Thursday, October 31, 2013

Small Success Thursday {vol. 3} Halloween edition


It's a bit of a dreary Thursday here in western New York, but what are 3 things that I'm grateful for this Halloween?

-1- It's All Saints Day tomorrow. Cam mentioned this the other day, but I too adore the autumn feast days on the Church calendar. It's jam packed with saintly goodness throughout September, October and November. And All Saints Day is the day that we celebrate all of them. I love an excuse to go to Mass during the week as well. I'll be heading to morning Mass tomorrow on my way in to work. I went to the vigil with my 1 year old last year, and let's just say the experience should be a notch toward my entrance into heaven someday. She's 2 now, and this morning we had the following exchange:

"Anne, come give Mommy a kiss!"

"NO!" *huffily turns her back* Yes, she TURNED HER BACK ON ME. Right there in her pink kitty cat footed sleeper.

"Well, you have to be a good girl today if you want to go trick-or-treating tonight. Are you excited to wear your pretty Rapunzel dress?"

"NO! NO RAPUNZEL DRESS! Anne NOT wear it!!"

So. You can see why I (a) am going to go to Mass by myself tomorrow morning, and (b) am bringing a vodka & tonic with me tonight when we go trick-or-treating. A fun time will be had by all, I assure you. But I digress. Which I do. A lot.

-2- I have consolidated down to a single handbag. You're probably wondering why the heck you read this blog when I discuss such superficial things, but I assure you, this actually is a quality of life issue. A woman who has small children, plus is a knitter, a dancer, and a librarian often has a LOT of "stuff" in tow. At any given time, I could need my Kindle, a diaper, an in- progress sock, a case of needles and cables, several gigantic safety pins, her iPod, a sippy cup, a coin scarf, a random ball of yarn, a couple of books, a veil, or a box of Cheerios. And multiple bags were just cramping my style.

Before my trip to Boston, I procured this:

It's a Namaste Harlow bag, and I sort of love it. And yes, it's orange. Well, more accurately PUMPKIN SPICE. So perfect for the time of year, no? SEE, I told you I would bring the story back home to our Halloween theme, SNAP!!

I stuffed 3 books into it at the CNMC, plus my tablet, my chapel veil and all of my regular purse entrails. I bring it to Mass with Anne's implements in it to prevent her from screaming during the consecration or dealing with a poo explosion. I bring it to dance with my shoes and costume accessories in it. It is *aweSOME*

*angels sing*

And I love the color, it's ridiculous.

-3- And on this Halloween, I'm so, so grateful for my online Catholic community (link your blog up if you haven't already!), especially Cristina, who I spoke to on the phone today for the first time, a real life interaction based upon an online meeting!! We had this excited, jam packed 5 minute conversation in which it felt like we both talked a blue streak at about 120 mph, but understood *exactly* what the other was saying in this absolutely blissful soulmate connection. I am so unbelievably grateful that God has blessed me with a community that loves and supports me.

I'm officially approaching a milestone age that most women dread, and I'm not too proud to admit that I am one of them, but when I think back to life in my 20's...there is no comparison. My life is joyful and meaningful NOW, encroaching gray hair (not that it stays around for long with my significant powers of coloring...) and smile lines be damned. Age is unfortunately not just a number (how do I know? let me count the ways...) but it is what you make of it, and I choose to make it joyful and wonderful.

Life is good, my friends. Wing up a prayer for me tonight, if you would, that my toddler is not running down the street screaming while carting off someone's paper mache witch in a pointy hat. I'll toast you with my "water bottle" and say a prayer for you as well. Happy vigil of All Saint's Day!

Read other Small Success Thursday posts over at Catholicmom.com!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween humbug...a fun repost

I posted this on November 1, 2012 as a recap of a slightly disastrous Halloween, and thought it would make a fun reread as we prepare for All Hallows Eve. Enjoy!
___________________________

First of all, the big reveal... ta da!!


My ghost socks. Aren't they cute and scary? I love them. They're super warm and soft.

Anyway, back to real life. Halloween is always a mixed holiday for me. Right before we have to head out into the cold evening air I say to myself: "I hate Halloween." I just want to stay home in my ghost socks and relax. But it is not to be. So I was in a bad mood at the start of the evening yesterday. Let us chronicle my night...

I arrive home at 4:30 pm and pack Anne up for Mass. She always does great until after the homily. Last night, she did great until the responsorial psalm. That didn't bode well, but what could I do? I plied her with milk and some small penguin crackers as best I could, but next thing you knew she was squirming out of my arms and trying to eat the missalettes. I eventually got desperate and let her hold my cell phone (turned off, of course), which she drooled on and generally got all nasty. Toward the sign of peace I had to walk her around a bit, and luckily we made it through communion and to the closing hymn before we had to flee the church, Anne refusing to cooperate in getting her rain coat on. It wasn't her best performance, but I handled it well. We get home.

I'm starving. We wolf down turkey burgers and vegetables and the doorbell starts to ring. This is when the "I hate Halloween" vibe got started up for the year. Hank is bouncing off the walls, we have a sink full of dishes, Anne has crushed and thrown food on the floor, children are at our door demanding candy, and I'm just wishing that we could all go to bed. There's the Halloween spirit for you.

Mike tackles the dishes and the doorbell while I help Henry get his Darth Vader costume on. 


Next comes the wrestling match with Anne. I stuff her into a long sleeved Onesie and pink tights, which she immediately tries to yank off. I then layer her cupcake costume on. Within seconds, she had ripped the top half off. It was like that trick that male strippers do (not that I've seen a lot of them, I'm talking Saturday Night Live skits here) where they rip at their collar and their entire outfit comes off. That's what she was doing. Trying to put the little frosting cap on her head was an exercise in frustration and a near occasion of sin. 

An attempt at photographs fails miserably.


We head out. Hank is so excited he can hardly keep his mask on. Anne, of course, got accolades about her costume wherever we went, even without the frosting cap. Last year she was a ladybug and she was in good company. This year, she was the only cupcake and people really commented on how cute her costume was.

Meanwhile, I was so cranky that I had refused to take a jacket. Therefore, I'm freezing my ass off while Hank bounds about the neighborhood and Anne refuses to hold my hand and trips on sidewalk cracks. I demand that she hold my hand, but the instant I take my eyes off of her to aid Henry in some way the following occur:

(1) She tackles a decorative scarecrow and fiber optic vampire in someone's landscaping;

(2) She takes out a row of potted mums;

(3) She french kisses a dog.

It was loads of fun. I will say that the kids had a fantastic time. Hank was beaming, and Anne squealed the entire way down the street. I don't think I've ever seen her so happy. Unfortunately, she now thinks that we can always waltz up the porches of everybody in the neighborhood and attempt to enter their home.

I noticed several parents toting what were clearly alcoholic beverages with them as they accompanied their children.

WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT?!

At any rate, we made it home alive, Anne now being willingly carried she was so exhausted. Toward the end there I did start to enjoy myself. There is a unique feel to Halloween night that is different from any other in the year. One of the houses on our street featured a costumed Michael Myers, and I have to say, whoever it was was GOOD. I mean, *I* was scared! He had the wide-legged stance and the soulless, dead ahead stare down to a tee. It was creepy.

I was glad to get home though, and I couldn't get Anne bundled into a sleeper and into her crib fast enough. After Henry was also in bed, Mike and I watched an Alfred Hitchcock Presents marathon while I worked on another pair of socks. I was feeling much better. Halloween ended well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The value of our online Catholic community: a linkup!

Good day all! As I continue to reflect on my experience at the Catholic New Media Conference, it got me to thinking...

I so value what I receive from my online faith community, i.e. all of YOU. I also met some people at the conference who I "know" via podcasts and Twitter that I consider part of my Catholic community. Whether it be in a podcast, or on a blog (such as this one), when you share your life online with others, you feel bonded to them in a special way, even if you never or rarely see each other in real life. This has gotten even more pronounced for me in the past year as I have become active on Twitter and linkups on other blogs.

It makes me feel so...very ME to be a part of this community. My Twitter handle is @CatholicTiffany for a reason. That's a gigantic part of my identity, and it feels good to have people accept that about me. When I was a child (you knew it was coming, it's THE TIFFANY ANECDOTE, the train derails temporarily and you sigh, settle in, and hope that I remember where I was originally going with all of this...), I never felt as if I belonged in the community of which I was a part, namely school. My family, yes, that was always a warm and supportive environment, but the only other piece of the puzzle that I had when I was growing up always felt...not quite right, sort of like a handknit sweater in which you accidentally knit one sleeve longer than the other (not that I would know anything about that *delicately clears throat*). I hid a lot of things that were important to me because I feared that I would not be accepted because of them:

I'm a reserved person. I was voted Shyest in my senior class if this is any indication of the exact state of affairs. I didn't know my male counterpart when we went to get our photo taken for the yearbook, because, you know, we were SHY. We had never talked to each other before.

I'm Catholic and proud of it.

I like to read and I'm a bit of a nerd. Hence the subsequent librarian thing.

I knit in public.

I'm a belly dancer. I do that in public too. Yes, it's modest and family friendly, I promise.

I'm a wife and mother, and I believe that these roles are instrumental in the morality of our society. As is a chaste religious or single life.

Any one of these things could make people who don't know me scratch their heads in wonder (or perhaps annoyance) but I finally know that those who take the time to get to know me, whether in real life or online, appreciate and accept me for all of the above. And I adore you. :)

And so this week I want to celebrate our online community. A few quick plugs and then I'll get to the heart of this post. I listen to a lot of Catholic podcasts, and my CNMC socializing has garnered me a few mentions amongst online friends who have my utmost admiration:

Catholic Weekend is one of my favorite podcasts, I've listened for years. In episode 195, the CNMC Wrap-up, Maria Johnson mentions the Catholic Librarian, and let's just say that I nearly snorted out my tea in surprise and joy as I listened. I'm just very subtle and lady-like that way.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Darryl Millette at the CNMC, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has a podcast called The SportsFathers in which he and other priests talk about current sports goings on, and yours truly gets a shout out in his most recent episode, #24!.

Ok! Do you have a blog or podcast? Yes? Write a post and linkup so that we can all get to know each other better! You can write about:

(1) How you got started in social media (don't forget to mention how we can find you on there), or

(2) How you started your blog or podcast (and don't worry if it's not Catholic focused, you can still linkup!), or

(3) Why you value our online Catholic community.

Don't forget to include a link back to this blog, many thanks! All right, you are officially set loose...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Catholic Women's Almanac {CWA No. 11}

Hi all, I missed you last week (*kisses!*), since I was traveling on Monday and then didn't have an opportunity to do a CWA installment! Glad to be back. :) So, what's happening with me this week...

Thanking God for...

My husband and children, and my vocation to wife and motherhood.

Good friends who battle demons with me in my dreams, you know who you are. :)

My incredibly happy life, all ups, downs, and mediocrity included.

Praying...

The St. Therese chaplet. I ordered one, and it came in this weekend!
For all those who have asked for my prayers.

Pondering...

Discernment. What does God want me to do at this stage of my life? How can I hear God more clearly? Yes, I'm getting all self-reflective and intense on you...

In my Home...

Yeah, I've got nothing. I baked chicken breasts and stuffing last night, does that count?!

Reading...

I started In Him Alone is Our Hope: The Church According to the Heart of Pope Francis, for the November edition of Catholic Book Club. I'm not certain how many people are reading the books along with me, but I have found that this monthly book review post is an excellent mechanism for *me* to always be doing some spiritual reading, so you're stuck with me on this one. :)

I also started And Then There Were Nuns: Adventures in a Cloistered Life, by Jane Christmas. I absolutely love memoirs like this, wherein a person explores religious communities or different faiths and writes about their experience and ultimate major decision. I saw it reviewed in a recent issue of Booklist and couldn't resist downloading it to my Kindle.

Creating...

The gift for my knitting group  holiday exchange, shhhhhhhhh!! It's a secret.

Not remotely related to crafty things, but I still consider this part of my "creating" category: I'm working on a series for this blog on vocations. As part of that effort, I'm going to be submitting a list of questions for several priests that I met at the Catholic New Media Conference to answer. What would you like to ask a priest about his vocation? Leave me a comment. :)

Visiting...

I have a bunch of new Twitter friends as a result of my conference attendance last weekend, and someone retweeted a link to this blog: Evangelical to Catholic - My life as a former evangelical Protestant in the Catholic Church. *Fascinating* stuff, I was absorbed in the "Top Posts" area for an entire lunch hour, reading about his faith background, experiences in a Baptist seminary, and then conversion to the Catholic Church. 

Captured...


A close up of the altar from the chapel in the Pastoral Center, Archdiocese of Boston, where I attended a beautiful Mass concelebrated by 5 priests! A memorable experience, to be sure.

Have a wonderful week everyone! I'm certain that you'll see posts from yours truly this week about Halloween, All Saints Day, and any other amusing antics that I unleash on myself. You will be kept informed, to be sure. And check out other CWA posts over at Suspicio!

Friday, October 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 17}

This is the official "Everyone Recovers From Tiffany's Trip to the CNMC" edition of 7 Quick Takes:

-1- Anne has been clingy since I returned, and now she's got a nasty cold, making her even clingier on top of being overtired and feisty. She's also cutting a back molar, and points to her cheek regularly to proclaim: 'ANNE NO LIKE THIS!" As you can imagine, this has been fun for the entire family. But poor babe. She really seems to have caught whatever is making the rounds, which likely means that I will fall sick within 7 days and will take 3 times as long to recover as she does. :-\ She's also been waking in the night again as a result. Good times I tell you, good times.

-2- Also following my return, a mysterious ailment has beset my left knee. Is this connected to the "everything falls apart!" aspect of getting older? Oh joy. All of a sudden, that knee was very sore when I'd put weight on it. Carrying Anne up the stairs has been particularly challenging. Luckily, it has improved since Monday, which is a good thing since I have to dance tonight. Knowing what you all know about my Type A personality, I'm certainly not a single one of you is surprised to learn that I don't exactly like change to be present in my routine, no sir. I dance on Friday nights. Unless I've just had knee *surgery* I want to dance tonight. #noexceptions

-3- There has been another interesting consequence of my trip: I have lost my knitting mojo.

!!!

You're probably all wondering what knitting mojo is, because you're not weird like me. Knitting mojo is that constant anticipation and impetus that you feel toward your craft. You're excited by it, you're inspired by it, you enjoy it. Well, when I was so busy over the weekend, my mind awhirl with all of the exciting things that I was learning, I didn't knit. By the evenings I was exhausted, so I didn't worry too much. I first noticed that something might be wrong when I didn't want to knit in the airport and on the plane on the way home. That would usually be prime knitting time. Instead, I was on my tablet, tweeting with all my new friends from the conference. :) Then when I got home...I still didn't want to knit.

Uh oh.

You would understand why this is such a problem if you saw (a) my Christmas knitting gift list, and (b) the sheer volume of yarn that is housed in our guest room closet. The past few nights, I have picked up a gift project in the evenings while Mike and I watch the World Series, and that has gone well, so I'm holding on to hope. But at work this week, I barely knit at lunchtime. I wouldn't yet call this a prayer intention, but let's just say I'm gently concerned. :)

-4- And so, you could certainly say that the CNMC was a huge source of inspiration for me. Truly, the inspiration doesn't just come from the information imparted in the sessions themselves. It's the interactions with the people I met there, both in person and online, and just being present in a dynamic environment committed to the same source of passion as you. I'm still dwelling on what it all means for me and how I'm going to put the things I learned into practice, which is a perfect segue to...

-5-...discernment. If there is anything that I have come to appreciate in my adult life, it's that discernment never ends, truly. You may discern your vocation, a biggie, to be sure, but after that your job is not done. There is still so much to discern about what God wants for your life, in both small ways and large. I know that my vocation is as a wife and mother, and my top priority must be there. But in my free time, what does God want me to do? Pray more, certainly. Seek His will, always. I do feel like there are things that God wants me to do that I haven't quite figured out yet...

-6- ...and I wonder a lot about writing. I have always loved to write, I wondered at one point whether I would do that for a living. In a sense I do, because I'm a tenured librarian and we are expected to publish as part of our job responsibilities, and I do have this blog. Is there more opportunities out there for me, though? I don't know, but I have a feeling that I should try and find out.

-7- And finally, based upon the above, I have decided to unveil a new series on this blog which will debut shortly. :) I'm super excited, and I do need the help of all of you on this. I got in touch with a few of the priests that I met at the CNMC, and they have agreed to be featured on this blog as part of a short series on vocations, talking about their call to the priesthood and interesting tidbits about their ministry. AND SO, please leave me some comments!! I need to send these nice gentlemen some questions for them to answer, and so what do we want to know from them? If you could ask a priest anything about why he became a priest and/or about his life in ministry, what would it be? Leave me a comment, I'm putting together the list to send them next week!!

All right everyone, I suppose that's enough prattling on from me for today. Check out other 7 Quick Takes today over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Small Success Thursday {vol 2}: Blessings abound...

Happy Thursday all! I'm trying to settle back into a normal routine following my CNMC Hangover, and every day it's getting a little bit better. Overall, the whole experience has made me realize how blessed I am and how much I have to look forward to.

So what are three things today that I am very grateful for?

(1) Fellowship - I am lucky enough to have found Catholic fellowship both in real life and online. It sounds strange to say, but Twitter has been a huge blessing for me. (@CatholicTiffany for anybody who would like to follow me there ;-)) And in real life, I have a group of friends I met in a prayer group following graduate school whom I have stayed in touch with. We all discerned our vocations together, and ultimately all got married save for one who went on to seminary. :) And so I was invited over last night to attend a house Mass with our former chaplain, whom we haven't seen in 10 years. It was *wonderful*. The only issue was that I had Anne with me, and let's just say that she didn't see a Mass said in someone's dining room as "church," where we're quiet and (somewhat) still. For the first time in my history of Catholic parenting we had instances of the following during Mass:

(a) Removal of pumpkin-shaped sippy cup from right off the altar surface where Anne set it.

(b) LOUD exclamation of: "LOOK MOMMY, A KITTY CAT!!"

(c) A chase sequence in which I desperately grabbed at Anne, who was pursuing a cat around the back of the altar.

Lovely. But I tell you, Anne antics aside, it is fabulous to have supportive fellowship. And they all told me that they thought Anne behaved beautifully. Because they love me.

(2) Our Priests - One of the things that Fr. Mark mentioned in his homily is something he took away from a recent message of Pope Francis. That message is that our faith cannot remain stagnant; we can never just stay frozen within one moment in time. We always have to be moving forward, always taking what we learned and putting it into practice in a new way. This really struck a chord with me based on my CNMC experience. When something wonderful happens, we all wish that we could just stay in that place forever. But of course, life does not work that way. We have to keep moving on, trying to do even better and create more wonderful experiences. And that is never more important than in the spiritual life. Remaining stagnant means that you are moving backwards in your relationship with Christ. And *relationship* was a key theme at the CNMC this year, in every session that I attended, and even at the homily of the Mass at a random suburban Boston parish that I attended before heading back home. Relationships are what make life most meaningful. Relationships with our family and friends, relationship with our blog readers and other social media connections, relationship with Christ. The priest this past Sunday morning said: "It's not about *learning about* Christ. Anybody can do that. It's about forming a relationship with Christ, and He with us." That's a significant distinction.There is certainly a lot of priestly wisdom to think about in this paragraph.

(3) You - This blog just passed it's 5 year anniversary. It's hard to believe, really. And this blog has always been a blessing to me. This morning, I went back through my post list so that I could get a feel for the most popular posts based upon views. My numbers have definitely increased this year, but I've never worried about the numbers per se. It pleases me to know that people read what I write, because I love to write, and if two dozen people read a post, I'm more than happy with that. Back when I first started blogging, my numbers were quite modest. Truly, they still are, though they have mostly tripled, which is wonderful. Some posts though, really do take off, and *that* is a huge thrill for me.

I would say that this blog has changed a bit in the past few years, as I myself have changed. It's interesting how that ties into item (2) above, no? It has gotten more focused and more spiritual, and so have I. :) Hence, I honed my efforts in post analysis from 2010 onward. So what are the most frequently read posts from that time period?

Catholic Women's Almanac {No. 8}, in which I reveal my lamb prototype for the Jesse Tree swap.

My review of Fr. Roderick's (then forthcoming) book, Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer.

A particularly spirited edition of 7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 15} in which I get all emotional about the series finale of Breaking Bad and blather on about other family and dance-related antics;

AND, by far the most read post on this blog at over 700 views (!!) is my post on modesty and the Catholic belly dancer.

We have a few honorable mentions. The Thanksgiving of the explosive poo incident, and my post on becoming a Third Order Dominican are also quite popular.

It's been a great 5 years. And I look forward to many more. With all of you. :)

Link up to more Small Success Thursday posts over at CatholicMom.com!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Catholic Book Club: Shirt of Flame - A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux



Focus still appears to be a problem for me following my Catholic New Media Conference high, but I had promised to blog today about Heather King's Shirt of Flame - A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux, so here I am, at your service. :)

I really like "year of" books, and I read pretty much any one I come across that has to do with a spiritual topic. This particular book actually isn't like the others that I've read, such as the Year of Living Biblically book that was all the rage a few years ago. Rather than chronicling a physical year in the life of the author, this book sets major events and chronological spiritual challenges in *St. Therese's* life around a calendar year, although it does sound as though Heather King spent a year contemplating these themes. So it's different in that regard.

And in this case, different is good. Heather King is a wonderful writer, I'm really a big fan of hers. She has an engaging and personal style that draws me in every time. She has a very interesting background which always factors into her writing as well. She's an adult convert to the faith, she was married previously but is now single, and she is a recovering alcoholic. The suffering that she has experienced brings a a rawness that we can all relate to into her writing, and she is very genuine in her expression of emotion regarding these challenges.

She divides her year of contemplating St. Therese's life into a series of themes:

January - Early loss (on facing ancient grievances)
February - The confluence of will and grace (on illness and healing)
March - Therese's second conversion (on learning to serve)
April - The papal visit (on daring to ask)
May - Poverty, chastity, obedience (on radical social conscience)
June - The convent (on shedding our illusions)
July - The little way (on the martyrdom of everyday life)
August - Aridity (on praying without ceasing)
September - The long, slow decline of Therese's father (on being stripped down)
October - The story of a soul (on offering up our work)
November - My vocation is love! (on letting our flame burn hot)
December - The divine elevator (on facing death with joy)

Throughout the chapters, the author does an absolutely excellent job of quoting St. Therese's writing directly. I felt like I read a nice little collection of segments from The Story of a Soul just by reading this book. The author also weaves in relevant details from her own story to flesh out the theme, and the reader can see how the struggles of St. Therese's nineteenth century life are very much still relevant for modern Catholics.

There were even some details in here that I hadn't known previously about St. Therese, particularly a few tidbits about her time in the convent and about the progression of her illness. The author is drawing from additional biographies of Therese that I haven't read, and I am now quite taken with the idea of reading some of those. I have a few on my "soon to be downloaded" list for my Kindle.

I read this book very quickly. It contained a lot of spiritual wisdom that I'm *still* thinking about, but the style is so accessible that it's an easy read. I highly recommend it for anybody who enjoys reading about the saints. For anyone that *has* read the book - please leave a comment!

Ok! Our November book is In Him Alone Is Our Hope, written by Pope Francis when he was still Jorge Bergoglio. It's a retreat he gave based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. A nice preparation for Advent, I think. Join in! Then we'll be reading A Catholic Christmas in December, and in January I though it would be fitting to study Our Blessed Mother a bit, and so our book for that month is Walking With Mary: A Biblical Journey From Nazareth to the Cross, by Edward Sri. I received a copy of this book at the CNMC, so it has happy nostalgia written all over it, plus in January we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

Happy reading and commenting everybody!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Catholic New Media Conference 2013 - I'm still glowing

I'm home and I'm still all floaty. I don't even know where to begin really to talk about my trip, except to say that I'm so very, very grateful that I had the opportunity to go, and I recommend it to anybody else who values sharing their faith via new media in the way that I do. AND, it provides a friendly and happy atmosphere in which to meet fellow Catholics. YOU, gentle reader, should go next year. You'll learn a lot, and we can schmooze over wine in the evening, it's a win/win, trust me. Ok, I suppose I should just start from the beginning.

I traveled to Boson early Saturday morning with my sister, Shauna'h. We drove down from Maine, her state of residence, and arrived at the Pastoral Center for the Archdiocese of Boson right before the 8 am opening Mass. We checked in, we fixed our hair, we twittered about, we did all that girl stuff. We felt anxious, since we didn't know anybody else but each other. We filed into the chapel.

Lovely, yes? A very prayerful environment, just a beautiful Mass. And thereupon we had our first Fr. Roderick sighting.


*squeals!*

I adore Fr. Roderick. I have listened to his podcast and many others from his Star Quest Production Network for years. I am just a huge fan of his down-to-earth, jovial style. And now I would finally get to meet him in person, after listening to his show and feeling a part of his life and ministry for years. It was enough to make a Catholic girl very, very happy. Shauna'h (a fellow Fr. Roderick fan) and I plotted how we would corner him and make him pose for a photograph with us, but we'll get back to that in a moment. :)

First, we had the keynote speaker for the conference, who was Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.


He was *excellent* and a recording of his presentation is up on the SQPN site right now. He was articulate and engaging (and an Irish accent always helps, let me tell you) and his insider view of Pope Francis's social media presence was just riveting. An AWESOME way to start off the conference.

Next, I attended a blogging session while Shauna'h went to a talk on Pope Francis. And can I tell you, I *loved* live Tweeting. It was such a novelty to me to be able to pull out my tablet and Tweet to my little heart's content all while that not being considered rude.


I was in heaven. And the blogging session was great. We talked about some tips for increasing your readership and how *relationship* between blog writer and blog reader is so key. I happily took notes and live Tweeted important tidbits the entire time. After that, Shauna'h and I together attended a retreat-like presentation on the role of Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, in our lives and ministries.

Pretty soon it was time for lunch. By this point, I had a happy buzz going from everything that I was learning, but Shauna'h and I hadn't really met anyone yet because we were being #introverts. This is a genetic condition, apparently. But I didn't really know how to break the ice on this one. I was feeling like I wanted to be more social, and my live Tweeting garnered me some new happy Twitter followers, but I needed to actually talk to people face-to-face. That's a lot harder. :0

We ate our sandwiches and wandered out into the hallway. We stumbled happily upon some book giveaways and other opportunities to purchase:

And here's where things get *really* fun. As we formed a little gaggle out in the hallway, Fr. Roderick crossed our path on his way to sign copies of his book, Geekpriest. I have already read his (excellent, and funny) book as a reviewer, but I wanted an official personalized copy, so Shauna'h and I were hovering near the book signing table. We overheard Father saying that he was hoping to find someone to take a photo of him with a friend holding light sabers, since that is the pose he is striking on the cover of his book. We pounced.

Next thing you knew, Shauna'h was using Fr. Roderick's iPhone to snap photos of him, and then it was pretty easy to segue into this:

And this:

I mean, DID YOU EVER?!

As Shauna'h and I stood nearby waiting for Father to sign our books, I remarked that we are pretty much Fr. Roderick groupies. And we weren't alone. A little line formed to snake around the table, awaiting Fr. Roderick autographs. Meanwhile, Father was unassumedly crafting personalized missives to write into each book, and when someone gently tapped his shoulder to let him know that the line had lengthened, he nearly jumped out of his chair in shock. Could the man get more precious? I mean, I didn't really think it was possible for him to be even more charming in person than he is on his podcast. I was, however, quite wrong.

My rock star moment
I was just elated. I came down from Cloud Nine long enough to attend a session on using new media to converse with inactive Catholics, and a moderated panel discussion. All too soon, we were attending the final prayer service and Eucharistic Adoration, and then heading to our hotel. I felt jam packed with useful new information, and inspired to put it into practice. But I still wanted to socialize.

We had met Fr. Roderick, a real coup, but I really wanted to come out of my shell and meet some other new people as well. Shauna'h and I decided to dine down in the hotel bar to see if we ran into anybody from the conference.

*blissful sigh*

We did. We met a bunch of people from the Catholic Weekend podcast, Maria Johnson, Billy Newton and Sarah Vabulas. All super nice. They all remembered me from Twitter.

:0

The Catholic Librarian was very, very happy about this, I assure you. Afterwards, Shauna'h and I went over to the official Tweetup, which was at a Dave & Buster's.

Oy.

The location was described to me as a "Chuck E. Cheese for grown ups" which I have to say is not only an unflattering description, it is an accurate one. Very difficult to converse there, since it is so loud, and not a lot of space to gather given the set up. At first, Shauna'h and I sat at the bar and had a drink, hoping for things to clear out a bit so that we could do a social approach of the SQPN Tweetup crowd. No easy feat, let me tell you. There just wasn't a lot of room to move. Eventually, we finished our drinks and moved over to say goodbye to everyone. They were all quite gracious, and we got to speak to Fr. Roderick for another minute or so. Then we bumped into Jeff Nielsen, the host of Catholic Weekend, and ended up chatting with him for about 15 minutes. A very kind and funny person, he rather made our night. We went back to the hotel feeling very happy that we had extended our introverted selves and introduced ourselves to some wonderful people.

The next morning, Shauna'h and I attended Mass before heading back to Maine. It all went by so fast, I'm terribly sad that it's already over. I am, however, SO glad that I went, and I plan to attend again so that I can learn more and keep up with some of the connections that I made. They were live streaming Catholic Weekend while we were there, and were looking for conference attendees to join in. Jeff assures me that next year he wants me to come over and be on. :0 There is nothing I hate more than hearing my own voice, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

So now I'm trying (somewhat unsuccessfully, I forgot at least 3 things this morning) to get back into my regular routine after such a special weekend. I feel very blessed and inspired. I will keep you all posted when plans for CNMC 2014 are announced, and I'm serious, I WANT YOU ALL TO GO.

I'll buy you a drink! Seriously, how can you not go now?!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Small Success Thursday: Going on a jetplane edition...

Good day all! I'm in full trip planning panic mode for my journey to the Catholic New Media Conference this weekend, so I knew today would be a shorter post. And I found a perfect avenue in a wonderful linkup with a concise but power-packed angle with Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com!

So what are three things that I'm grateful for today?

(1) The prayers of family and friends. I can't even fully convey what this does for my peace of mind lately. By nature I am an anxious person. Is the right expression Nervous Nellie? Or perhaps, One Who Needs Prozac? At any rate, when someone prays for me, I *feel* better, I feel calmer, I feel soothed. And that is such a beautiful thing.

(2) A trip to see my younger sister and her twin sons tomorrow. I don't get to see them nearly often enough, and I'm so excited. My sister and I are attending the Catholic New Media Conference together, followed by a girls night of dinner and wine, and possibly a vigil Mass. :) Also, probably us exhausted moms in bed by 9 pm. We're just 2 wild and crazy girls!

(3) The completion of the lambs I crocheted for the Jesse Tree Advent swap over at Liturgical Time. I wanted to finish them before my trip, and I managed the feat. I was aided a great deal the other night by my wonderful husband, who stuffed lamb bodies with lots of bossy directions from, ah hem, *somebody* ("Sweetie, make sure you get the stuffing into their faces real good, see like this?! Mash it in real tight! Face cuteness is of utmost importance!!") while I sewed butts closed. The lambs were very glad when that process was over, let me tell you. Now they are all strung and ready to be shipped to Michelle!! TA DA:

A box full of lambs, California here they come!!
If you'd like to write about your own Thursday graces, head over to CatholicMom.com and link your post up!

All right, all. I'm traveling tomorrow and Monday, so you won't hear from me for a few days, including my regular 7 Quick Takes Friday (so sad!). I was hoping to queue up a post for tomorrow morning, but sometimes things just don't go the way you planned. I will, however, be on Twitter, so do check in with me there, I am @CatholicTiffany! I'll blog again Tuesday morning, and I'm certain I will have lots of amusing details to share. Look for me to be posing with Fr. Roderick in a Twitter photo near you!

:)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A rosary linkup?! *eyes widen*

When I saw the rosary linkup over at Suspicio, well. Anybody who knows me knows that I justify buying a new rosary pretty much seasonally, so I thought it would be fun to talk about a few of the rosaries in my collection that I use most frequently. I can't even tell you how many rosaries I've loved and lost, or broken over time, I'm just a complete rosary hoarder. Yes, I have a problem.

This is a single decade rosary that I've had since April 2011. I remember when I bought it so well because it was the month my best friend came into the Church and I bought it along with a rosary to give her at the Easter Vigil. I had it with me for that trip to NYC to see her baptized and confirmed, and with me when I delivered Anne 3 weeks later. I carry it with me in my pocket a lot because it's small and fits easily. I love the beads on this one, They are oblong and faceted, and they feel very nice between the pads of your fingers. I can use this easily when I pray the rosary in the car, which I do daily, since it doesn't hang down and get tangled in things as I drive. I love the four way cross on this rosary, as it features a Miraculous Medal, St. Joseph, St. Christopher, and a scapular medal. The center is an image of Our Lady giving the rosary to St. Dominic, and how perfect is that for this Lay Dominican? When I pray with this rosary, I think of the global Church, and how we are all a family.

This is a rosary I bought just this past Easter. I really wanted a rosary with a John Paul II center, since he is just one of my favorite people of all time, and this one has an image of him as well as Benedict XVI! I love the Easter colors, they make me happy just to look at them. I really love the crucifix too, it's very delicate, with hearts inscribed on it. Right after this rosary arrived, our basement flooded, and I prayed with this rosary while taking shifts baling water from the floor with Mike. I keep it in my purse in it's own special pouch and take it out when I need a pick-me-up.This is my Hope in the Resurrection rosary.

This is Henry's rosary, I bought it for him for his First Reconciliation, which he made this past May. He picked it out because he loves the colors, and it actually has the same centerpiece as mine, with John Paul II and Benedict XVI on it. Cosmic connection! We pray a decade on it sometimes before he goes to bed (when he can be still for a whole decade :)), and he sleeps with it under his pillow, to keep bad dreams away. He assures me that this is a very effective method of dream management.

I also own a number of chaplets. We have...

The 7 Sorrows of Mary. A wonderful and touching Lenten devotion. I really take praying this chaplet to heart, and feel sad when I meditate on the sorrows. The black beads seem perfect on this one.

The Kateri Indian Rosary, in honor of my Mohawk heritage and my dad's confirmation saint when he joined the Church in the early 1990's. My parents had been married for over 20 years before my dad converted, so St. Kateri is pretty special in our house.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, given to me by my precious group of knitting friends who know of my love for chaplets. The smooth beads on this one are just wonderful to pray with, and the colors are a perfect reminder of the sea. I pray this a lot when a problem is on my mind, and I want to ask Our Lady to help me navigate it.

And I may or may not have just ordered a St. Therese chaplet, because my devotion to her has increased this month after reading about her more. I also have a gift rosary that I'm using right now to pray and sort of spiritually join forces with the upcoming recipient, because somehow this makes total sense to me. #crazyCatholicgirl. I also may or may not have an autumn colors rosary on order. I'm admitting to nothing, please don't judge me.

:)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

At midnight, in the home of the Catholic Librarian...

...I am dreaming about the devil. Very dramatic, no? More specifically, I am battling the devil with the help of Cristina (a friend in need, is a friend indeed). There are lots of objects around us in the Dominican colors of black and white.

Veritas, to the rescue!!

In the ensuing battle, I hear cries. Clearly, the devil's minions are harming children and we need to put a stop to this tragedy! Suddenly, I realize that Mike is getting out of bed and he's going to tend to Anne, because she is the child crying.

Oh.

Mike goes into her room and I lie awake in bed so that I can talk to him when he returns. I hear him changing her diaper and doing some soothing. He returns within 10 minutes, saying he's not certain why she was crying. All is quiet. I start to drift off.

Anne is crying again. Oh sigh.

I go in and she demands immediate snuggling. This isn't exactly a hardship, it's true, but I knew I had a long day at work ahead so was hoping that my superior soothing skills would get her back to sleep lickety split.

A half hour later, we're still in the rocking chair. There is lots of "Mommy rock! Mommy hold Anne!" I obliged her, of course. We had one failed attempt at a putdown, and were on Attempt #2. I could tell right away this one was more likely to be successful. She laid down.

"Mommy cover Anne up, all cozy."

"Anne hold something!"

This is Anne's thing. She LOVES to have something in her hand. In her crib, obviously, there isn't as much flexibility with what to give her than would ordinarily be the case when we're around to supervise her.

"How about Elmo? Here's Elmo to snuggle..."

"No Elmo!"

Ok then.

"How about the camel from Noah's Ark?"

"No camel!"

This is going swell.

As I'm desperately looking around her room for something safe to give her, she seems to reconsider.

"Anne want the camel."

"Ok! Here's the camel. Tuck him under your blanket."

"Mommy rub Anne's back!"

She's not shy about telling you what to do, that's for sure. She gets a back rub, and off I tiptoe.

All is fine until I start to doze off again. Then I hear the sound that all parents dread.

*Thunk*

I knew, I just KNEW, that that sound was the camel, having an unfortunate spill out of the crib. This is followed by the inevitable...

"My camel? Mommy, the camel!!! THE CAMEL FELL MOMMY!!" *hysterical sobs*

One camel retrieval trip later, I was praying that she fell asleep before the camel got adventurous again. I heard a litany of show tunes being sung for awhile from her room before the blissful silence. No more camel accidents, thankfully.

By this time, several hours had elapsed, and I knew I would be dragging today. Such is the lot of mothers, the world over. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Catholic Women's Almanac {CWA No. 10}

Fall is in full swing here in upstate New York, and I'm loving it. Lots of fall family activities to report, as well as my preparations to attend the Catholic New Media Conference this weekend! :0 I do so love this examination of what's been going on in my life as well as a look toward the week ahead. Check out other almanacs over at Suspicio!

Thanking God for...

My family. I had a wonderful time with them this weekend. We took the kids to a local pumpkin patch/general fall frivolity festival, and had a blast with them. The place we went was over an hour away, in the ski country region of NYS, but it was very worth it. Lots for the kids to do, very reasonably priced, and no overwhelming crowds. And you know how these things go. It all starts out very innocently petting animals in the petting zoo (watch out for the goats, one bit me!) and picking out a pumpkin. Next thing you know, Anne is drinking cider out of a special pumpkin-shaped sippy cup, we have a bag of kettle corn that we're lugging around, Henry is wolfing down a hot dog, we're lost in a corn maze, Anne is riding a little cow cart pulled by a tractor, Henry is shooting corn out of a canon, and you're wondering where the $40 went that you came with. VERY fun.

My trip coming up in 5 days to attend the Catholic New Media Conference and to see my sister and nephews at the same time. I'm very grateful for this opportunity, but I am a *very* nervous flyer. I really flat out don't like to do it, but sometimes you have to do it. If you would, please wing up a prayer for me Friday and next Monday, those are my travel days. And if you don't hear from me again, please pray for the repose of my soul. :0

*dramatic!*

Praying...

I just finished the novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Pray More Novenas is going to announce the November novena today!

For safe travel.

For all of those who have requested my prayers, be assured of them, Keep them coming in the comment box!

Pondering...

Anytime I pray a novena, I always contemplate how that novena intention is being answered. Sometimes it's hard to determine, because your intention may have been fairly sweeping and ambitious ("for world peace, we pray to the Lord..."). All the same, I think that we can receive hints about how our prayer is being answered even in situations like that. I prayed the St. Therese novena recently, as well as the Immaculate Heart. For each, I prayed for intentions that I pray about often, that do not have overnight solutions. It's all in the small details, but I feel confident that God heard me and is answering me.

In my Home...

In our quest to try out new recipes and new meats this fall and winter, last night we had my parents over for dinner and we made pot roast. I was nervous, because, well, I've never made a roast before. I'm not a bad cook, but I'm not an adventurous one, to be sure. This was a simple recipe: You size your roast to the number of guests, and pour over top a can of Golden Mushroom Soup and a packet of Beefy Onion soup mix. Cooking time obviously depends on the size of your roast, but around 45 minutes prior to the end, add small red potatoes and carrots into the casserole dish. Let me tell you, this turned out *awesome*. The gravy that resulted tasted amazing and cooked the potatoes and carrots beautifully. A real crowd pleaser, and perfect for a family Sunday dinner.

Reading...

I finished Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lixieux, by Heather King, for the October edition of Catholic Book Club. This really was a quick read for what amounts to fairly deep spiritual reading. It *really* got my little mind awhirling, and I can't stop thinking about St. Therese now. I'm thinking about downloading The Hidden Face: A Study of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Ida Gorres, to take on my trip. if anybody else has other St. Therese book recommendations, please do leave me a comment. I'm enjoying Heather King so much that I ordered the new booklet Magnificat is offering of her writing, called Holy Days and Gospel Reflections.

In fiction, I'm still reading Saints Preserve Us, A Cozy Mystery (Ronnie Lord Mystery #1), by L.K. Ellwood. This was (and still is!) a Kindle freebie for anybody who is interested. It's based around an English professor whose somewhat distant ancestor is being considered for canonization.When the Blessed's body is stolen from a local cemetery, and a cemetery worker murdered in the process, a mystery abounds. This book is full of rather stereotypical characters, but the story is fun and interesting, and I've been enjoying it in the evenings. I see that there is a sequel in this series, called Pray for Us Sinners, available for 99 cents.

Creating...

I've been working on my Jesse Tree swap contribution, the lamb, all week. I need to make 30, and as of yesterday, 30 little lamb bodies are awaiting legs, stuffing, and strings. I did get into a rhythm with them, but as you can imagine, when you're mass producing something, quirks happen. Thus, some of the lambs have funny butts from when I was exhausted and not executing my puff stitches in the decrease round quite correctly, but they're still cute all the same.

Captured...

Yes, that's a pile of lamb bodies. They will get little black legs over the course of the next several nights, and then just need to be stuffed, sewn shut, and strung for hanging!

Have a blessed week, everybody!

Friday, October 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 16}

-1- Is it over yet?!

Work has been so very busy lately that I've felt a bit overwhelmed at times. But I have persevered, and a huge part of that this week has been the fabulous Cristina over at Filling My Prayer Closet. Talking about anything Dominican or monastic-related instantly sets me at peace, and we have done that in spades, brightening my work days. SUCH a blessing. I have just had so much demand for my time from students, and I'm trying like a busy bee to finish things up before I leave on my upcoming trip. Which leads us to...

-2- I'm going to be networking - Is this good or terrifying?

In exactly one week, I am traveling to Boston for the annual Catholic New Media Conference. I cannot even tell you how excited I am. I'm also meeting up with my sister Shauna'h and we're going to the conference together. WE'RE GOING TO MEET FR. RODERICK. I have listened to Fr. Roderick's podcasts for *years* and now I will not only meet him in person, I will demand a photograph with him. Stay tuned to my Twitter account for that one. :) THIS IS EPIC, PEOPLE.

But on that note, I will have my Nook tablet with me, so I will definitely be live tweeting. :) Follow me there (@CatholicTiffany) for all the juicy updates if you so desire. I'll probably set up a blog post for next Friday, but in terms of a blog recap of my trip, that won't come until the following Tuesday, since I'm flying back that Monday. I know, I know you'll all miss me so much. ;-) And this leads us to...

-3- A librarian's dream

I'm going to try and pack light, so I'll likely just be taking my Kindle and the tablet with me by way of reading. I have a ridiculous amount of Amish fiction on there, but I'm nearly done with Shirt of Flame, and I could use some more Catholic reading material. I may download The Hidden Face, like I mentioned yesterday, but does anyone else have some Catholic book suggestions? We all know that it is a fate worse than death to be trapped somewhere with nothing to read. God forbid. And I have a 2 hour layover. But there's also knitting...

-4-"Just a minute Honey, only 1 lamb to go to meet my nightly quota!!"

The lambs for my Jesse Tree Ornament swap are going well. I need to make 30 of them. I am currently on Lamb Body #23. I have a strict 3 lamb per night quota in order to meet my goal of shipping them to Michelle by November 2nd. I realized that I may be taking this whole thing too seriously when I actually made my husband wait for some quality one-on-one time until I finished the third lamb of the night. I mean, seriously. I need to relax a bit. But he was a good sport about the whole thing, because he's adorable that way. :)

Once the bodies are done (which should be Sunday) I can move on to Phase #2: Legs. I plan to post a photo of the flock on Monday. And speaking of Jesse Trees...

-5- Advent is in the air! Yes, I know it's only October...

Who else is starting their pre-Advent preparations?! Just me? That's what I figured. :)

I LOVE Advent. I'm currently eyeing up Advent music to download (Yes Advent music, *not* Christmas music! ---> NERD) and I just ordered the kids a new pop-up Advent calendar. Mike keeps thinking that we already have more Advent calendars than anybody else in the free world, and I'm managing to add even more. We have chocolate, we have wood, we have paper, we have Legos. Advent calendars for everybody!! But check out that cute one from Magnificat that I linked to above. It comes with a book of prayers and verses to read each day as you flip down an additional part of the nativity scene. I'll go ahead and swoon in private. But more immediately, for tonight...

-6-"Oops, sorry! Is your head ok?! My right wing got away from me."

We have dance. We have finally finished our Isis Wings choreography, and it's pretty fun. All things considered, I wish we just balanced our trays the entire song, because I love balancing. But we have the wings, and they do create a fun atmosphere, I can tell you that. We just have to hope that aren't any strong wind gusts should we ever perform with them outside. *shudders* Even inside though, they do have their challenges. A drop ceiling and Isis Wings don't exactly co-exist happily. Our hafla isn't until early December, but Claire is having surgery next week and she wanted to finish all choreographies beforehand since she'll be out for several weeks. Which leads us to...

-7- Prayers, please

Please pray for Claire, who is having surgery on Wednesday. Please also pray for a friend's daughter who is having spinal surgery in just over a week, her name is Olivia. Please also pray, if you would, for a few special intentions that I have ruminating. And if you have your own prayer intentions, just leave them in my combox. :)

Have a great weekend everyone! Don't forget to go check out other 7 Quick Take posts over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Catholic Nook: Chaplet of St. Therese and the "Little Way"


I've been thinking a lot about St. Therese lately. Part of it, I suppose is that my spiritual reading is currently focused on her in Shirt of Flame: A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux. When I do spiritual reading, I normally allot a specified time period in the evening to it. I'll devise a page quota so that I don't slack off. What I'm finding with this book, though, is that I'm so into it that I use it in the prime "reading as I lay happily in bed" time slot. That's pretty major for a non-fiction book, quite an achievement really. This is when I usually read a romance novel involving autumn weather, race car drivers, or cowboys.

And last night I pulled my Kindle out really hoping to see something from St. Therese that "spoke" to me. I had had, let's just say, a *challenging* day. As you can imagine, being a librarian means that I deal with people a lot. And sometimes, as we all know, people aren't so nice. I had a patron yesterday who was so rude I was forced to break out The Librarian Is Being Stern With You look. As a child, I used to be afraid of loud, obnoxious people. No longer. I don't cherish opportunities to deal with them, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. If you are going to march over and attempt to verbally abuse me, I am not going to stand for it, no sir. It only took 30+ years of life lessons to teach me that I don't have to allow anybody to treat me that way. It actually is a disservice to the abuser in question to not let them know that their behavior is out of line and unacceptable. How can they ever try to do better if nobody lets them know that they are acting like a jackass? Forgive my language, but sometimes you've got to call it like you see it. I'm not going to yell back or drop to their level by disrespecting them, but I *am* going to be firm in my response to them. And if they persist, I am going to ask them to leave.

And so yesterday morning, I had one of *those*. I'm actually quite proud of how I handled it, but the whole thing left me shaky and contemplative. This guy (who was very clearly an extreme case) aside, I've been dealing with a lot of students lately, some of them being wonderful experiences, others being quite challenging and annoying. It got me to thinking: am I doing all that I can to stay upbeat in my approach to interacting with them, to stay charitable at all times? On the latter, I can say "yes" without question. I am always charitable to people, even when they are unkind to me. But on the former, I know that I struggle. And not just with the students. I work for my state, and at times things get a bit...bureaucratic. This can lead to disillusionment and downright crotchedyness (new term: officially coined). It's easy to complain a lot about some of the things we deal with here at work, and I have become aware of the fact that the more I complain, the worse I feel about the situation.

Hence, yesterday was a good opportunity for self-reflection and it tied directly into St. Therese's Little Way. How can I do small things with great love and offer them up, the way that she did in the convent? I certainly did offer up my experience yesterday, but there are so many other small opportunities that I just internally whine about rather than try to be more spiritual in my approach. As I read Shirt of Flame, I came to this reflection of author Heather King in the chapter discussing Therese's handling of the painful physical and mental decline of Louis Martin, her father:

"I began to see the value of refraining from criticizing and complaining. The goal isn't to masochistically endure conditions that we could change, if we were willing to make the effort. The goal is to adopt a general policy of not complaining about things that can't be changed, not because we enjoy being rigidly ascetic but because complaining about our private sorrows - traffic, the cost of living, our health, our endless suffering - is not helpful. I began to notice how, when someone called me to 'vent,' I felt as if I myself needed an oxygen tank when I got off the phone."

Yep. Spoke to me. I knew that St. Therese was looking out for me. :) It was nice to have something positive to take away from a very difficult day. Hopefully I won't have to deal with Rude Guy again anytime soon, but just in the students I see and chat with each day, and in the way I view the hoops we have to jump through here at work sometimes, I can do better in my attitude.

And so this got me to thinking about asking for St. Therese's intercession more often. Obviously, she is a woman who speaks my language. :) The photo at the top of this post is a gorgeous St. Therese chaplet designed by Carm at unbreakablerosaries. The chaplet has 24 beads, one for each year of St. Therese's short life. There is one additional bead on the "drop" near her medal, and on this you request: "St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Patroness of Missions, pray for us." A Glory Be is recited on each of the other 24 beads in thanksgiving for St. Therese. It is customary to pray this chaplet for a traditional nine day novena.

This is a chaplet that I do not own. Shocking. Clearly, I need to remedy this situation.

I'll be talking more about St. Therese on October 23rd, our Catholic Book Club day, when I review Shirt of Flame. If you'd like to join me in reading, please hop on the bandwagon now, I'd love to have you. :) Heather King mentions another book that has my curiosity piqued, The Hidden Face: A Study of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Ida Friederike Gorres. Yep, that may make it's way to my Kindle posthaste.

*Image from http://patroncatholicsaints.blogspot.com/2010_02_08_archive.html

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Breaking Bad and Catholic theology - Yes, I do believe they are related. :)

And here we have my Breaking Bad musings post. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this show since I watched the finale last week (My immediate, very emotional, reactions are in takes 6 and 7 of my recent 7 Quick Takes post). And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Breaking Bad is a secular show with religious themes - at least in my interpretation. :) This is going to be long, so settle in.

This review WILL have SPOILERS. I will talk about how the show ends, so if you don't want to know that, see you tomorrow. :)

Ok, so what do we have presented in Breaking Bad? At first glance, the premise sounds highly unappealing, to be sure. High school chemistry teacher undergoing a mid-life crisis receives a terminal cancer diagnoses. His family isn't in the best of financial situations, so he concocts a scheme with a former student to use his chemistry talents to cook a highly pure and sought-after form of crystal methamphetamine to make some quick money before he dies. He has a pregnant wife and a teenaged son with cerebral palsy - he wants to leave them with a way to pay off their debt and have a nice future even without him. He already feels like he failed them by going into teaching rather than making a lot of money from his research (which we learn about through a series of flash backs). This is a way to redeem himself before the cancer eats away at him. What could go wrong, right?

Well, everything. Let us dissect...

Breaking Bad is not a show that mentions God, but I see Him everywhere in the story. How so?

(1) Concupiscence - Our inclination to sin as a result of Original Sin (see CCC 1264). We will all sin sometimes. It stands to reason that we will sin MORE when we make a choice to place ourselves in a position of high temptation. So, what happens when you take a person prone to sin (which is any one of us) and place them in a situation rife with opportunities for additional sinful choices?

They will sin A LOT. And one sin leads to another leads to yet another. When you go down that rabbit hole your relative view of good and evil will be affected. Something that you struggled with morally at one time will come easier to you the more you do it.

Back in Season 1, Walt struggled with The Krazy 8 Problem. Here we have a guy he meant to kill because that person was posing an immediate threat to his life. However, when the guy didn't die, he now has a quandary on his hand. Is it moral to kill someone chained up in your basement that is telling you he will do you no harm if you let him go? Is the *possibility* that this guy will harm you and/or your family enough to take his life? Ultimately, Walt finds enough evidence to answer that question with a definite "yes." After that, Walt uses less and less thought before he kills or deliberately harms another person. Come Season 5 he's shooting Mike in cold blood because Mike won't give him the information he wants. Mike is no threat to Walt at this point. But he was presenting an obstacle to Walt's greater plan for the livelihood of the business, and that was enough for Walt to kill him.

Walt continued to pile horrifying choices upon his already sorry lot of poor choices. And that gets easier and easier to do as you surround yourself with ever increasing darkness.

It's interesting to me that the writers have said that they wanted to tell the story of a good man who turned bad. We don't know Walt's moral compass when the show begins, but he was portrayed as pretty benign. However, he obviously had a propensity for evil choices even back then, it just hadn't been put into a context yet in which he could choose to act on it. That's what I see as concupiscence. We all have the ability to make evil choices, and the evil will flourish if we continue to make those same choices. By the same token, we can choose to do good even in the face of evil. That's just much harder to do.

(2) Pride: It Really is One of the 7 Deadly Sins -  When he started off on this cockamamie scheme, Walt wanted to make money for the benefit of his family. Soon though, the money started coming in, and do you know what he said?

It wasn't coming in fast enough. He wanted to make more money, *faster*, and you know where that took them? Right, to Tuco, and a slew of other ruthless drug dealers who beat people to a pulp for sport. That didn't exactly work out seamlessly, did it? So, we have the sin of greed already leading them down a dangerous path.

And Walt took pride in his product - this was the best meth on the market. When we get past the wild-eyed insanity that was Tuco, we have Gus. Gus was civilized and sophisticated. Gus sipped Pinot Grigio and chopped his own garlic. Gus was everything refined that Tuco wasn't. Gus had an operation that was as smooth as silk, a pristine lab where Walt could call the shots, and more money than the lot of them could ever possibly need. And do you know what Walt said?

It wasn't enough. *He* wanted to be in charge, *he* wanted the glory. He wasn't content to be the nameless "cook," he couldn't leave well enough alone. This took him down a path that ultimately meant that it was either him or Gus. Suddenly, it's all about Walt.

As Mike said right before Walt killed him: "We had a good thing, you stupid *&#! We had [Gus], we had a lab, we had everything we needed, and it all ran like clockwork! You could have shut your mouth, cooked, and made as much money as you ever needed! It was perfect! But *no*! You just had to blow it up! *You*, and your pride and your ego! You just had to be the man! If you'd known your place, we'd all be fine right now!"

(3) Redemption - The reigning question throughout this series is: Will Walt find redemption? In the end, will he realize the error of his ways and turn back into the even tempered man we all knew at the beginning of the show? Bryan Cranston did an amazing job in the role of Walt transforming his physical and emotional appearance. The bald, craggy, unpredictable Walt we see in Season 5 barely resembles the mild mannered chemistry teacher of yore. He ends up truly taking on the characteristics of the drug kingpins he had to knock down to get what he wanted: Power. Is a person who went to the depths that he did to get on top (Season 5's tagline is: "All Hail the King") *beyond* redemption?

Of course not. But ultimately, Walt's pride does not take the backseat that would be necessary for that to happen. He does try to make a few things right for his family before he goes, and he does save Jesse, but Walt doesn't regret the things that he did. He does not show contrition nor humility in the face of death. He dies on his own terms.

(4) Dignity of the Human Person - In a show like this, this theme is pervasive. Corrupted people lose all perspective on the value of human life. People are pawns to them, they either are for them or in their way, and if they are in their way, they are eliminated. As Walt becomes more corrupted, we see Jesse as the beacon of light. Jesse cares, Jesse weeps when people die. Walt will watch Jane die and not help her because she presented an obstacle to his relationship with Jesse. Jesse will go head-to-head with the skillfully dangerous Gus to stop children from being used in drug sales. That's the difference between Walt and Jesse.

Lack of respect for the dignity of the human person is seen is so many areas of our world, particularly at both the beginning and end stages of life. When we don't value the most vulnerable, we will eventually cease to value so many others. Which is a perfect lead in to..

(5) Honor- According to the Catechism (CCC 2479), "Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect." There is no honor among thieves. The scene in "Oxymaridas" when Uncle Jack and gang arrive in the desert to "help" Walt out of his predicament with the DEA is such a perfect example of this. Finally figuring that he is done, Walt begs Uncle Jack to spare his brother-in-law, Hank. Hank is family, and Walt tells himself that he values family above everything else. But you can NEVER trust dangerous and corrupted people. Walt offers Uncle Jack all of his money (which by this point is in the tens of millions) for Hanks' life, and what does Uncle Jack do?

He kills Hank. He knows that he can silence the DEA AND have the money. Walt is in no position to stop him from doing either. He doesn't care about Walt. He cares about himself. For all of his talent and money, Walt cannot buy honor and respect from another corrupted person, and he learns this in a most painful way. When Walt collapses on the ground in despair after Hank is shot, I felt sorry for him. It truly would be an overwhelming burden to know that your actions directly led to this result.

(6) Fatherhood - This is the aspect of Breaking Bad that is most difficult for me to talk about. Jesse is obviously in need of a father figure, since his own cast him out, and he turns to Walt, who betrays his trust time and time again. Then we have Walt, who loves his children, but relentlessly puts his own emotional needs ahead of theirs. He abuses his position as father in so many ways, all while telling himself that he's doing this all for THEM. Neither Walt nor Jesse turn to God as father, and ultimately, both are left wanting.

Walt is able to cobble together a way to assure that his family is financially provided for even despite Uncle Jack's audacious thievery, and his final moments with Skyler are civil, but he does not have the affection and respect of her nor Walt Jr. Little Holly will never know him. When he kidnapped Holly in "Oxymaridas" I thought I was going to lose it. I can't remember crying that hard over a tv show before. It all just hits very close to home as a parent. He wanted to force a relationship with Holly, because that's why he got into this mess to begin with, but there's no going back. She wanted her Mama, the one who has been there with her the most. It broke my heart when Walt said goodbye to her, I know that deep down he loved her and wanted so much more with her. But it was too late, and he knew it.

Jesse is finally free, and can turn his life around, but will he? We don't know, obviously, but he's been so damaged. We have hope for Jesse, but there is still a strong possibility that he will get mixed up in the darkness again. We can only hope that he chooses the light.

In the final moments of the finale, when we could see what was happening, I just felt so sad for Walt. He never really had the power that he wanted, nor the respect of others, and in the end he didn't even have the love of his family. He was alone. I kept thinking of little Holly sleeping like an angel in her crib when Walt last saw her, and here Walt is, dying alone in a chemical lab. Just so, so sad.

It may not be as dramatic, but we have the ability to cause ourselves to be alone like that too. Separated from God, separated from the people we love. This show really brought home to me how choices have real consequences.

It's not a show for the faint of heart, but this is outstanding television. And I'm telling you, very, very Catholic in it's lessons. :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Catholic Women's Almanac {CWA No. 9}

 It's a rainy day here in western New York, and although I do love the rain, I'm wishing it were cool and nippy out. You know, how fall is supposed to be. :) Instead, we're having record mild weather combined with a family of ants that desperately wants our home to be their home and they are being quite persistent. Me no liking. But we persevere! Here is how my previous week has gone and what I'm projecting ahead...

Thanking God for...

My husband and children. Mike loves classic movies, and Henry has taken an affinity to them as well. We've been watching some things on TCM together after Anne goes to bed, and it's been such a blessing.

My job. It isn't perfect, but I'm grateful to have it.

Praying...

The novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

That I may be a better wife and mother.

That I may do better in keeping with a daily prayer routine.

Pondering...

How I can incorporate Adoration into my weekly routine. Adoration has always been a heavy hitter for me, and I would love to attend regularly. That just seems like the perfect opportunity for discernment and *listening*. 

In my Home...

No apple pie (the kids have been eating the apples we picked on their own, and I don't want to discourage them), but we *have* been using our crock pot like champs this fall. Yesterday we made a soup with Polish sausage, chicken, rice, and a bell pepper and onion stir fry. It was delicious. And seriously, I LOVE kielbasa. And I feel like I've been deprived of it for my entire life.

"Mom, can we have Polish sausage sometime?"

*Mother looks scandalized*

"We're Italian. We eat Italian sausage."

"Wellll...yes, but I don't think we're turning our backs on our people by having other sausage sometimes."

This was a tough sell to my very Italian mother. And since she never bought it, I could never *find* it in the grocery store. A manhunt over by the Italian sausage has always yielded nada. Well, Saturday at my local market I was complaining about this to Mike when inspiration struck: over by the hot dogs. It's like kielbasa heaven over there. WHO KNEW!!! This has revolutionized my world, people.

Reading...

Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lixieux, by Heather King, for the October edition of Catholic Book Club. I'm a few chapters in, and I'm enjoying the author's approach to this project. She's working in a LOT of St. Therese's writing while also weaving in her own personal story.

In fiction, I just started Saints Preserve Us, A Cozy Mystery (Ronnie Lord Mystery #1), by L.K. Ellwood. This was (and still is!) a Kindle freebie for anybody who is interested. It's based around an English professor whose somewhat distant ancestor is being considered for canonization. That's as far as I've gotten :) but I'm enjoying the Catholic setting.

I finished A Cowboy's Touch (A Big Sky Romance), by Denise Hunter. I really liked the Montana setting of this book, and I always enjoy a good "workaholic goes to the country and becomes refreshed emotionally and spiritually" story, but this book did leave me wanting a bit. The main conflict between hero and heroine just felt contrived to me. I can't believe the heroine wouldn't have realized the hero would have a huge problem with this one thing that she was planning to do to him, and when he was understandably angry I felt she completely deserved it. When you feel animosity toward fictional characters, this is a bit of a problem, no? :0

Creating...

Currently I'm working on a cabled sweater in an autumn-hued yarn that I'm hoping to wear on Thanksgiving (may be a pipe dream). It's a bottom up sweater, and let's just say I haven't gotten much done besides the bottom.

In other crafting news, the yarn for my Jesse Tree swap lambs arrived last week, and the lambing process has begun. As of this morning, we now have 10 lamb bodies, awaiting further instructions. It's currently a little lamb assembly line in my knitting bag. I need to make 20 more, and then we'll move on to Phase 2: Legs. I'm sure the lambs will be very grateful to have those. After that, we have Phases 3 & 4: Stuff & String. Next week I promise to include a photo of the burgeoning flock, so stay tuned for that!

The instant Anne saw the yarn, still even in the skein, she exclaimed: "Sheepie! Baaaaa Baaaaa..." Doesn't this yarn (in the "Natural" colorway) just scream Lamb! to you?! I know it's made from alpaca fiber, but just work with me here.

Captured...

Anne is breaking in her princess Halloween costume, and the "magic" wand isn't working out quite how she wanted it to...
Check out other almanac posts over at Suspicio! Have a blessed week everyone!