea to take him when I saw a commercial for the movie, and noted that it was playing at our local IMAX theater. I've never been to the IMAX theater (and frankly, didn't really know what IMAX even meant) but I figured it was some sort of extra super special 3D. The seedling of idea had been planted in my mind, so the next day I logged onto Fandango.com. I wanted to get 2 tickets for the Saturday matinee show. Well.

I picked my date and time, and waited for the price to materialize. I figured that it would be more than I wanted to pay (because first run movies have been like that for me for many, many years; it's why I haven't been to see one in, well, many, many years. We wait for the second run theater, or the Redbox). The price comes up. I nearly fell off of my office chair. $15.50 for me, and $13.50 for Hank. FOR A MATINEE. Whoa baby. It took me about 5 minutes to even recover from seeing that up on my computer screen, let alone have it be charged to my credit card, so I demurred. I checked at our local Regal and found out the scoop: matinee tickets for adults are $8 (sigh) and tickets for children all the time are $8 (another sigh). To see it in 3D, it's an additional $3.50 per ticket. So, it would be $11.50 each for Hank and I to see it in 3D.

I did a lot of grumbling, but I ended up buying the 3D tickets. For $3.50 per ticket, I figured it would be worth it. I then found out that Fandago charges you $1 per ticket as a "convenience charge," *rolls eyes*. Like I said, a *treat*.

Saturday rolled around, and my mom ended up joining us. We proceed past the box office (the benefit of Fandango) and move to the concession stand. I'm certain you know what will transpire at this point. Yes, sir. 1 child's package (little popcorn with fruit snack and drink), 2 medium Diet Coke's and 1 medium popcorn for my mom and I to share later, we had to shell out **$24**. So, all in all, for 3 3D tickets, and those mild concessions, the afternoon cost us $61. This my friends, is why we never go to the movies. I mean, that just about takes my breath away. How could a family of 4 ever afford to do this? Crazy talk, I tell you, absolute crazy talk.

Loaded down with our snacks and trailing popcorn in our wake, we get to the theater entrance and hand the guy our pre-printed tickets. He gives us 3 pairs of 3D glasses. I had no idea that 3D movies still involved 3D glasses. This demonstrates the depth of my knowledge of modern cinema.

We get into the theater, get adjusted in our seats (extremely plush, I have to admit) and promptly spill a quarter of our popcorn bucket. I clean up what I can, but before I get too far, the trailers start. I spend the 20 full minutes of trailer time assisting Hank to get started on his children's snack tray, cleaning off our seats, and discreetly fetching popcorn that had gone down the front of my blouse.

Finally, the movie begins and I settle in with the remaining popcorn and my gigantic Diet Coke. The movie, I will say first off, was *excellent*. Excellent! Worth even $11.50. Hank was transfixed for the duration, and my mom and I laughed and cried where appropriate through the whole thing. And seeing a movie in 3D was a great novelty for both Hank and I. It really added to the experience. I kept sneaking peeks at him munching his popcorn with his glasses perched adorably on his nose.

As the movie begins, we see our beloved toys abandoned in Andy's old toy box, longing for his love once again. As Andy packs for college, my bladder situation code alert is:

Beige - Neutral

I ordered a *medium* size drink. This sucker could have watered a village. I would have been thrilled to have had less liquid if I could have paid less than, you know, $5.75 or whatever freakish price they charged me. But me being me, the Coke was there, and I was nibbling salty popcorn, so naturally, I drank it all.

About halfway through the movie, as our toys are getting situated in the daycare center to which they've been donated, my bladder code is:

Yellow - Slightly Full but Well Contained

Well. By time I was sobbing over the fate of those precious toys and hoping for a happy ending to come swiftly, my bladder code was :

Red - Full Full Full

As the credits rolled, I found that there is a code past Red:

Flashing Lights Disco Style - Can Barely Walk

It took every ounce of self control that I had not to mow people down in my quest to reach the ladies room. GOOD HEAVENS. I have never experienced that level of discomfort, even when heavily pregnant. This is what drinking theater-sized beverages will reduce you to.

Once inside, I longed to put Hank in his own stall, but one minor thing prevented me from doing that. What, you ask? Well, as we approached the ladies room, I heard a sound like what can only be compared to a landing 747 coming from the restroom. It was the hand dryer. No normal hand dryer, this model. This guy dried your hands with the force of of a cyclone, and I saw the words "SUPER DRYER" on its surface. Frankly, it kind of freaked me out.

And it was SO LOUD that everyone in the ladies room had their hands over their ears. I've never heard anything like it. It was so loud that I was afraid to leave Hank in his own stall for fear that I wouldn't hear him if he wandered out.

Thus, I had to bring him in with me and alleviate my suffering while trying to keep him from (a) opening the door, or (b) dismantling the toilet paper holder.

The afternoon of a parent. Glamour, all glamour.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Belly dancing away...

As I've mentioned, in July I'm going to be doing my very first belly dance solo at my instructor Claire's new studio hafla. I'm super excited, but also extremely anxious about the whole thing. In preparation, I've been choreographing and practicing my little heart out, and tonight is a bit of a milestone: prior to class, I'm going early to demo the solo for Claire so that she can let me know how it looks and determine if I'm making any beginniner mistakes; not traveling enough, better arm positions, that sort of thing. Even just having Claire watch me dance it (all by my lonesome...) is making me feel sort of nervous. I can't help it, it's the way I'm made :) Introverts: The Complete Inside Story...

What I chose for my song is a drum solo from Sabla Tolo III: Advanced Journeys into Pure Egyptian Percussion. The reason I chose it is because it's less than 3 minutes long :) For my first solo, I wanted something in the 2 and a half minute range. Always want to leave 'em wantin' more, right? Rather than being sick to death of you and praying for a hook. But I did want a drum solo, and the Sabla Tolo albums are excellent. I love the crisp, sharp beats of drum solos and the way dancers synch their movements up to them.

So, I then embarked on choreography. This was no easy feat. When faced with a blank canvas, I could suddenly only remember approximately 3 movements. Being a visual learner, I found that it helped me to write down the foundational movements and combinations that I knew so that I could reference that to spur my memory. I've also taken to watching quite a bit of belly dancing on YouTube during my lunch breaks which also gave me some ideas. Watching someone else do a movement that I had forgotten on my list (snorts; some things never change), or a slight variation on a hip drop or arm position, would really help stir my creative juices come choreographing time later in the evening.

Being a mother, my choreographing time comes after Hank goes to bed. So, this means lots of dancing after 8 pm. I've actually lost a little weight this way :) I'm dancing every night now, and working up quite a sweat. I'm now only 5 lbs. above my pre-Hank weight, and it's been a while since I've seen that number. It's all good.

I'm finding that my choreographing method is very much like my writing method. You want to just get something out there to work with, and craft and edit from there.

"Ok." *consults list* I think a set of bicycle hips will work here, and then maybe a 3 step turn. Oh! and then that little step ball change combo. Yes, good."

*grits teeth as practice about a dozen times*

"Hum. I'm stumbling on this turn, it's just not working. How about a shimmy instead? No, looks weird. Oh! The maya set. YES."

Our house isn't that big, so my kitchen cactus has seen a lot of me dancing lately. So has our first floor guest room/toy room. As long as the Rescue Heroes are cleared off the floor first, that is a bigger space for me to work with. While my in-laws were visiting, I was relegated to our bedroom, and that was a bit dicey.

"Hip pistons. Reverse undulation, should shimmy, try to smile. Travel to left with camel step. OUCH. What was that? I wish Mike wouldn't leave his backpack in the middle of the floor. Bicycle hips, turn. We really need to do a load of laundry, look at that pile over there. Mayas, good. Swivel and then hip shimmy with cute arms. Travel to right with step ball change. Oh, OH OW!! What?! The ceiling fan. Boy, that was unpleasant. That'll leave a welt. Where was I?"

Definitely, the biggest issue for me is demeanor. You'd think dancing is all about the physical movements. One would think. You'd be wrong. I've seen excellent dancers whose faces express that they are experiencing misery beyond our wildest imaginations and it's so distracting that I simply can't focus on their actual dancing. I call this the Angry Dancer. There are also Utterly Nonplussed Dancers, which are just as disheartening. If she doesn't care, how can I? Then there's Timid Dancer. *sighs* Yes, this is me. When it appears that she may run right off the stage like a frightened rabbit should someone dare to shift in their seat you just can't relax and enjoy her dancing. And this is what I've been working very hard on lately.

I find that the key is smiling, even if you're miserable. And let's face it, you're up in front of a group of people making yourself vulnerable by putting your skills out there and 95% of the population is going to be having a less than mystical experience. And not just a barely there smile. You have to be a beacon. Because when you *look* confident, people will *believe* you are confident. Even if, on the inside, you're planning your escape from the stage with the precision of a surgeon. You want to channel Confident, Successful Dancer. When you appear happy and boisterous, people will relax and enjoy your dancing. And if you make a mistake, they probably won't even notice. Because *you* are telling them with your expression that not only are you having a great time and have everything under control, you know that you are a good dancer and are making their night. Even if you believe that this is a total lie, you gotta sell it, sister. They're not going to buy it unless you sell it.

So, as I've been practicing lately, I've been pasting a beam on my face like nobody's business. I just have to avoid the mirror. If I see myself smiling, I will break down in hysterical laughter, because I look so ridiculous to my introverted eye.

Happily though, my costume is totally assembled. It consists of a wine-colored chiffon skirt that I have from another costume, and a black top and hip scarf that I acquired recently. This is the top, and don't worry, it's not nearly so low-cut in person, plus I'll be pinning it just for peace of mind. I got it in black with gold coins. It's very flattering. Covers what I call my "defective arm pits," that extra skin that hangs over, do you know what I'm talking about? I think that's actually extra breast tissue, which is ever weirder, so I like to keep that covered where at all possible. When my milk came in after I delivered Hank, I couldn't put my arms down for 2 days. I'm sure all my male readers are so glad they know this about me now. Moving on...

And so the hip scarf. I'm really, really pleased with it. I decided to keep the new coined hip scarf I originally bought to match the top just for practice in class. Because, well, it was so NOISY. I like a little noise in belly dance. The sound of tinkling coins is very dear to me. But I strapped this thing on to practice my solo, and good heavens. It sounded like a coin sorting facility had just detonated. I thought it might be a tad too *distracting*. So, I ended up ordering this in black. It came yesterday, and it's FABULOUS. It has some beaded flowers on it, and I love the fringe, which also contains some strung beads. It looks really pretty, and I think it'll serve me well. I put it through the hip scarf test: I tied it on and shimmed around the guest room, then did my solo plus our 2 troupe choreographies in it and nothing fell off and/or went flying, so it passed. Not real attractive to leak beads, fringe or coins while in the throes of performance.

Ok, back to writing an article. I'm taking Hank to see Toy Story 3 this weekend, and I'm sure there will be lots of anecdotes come Monday. Plus, the solo demo, oh dear. *sweats* I'll report in, (she says with a sigh). Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Couple of book reviews...

I've been lax in reviewing books lately, so I thought I'd post about a few today. This month, my book club is reading a graphic novel. I am a lifelong devout reader, and this was my very first graphic novel. I really didn't know what I would think of it, but as always, I'm grateful to my book club for exposing me to things I wouldn't have selected on my own. Our selection was Castle Waiting by Linda Medley.

I finished it last week, and to be honest, I don't really have much to write about it, content wise. The experience of reading a graphic novel was totally... novel for me :) It felt kind of strange, like I wasn't really reading, if that makes any sense. Because the illustrations are just as important as the text in a book like this. And the illustrations were excellent. Overall though, I just didn't get too into it. I'm not even writing about the plot, so I'm sure you can tell :) I guess I'm just not all that certain what it was really about. Went over my head a bit, I think. I will say that it was charming and amusing, and some parts made me laugh out loud. That's a very good thing. But otherwise, I don't think I'll be reading other graphic novels unless they are for book club or are extra highly recommended.

This was a fairy tale, and we meet a young girl that is pregnant out of wedlock and her journey to find sanctuary. Lots of other characters come into play, and I confused them easily, so this didn't help me get into the book, certainly. I did think it interesting that towards the end of the book we meet an unusual order of nuns that are devoted to a saint with a pretty amusing back story, so I was intrigued by that. But generally, I just felt like I didn't "get it", which is not a feeling I enjoy when I read a book.

Our next entry is In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church, by Gina Welch. This book I definitely enjoyed, and is the sort of personal religious memoir that I so totally dig.

The premise of this book is that the author, Gina, is an atheist who moved to Virgina as an adult and became fascinated with her evangelical acquaintances. She became so entranced with their lives as church-going Christians that she decided to attend Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist church for 2 years and experience life first hand as a believer. And of course, she wanted to write about it.

Couple things. I'll start with what I didn't like and move to what I did, because overall I did really like and enjoy this book. What I didn't like is that Gina actually pretended to have a conversion experience, get saved (by the evangelical definition of praying the sinner's prayer), and was baptized, all when she remained steadfast in her nonbelief in God. This bothers me. A salvation experience (to evangelicals) and baptism (to all Christians) are sacred experiences, and I didn't think she should water those down by taking part when she didn't believe.

Indeed, I think she could have still written a gripping memoir by chronicling her experience as a non-baptized seeker in this very church. My sense was that she truly believed that she wouldn't have been "accepted" and have had as intense an experience if the other church members didn't see her as one of them. Maybe she's right, I don't know. There was definitely some insecurity on her part, coming from a completely secular background, but toward the end of the book I could see her point of view a bit more. But still, I don't think you should be dishonest about something that important.

As well, she lived over an hour from Thomas Road Baptist Church, and I felt that she only picked it because she knew that name would help sell her book. Smacks a little too much of using Jerry Falwell's notoriety for her own purposes for my taste. I thought she could have accomplished her goal at a church much closer to her home and it still would have been extremely interesting to me, but maybe that's just me.

Ok, so that's what I didn't like. But here is what I did like. The author is extremely charming and likeable, and is a good writer. You're really rooting for her to assimilate as she desires and to make friends and connections in the church. Of course, you're also rooting for her to find faith, and I'll leave that there so as to not spoil the ending of the book for anyone who wants to read it.

I love books that delve into a personal account of lives of faith, and you get that in abundance here. We learn all about her first introduction into the church via a "Connections" class, her attendance at Sunday and Wednesday services, her baptism, her involvement in the church's singles ministry, where she experiences genuine friendship and love, and her mission trip with this group to Alaska. Fascinating stuff.

Toward the end, she does begin to feel bad about deceiving people that she's grown to really care about, but I had to think that she should have anticipated this. To give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she didn't anticipate the *degree* to which she'd experience these feelings.

All in all, this is a good read. If you like spiritual memoirs, I think you'll like this one. Even though her viewpoint is so divergent from mine, I found her very warm and non-judgmental on the whole. Certainly, there were some things in there that she wrote that tweaked me a bit (mentioning of her being pro-choice, things like that) but she doesn't linger over those things. I think she does a good job of presenting herself in a sympathetic light. And honestly, I agreed with her on a couple of things, like her questioning the way (at least some) evangelicals see the assurance of salvation experience. This is a good book. Check it out.

Adorable new giveaway!

I'm sort of loving my new life as a Catholic blogger :) Not only do I get to enjoy writing in this blog, but I've fallen in love with meeting other Catholics and getting to know them through their blogs. As well, I've discovered the wonderful world of giveaways. *angels sing*

The newest is an awesome purse giveaway at A Broken Fortress. Allison made this one herself and it's *beautiful*. It would make a great knitting bag too :) It's blue, white and gray. Super cute. Go on over and post a comment to enter!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My grown-up baby

*sniffles* Yesterday evening was Hank's pre-k graduation, and as expected, it caused quite a bit of emotion for his mother. Who, as you know, is emotional about everything.

The evening started to unfold yesterday, on my way home from work, as I stopped to pick up a personalized cookie cake that I'd ordered for him. Hank and I both *love* cookie cake. I will grant, it was a tad bit bigger than I originally anticipated. I asked for a medium, and since they didn't have one of that size already made and I was calling same day, it was either a small or a large. I got the large. Well. I arrived at the grocery store to find the largest cookie in the free world waiting for me. And fully frosted too. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I may skip dinner and just eat cookie cake tonight... Anyway, I digress. I also picked up some frozen tortellini that I could whip up for dinner, and headed home. I prayed that my a/c-less car wouldn't melt the frosting. I made it home with cake intact, to find Mike and my father-in-law sanding something unknown in our driveway. Despite possible destruction, I see this as a good thing.

I bring in the groceries and find out that they are replacing screens and sanding window frames. Sweet. Henry was over at the neighbors playing with a friend, and I begin to worry that mega overtired boy is headed our way. We eat an early dinner, and give Hank a bath. He's bouncing off the walls from all the excitement. This process is not aided by the arrival of my parents, and the cutting of the cookie cake. We all had sugar highs within minutes.

After the cake was finished, I got Hank dressed in his cap and gown, so that we could all fawn over him and photograph him. He seemed to love this. We got him to school and with the other kids to get ready, and then we proceeded to the auditorium...where I realized that we forgot our camera. Mike was dispatched to retrieve it. Meanwhile, I could see the kids lining up in the back. Mike hurried back, and the processional began.

So, SO adorable. There is nothing like seeing your very own child at an event like this. It's so wonderful. I got teared up watching him come down the aisle. Once they were all assembled on stage, they sang a few songs, and diploma presentation began. Of course, they weren't real diplomas, it was just a photo-op for the parents, but we all loved it. More songs, and then the recessional. This is the kind of graduation that I like. I have to admit - I'm dreading future high school and possibly other graduations to come. It seems like those things are inevitably outside on a 90 degree day and interminably long with excruciating speeches. The pre-k, on the other hand, is all adorably good.

We waited outside for Hank while Mike fetched him, and when they came out, they bore good stuff. The daycare center had compiled pictures of the kids from all of their years spent there, and made a hardbound memory book for each family. I opened it up to see a picture of Hank and I at the Mother's Day Tea in 2008, when he was 2 years old, his first year at the center. I started to cry... you know, *again*. I so love things like that. I've always loved that about this daycare facility - the things that they do are so very thoughtful. The Mother's and Father's Day events, the senior graduation, the 3 year olds Christmas show. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. It's days like this that make me want to pop out 10 kids right then and there.

Then we got home and Hank refused to go to sleep because he was so hyped up and overtired. Reality sets in :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Finally, I'm back...

So, after a 4 day weekend, I have returned to my regular routine :) Lots going on - a trip with Hank and his class to an amusement park, my in-laws in town visiting, Hank's pre-k graduation tonight... my mind is in a bit of a whirl. I'll try and focus more in tomorrow's post, but as I sat down to write this, I searched for some inspiration, and the main thing that came to mind is the Living Faith entry for the eleventh Sunday in ordinary time.

"I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. Galatians 2:20.

If you were looking for a Bible verse that sums up Christianity in a sentence, you have it here. The Jesus who loved me so much that he gave his life to save mine lives in the depths of my being. Now he, not me, is the living center of my life. My life comes to me today as a gift of God as I live it in union with Jesus living in me. That is the awesome reality. To discover it for oneself is what Christianity is all about.

Perhaps you are acquainted with the 'Jesus Prayer.' It is short and simple: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' Many Christians pray it repeatedly throughout the day. To a young monk who asked how he could be transformed by Christ, an older monk replied, 'Go into your room and keep praying the Jesus prayer from your heart. The prayer will do the rest.'

I dare say the same is true of Paul's statement. God into your heart; keep pondering these words. Jesus in you will do the rest."

This really struck a chord with me. Especially this weekend, I get so caught up in day-to-day tasks and worries ("are my in-laws having a good time? do they think that I'm a good hostess? Wait...DO THEY THINK I'M A GOOD WIFE AND MOTHER?!) that I lose sight of maintaining any semblance of a Christian witness. This was a good reminder for me.

This evening, I'm bound for the grocery store to pick up a customized cookie cake to surprise Hank with. We're having my parents over, plus my in-laws, and then the graduation ceremony later. *snorts* Too cute. I can't wait to post a picture of Hank in his little cap and gown.

Later this week, I anticipate many, MANY belly dance posts, plus Hank's new children's Bible is due to arrive from amazon, so I'll post a review of that, and much more :) It's good to be back!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Henry updates, and a cute bird story

My little boy is getting so big, isn't he? Precious dumpling. He looks more and more like a big boy everyday, and not a toddler anymore. He still has stupendously kissable cheeks, but his chubby belly is no more; he can wear jeans now! As a baby and toddler, we never put jeans on him because he was just too, well big, for them to be comfortable on him :) He's a darling.

I'm feeling a bit better on the school issue; I ordered his school supplies kit yesterday, so he's pretty much set for the public elementary school in September. Let me complain about the school supplies kit for a moment - $56! Granted, you could purchase the items on your own, but I don't think it would ultimately be any cheaper and it would certainly be more of a hassle. The school gives you this list of, I swear it, a *hundred* different items that you have to send your child to school with. 2 boxes of this specific type of crayons, an art smock, 3 glue sticks, 1 box of colored pencils, this specific type of construction paper... the list goes on and on. Mike and I agreed that just ordering the kit through them would be infinitely less of a near occasion of sin than going to the craft store and laboring to find all of this stuff. Once again, school was not like this when I went to school. *feels old*

At any rate, this will be a learning year for all of us. I'm definitely open to Catholic school should we not feel that the public school is a good fit. I need to gather a lot of information though, about both the public school *and* the Catholic schools, so it will be good for me. And of course, both Mike and I need to be on board for a decision to pay for Catholic school, and with him still being in school full-time next year, he's just not comfortable with the financial commitment at this time. Especially given that our public elementary school is considered the jewel of the district. I'll just pray that if Catholic school is the route we ultimately discern is best, we will both come to that conclusion and agree to pursue it. I'm sure there will be more to come on that.

At any rate, our Henry is such a precious soul. We just want what is best for him. He took this picture of me knitting a few weeks ago:

A budding photographer, perhaps?

Ok, onto the bird story. Last weekend, I noticed this odd looking bird in our backyard. Now, we're diligent about keeping food in our feeder, because, well, we love birds. However, we see very few interesting birds back there. We live in what I call an "urban suburb," just over the city border. Occasionally we get some Blue Jays and some Downy Woodpeckers. We do have a Northern Cardinal family that are regular visitors, and we've had a single American Goldfinch. We do get Dark-Eyed Juncos in the winter, which are pretty much our crown jewels. Ok, anyway, we usually just get House Sparrows, Common Grackles, American Robin, European Starlings, and an occasional Black-Capped Chickadee.

So, the odd-looking bird. Brown all over, kind of rumpled looking. Sort of bland. I couldn't really place him. But what struck me is that it appeared that he couldn't fly. He was just standing really funny. This was confirmed with about 5 minutes of constant surveillance when I saw him try to fly and fail. Immediately, I started to worry. An injured bird will pretty much quickly get gobbled up by any number of predators. Hawks, other large birds, cats... the list goes on. There was really nothing I could do for him, so I just kept rooting that his issue would resolve and he'd be able to take flight.

That evening, he was still out there, struggling :( And I noticed a large Common Grackle eyeing him from the bird feeder. My nurturing instinct went into overdrive, and as I watched, the Grackle went over, and to my horror, tried to pick the injured bird up with its claws. I pictured the Grackle cackling as it carried the injured bird away, to be ravaged. I shrieked and ran downstairs. By time I got down there, the Grackle had backed off, since the injured bird was making quite a racket squawking up a storm. All evening long I kept vigil, and I felt just awful. This poor little bird! He may not be particularly attractive or exotic, but I wanted him to make it. He took up refuge near the garage and the bird feeder. Suddenly, a group of Grackles flew down. My hackles went up. One of the Grackles picked up some seed in its mouth and approached the injured bird. Immediately, injured bird squawked as if someone were threatening it with a hack saw. As I watched in alarm, the Grackle went over and... popped the seed in its mouth.

OOhhhh... This Grackle was the bird's MOTHER. This was a juvenile Common Grackle! It must have fallen from the nest early, and poor Mommy Grackle was having the equivalent of a bird heart attack trying to either get the baby back in the nest or comfortably nourished and protected down on the ground. The baby chewed up the seed, and Mommy Grackle chased away the other birds that had come to feed on the seed. Suddenly, I regarded the adult Grackle with affection. I related to her as a mother :)

After the sun set, I didn't see the baby again. I'm hoping that he was able to stick it out until his feathers developed enough for him to fly, or the mother managed to get him back in the nest. That's the version of the story I choose to believe, anyway. Poor little thing.

Anyway, I'm off tomorrow to accompany Hank's pre-k class to a local amusement park, and Monday I'm taking off because my in-laws will be in town. So, you'll hear from me again Tuesday. Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our Catholic children

I've been pondering Hank's growth in faith for the past week now, after I noticed how he suddenly seems more interested in following along at Mass rather than needing to be distracted with unrelated books. Hank's kind of at a tough age for this sort of thing. He's outgrown his old church-related board books, and even his favorite little Bible, but yet he can't read yet and isn't old enough for some of the materials appropriate for grade school aged children.

I thought about it for a few days and decided to pick up a few new things for him. First, I stopped off at our local Catholic bookstore and got him a copy ($1.50!) of the St. Joseph Children's Picture Missal. I love this series of children's books from Catholic Book Publishing Co. They're very nostalgically old fashioned and designed for children above toddler age. He won't be able to read it himself, but if he can have a missal like Mommy to follow along in, I think he'll like that.

I knew that would be cheap, those little St. Joseph books always are. Easy. The Bible is a bit more complicated. I've blogged about his current Bible before here and here. We've definitely gotten our money's worth out of this one. The binding is actually breaking from such heavy use. For a time, we read a few stories every night before bedtime, and we read through the entire Bible about 3 times. I noticed that he stopped asking for it after awhile, and I think he's simply outgrown it. He has some of the stories near to memorized, and the stories are very short and cutesy. They were perfect for him at age 3, but now I'd like to see him with a Bible that has more material in it. I think that would re-capture his interest.

I looked through a *lot* of children's Bibles, both in our local Christian bookstore and online. The specifically Catholic ones just weren't grabbing me. The ones I browsed were geared at much older children. I figured the Catholic angle really doesn't matter at this point. I don't think any Bible aimed at 4 year olds is going to be heavy hitting on the book of Maccabees. That'll come later, as he develops into a budding apologist as a teen :) I ended up selecting The Children's Everyday Bible and I think he's going to really like it. It contains an extensive array of Bible stories, much more than his previous Bible, but they're still a shorter length with lots of color pictures to keep him engaged. It's set up so that you could read 1 story per day throughout the entire calendar year. My Henry loves calendars, and I think he's going to like this one. I'm excited to read it with him. It received excellent reviews on amazon. And most of the reviewers noted that the recipients were in the 5 year old age category, for the most part. So I think this will be good.

My little cutie pie.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Parent trauma

Yesterday, I came home from work to a content Mike and Hank, who had spent the day (a non-class day for Mike) together. Dinner was waiting (sweet...) and we sat down to eat. Suddenly, Mike announces:

"Oh! Hank, tell Mommy your big news."

We both look to Hank expectantly. He knits his brows.

"Um. I went poo on the potty!"

I initiate a happy chorus of congratulations, but Mike interrupts us.

"No, not that news, Hank. The *other* big news!" *wiggles his eyebrows and whispers something to Hank*

"Oh! Mommy, I have a loose toof!"

"What?!" *panic stricken tone* "What ever do you mean? He's only 4, just a baby!!" *wild eyed look*

*crickets chirp*

Mike pauses with a bite of chicken halfway to his mouth, quickly realizing that what he took to be normal, happy news was in the process of scarring me for life.

"Well, yes, it's a bit early, but not out of the normal range for this sort of thing."

"Very early! Very, very early!! It's too soon for him to lose a tooth! He's too little. And I love his teeth! They're so cute!! Nope, it's too soon for him to lose a tooth."

*matching curious gazes by both father and son* They even look alike. This is all so very unfair. I think a child is duty bound to look like his mother, don't you?

I'm very, very unhappy with this development. I love Hank's baby teeth, and I want them to stay put until I'm ready to part with them. *frowns unhappily*


Monday, June 7, 2010

Belly dancing and child handling...

I had a very, very busy weekend, but a happy one :) My solo choreography is really coming along, and I received the items I ordered to make a costume. Professional belly dance costumes can cost upwards of $200-$500, so obviously, I wasn't going that route. Not at this time, at least. I have a very pretty chiffon skirt from one of my troupe costumes in a wine color. What I ended up doing is ordering a black hip scarf and top to use with that, and it cost me less than $50 :) I was very pleased with myself. When we use those skirts we layer matching color hip scarves and choli tops, so with the black it looks like a totally different costume.

I also liked having the freedom to order any top that I wanted. Our choli tops are really nice, but many belly dancing tops are a bit, ahem, scanty :) I wanted a bit more coverage. This one is a pretty halter that extends down to my belly button and has hanging coins there. I feel very comfortable in it.

So, I half feel extremely excited, and half feel like I may vomit. The typical reaction of a lifelong introvert.

We took a bunch of pictures on Sunday in our instructor's new studio and it was tons of fun. I just love those ladies. Middle Eastern dance has enriched my life in more ways than I could count.

So, the other fun weekend event was that my sister Shauna'h was in town visiting. She came to my house for a quick visit, and then we were headed out to do some additional family visiting. This entails about a 20 minute car ride. I brought Hank along with us, planning to include him for a grandparent visit and then drop him back at home with Mike so that I could join my parents and Shauna'h for a late dinner.

That was the plan. And this is the "reality of life with a 4 year old" version:

As we're about to hop on the highway, I hear a little voice from the back seat.

"Mommy, my stomach hurts *really bad*!"

*sighs* Hank has many stomach issues these days. Why, you ask? Well, because the child hates to poo. There I go, flinging the word 'poo' around my blog again. Sorry to the people who are not yet parents. Someday, you'll use the word 'poo' with all kinds of recklessness too. For whatever reason, many 3 and 4 year olds, especially boys, hate to poo with the fire of a thousand suns. I have no idea why. I'm certain that if given a choice by our Creator between having to poo and not having to poo, we'd all choose not to have to. But this is the way we are made, and we pretty much have no choice in the matter. But since being potty trained, Hank has filed for official conscientious objector status with regard to poo, and holds out for as long as humanly possible. Hence, the stomach aches.

"Oh sweetheart, I'm sorry. We'll use the potty as soon as we get to nana's, ok?"

I glance in the rearview mirror and see Hank squirming unhappily in his car seat.

Approximately 5 minutes later (that's right, exactly halfway into our journey) more unhappiness radiates from the backseat.

"Mommy! My stomach hurts REALLY, REALLY BAD. Oh Mommy! Oh, it hurts!"

Oh sigh. Shauna'h notes a fast food restaurant off the upcoming exit, so I signal and exit the highway. We pull in and I hustle Hank into the ladies room.

Thus commences 10 minutes of real tears LOUD sobbing.

"Mommy! Oh, it hurts, it HURTS! Mommy, HELP ME!"

I was starting to get a bit concerned. I was pretty sure that he just had a very bad case of debilitating gas pains, but one never knows. I made lots of encouraging "push sweetheart, push!" exclamations, but there was no poo making an appearance, so I brought him out into the eating area to lay down on a booth. I was hoping that certain positions would, you know, *alleviate* the problem. I got him some apple juice, but nothing would soothe him. He was utterly inconsolable.

Shauna'h and I got him strapped back into the car seat, and I sped to the local grocery store to see if I could find a children's version of Gas-X. I found some children's Tums and hoped that would work. Shauna'h was out in the car with Hank, and I come back to find that Hank was sobbing "HELP ME, HELP ME! I WANT MY MOMMY!" so loud that she feared a shopper may conclude that a child napping was in progress and dial 911.

I had Hank chew one of the Tums (which he did only under protest) and made the decision to take him back home. Thus, an hour after we embarked, we arrived in the opposite location from our ultimate destination. Hank had specifically asked to go home, saying that he wanted to go to bed, but after chewing the Tums he fell asleep in his car seat. I hoped that meant the Tums was starting to work. Based on the smell emanating from the back seat, I had a good feeling.

We got him in the house, and Hank voluntarily processed right up to lay on his bed. Poor baby. Mike gave him a bath and made him some toast, and reported in later that Hank had pooed and was feeling much better. All was right in Hank's world again.

Poo notwithstanding, they are so very precious :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Love story, part 2

*blissful sigh* This is my favorite part, so settle back in...

So, informal party at Jim's apartment. I arrived and set up shop in the kitchen to gossip with the girls. I remember Sarah saying, "just look at that Mike! He's so darn cute!" Yes, *another* Mike. Third time's a charm, right? :) I looked over and agreed that this particular Mike was quite fetching. It was a costume party, and he was wearing this goofy looking hat and scarf. Pretty gosh darn adorable. He attended the philosophy Ph.D program with Sarah's fiance, Jim. The night wore on, and I noticed that Mike caught the attention of several females in attendance (several of them from our prayer group). I saw him frequently conversing politely with them, so I figured he was spoken for.

At some point, he came over to chat with me, and we each have differing accounts of the story at this juncture :) From my perspective, I was polite but noncommittal, since I figured that his attentions were already directed elsewhere. I assumed he was simply being polite as well. We chatted for a time, and then each moved back to other conversation circles. Mike's version is that he was interested in talking to me further, but that I brushed him off :) So not true, but he still brings it up to this day in order to tease me.

The following Monday, I was slogging away at work and on the phone with my mom who was emotional about something. As I was talking to her, someone beeped in on the other line, but I let it go to voicemail. Suddenly, I see a new email message in my inbox. It's from Sarah. I open it and it reads:


The instant that I finish with my mom, I call Sarah. She tells me that Jim and Mike were talking about the party, and Jim, playing matchmaker, mentioned how nice I was. Mike indicated that he liked me best of all the women he met at the party *beams* but was worried that I didn't reciprocate. Jim said he would ask Sarah to ask me if it was ok to give Mike my number. It's all very high school, isn't it :) I happily agreed, and that evening Mike called me.

We set up a double date with Jim and Sarah for the following weekend. In the mean time, I pumped Sarah for Mike info. Philosopher, good. Comes from nice family, excellent. Extremely funny, bonus. Atheist, not so good. But was raised Catholic and very gracious towards religious faith, so we'll see how it pans out. We go to dinner and have a great time. Good conversation, things flow easily. I hope for a call back.

It comes, but it's not what I hoped for. He tells me that he had a great time, but that he wanted to let me know that he couldn't call me for another date. He had been previously seeing another girl, and thought that that relationship was over, but she reemerged the day before, and in fairness he feels that he needs to give that another shot. My first reaction, of course, was disappointment, but even in that moment I was very impressed that he had called to tell me all this instead of simply fading away and not calling again, leaving me to wonder if I had done anything wrong. I'm certain that has happened to most everybody at some point, including me, and it's so not fun. He apologized for any hurt feelings, and thanked me for the enjoyable evening. We ended the call on a good note.

Naturally, I was on speed dial to Sarah for some comfort chatting. She knew of the girl Mike was referring to, and felt that there might be some female jealousy involved that Mike had moved on, but obviously, there was nothing either of us could do about it. We commiserated, I felt sad for a week or so, but looked ahead to starting school and my new life.

Early that December, I had a trip to Quebec planned with my good prayer group friends Rose and Janelle. I still think about that trip with such fondness. It was December, we live in the Northeast, and yet we were traveling even further north. We're cold weather girls at heart, I suppose. And we're Catholic girls, so we snuck in daily Mass at a different beautiful church every morning. One of our stops on that trip was to the basilica of St. Anne De Beaupre, north of Quebec City. While there, I used my prayer time to pray that if it was God's will for me to marry, that St. Anne intercede for me to bring me to my future husband when the time was right.

We returned, Christmas came and went, as did my last day as a practicing attorney. It was kind of hard cleaning out my office since I didn't know what would become of me professionally, but I felt good.

The first day of school came, and I was super excited. I also started as a student assistant in the law library, and I was enjoying that as well. I get an email from Sarah later that week saying that Mike confided to Jim that he his relationship with his former girlfriend was definitively over, and he still thought of me. Did Jim think that I was open to him calling me again? I told Sarah that I was, and she passed the word on. Thank God for Jim and Sarah in all of this, as you can see :)

That night Mike called me again, and of course I could tell that he felt bad for the way things transpired surrounding our first date. But I saw that all in a positive light, and when he asked if I'd like to go to dinner with him again, I agreed happily. We call that our "second first date." :) And the rest is history...

We became engaged just about a year from that night we first met at Jim's party. And I like to think that St. Anne had a hand in our joining :) After I met his parents, I found out that his mom is an active Catholic and that the patron of her local parish is St. Anne. I would assume that she's prayed for Mike and his happiness, so there we have it! Proof :)

We were married just about a year after our engagement, in a nuptial Mass at my Catholic college. A happy ending...

I will say that the old adage is true to marry someone that makes you laugh. My husband does that in great abundance. And even though we aren't at the same place spiritually, I still know that God brought us together and I pray earnestly that some day we are united in that front as well.

So, there you have it. It was way too long, but I hope you enjoyed it :) Have a great weekend, everyone!

Old Navy excitement

As I mentioned the other day, I'm in love with my new Old Navy skirts. As I also mentioned, I ended up exchanging a cardigan for another long skirt, since they are ideal for Mass and I own so few of them (and I didn't want to spend additional money). Well. Exciting news :) When I made the exchange, the very cute and perky employee who helped me told me that the skirts were going on sale the next day (today!) and if I brought my receipt in, I'd get the difference back since it was less than 24 hours before. Yay! So, just so that you all know :) those skirts are now only $19! And they do now appear on Old Navy's web site here. There are many more colors and styles in my actual store than appear on the web site, so lots of good skirts to be had. I'm super happy :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

True love, and all that good stuff, part 1...

Allison over at A Broken Fortress posted yesterday about how she met her fiance, so I thought I'd contribute to the love story posts. I love blogs - I never run out of ideas :) I'm always getting ideas from others or seeing things in my day-to-day life that I just can't wait to share here. Happy stuff :) This will be long (it is *me* telling the story, after all) so settle in with some tea. I'll divide it into 2 parts so that it won't be one giant leviathan post that you quit reading halfway through out of sheer frustration for the way the Catholic Librarian goes off on tangents. Ok, we'll start with some foundational back story, and here we go...

The years after I finished law school and moved back home were tender ones. That began at age 25, and I had come back to my Catholic faith only 2 years prior. In many ways, I was discontented during that time period, because I was lonely and unhappy in my career as an attorney. On the other hand, my life was blooming. My faith was secure and strong, and I met a group of Catholic friends about my same age, all of whom were single as well, and we formed a monthly prayer group.

Right after I moved back, I started dating someone (the brother of a friend) and we talked avidly about discerning marriage. Life was good. Soon after that, I found out that...

Ok, here's a big Catholic Librarian revelation. One of those things I don't often let slip... but that I'm announcing on a public blog, but hey! I don't see it as inconsistent :) The intriguing thing about memoirs is that you feel that you truly get to know somebody through their writing, thus you have to open up at times, and I feel that this blog is my memoir. So, here goes:

I failed the bar exam. Yep, failed. With a capital F. It was one of the most difficult things that has ever happened to me. I didn't fail by much, but fail is fail, and I failed. This is not something that the Type A Catholic Librarian deals with easily. FAILURE. I was absolutely crushed. How did this happen? Well, I had a bit of a panic moment during the exam itself wherein I examined my life choices right in the exam room and seriously doubted my sanity in choosing to become a lawyer when it so totally did not suit me. What was I doing with my life? Is this was God wanted for me? (if only I had asked that question *before* starting law school, *sighs*). I don't know, but what I do know is that I hate this... Ok, this is all happening as the *timed* exam is occurring, so you can see how this went down. For that segment of the excruciating 2 day exam, I ran out of time. That one weak section was enough to do me in. BarBri Retaker course, here I come...

I knew that I didn't want to devote the rest of my career to being an attorney. However, for the short term I needed a job (law school loans, they are SO not pretty) and for aforementioned job I needed to pass the bar exam. The stress was immense. Did any of my new colleagues also fail the bar exam? Nope. Not a single one. Traitors. Granted, the passage rate in our state is one of the lowest in the country, because it is a *monster* of an exam, so I had plenty of company in that regard. But in my firm? Yeah, I was the only one. I was the one that the nice partner had to come comfort in my office and tell me that she too had failed the bar exam on her first attempt. As had one of the renowned founding and named partners of the firm. Comforting? Somewhat. Still, it sucked. Bad.

I'm veering off topic, but I know you're still with me because this is part of my charm, no? *beams hopefully* Ok, so major, major stressor in my life at that point. Did I want to take that exam again? I'd rather eat live bugs. But I knew that I had to. Not just for my job, but for *me*. I knew that I could pass it, and if I never tried again, I wouldn't forgive myself.

So I studied. I put on about 15 pounds of stress weight. I went in to take the exam, and what a difference from the previous excursion. Instead of puffed up recent law graduates talking about their new jobs with the fancy salaries, we had people with wide eyes clutching tissue in the corners, saying that as editor of their school's law review, they just can't understand how this happened.

I remember telling God that I really, really wanted to pass, and that I prayed that this suffering be taken from me. But if this was a cross that He should choose for me to bear, so be it. I'd take it as a sign that I should change careers posthaste. I was actually shockingly serene about the whole thing. I had a good feeling, and I was as prepared and calm about it as possible. I was a lean, mean bar exam taking machine. That exam is killer though, man. I remember thinking to myself, "if I had time to actually fully *read* these questions, I know that I'd know the answer."

But I felt good about it. Much better than the first time. Part of the excruciation factor is that it takes the state like 4 freaking months to grade the darn things. But I waited, and instead of waiting up for the scores to appear online at midnight like I did the first time, I went to bed and just got up for work like usual in the morning. When I got to the office, I logged into the state bar examiners' web site and checked: on the list of successful candidates, there was Catholic Librarian :) It was a giant relief.

In the mean time though, a tough break-up had occurred with Post-Law School Boyfriend #1, ironically enough also named Mike. So, Mike1. I had had high hopes for Mike1 and the relationship, so I was pretty crushed, but in the end I knew that it was the right thing.

Life wasn't easy at this point, but I bore it well with my faith and my friends. I was living with my parents in order to save money, had no boyfriend, and a job that left a lot to be desired. Not exactly the mid-20's lifestyle of my dreams.

The following year, I was starting to feel a tad old maidish ("are you seeing anybody? Still no? Why not?") and I met Mike2. Yes, his name was also Mike. I seem to have compiled a collection of them. He was Catholic, joined our prayer group, and genuinely a great guy. We dated for about 3 months or so, not a long time, but I was feeling hopeful. And then...

Mike2 went by the wayside. He just didn't feel ready to keep moving forward toward commitment. I was disappointed, but I rebounded pretty well. He just wasn't God's match for me.

A few months go by, and my job was pretty intense at that point. I was just not liking it (to put it mildly), and made the major life decision to finally leave my legal career behind to finally do something that I loved. So I applied to library school and was accepted. I made plans to quit my job. No easy venture with those law school loans lurking. About 2 months or so remained before I'd start school. I secured a gig working for minimum wage in the law library once the upcoming spring semester began. My life was going to change (and I was going to be a lot poorer...) but I felt in my bones that I had made the right decision.

Around this same time, our family dog was really ill and needed to be put down. It was just one of those times in life when difficult things seem to all come out of the woodwork within the same 2 month stretch. In a surprising development, Mike2 actually emerged from the ethers suddenly all ready to commit, but I had to redirect him. In the time that we hadn't been seeing each other I discerned that we simply weren't meant for each other, and I had moved on emotionally. He took it very graciously. He's a really nice person; I wished him well. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I didn't feel pressure to meet someone and get married. Intense stress helps one to put things in perspective, I believe. If God had that in mind for me, it would happen, and I finally released this fear that I'd always retained of becoming the neighborhood Crazy Cat Lady.

Then, one day in November 2002, my friend Sarah (one of the original Catholic friends) invited me to a party at her fiance's apartment. Her fiance was in graduate school, and was having some friends over. Initially, I told her I couldn't go, because I was planning to travel with my parents to visit my sister Rhonda in New Jersey. Then a storm system moved in and delayed our travel plans eastward. I called Sarah and told her I could go. So I did.

Want to find out the rest? :) Stay tuned for part 2, coming later today...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Headcovering of the week...

Borrowing this idea from my friend Cam over at A Woman's Place... I thought I'd do a quick post on my new headcovering. As I anticipated, the very nice ladies at Garlands of Grace exchanged coverings for me in a very speedy manner when I accidentally received the wrong one. This is my newest covering, and it's super cute:

You can get this particular covering at their web site or over at their etsy store. If you google them, you'll come right up with both. This one has thin crocheted ties, and it's really lovely. I love these types of short kerchief coverings, as well as the headbands. This one actually scrunches up to a headband, if you like. I've worn it both ways. I tend to wear the coverings longer when my hair is down, and the headband if my hair is up. I find both very flattering and non-attention grabbing at Mass.

My new coveted favorite is the Delicate Lace Covering. *wants* *wont' be getting because CL simply cannot possibly justify it's acquisition...* My headcovering drawer is suddenly very cozy due to a sufficient number of cute coverings :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some happy updates, and Mass with children, part...can't keep track

There were many happy updates over the course of this long weekend, for which I am very grateful. The big one is that my grandmother is home from the hospital and doing well. She's still pretty uncomfortable, but that's to be expected. When she came limping in the door, my extremely frail grandfather just lit up and stood to greet her. Then they shuffled their way over to kiss each other say "I missed you, Honey!" It was too precious for words. They'll be married for 64 years in November.

The other big one is that it seems (for the time being, at least) the furlough threat has passed. It's possible there could be an appeal, but for the foreseeable future, we're safe in this regard, and for that I am unendingly grateful.

My car is still hot, but hey, you can't win 'em all.

On Friday after work (after receiving the furlough news...), I treated myself to a few new skirts at Old Navy since they are quickly becoming a staple of my summer wardrobe and I have so very few of them. As I've mentioned, it's really hard to find skirts that I consider to be an appropriate length. I never used to wear skirts much, but now I'm a total convert. They're *so* cool for the summer, especially with the car situation. Love them. I have 2 skirts from Target, and one long black skirt that I've had for so long I can't even remember when I obtained it. I needed a bit of a bump up in the skirt department.

I had more luck at Old Navy than I would have anticipated. I found the Roll Over Jersey Skirts that I've been admiring on their web site for quite some time. I'm not really certain that I'll wear them to Mass, but they are great for work and for leisure. Super comfortable and flattering, and they come to the knee, so the length isn't bad. They were priced $15 each, so I restrained myself from grabbing too many of them, and happily, one of them (not sure why, maybe that specific color?) was marked down to $4.99 so I was a happy girl. The big splurge was for a long skirt, because for the love of heaven, they are *so* hard to come by. I can't even find a picture on the web site, but it's a long ankle-length brown skirt. Real cute, kind of has a peasant thing going on, with some gentle layers and a crinkly look. It's a *perfect* church skirt, but it was $29.50, yikes! I know that may not sound like a lot to most people, but that's much more than I usually spend on a single item of clothing! I'm dying to get another one just so that I can alternate different colors every other week, but I'm simply going to have to wait until they are marked down. I do have a brand new short-sleeved cardigan that I picked up (good for layering) but honestly I may return it simply so that I can apply the credit toward another skirt. I think I'll get more use out of that. Plots return trip to Old Navy tomorrow...

At any rate, I wore the church skirt to Mass on Sunday, and as expected, it performed up to task. Long skirts have the added benefit of staying firmly put and not doing anything scary when Henry inevitably messes with them and tries to hide under them. We don't want me being permanently uninvited from my parish.

So, Mass. This morning I was catching up on some podcasts, and was listening to a broadcast from a few weeks ago of the Catholics Next Door with Greg and Jennifer Wilits. The topic was getting children to behave and pay attention during Mass, which has been on my mind as well. So, I figured I'd blog :)

Every parent has their own set of rules when it comes to managing unruly children during Mass. I have mine, but I don't begin to cast judgment on others who may see things differently. Wrangling children during Mass is *hard*, and as long as the kids aren't doing anything completely objectionable, I keep my opinions to myself.

In my case, I'm usually attending Mass without my husband, so that adds an additional layer of complication to the child wrangle. You don't have another person to run interference with, so you gotta do what you gotta do. Here's what I see as the stages (in my child, thus far) of child development at Mass:

Stage 1 - Infant. Lots of holding, soothing and rocking. If baby cries, take to narthex.

Stage 2 - Ages 1 to 2. This, my friends, is when things get hairy. So, so much squirming. And talking and crying. LOUD talking. For a month or two, I didn't bring Henry to Mass at this age. It was just unrealistic to expect him to keep quiet for an hour. When I did bring him, I did employ *neat* snacks such as a small container of dry Cheerios or those little packaged fruit jelly things, and 1 sippy cup (the non-spill kind) of milk. I was fastidious in making sure that we didn't make crumbs. I know some parents don't do this, and to each their own. I know that children can easily go an hour without eating, it's just all about noise control. Trying to keep a 1 year old quiet for a full hour on your own could make a grown man cry, trust me, so I saw it as justifiable.

Stage 3 - Ages 2 to 3. Pretty much a continuation of above with possibility of full scale tantrum now added in. See Stage 2, supra. Good times.

Stage 4 - Ages 3 to 4. Some improvement here. No more sippy cups and I gradually phased out the snack. Books are key.

Stage 5 - Ages 4 to 5. I still bring books with us every week, including his little Bible, but I do tote along some secular books like the Look and Finds he likes or a super hero book. I've been noticing that he doesn't look at them as much anymore, and this brings me to what Greg and Jennifer were talking about. As your kids get older, how do we engage them and get them to participate at Mass?

This past week, I had him look at my Missal a bit, and tried to whisper explanations in his ear as things were happening. That seemed to go over fairly well. We do always sit near the front now, which does appear to engage him more. I'm thinking about Magnifikid, but he can't read yet, so I'm not sure the time is quite right for that. Suggestions?