Friday, August 30, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 10}

-1- About a month ago, I received something in the mail that filled me with a lot of trepidation: a jury duty summons.

*doomy music plays*

You all know me well enough now to know that I am a Creature Of Habit. And jury duty is throwing a gigantic wrench into my meticulously crafted schedule, and right at the beginning of the semester. Not exactly the best of timing, but I don't think there is ever a perfect time for such things. It's our duty as citizens, and I'm trying to be a good sport about it. Despite being a tad grumpy about the whole thing.

So, each evening next week (excluding the day prior to Labor Day) I have to call in and see if my juror number is required to report. I'm not going to lie: I'm hoping that my number is permitted to go about my usual daily business. I couldn't schedule anything for next week, which is making the two weeks following that a holy nightmare in terms of teaching. But at least I could use that time to prepare some lesson plans.

SO, if blogging is light next week, this is why. I'll report in when I can. I'm planning to bring my Kindle plus a full knitting bag to keep me busy. No smartphone, so no live updates, sorry. :) But I'm hoping I'll be around for my usual Catholic Women's Almanac on Tuesday. Time will tell.

-2- Relatedly, I may some idle time on my hands, so do not forget, dear reader, about my request for your prayer requests. :) I now have a notebook by my side, and anything that you ask me to pray for, I will write down in aforementioned handy-dandy notebook and pray. I find it so comforting to think of someone praying for me and/or my other requests, so please let me do that for you. I'm eager: put me to work.

-3- In other prayer request news, I mentioned the other day about Henry being a lot less interested in faith matters of late. Wednesday evening Mike and I went out to dinner, so I wasn't home when Henry went to bed. So yesterday my little mind was awhirl about how to engage him more in religious matters. He loves to read, and the thought crossed my mind that maybe he would enjoy C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I perused them on Amazon, but then realized that the very library that I work in likely has them in the collection. And in fact they do, so I went and fetched The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe from the juvenile literature collection downstairs. I figured I could read the book to him a little each night and we could discuss the Christian themes that are present. I've never read the books, so it will be just as much of a learning experience for me.

Well. This was a HUGE hit. I read him the first chapter and he was begging me to read more. When I went to tuck him in, and he asked if he could keep reading the book since he always reads a bit on his own to fall asleep. I wasn't sure what to do, but I did allow him to keep reading. I want to be able to discuss everything with him, so I'm going to have to sneak some reading in and catch up to him. :)

When I checked on him later, he was still up, reading away, looking adorable. I asked him about the book this morning, and he said he got to chapter 6, and that he *loved* the book. I'm going to check out the others in the series for him, and I feel good about this. It's C.S. Lewis, we can't go wrong here. Even Mike was thrilled that Henry is so interested in these books. Please keep Henry's budding faith life in your prayers. :)

-4- It's nearly September, and you know what this means? Well, you probably don't, since I'm not giving you a lot to go on. The Catholic New Media Conference is approaching! And I'm going!

It's October 19th this year, in Boston, and both Shauna'h and I are attending. I couldn't be more thrilled. You will be hearing a lot more about this as the date draws nearer. :) It'll be a beautiful time to be in New England, and I'll also get to see my twin baby nephews. Life is good.

-5- In dance news, I'm working on a veil solo for a small performance next weekend. I'm a bit nervous about this, gentle reader.

Me and my veil: A study in a love/hate relationship
The veil is not my favorite prop, but that's why I chose it. I need to work on this, and this performance is a students only format, so that we can all work on things that we find challenging. Hence, out come my alligator-wrestling ways with my silk veil. It's a shockingly good arm workout to fling around a 3 yard length of silk, let me tell you. I've been practicing spins and envelopes and S-cascades, isn't this all quite thrilling? I just hope I don't suffocate in the thing or (worse!) slip on it and make a spectacle of myself.

*bites nails*

-6- In craft news, Anne's two-at-a-time socks are coming right along, I'm about to move on to the heel flaps, EXCITING! Or, at least I find it so. And Twin #1 Sweater is nearly done. I just need to weave in ends and put on a finishing applied icord to make the edges look neater. I'm cruising into fall with my holiday knitting list looking good. I will have pictures next week.

-7- Labor Day weekend is traditionally the last weekend of the summer around here, but I've always loved it. I enjoy the "fresh beginnings" feel of the start of a new school year, and that's part of why I love my job still revolving around an academic calendar. Henry starts third grade on Thursday of next week. My baby! He's not too thrilled about going back to the grind, but it's good for him.

Head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes! Have a great holiday weekend everybody!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Catholic Nook: Corona of Our Mother of Consolation (Augustinian Rosary)

Gentle reader, here is your anecdote for the day, which ties into our Catholic Nook topic for today, relating to St. Augustine. And St. Monica. And Mothers praying for their sons. :)

Last night, I was reading Bible stories with Henry. And he's been very inquisitive lately, asking if all of these things "really happened." Oh sigh. We're at the very beginning of the Old Testament, so you know, it's not so cut and dry.

He's only 7, but he already knows that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren't real, and I've always wanted him to know that God is not just a mythical character that we've invented for his entertainment. God is *real*. This is all complicated, however, by the fact that Mike doesn't believe in God (although he's a baptized and confirmed Catholic, so I truly believe that those sacramental graces are still at work :)). He's very good about not talking to Henry about this, because he doesn't want to undermine my efforts in raising the children Catholic, which I appreciate greatly. But Henry knows that Mike doesn't always come to church with us, and so already this whole God thing is coming only from me and thus holds less sway.

And so I resolved long ago that I would answer honestly any question that my kids asked me about our faith. I don't want them to feel like their normal doubts and spiritual struggles weren't taken seriously or that they were not told the truth. To my mind, this makes our faith (hopefully) more appealing to them. Because in the end, they have to *choose* to continue to practice their faith once they no longer live in my house. If they don't choose that, there isn't much I can do about it then except pray for them. But NOW, now I can try to form them in the faith such that they *want* to make it their own and keep it with them throughout their whole lives. This is my goal.

Where is this going, Tiffany? I'm getting there, I'm getting there. :) This is how my posts always start out, you know that by now. So, last night I was getting the questions again, and I told him that some of the stories in the Old Testament are used by God to show us something. They may not have happened historically exactly as portrayed, but God is trying to teach us things by the story.

Well, this didn't go over very well. :) If it didn't actually happen exactly as written, then he finds it much less compelling. When I left his room to go back downstairs I felt very unsettled. Had I used poor judgment in my explanation of the Bible stories?

To be honest, I don't know the answer to that question. It's the curse of your first child, they are the recipient of all of your mistakes. But before we could start the next episode of  Breaking Bad (snort!) I tearily told Mike of my fears that I'm failing in my efforts as a Catholic mother. And this is where Mike's wonderfulness comes into play. He isn't a practicing Catholic, but he is SO supportive of my faith, and I find it very easy to talk to him about religious matters. As you might expect, with Catholicism being such a huge part of my identity, I want to talk about it A LOT. He soothed me and made some suggestions. As we were talking, the thought crossed my mind that yesterday was the feast of St. Monica. We all know about how she prayed for years and years for her son Augustine to find faith in God (and end his carousing ways, but luckily we don't have to worry about that just yet :)).

And so I wung up a prayer for St. Monica's intercession on this issue that is now on my heart. After Breaking Bad (*really* finding Walt unlikeable at this point, for fellow viewers) I pulled out my Magnificat to read Evening Prayer. I saw that today was slated as St. Augustine's feast day, which made sense. This made me happy. Clearly, God was trying to soothe me that Henry will be fine. :)

This morning on the reference desk, I toted my new handbook of sacramentals to find an idea for the next Catholic Nook post. In between student textbook questions (ha!) I prayed Morning Prayer for the feast of St. Augustine, then prayed for God to guide me, and opened the book randomly to a page. It was for the Augustinian Rosary.

*cue the Hallelujah chorus*

To me, this was NOT a coincidence. No way. This book is nearly 350 pages long and I just happened to open up to the devotion ascribed to Sts. Monica and Augustine? Don't think so.

Ok, so *finally*, what the heck is this devotion to Our Mother of Consolation? According to tradition, St. Monica frequently asked for the intercession of Our Lady in her years of desperate prayer for Augustine. Quick tangent: I hope he realizes how much his mother suffered on his behalf. *eyes narrow* I think of this often whenever I see children, even when they're adults, doing anything ill advised or dangerous: "ARE YOU *NOT* THINKING ABOUT HOW YOUR MOTHER WILL WORRY?! CLEARLY NOT!!.

Anyway, back on track. At one point. St. Monica had a vision of Our Lady, who appeared to her wearing mourning clothes with a shining cincture (belt). Our Lady gave the cincture to St. Monica as a sign of her motherly consolation and commiseration, who passed it on to the wayward Augustine. St. Augustine later gave it to his community, who wore cinctures as a sign of their devotion to Our Lady under the title Our Mother of Consolation.

What is now known as the Augustinian Rosary is an offshoot of this particular devotion to Our Mother of Consolation. The "regular rosary" is a way of requesting Our Lady's intercession as we meditate on events in the life of Jesus. The Augustinian Rosary is a way of asking for the intercession of Our Lady in her role as Mother of Consolation via meditating on the Apostles Creed. The rosary is designed with thirteen pairs of beads. Two additional beads (on which one prays an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the intentions of the pope) and a medal of Our Lady of Consolation appear at the bottom. The very long version of this rosary (also has a crucifix at the bottom) that you see at the top of this post is from an Augustinian religious habit. Usually, for lay people, these will be made as small chaplets with the same bead configuration I mentioned.

On each pair of beads, one meditates on a key phrase from the Apostles Creed, and then recites an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be. The meditations are described in detail here. (Caveat: this is not a Catholic order affiliated with the Church, I think it's important to mention that. It is, however, one of the only sites online that lists the prayers in detail, so I'm maintaining the link here for illustrative purposes.)

And so, I feel soothed. :) I do not own one of these particular chaplets, but I so enjoyed the story of St. Monica praying to Our Lady for the conversion of her son's heart. I pray the same not only for my son, but for all of my children and Godchildren. That they may always stay close to Christ and His Church. And may St. Monica and St. Augustine intercede to Our Lord for me in this request.

Amen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catholic Women's Almanac {CWA No. 3}

School, hence craziness, has started here at the university at which I work. The parking lots are a disaster, and the hallways during my afternoon walks an atrocity (think: a noisy gaggle of 18 year olds wielding smartphones and texting each other while trying to walk, all at the same time). But we persevere! Settle in with me for a reflection on my week. And check out the other CWA posts over at Suspicio!

Thanking God for...

My job. I am privileged to not only have a good job, but one that I actually enjoy and suits my personality well.

My husband and children. Mike and I have been watching Breaking Bad lately on DVD (yes, I know, we're interrupting this lovely and reverent section with the meth-induced debacle that is portrayed in Breaking Bad but it's relevant, I promise), and with each episode I am more and more grateful for the positive influences in my life. I've also been finding myself more patient with my kids when they're trying to test my patience. Seeing what horrors other children live through, I want my kids to have only happy memories. 

Praying...

Today is the feast of St. Monica! I prayed the novena, and today's prayers and readings from the Magnificat were a wonderful cap to that endeavor. Praying for all those who have lost their faith to regain it once again!

St. Monica was only in her 50's when she died, I don't agree with this likeness. :) Perhaps her son's early antics aged her before her time? This seems more likely.
Also, I've been very inspired by Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet and her calls out to readers who wish for her to pray for their specific intentions. It's easy to become introspective in prayer, and praying for others is the absolute best way to overcome this. So, if anybody has anything they would like me to pray about on your behalf, please let me know. :) I do have comment moderation on this blog, so if you'd rather that I not publish your request, just mention that in your comment. But rest assured that I'll be praying for you all the same! Otherwise, I will publish all of the comments so that others can pray for you, too. And I'll write back to everyone, letting you know exactly how and when I'll be praying for your intentions. Cristina does this, and I'm so, so touched by it. Looking forward to this! So, don't be bashful about asking. :)

Pondering...

How can I make my job a "ministry" of sorts? I'm not talking about sharing my faith outwardly, but I know that small things, done with love, can be a blessing to others. I work mostly with undergraduate students, and at times they can be annoying. :) Reading directions? That seems too much to ask sometimes. Being aware of the needs of others; being considerate of others by being on time for appointments; being aware of rules and reasonable expectations? As you might expect, these are oftentimes lacking in this age group. But they are in a vulnerable place in their lives and need all the guidance they can get. A kind and understanding word can turn their day around just as easily as it can turn yours and mine around.

I need to remember this the next time Student #1,894 asks me if the library carries all of their textbooks. :)

Reading...

The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness, by Paul Murray, OP. I will be discussing this book on this blog on September 25th as part of the Catholic Book Club if you'd like to join in reading this! I am on chapter 3, dedicated to the Dominican love of study as a form of contemplation. Good stuff!

An Amish Kitchen, a compilation including Beth Wiseman, one of my favorite Amish fiction authors.  This is a *very* sweet collection, I'm on story #2 now. It's available for Kindle for just over $8, but I remember that I snapped it up on a day that it was available for download for $2.50. What I set up on Amazon is that I created a private shopping list that I stow ebooks on that I'd like to read. Every day I check it, and Amazon puts a note in bold if the price has dropped since you added an item to the list. And with ebooks, price specials happens a LOT. This is a great way to nab ebooks that you've been wanting at reduced prices.

In my home...

This fall, I want to really take advantage of the cooler weather and experiment with new recipes. We don't have central air conditioning, so in the summer cooking tends to go by the wayside since it heats up the kitchen so much. What I'd like to do is try recipes that I've always coveted but have been afraid I'd do a poor job with. What's the harm in trying, right? If it's an epic failure it makes a good blog story, but some things may turn out great. In particular, I'd like to try meats that I rarely cook with (this would be anything besides chicken), and vegetables and grains that I've never tried before. Kale, anyone?


Creating...

Anne's fall cardigan is done:

This is the face I think you're supposed to make when someone takes a camera out.
I cast on for the first of two toddler sweaters for my twin nephews, and the first one is nearly done! It's a dark blue, the color is called "dusk." It's very nice, a comfy garter stitch pullover in superwash merino wool. Hopefully I'll have a picture next week.

I also cast on for, da, da, da, DAH! My very first attempt at two-at-a-time socks. I'm using Melissa Morgan-Oakes' 2-at-a-Time Socks as my guide. This is for cuff down socks, my favorite method. We don't, *ah hem*, speak of my attempt to knit socks from the toe up. Right now I'm knitting the sample socks, which are designed for a toddler using worsted weight yarn. The technique calls for you to use one long circular needle to knit both socks, if you can picture this. Here is my progress:

The initial cast-on and first few rounds resulted in a bit of profanity. *innocent eyebrow arch* It's very fiddly having two balls of yarn going at the same time plus the twisty cable and you're trying to keep two little skinny circles of ribbing in the correct place on the needles. A bit of a learning curve, to be sure. After those initial rounds though things got a lot easier, plus I'm getting more used to the method. My cuffs are taking shape and I'm hoping to move on to the heel flap within the next few days. VICTORY WILL BE MINE.

I just love that there is no Second Sock Syndrome with this method. If Mike were here, he would snort. "Second Sock Syndrome? You make it sound like an incurable disease." But we knitters know that this is nothing to mess around with. In is, in fact, deadly. :)

Visiting...

My crafting has been on my mind this week, mostly because of this bedspread pattern that I have become obsessed with based upon Mike's endorsement of it. Hence, I've been spending quite a bit of time over at Knit Picks, my favorite place to buy yarn. *insert heart here*

And yes, yarn is on its way for the bedspread. Look for information about this project in the "Creating..." section in the weeks to come. For approximately the next decade.

Captured...


I made this heart lace cardigan for Anne several months back, and she didn't pay it any mind all summer long until very recently. All of a sudden, she has to wear it each evening as she watches a Dora episode. She has a thing for the buttons.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A headcovering linkup? I'm there!

Me and my Infinity Veil: In love.

Jenna is hosting a veiling linkup over at her blog, and naturally, I could not resist participating. :) I am a veiler, and I love to read about the experience of other women on this issue. Three years ago I wrote a post on modesty in which I ruminated for a bit on headcoverings, and that Lent I conducted an experiment in which I wore a covering for the entire season. You can find those by perusing all of the posts from this blog with the headcovering tag, just go back to February 2010.

Ok, so, I started wearing a headcovering to Mass about three years ago, and the impetus was a a larger look at how I approached Mass. I had a young son, and usually we were attending Mass by ourselves. My husband is very supportive of my Catholic faith, and he does come to Mass with us sometimes, but not every week. So, I was wrangling a rambunctious little boy by myself and often felt, you know, HARRIED. I wasn't putting a lot of time or attention into what I wore to Mass other than that my shoulders and knees were always covered. But I didn't "dress up," and I realized that God deserves for me to put my best foot forward when I come to be with Him.

And so I started putting time into selecting a pretty outfit for Mass each week and really enjoyed that. Hand in hand with that, to me at least, was wearing a headcovering. I wanted to present myself as really focusing on Jesus when I'm there, and for me, a headcovering is a physical reminder to do that. I also find them quite beautiful, and they lend a spirit of quiet reverence to my Let's Worry About Everything All The Time! soul. I certainly do not think that I am holier because I wear one; if anything, it is that I am *less* so than others since I *need* this reminder to stay focused!

So I wore them for Lent 2010, and then continued after that because I enjoyed it. I started off with kerchief-style coverings and thick headbands (like what Cam sells here).

I don't look that much older 3 year later. DO I?!
Recently, I bought the infinity veil pictured at the top of this post (like Michelle sells here) and that is the covering that I wear exclusively now at Mass (I still wear my other ones quite a bit around the house; they are beautiful and keep my hair off of my face :)). The first time I wore it I did feel more self-conscious because this is a veil and people do notice it more. The other coverings I wore could have simply been just a part of my outfit. No other women at my parish wear veils or snoods. There are a few women who wear hats, but they are pretty rare.

However, after that first week with the veil I really didn't think about it at all. People know now that I wear it and nobody looks at me funny. It seems to me that the women in my parish have a "do what you like" attitude about headcovering, which is the way that it should be. It's a personal choice. No one should be made to feel badly about whether they do it nor not.

I now tow two children to Mass with me, and the veiling hasn't been a problem as combined with the necessary wrangling. My daughter is two so she is the tougher candidate, to be sure. The veil slips a lot as I rescue her from under the pew or stop her from climbing nearby statuary, but I like that it simply settles back down around my neck. When I'm ready again, I just tug it back up into place.

It reminds me not to lose my temper when my son yet *again* does something to deliberately annoy his sister ("well, but I didn't TOUCH her, so I'm following directions!!") and then she squawks at him in response. It allows me to hide a bit when my daughter loudly passes gas in a most unladylike fashion, or even worse, lets loose one of the "silent but deadly" variety like she did yesterday and stinks out half the sanctuary. In between digging animal crackers out of a diaper bag and retrieving sippy cups that have rolled down the aisle, I feel calm and at peace when I glimpse the lace on the sides of my face.

We're at Mass together, and that's what matters. That's what I focus on.

Head over to Call Her Happy for more veiling stories from this weekend. :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 9}

-1- I took the day off yesterday, and my mom and I took Anne to Build-a-Bear Workshop. I know it's a bit of a ripoff, but I do love taking the kids there for a special treat. Anne ran around chirpily and had a great time. She picked a brown bear with a cookie on her paw, and we named her "Cookie." She seemed to enjoy giving her new bear a scrub down at the bathing station the most. We never even approach the bear clothing boutique, because I think THAT is where your money really gets sucked into the nether world.

-2- Classes start here on Monday and I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about the craziness that this always brings. Not to mention the parking-related disasters. But the fall is generally my favorite semester. There's a freshness in the air and in the spirits of the students, it's nice to be a part of. It doesn't matter how old I get, I STILL love being on an academic calendar, it just feels so right to me.

-3- Speaking of fall, I finished Anne's rainbow/autumn cardigan:

And here is Anne modeling it, with what she considers a "good picture-taking smile":

-4- And speaking of knitting, I've been wanting to make Mike and I a coverlet/spread for our bed for years. And we've always wanted a quilt for our bed, so I was toying with knitting or crocheting a blanket that you create in blocks and them seam together to look like a quilt. Why am I thinking about this when I have holiday crafting to do? Because the spirit of the fall has swept over me and I have lost my mind, that's why. But I was looking at a pattern yesterday for one of these crocheted quilts, and Mike looks over my shoulder and says: "are you going to make that for our bed? I love it."

Well now, gentle reader, we can't let that go uncrocheted NOW!! I mean, I've pretty much been given permission to buy a ridiculous amount of new yarn and pick pretty colors!! The pattern lists the yarn requirements in ounces, which is odd I need to do some Ravelry research today, but via Mike's calculations this means that I will need *hold on to your hats* 40 SKEINS OF YARN to make this thing. When one contemplates waiting for a sale on Knit Picks *acrylic* we know that that is a LOT of yarn. I'm a little concerned. I'm hoping that our calculations were just wrong, otherwise this may be too much for me to take on. I don't want some horrible square-creating monster sitting in my knitting bag for the next 2 years while I want to gouge my own eyeballs out  with my crochet hook because I'm so sick of the thing. I'll keep you posted.

-5- I have dance tonight, and we're going to be discussing two upcoming performances, fun! Plus, the studio is hosing a "student for student hafla" meaning that only current students are invited to perform and come. It's an opportunity for dancers to try out new choreographies, techniques, or props that you find a bit challenging and don't want to debut at a public event. My dance nemesis is my veil, so she and I are going to be dancing together for this hafla. I found a piece of music that I'm terribly inspired by and is very veil-appropriate which is great. Unfortunately, I'm terrible at dancing with a veil,, lol. My barrel turns are abysmal and I just am so unused to being tied down by having a veil in my hands. I'll be working on this for the next few weeks and will report in. But challenges are good, and a veil is a very versatile, crowd-pleasing prop, and I want to get better at it.

-6-Chapter Sunday for my Third Order Dominican group is this Sunday and I'm toying with going for the first time in forever. It's been hard for me to get there since I had the kids since the only way they get to Mass is if I take them, and it's not the easiest church to take boisterous little ones to. Henry would be fine now, Anne is another story. I'm trying to coordinate it with my Dominican friend Rose that we either go this weekend or to the September Mass and meeting. So, we'll see. :)

-7- Speaking of Third Order Dominicans, today is the feast of St. Rose of Lima!

Rose wanted to be a nun, but her parents weren't so wild about that idea, so instead she took a vow of chastity and joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. What I remember about her story is that she was said to be very beautiful, and she didn't like the attention that little attribute meant, so she cut her hair off and rubbed pepper on her face so that she wouldn't attract any suitors. Saint stories are often, ah hem, *interesting* are they not? :)

Have a great weekend everybody! Check out other 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fall is in the air, hence: a holiday knitting update

Classes start on Monday here, gentle reader, and you know what this means: your Catholic Librarian starts to knit and crochet even more earnestly than she already was, and she starts to peruse Advent items for the kids. Yes, all before September 1st. I'm nuts like that.

About a month ago, I posted a list of gifts that I'd like to make for the fall and Christmas. I thought it might be amusing to check back on how we're progressing with them. Especially since I've been perusing *bedspread and winter coat patterns* so that I'll have a big project to work on IN MY SPARE TIME. This shows you the level of delusion that you're working with.

The original list is pasted in here in regular script. My updated comments will be below each person's list in red.

Mike - Mr. Rogers-style cardigan. He asked for one, and I think that's adorable. I have the yarn, and it's smashing. I'm knitting this.

I still have the yarn, it's still gorgeous. No knitting has yet begun on this one. *sweats* Plus, I've decided I really want to knit him a pair of socks out of Knit Picks new tweed sock yarn. Yes, I'm crazy.

Anne - Rainbow cardigan, watermelon hat, mittens (I came to my senses, she hates mittens), maybe a stuffed bear and/or a saint doll.

Rainbow cardigan is DONE! *gold star* The other items remain in yarn form in my stash.

Henry - Socks.

One sock is DONE! What's that you ask, dear reader? Doesn't he have two feet? Well, yes he does. The only problem is that I'm low on yarn. #projectplanningfail I'm going to order another skein with my next Knit Picks order, don't you worry, and then Henry will have TWO socks!

Various relatives that I see on Christmas Eve - Dishcloths using some cool patterns that I'm jonesing to try.

Haven't started on these yet. I'm going to crochet them, they should be fast. #powerofpositivethinking

Twin nephews - A sweater and a hat per baby.

Ah hem, nothing. However, I DID knit a sweater for ANOTHER baby, the child of a friend who I owed a birthday gift to. What's that, you say? This doesn't count toward holiday knitting? Moving on quickly...

Mom - Socks.

No movement on this score either. I may use my cherished self-patterning snowman sock yarn kit for her socks, so believe me, she'll come out ahead on this one.

Mother-in-law - new kitchen cloths and towels.

At her request, I made her a scarf instead, and it's DONE! *pats self on back*

Christmas exchange gift for a knitting group member yet to be determined - cannot release secret. :)

We haven't picked names yet, so I'm not behind on this one. *halo*

All right, so leaves me with a cardigan, 2 baby sweaters, 5 socks (not *pairs*, just 5 socks :)), 3 hats, a saint doll, an exchange gift and dishcloths to number with the stars.

That may actually be manageable. MAY. Let's check back on this again in a month, shall we? Will I have yet swatched for Mike's Mr. Rogers cardigan?! Oh the excitement and anticipation!!

As for Advent planning, prepare for multiple posts on that as the fall unfolds. :) No post tomorrow, I'm off, but I'll return for 7 Quick Takes on Friday!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Catholic Women's Almanac {CWA, No. 2}

It's a beautiful week in late August here, the week before classes start back up at the university I work at. Fall is in the air! There is a lot to be grateful for. Check out the other CWA posts over at Suspicio!

Thanking God for...

 My family, especially my husband. He loves and supports me for who I really am (a passionately Catholic, yarn hoarding belly dancer :)).

My faith. It's not even September, and I'm already anticipating Advent with an excited feeling in the pit of my stomach. I *love* Catholic traditions! And having children to share them with makes it even better.

My friends. Especially the knitters and the dancers. :)

Praying...

For the new school year. We have Henry in a Catholic school that we really love, but I know that he prefers to be at home and can be anxious about school sometimes. My husband will be teaching four courses this semester (Ethics and Intro. to Philosophy), and I'm hoping that goes well too.

I'm also praying the St. Monica novena (feast: August 27th) for my family and Godchildren to always remain close to Christ and His Church.

Pondering...

How can I enhance my prayer life? I have my daily "usuals" (Magnificat, rosary, novena prayers where applicable, the sacraments although not every day), but really, I can do better.  My faith life is good right now, but I can feel myself becoming a bit complacent. Complacency definitely does not belong in the spiritual life.

Reading...

The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness, by Paul Murray, OP. I will be discussing this book on this blog on September 25th as part of the Catholic Book Club if you'd like to join in reading this! I received my copy over the weekend, and am up to Chapter 2 now. It's quite interesting! It's obviously not the usual lighter spiritual memoir that I ordinarily prefer, but for a more scholarly book, the writing style is quite accessible and it's full of fascinating little Dominican tidbits. For instance, did you know that the Dominicans are one of the few of the major religious orders which has not experienced internal fracture and splintering off? Want to learn more? Do read. :)

In my home...

We have a small vegetable garden, and this year Mike got all ambitious and created a real raised bed for us. I have to say, as a result, our bounty has never been this good. We only planted tomatoes and peppers this year, but our cherry tomato plant is threatening to take over the entire YARD. We have the cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, sweet banana peppers (LOVE these), and bell peppers of the green, yellow and orange variety. The green peppers have all turned out great. The orange and yellow seem to need a lot of coaxing to actually turn their designated color. 

Creating...

Anne's fall cardigan is nearly done, hopefully I'll have pictures of it (with toddler cutely inside) next week. As soon as the ends are all woven in on that, I'm going to cast on for the two-at-a-time socks, very exciting! I may also make some fast dishcloths since some of ours have seen better days.

Visiting...

I've really been into my dancing lately, and I've started re-watching Season 1 of Project Belly Dance It's very fun! If you enjoy watching dance, you will enjoy watching this, especially Season 1 (which I liked better than Season 2). It's a nice opportunity to see all different styles and interpretations of Middle Eastern dance. Everybody brings something different to it, it's lovely to see.

Captured...

Speaking of belly dance...



Here's my troupe "inconspicuously" making our way to the first of two performances on Saturday, looking like a herd of Chiquita Banana ladies with our flower trays.

Have a great week everybody!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A tale of two performances...

It's Bellydance Monday, for those who enjoy such things. :) We have a happy post today with some fun anecdotes. Settle in!

(as an aside, I don't want it to look like I'm vain by only posting pictures of myself :) I just don't feel it's right to post photos of my group without their explicit permission, so I only post pictures of them where no one is easily recognizable. I have free reign over my own pictures, so you're stuck looking at me, sorry about that).

It was a tale of two extremes, to be sure. Late Saturday afternoon, our troupe was slated to dance at an art festival at a historic site on the river. We were told we would be dancing in the "amphitheater." Sounds swanky, no?

*unladylike snort*

The amphitheater turned out to be a broken up slab of concrete filled with all manner of things conducive to dancing, you know: weeds, big cracks and uneven surfaces, piles of fallen bricks, broken glass, caution tape, the works.

There we are, being brave.

It was also outrageously hot out, I think just based on the suns position in the sky and the fact that it felt like it was beating down rays just for us. Within minutes, we were all covered in a positive SHEEN of sweat, which seemed to attract even more insects than were already present, busily pollinating things that were growing up between the cracked concrete.

Glamour, ALL GLAMOUR.

So we started to dance. Our set for both events was about 25 minutes. Two group numbers, some solos, followed by the group tray number as a finale. Some people followed us out which was encouraging given that the "amphitheater" wasn't exactly conveniently located near the other attractions. We had a crowd of maybe 25-30 people for a bit, but people gradually drifted away as they wanted to get to other things and nobody else really knew we were out there. Thus, pretty soon we found ourselves dancing our little hearts out for a handful of people, one of whom was drunk. Lovely.

My solo went really well, and no costume malfunctions:

Good shot of the caution tape in the background.
A few people in boats stopped to watch us as they passed by on the river, but all in all the event itself left us feeling dejected. We danced awesome, but there weren't too many people there to appreciate it. The drunk guy doesn't count.

However, we DID seize upon the opportunity to take some awesome photographs:

Edgy!

 We also posed as a group over by the water, the uneven surface making it look all dangerous.  The resulting pictures are sweet, I have to say.

We schlepped back to the cars and had a quick bite to eat before our next gig.

And so speaking of the next gig, it couldn't have been more different from the first. Instead of the city, we were to perform in a local affluent suburb, one who invited us back to dance after our last festival (so they like us) but one who will NOT use the B Word: BELLY. Apparently we don't say BELLY in this town, just DANCE. Whatever.

It was a community street faire, and upon our arrival it was very clear that this was going to be a whole different ballgame than graffiti and brick piles. We were slated to dance in the street in front of a popular restaurant patio and the place, as well as the street itself, was *packed*. Jubilant people everywhere, live music. People kept stopping us, seeing our coverups, to ask if we were dancers and when/where would we be performing.

We convened next to the restaurant to prepare. An older man staggered past us to go pee in the trees, so some things aren't all that different in this town as everywhere else. But in contrast to our first performance, I was NERVOUS. There were a LOT of people there, dear reader, and it wasn't exactly clear how we would clear the street to perform, and if people would just wander into our dance space, especially for the solos. I was feeling quite apprehensive as we headed out to the street to try and get things started.

We set up a boundary using our flower trays. A *boatload* of people anxiously crowded around us. The restaurant's band, acting as our soundguys, started our music. And so we started to dance.

I have to say, I was SO much more nervous about this event given the number of people, but holy smokes, it was SO MUCH BETTER!! The happy crowd created an energy that one could actually feed off of.

We did our opening two numbers. The crowd watched with rapt attention. The music was on one continual playlist, and so we just queued up for our solos, one after another. And it went GREAT.

There I am, in street belly dancing mode.
I was actually really pleased to see that for the first time, in the majority of the photos, I am *smiling*. Smiling while performing is actually an acquired skill, and I've come a long way, baby!

I know you were all praying for the safety of our flower trays :) and I'm happy to report that they went fabulous in both locations. At the second event, we added electric tealights to them since it was getting dark, and I have to say, it looks awesome:

Our hips and trays in perfect harmony
Balancing is a huge crowd pleaser. Add in Claire coming in at the middle of the number with her Wings of Isis and you have one impressed crowd. I had SO much fun! It was wonderful.

As you might expect, drunk people abounded at this event, but nobody did anything embarrassing (well, except the Older Pee Guy who also came up to us afterward and asked if anybody was looking to date an energetic 75 year old). I think that was the most fun I've had since joining the performance group.

AND, this same town committee who asked us to perform on Saturday have already gotten in contact with Claire to ask if we'll dance at another event on Labor Day weekend.

It feels good to be loved. :)

In contrast to what people normally think about belly dance, it is (when done correctly :)) G-rated and family friendly! No scandalous costuming or movements, I promise! I hope events like the ones we danced at recently help people to see belly dance in a new light. It's simply a cultural dance form, longing to be accepted like it's cousins. :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 8}

-1- Well how about that, my two month anniversary with 7 Quick Takes! I have found the 7 Quick Takes linkup to be quite a blessing for me and this blog. I have found new blogs to read, and I know for a fact that a LOT more people read my humble thoughts on here now than ever before. I appreciate and pray for you all!! I love to write, and it means to much to have people actually read what I write. I remember, back in the days before blogs *settle in gentle reader, and bask in how old I am* I used to write up humorous reviews of bad television programs (Desperate Housewives anyone? And *brace yourselves* Temptation Island!!! what was I thinking?!) and email them to my friends and family who enjoyed such things. Ah, memories. Now I can write such things for the world to write. Should the world care, that is.

-2- You know what today is? (she's going to *kill* me for advertising this) My younger sister's 30th birthday. :) Happy Birthday! And the reason that I'm mentioning it is that I am, we'll just say, *a bit* older than her. It's more than a 2 year gap. :) And so, when my mom was pregnant with her, I *remember* that. I actually knew her before she was born! I remember painting my mom's toenails for her because she couldn't reach them with her big pregnant belly. :) And I remember feeling Shauna'h moving around in utereo. I mean, isn't that precious? PRECIOUS.

-3- Speaking of age, ugh. This one is right up there with my infamous eye doctor visit. I had a little dental trip this week that has left me a bit shell shocked. My dentist recommended that I go see a periodontist for a gum-related issue (aren't you so glad that you know this?) and I've been putting it off for seriously almost a year. It's nothing personal against dentists you see, I just HATE THEM. I don't know what it is, but I find it incredibly uncomfortable to have any work done on my teeth. As a child, like many others, I had braces and hence saw an orthodontist for years. Who was very nice, but I also had to have some teeth extracted and THAT guy? Not so nice. Maybe I have Dental PTSD.

Anyway, I finally dragged myself to the periodontist, and actually, he was super. He gets an A. Very kind, sympathetic, warm and understanding. Loved him. Didn't so much love what he told me. Want to know what he told me? Apparently my braces from all those years ago caused my gums to move away from my teeth in one part of my mouth (lovely, yes I know). As you can imagine, that's not a good situation. The gum not being in the proper position can lead to bone loss which of course can lead to YOUR TEETH FALLING OUT. And do you want to know what they do to fix this?

No, dear reader, you do NOT want to know. I'm going to spare you, but I'll just say that it involves surgery, and if I want to fix this little problem I'm going to have to have this surgery to the tune of over $1,000. Pleasant? Not by a long shot. And even talking about the surgery specifics leaves me in tears so I'll refrain, but be prepared for me to be complaining about this again coming up here. A LOT.

-4- On that note, we desperately need something positive to focus on, so let's talk dance. :) My troupe is performing at two events tomorrow, both outside, please pray for the safety of our flower trays. :0 I'm also doing a solo *bites nails* so let's all pray that nothing horrifying befalls me this time. I will report in on Monday. :)

-5- Speaking of dance, a flamenco teacher is starting classes at my studio in September, and I have to say, I'm SUPER tempted. I've always wanted to learn flamenco. I hate to commit to another hour class per week, though this one is Tuesday nights after Anne goes to bed, so maybe? I will keep you posted.

-6- If you haven't yet read up on the new Catholic Book Club that I'm hosting, please do so if you'd like to join us! The first book is The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality - A Drink Called Happiness slated for discussion on September 25th. This isn't available as an ebook, I ordered a print copy. Amazon has a bunch of used copies listed in the Marketplace for around $8 (add on $3.99 shipping), or definitely check out your local library to see if you can scare up a copy. :) Even if you aren't affiliated with the Dominican order like I am, you may enjoy reading about what makes this order special and what it's charisms can teach all of us.

-7- Mike and I are taking Henry on a hike today, so I'm hoping to get lots of exercise and breathe in lots of fresh air. I'm certain that, since Henry is along, we will also (a) answer lots of questions, and (b) stop to eat multiple times. But what a fabulous late August venture!

Have a great weekend everybody! Check out other 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Catholic Nook: Confession

I've written a little bit about Confession before, but never any in-depth treatment, and since I actually received the sacrament this week, I thought the timing was perfect. :)

As I mentioned in the link I pasted in above, Confession is definitely one of the lesser understood of the seven sacraments, by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  Let's start with definitions and a description from the Catechism, and then we can move on to personal experiences (my favorite!).

Confession is more properly called the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. In paragraph 1422, the Catechism tells us that when we approach the sacrament we are looking to "...obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and [we] are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which [we] have wounded by [our]sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for [our]conversion."

The Catechism then discusses the different ways Confession may be described, and it's quite lovely [paragraphs 1423 and 1424]..

"It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin."

"It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction."

"It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgement and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man."

"It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent 'pardon and peace.'"

"It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles...He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call..."

Often, I think Confession is seen as an embarrassing waste of time. "Why should I have to tell my sins to a priest, when I can just do that directly to God?!" I'm going to be honest: I used to think that too.

But I have come to realize that this sacrament offers SO much more than that. Let's go through each of the above points with regard to Yours Truly.

Sacrament of Conversion - We are all called to conversion throughout our lives, this is not a one-time deal. And when we go astray, it's SO easy to rationalize that this isn't such a bad thing. "Why should I feel guilty about this? It's not so bad/everybody else is going it/it makes me happy, and so what's wrong with *that*?!" We allow ourselves to blame the Church, "Catholic guilt!!" instead of blaming ourselves. Sin drives a wedge in our relationship with God, and we *should* feel guilty about that and about what we have done to cause that. It doesn't mean that we should torture ourselves over it, we're human and we *will* sin no matter how hard we try not to, but we need to grow enough in our faith that we recognize what we're doing wrong and how we need help dealing with it. By going to Confession, we're acknowledging that we recognize what we've done to sin and we're asking for God's help in doing better.

Sacrament of Penance - By going to the church and to the priest/confessional, we're physically moving towards our goal of cleansing ourselves of sin and reconciling ourselves to the Church. It's easy to just wing up a prayer while sitting at our desks at home: "I know you forgive me, thank you God." But getting in our car, driving to the church, waiting to speak to the priest, kneeling down and making ourselves vulnerable...this all takes effort. It takes perseverance. It takes courage. :)

Sacrament of Confession - Speaking of courage...yeeaahhh, I know it's unpleasant to air your dirty laundry in front of some guy you may not know very well. It's embarrassing, it's uncomfortable, it's humbling, it's all of that stuff. But does it act as a major discourager from committing that sin again and then having to go BACK to your friend the priest to tell him all about it? You betcha.

Sacrament of Forgiveness - I know that I *feel* God's forgiveness when the priest prays the prayer of absolution over me. Having another person verbalize that forgiveness to you has power.

Sacrament of Reconciliation - Having gone through the whole experience of a confession, I can say that yes, the sacrament *imparts* something very real, that you have been forgiven and are reconciled in your relationship to God and to the Church. You just feel different when you step out of that confessional.

And so we have yesterday. I stopped at home to fetch young Henry and off we drove to Confession. Our arrival was heralded by the inevitable 3 little old ladies that are present at every offering of Confession. I wanted to examine my conscience and Henry wanted to bounce around the church and look at the statues. I told him he could do that afterwards, and so he got in line ahead of me. While he was in there I could hear his little voice mingling with the deeper voice of the priest, which was very sweet. :)  In a few minutes, Henry came out and slipped into a pew to say his prayers, and it was my turn.

I always feel a little awkward at the start of confession, and at this parish the screened side of the confessional is real dark (it's not at my regular parish, which has a seat in there with full lighting and the Act of Contrition taped up on the wall :)). Therefore, I managed to kick the kneeler by mistake, making a bunch of noise and hurting my toe. This is not unusual for me, your resident Klutz.

When I knelt down, the priest had a very sweet welcoming message before I even said anything. That set a very nice tone. :) I told him how long it had been since my last confession and away we went. I gave him my carefully prepared litany of sins and he listened quietly. When I finished, he provided a few words about pertinent Scripture and assured me soothingly. I said my Act of Contrition. Then he prayed the prayer of absolution which is always the highlight of every confession for me. And then I was done! But not before losing my purse in the dark and having to grope around for it.

When I got out a little old lady took my place in the confessional and Henry was nowhere to be found. After I prayed for a few minutes I located him poking around on a side alter, he's precious.

And so there you have it. Not so painful, truly. Catholics are obliged to avail themselves of this sacrament at least once per year. And yes, there have been years where I have just done the minimum. But in recent years I have done better. If it's been 3 months since I've gone, I really prioritize it. And let me tell you, you WILL notice a difference in your spiritual life if you go to Confession more frequently, it's just a fact.

Happy vigil of the Feast of the Assumption everybody. :) And if you haven't been to Confession in quite some time...consider going! You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Catholic Women's Almanac {CWA, No. 1)

I found this lovely linkup via Cristina's blog (which you'll see linked) hosted at Suspicio. Since I always love a good linkup, I thought I would butt in and participate. :) And an almanac? Seriously, how could I not? It's a collection of glimpses into the lives of other Catholic women, and so here you have mine!


Thanking God for...

My imperfect and happy life.

The fact that fall is coming...SOON! The campus is brimming with activity and new decorations. I work at a public university, so you know, money is tight. But when coordinating new duct tape goes up over the tears in the carpet, you know the students are coming back soon! We plan to take advantage of some of the fun fall activities around here this year, and with Anne being older, we think everybody will enjoy them this year. Pumpkin farms and apple picking, here we come!

My belly dance group. Last Friday we attempted to take a group picture of our heads all together in a circle for the web site ("Is that your hair? sorry!!" "Ok, I need the entire group to scooch carefully this way. Hum. Nope, scooch back." "I think my head is bigger than yours, am I blocking you?!"). Let's just say that hilarity ensued. I'm so, SO grateful for these women that I get together with every Friday evening to dance, to laugh, and to share our trials and tribulations with.

Praying...

 For all children who need homes to be adopted. On Saturday, my hairdresser was trimming my hair and we were talking about a woman who had just been in the salon with her little girl that she adopted from China. Soon, I was getting details about orphanages and little children left neglected in cribs for days at a time, with shaved heads so that hygiene was less of a factor. I'm sure you'll be unsurprised to learn that I started crying right there in the salon, and so did my hairdresser.

This lead to the following exchange:

*Mike opens door*

"Hi Sweetie! How did it go?"

"DO YOU WANT TO ADOPT A LITTLE GIRL FROM CHINA?!"

*Mike arches eyebrow due to lack of context*

*Tiffany starts crying again*

Pondering...

Is my faith life moving forward, or is it remaining stagnant? I remember reading once that a person's relationship with God is either moving forward or backward, there is no staying the same. So stagnation is a decided negative. I do think I'm feeling a bit stagnant. Heading to confession after work today to jump start things again.

Reading...

Christian suspense. Cape Refuge, by Terri Blackstone.  A really good thriller set on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, and I think I downloaded this for free when it was on the Inspired Reads list one day. This is book 1 of a four book series, and I see that right now books 1 and 2 are packaged together for $1.99 for Kindle here. This first book is about the murder of a couple who own and run a church and home for former prisoners trying to turn their lives around.

Homeing...

My dilly beans are still marinating in their canister on the counter and I'm kind of afraid to open it and actually go IN there. It's looking a bit murky. I'm not a bad cook, but anything involving canning I have no experience in. Will report in on this later. :)

Creating...

Knitting a Tulips baby cardigan for Anne in fall colors. 

I just finished crocheting a tweed ripple scarf for my mother-in-law in burgundy and black.

Next up: my first attempt at knitting socks two-at-a-time. Doesn't "two-at-a-time" just sound so nice and...fast? Christmas is coming people, we're on a timeline! Given my recent disastrous foray into argyle socks, I'm hoping that this will go well.

Visiting...

One of my very favorite Etsy shops, unbreakablerosaries, for a new rosary bracelet in Dominican colors. Score! Carm made it at my request (I grabbed mine this morning), but there is another listing up for any other Dominican fans. :)

Captured...

Aforementioned tweed scarf :)

Check out other CWA posts this week over at Suspicio!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Catholic Book Club: Redeemed

Today I'm going to be reviewing Redeemed: Stumbling Towards God, Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding, by Heather King. Over the weekend I made some decisions about how I'll run the Catholic Book Club in the future, so please stay tuned to the end of this post for all the exciting details! (well, at least I consider them exciting ;-))

Ok, so Redeemed. This was a very quick read for those of us who love spiritual memoirs. Here's what I liked:

The author is obviously an excellent writer, and she has a sense of humor. These are two things that pretty much seal my loyalty to a writer for life, and which some spiritual memoirs lack. She also tackles tough issues with raw honesty and humility. Multiple abortions, alcoholism, divorce, the death of a parent, all of these are addressed in this author's story.

She is also an adult convert to the faith, and I find these stories terribly interesting, since they are so different from my experience as a cradle Catholic. As well, the author talks a lot about her enjoyment of spiritual retreats and reading, and how these factored into her conversion and growth as a new Catholic, topics that are near and dear to my heart. She is also a former lawyer (like yours truly!) who gave it up to pursue what she loved: writing. Fascinating stuff.

What I didn't like *as* much about this book as compared to other spiritual memoirs that I re-read so often that they are in dilapidated condition, is that she doesn't present her story in a chronological way. The chapters are sorted by topic (although they are not labeled as such), and the timeline bounces around a lot from before her conversion to after. My favorite kinds of spiritual memoirs go something like this: this is me when I was an atheist/Wiccan/Protestant/whatever, this is how my heart was turned on to the Catholic Church, this is the path that I took into the Church and the issues I had to deal with along the way, and this is me now as a Catholic. This book wasn't like that. It has more of a "literary," sophisticated feel to it, which of course isn't a bad thing, it's just different from what I usually favor.

Heather King has written stand-alone books on some of the topics that she mentions in Redeemed in the context of her conversion. So for in-depth treatment of these issues, you could consult those. Parched: A Memoir, is about her battle with alcoholism, and there is also Poor Baby: A Child of the 60's Looks Back on Abortion.

Overall I really enjoyed reading the book and I would read other books by Heather King. I don't know that this will go into my "keeper/will re-read" pile, but I'm glad that I read it. And this leads us into a related topic...

Ok, so, the Catholic Book Club. This is a fairly new idea on this blog (although I did write a lot about books before, I never formalized my discussion of them) and what I've done so far is review spiritual books as I finish them and give them their own tag for easy reference. I did post that summer reading list so that others could get ideas for new books and read along with me if they chose, but I didn't really provide any detail on which book I would be reading when. I just figured some readers would enjoy the book reviews.

This weekend, I got to thinking. Yes, sometimes that happens uninterrupted, even for mothers of children as chatty as mine. :) I would LOVE to host a *real* online book club of Catholic books. We could read a book at the same time each month and then discuss it on a given day. Not only would this be fun for interested readers, but it would keep me on track and accountable with my spiritual reading. Right now I just feel kind of loosey goosey with my spiritual reading, and I feel guilty if I start reading a fiction title because I don't want to go too long without a Catholic Book Club post. This is the lot in life of Type A Catholic librarians. We turn worry into an aerobic activity and want to hyper organize everything.

What all of this means is that we're going to set a regular monthly date with Catholic Book Club. Let's aim for the 4th week of every month, how about Wednesdays? Those are usually good days for me. This obviously won't work for every single month, but that's what we'll aim for, and I'll announce needed date changes as applicable. So our first date will be September 25, 2013.

I have posted the first 3 months worth of books, and the dates that I will post my review, in a widget along the right sidebar of the blog. I put it up real high, right below my "About Me" link, so that it's easy to find. On each review date, I'll post about the book, and you all chime in with your comments. :) I'm totally open to us finding an additional way to converse about the books, whether it be on Twitter or some other form of social media, we'll play that by ear. If you have suggestions, either for how we should discuss the books, or for books that you'd like to read as part of the club, do post your comment!

The September book that we'll be reading is The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness. I chose this because I've been getting back into my vocation as a Third Order Dominican lately and my interest in this topic has been insatiable, plus my dearest budding Dominican friend Cristina from Filling My Prayer Closet recommended the book to me, and so I know that I'll have at least one participant in the book club's first month, ha! :) I ordered my copy over the weekend (no Kindle version available on this one) and I anticipate starting to read within the week.

In October we're returning to Heather King to read Shirt of Flame: A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux, perfect for St. Therese's feast day that month, as well as the feast of the Carmelite founder St. Teresa of Avila. My copy of In Him Alone Is My Hope, by Pope Francis, finally arrived after a wait time at the publisher of several months, and I'm dying to get to that one, so I slated it for November. It's a meditation on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius (if you're a Jesuit fan, definitely join us for this one!), and I thought it would be a great lead-up to Advent.

After that, I'm open to suggestions! I'm pleased to note that of the 7 titles I listed on my summer reading list, I have read 4 of them. Two others are included within these next 3 months of the Catholic Book Club. I have more spiritual reading on my bookshelf, as well as on my Kindle, but I can *always* use fresh material. Each month, after we discuss a book, I'll update the Catholic Book Club reading list on the sidebar to include a fresh title for 3 months hence. Keep the suggestions coming!

I am VERY excited about this, and I hope that you are too! Write to me with your thoughts. :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 7}

-1- Today is the feast of Edith Stein, known in her religious life as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:


So for all of those Carmelite sympathizers out there, this is a big day! I just love this saint (even considered Teresa Benedicta as a baby girl name :)) because to me, she is the epitome of a modern female saint. An independent woman, she came to the faith on her own (she was Jewish by birth) and was a highly respected scholar in philosophy before entering the convent. I recall reading somewhere that her mentor, Edmund Husserl, commented once that the best pupil he ever had was Edith Stein, rather than the well-known Martin Heidegger. I read her story to Henry last night, who was all wide-eyed over her being sent to, and dying at, Auschwitz. A very, very moving life and death. I have one of her books, which I simply *must* read one of these days, Essays on Woman.

-2- Yesterday, in the midst of my feast of St. Dominic festivities :) Mike and I took Henry to a local amusement park. I have to say, although I'm going to be honest and admit that I, ah hem, loathe gently dislike amusement parks, I had a very good time. Henry was SUCH a good boy and had a great time. I'm just sort of a freak at these types of places now that I'm older. I used to love any and all roller coasters. Now, I clutch that safety bar in front of me like the sheer force of my grip will make a difference should the ride malfunction and we all plunge to our deaths. I just can't enjoy them the way I used to. Plus, I get dizzy with anything that just spins relentlessly in a circle, and heights make me tremble (just looking at those swings that go up real high makes me woozy). Amusement parks also require a lot of physical closeness to my follow man, and well, I don't always want to be so close to him. :) I'd rather not have the loud, obnoxious guy from the line right in my car with me, and everything just smells funky in those places. Even on a ride as tame as the bumper cars I just want to apologize to everybody all the time for hitting them. Everything just goes against my very nature as an introvert. So you can see, amusement parks are not my best friend.

-3- Also yesterday, I got all Pioneer Woman and purchased a canning jar for the very first time. My object? To make dilly beans (recipe near bottom of Shelia's post). I love dilly beans but I've never made them myself. Anne "helped" me wash the beans and snip off the ends. Then we put them in the jar with the required ingredients, and voila! It's sitting on my counter looking a little ominous with stuff floating around in the water (is it supposed to look like that?!), but I'm hoping that in a week we'll have crunchy dilly beans to snack on. I'm determined that I will trick the children into eating vegetables in whatever way I can.

-4- I ordered Henry his new Bible! I made him look through all of the suggestions with me, and he chose The Golden Children's Bible. We're both terribly excited for it to arrive.


-5- Also in that same Amazon order, I picked up a book for myself on Catholic sacramentals, and I'm bursting with giddiness on this one. Now that Shauna'h's series on catechesis is complete, I'm looking for new ideas for Catholic Nook posts. I do have some ideas, of course, but where at all possible I love adding to my personal library of reference books. Both books should arrive next week. If anybody would like to see me cover something specific in the Catholic Nook (can be any Catholic tradition, devotional practice, sacramental, etc) do leave me a comment so that I can make a list. :) Lists are our friends.

-6- I keep being squirrely on what I'm using for spiritual reading lately, sorry about that. I have one book listed on my sidebar as what I'm reading, but then I get distracted and pick up and finish something else. I think it all ties into those brain cells I've lost since I had children and since I passed age 30. Anyway, what I'm reading now is Redeemed: Stumbling Towards God, Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding, by Heather King. It's going quickly (very interesting!) so I'll likely have a Catholic Book Club post up next week.


-7- I have dance tonight, and we're preparing for two performances that we have a week from Saturday. You'll all be pleased to know that my blue costume is now *sewn shut* at the halter, so we will have no further little close calls like we had recently. There may be solo opportunities, so I braved Audacity to edit some music that I like down to a length between 3 and 4 minutes. I don't know what it is (likely my ineptness) but I have a difficult time using Audacity. It's always doing things I don't want it to do and NOT doing the things I want it to do. After an hour with only a single utterance of profanity *halo* I now have two solo songs to choose from that I really love. I'm thinking I'll just re-use those when these public solo opportunities present themselves so that I'll feel comfortable improvising to them. Both performances will be outside so that will lead to more windy fun with our flower trays. I love belly dancing. It's never boring, I can tell you that.

Head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Enjoying a special feast day...

Happy feast of St. Dominic everybody! You know, this blog has always been special to me, but lately it has become even more so (what does this have to do with St. Dominic, you ask quite reasonably? Read on :)). I have always been a "journal girl" and blogging has always been such a natural fit for me. I enjoy writing, and having an audience for my writing, no matter how informal, means so much to me. And I always hoped that the material would be a ministry of sorts to *somebody* (anybody? *looks around hopefully*).

Lately, however, this blog has become a ministry to *me*. Researching for the Catholic Nook segments in particular have deepened my own faith significantly. The Catholic Book Club as well has kept me accountable with spiritual reading.

And all of this is to say that I had languished a bit in my vocation as a Third Order Dominican of late. I kept up with the charisms (mostly :)) but I haven't attended a membership meeting in some time because I felt self-conscious about bringing my kids to my decidedly more solemn and quiet Mass that was a part of that.

But all of a sudden my thirst for all things Dominican is unquenchable. And this blog, as well as the encouragement I received in the comments to my post about it, have inspired me tremendously. Cristina and her blog, in particular, have been such a blessing to me! Another budding Dominican, does life get any better?! So exciting!

And so on this feast of St. Dominic I'm feeling particularly happy and prayerful. I've added a few books on Dominican spirituality to my queue for the Catholic Book Club, so keep your eyes peeled for those. I finished the Christian fiction book I was reading (Beth Wiseman's The House That Love Built), and so I've picked up spiritual reading again. It's not the book I was intending to read next, but that's often the case with me. :) I should be able to have a Catholic Book Club post late next week.

I do hope that everybody has a beautiful feast of St. Dominic! Read your Magnificat's or Liturgy of the Hours! Lovely selections for today.

Mike and I are taking Henry to a local amusement park this afternoon, so pray for me, asking for the intercession of St. Dominic. :0 As a child, I loved amusement parks. As an adult, not so much. People, heat, fast moving vehicular-like boxes.Not exactly my idea of a good time. :) However, it means the world to Henry, and so therefore I go. It's so wonderful to see your child happy.

You'll hear from me again tomorrow for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Catholic Nook: Catechesis and Ongoing Formation, Part II

Today's Catholic Nook post is brought to you by guest author, Shauna'h. :) Catch Part I of Shauna'h's story here

Part II: Down and Dirty With the Catechism

To say I was terrified before teaching my first 7th grade Faith Formation class would be an understatement.

What if the students hated me and found me boring? What if they asked me a question I either didn’t know the answer to, or was uncomfortable discussing (each week I had a litany of “please don’t ask me about divorce/same sex marriage/abortion/etc. etc.” running through my head)? What if they were wild, unruly beasts and I couldn’t handle them? What if I’m just not cut out for this?

Seventh graders are a tough crowd to teach in the best of times. They can be even more challenging when most of them have been forced into giving up part of their Tuesday evenings by their parents to learn about a God that many of them weren’t really so sure about. I had my moments of wanting to secretly list some of them on Craigslist (“One belligerent 13 year old boy, free to a good home!”), but overall it was a wonderful experience. I felt I connected with the students, and a few months into the year I began letting my guard down more. I began crafting my signature style of proclaiming the teachings of the Church, while serving as an honest example of challenges I’d come up against in my own life. I like to think my students appreciated this, and enjoyed having a catechist closer to their age than their parents.

Speaking of which, I was something of an exotic bird in my parish’s Faith Formation community. I was literally the only catechist without children enrolled in catechesis. It seemed to me that most catechists signed up as a way to evangelize the faith, to be sure, but also to do it in a convenient way that synced up their family schedules. Teachers would drop their kids off in their class(es), and then continue on to set up their own class. I was doing it purely for the love of faith and education, so I got all sorts of “I think it’s so amazing that you do this without kids!” comments each week. I felt like I was getting much more out of it than the kids were, frankly, but I appreciated the sentiment.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the experience was how much my own knowledge of and appreciation for my faith grew. Each week I learned something new, even if it was something small. Confession time: I never really
got the Holy Trinity. God and Jesus, sure, but the Holy Spirit? He’s a dove, right? And I’m supposed to feel Him/It? I just never connected with that part of Church dogma, until I suddenly had to teach it to middle schoolers. My text book suggested a demonstration of the various phases of water: solid, liquid, and gas. H2O can be ice, it can be water, and it can be steam, and each of these phases are different and unique, but they are all water. This was profoundly eye-opening for me, and now I love teaching about the Holy Trinity.

As the year drew to a close, I felt strongly called to come back as a catechist the following fall. I was particularly interested in teaching during a sacramental year, so I signed up as an 8th grade catechist for the students working towards their Confirmation. Thus began my academic year of, quite honestly, moaning and groaning about how difficult my life was.

I had to co-teach (with a wonderful, kind man). I’m not so good at sharing, particularly when it comes to lesson preparation. Also, Confirmation classes all took place on Sunday night following the evening Mass. I was enrolled in a Master’s program at the time, and my assignments were due Monday morning. This meant I needed to plan ahead (*gasp*) and get my work done, so that I wasn’t rushing to do it after getting home at 9pm. Thirdly, the 8th grade curriculum had been designed by a church volunteer years ago, and it just was not to my taste. Lots of emphasis on general touchy-feely-ness (“Jesus loves you! Let’s sing!” If I wanted to sing about Jesus loving me I would’ve been a Baptist. Northern Catholics are so much more subtle), and the overall content structure felt loosey goosey. Lastly, the curriculum included two mandatory retreats, as well as frequent community service outings during which I was needed as a chaperone. All in all, it felt like a large time commitment during an already busy time of life, and I just wasn’t connecting with the material and my students the way I had the year before.

I found my way, however, and formed a strong bond with my co-catechist. It
was nice having backup for kid wrangling, and his strong faith and knowledge further enlightened me. As we drew closer to the Confirmation ceremony, we were also rolling up on an event I had been dreading (and trying to weasel my way out of) with every fiber of my being since August: The spring retreat. All of the classes were driving two hours into the mountains of North Carolina, to a place called Teen Valley Ranch (TVR, as the cool kids call it), a non-denominational Christian youth center. We’d be stuck chaperoning wild teenagers for three days, singing cheesy Jesus songs, and doing outdoors-y things. Essentially my worst nightmare. I whined and WHINED to my husband and sisters about having to go. This was just so not my style.

By the second day, however, I found some of the songs oddly catchy, even a bit moving. It was fun to see my kids break out of their shells and be more vulnerable with each other. But by far the best part was the mandatory quiz/consultation we did with each of our students.

Each female student (my co-teacher took the males) scheduled time to meet me on the quiet front porch of the cabin we were staying in, and had to answer some required questions to demonstrate the necessary knowledge needed before undertaking Confirmation (questions about the Sacraments, graces of Confirmation, etc.). It was meant to be casual, and I quickly decided to take the opportunity to try to go a little deeper with the students. It was an occasion to ask them to open up to me about how they truly felt about their faith, and what it would look like once they were no longer required to attend CCD. Would they stop coming to Mass? Was their family supportive of their faith? I had some wonderful conversations.

One in particular stood out to me. This student was very studious and well-behaved. She confessed to me that sometimes she has doubts, and doesn’t know if Jesus is really God. And what was Catholicism really good for in her life? I felt inspired to share my reversion story with her, and confronted her doubts head on. It was liberating and moved me profoundly. By the end, she was feeling renewed and inspired, and she hugged me with tears in her eyes. I cried once she was out of view, my soul stirred by this incredible opportunity to share faith and a deep human connection with a young woman.

That spring retreat wound up being the best thing to ever happen in my faith life. It reaffirmed my core beliefs and my increasingly strong ties to my parish community.

Becoming a catechist not only brought me closer to the students I taught, but to my fellow catechists, the Faith Formation office, and my parish as a whole. After some time, I started running into people from church at the grocery store, or discovered that some of my students lived in my neighborhood. It was the beginning of really acclimating to my new life in the South. We moved back North for new jobs last year, and leaving my parish has been one of the toughest parts of that transition. I’m in the process of trying to carve out a place for myself in my new parish while simultaneously juggling children, school, and work, but I’m certain that catechesis will play a role.