Friday, June 27, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 45} I'm an idiot edition...

-1- Happy Friday everyone! And happy feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. :) It's a beautiful warm day here in western New York. I'm going strawberry picking this afternoon with Mike and the kids. And yes, it will be fun. I have to be honest and admit though, that I will miss my usual afternoon spot of alone time prior to the weekend. #introvertwoes But I'll make it. :) Dance class tonight, lots of festival preparation and costume fretting, oh joy!

-2-"So...how do you work this thing?!"

And here we are at the idiot part. I'm a little, what you could call, BEHIND when it comes to technological devices. I'm a bit thrifty (translation: I choose to spend my money on yarn and books instead, not that it goes unspent :0) and I'm married to someone who flat out doesn't like new technology and social media. We're talking, he only got a cell phone a few years ago and a *flip phone* at that, and has been on Facebook for approximately 12 months. This is what we're dealing with here, people. And so he doesn't exactly encourage me to purchase all sorts of new gadgets. But I finally reached a point wherein I couldn't take it anymore - I have good friends who are long distance from me, and I want to be able to video chat with them. I purchased a web cam.

*angels sing*

Well, they sang for a little while. Until I realized that the inexpensive USB plugin web cam that I purchased was pretty, you know, crappy. Picture it, Cristina and I at long last, connecting via video call:

"HEY!!!! Can you hear me?! I don't think this microphone is working all that great."

"HI!!!! What? Did you say that you are wearing a habit?!"

"Ha! I think this microphone is bad, oh dear. Can you see me ok?"

"Well, your forehead is cut off, but the picture is decent."

"Ugh, let me adjust this thing again, but it's so dicey.Whenever I touch it, it tends to fall of the monitor entirely. Let's see..."

*Cristina momentarily sees nothing but the ceiling*

And so, we have great fun, but I was concerned that the camera wasn't really good enough for what I needed it for, yet I hesitated to spend more money on equipment I know nothing about. Until suddenly...

-3- Even the dense ones have bright moments every once in a while...

I had a Eureka! moment. I have a new smartphone. I don't pay for data, so I've done anything more with it than text and occasionally call someone. But it has wifi capabilities. I don't know why I never put 2 and 2 together that this means that I can connect to the Internet when I have a wifi signal. I mean, I was able to do a texty chat Google Hangout with Cristina on there, so maybe there is a way to do video too?

*slaps palm to forehead*

Of course there is. There is a little video camera icon right in the Google Hangout screen. I call her. We have a super enhanced video chat experience. Much squealing is heard throughout the land. We're planning a cocktail hour version sometime next week. :0

It would probably be best not to record that one...

-4-"Oh wow, so now I can, like...do stuff on here! Like normal people do!"

I thought Cristina was going to die laughing when I told her that I had downloaded the Twitter and Facebook apps, and maybe now I could actually post stuff to Facebook. :0 I was always so jealous of people who could just snap a photo and post it to Facebook or Twitter. Me? I had to use our big, clunky camera and then find the USB cord, upload the photo, usually the file size was then too big for Twitter, so I had to do this *ridiculous* Powerpoint manuever wherein I changed the file type and size...Is it any wonder why I rarely post photos? My new smartphone has a great camera in it. Of course, I can only take the photos holding the phone with the back facing me, so it might be a bit awkward. Maybe I could just twist a bit...

*slaps palm to forehead*

Right. The smart people know that there is a way to flip the camera view around, that's how they all take selfies (I loathe that word, but in reparation for my technological idiocy I will use it here). I had been wondering about that little icon of the camera with arrows pointing around it as if indicating a 360 directional shift. Yep. Cristina is now being photobombed with selfies that I text her:

The miracle of modern technology: I can now text and share on social media my bad hair days.
-5- "I won't play if I have to be evil."

So when I'm not making a mockery of 21st century living I've been playing a board game with Mike and Henry in the evenings called Talisman. I'm not really a big board game gal, but since both of the fellas love it so much, I agreed to be a sport and play a game with them. It's a good vs. evil type of game, which I like, so that helps. And rather than randomly having to pick a character (some of which are good, and some of which are evil), they let me choose between the monk and the priest, since those are the religious characters and they know how I roll. There is no nun, or believe me I would have been all over that. I chose the monk and pretend that he's a nun. I take my first turn and have to draw a card:

"Oh! I'm being visited by an angel and given extra strength. I love this, look how cute she is!"

*serenity fills my corner of the room*

*Mike and Hank roll their eyes*

On subsequent turns, my roll takes me to the chapel...:

"The chapel?! I definitely want to go there."

"Yes, if you're good, like you are, you can pray in the chapel and add to your strength."

"Oh! Oh my. Yes, I want to go pray, I love that."

*aura of sanctity permeates my side of the board*

*more amused eye rolling from Mike and Hank*

...but I also start to draw less savory cards:

"What's this? A goblin?"

"Yes, you have to fight him."

"Oh. I liked the angel better. What if I go this way instead...Oh. There's a demon card over there. Would I have to fight him?"

"Yes."

"But I would win." *righteous sniff*

...and come to the realization that my character could potentially undergo some changes:

"Watch out for Hank, because he can carry more spells than the rest of us can, and it's possible that he could turn you evil."

"WHAT?! I don't want to play if I have to be evil."

"It's ok, you can still win if you're evil."

"Well, I don't WANT to win if I'm *evil*!"

I doubt they're going to ask me to play with them again. :0

-6- Currently being read in the evenings on my Kindle...

Whispers of the Bayou, by Mindy Starns Clark:

Mindy has written a few Amish titles that I have read and liked, so I downloaded this given how much I enjoyed her other work. It's published via Harvest House, a Christian publisher, so this falls into the general inspirational category of romantic suspense. It's set in Louisiana and involves a mysterious house that the heroine is set to inherit. I'm really enjoying it so far!

-7- Book Club!

 This past Wednesday was Catholic Book Club day, and I reviewed Something Other Than God, by Jennifer Fulwiler. If you have read the book, be sure to check out my post and write in your own comments! Next month, on July 23rd, we have Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson in the wings. Join in!

Ok, I'm off. Not sure if I can blog on Monday since we have the electrician coming to the house and I don't know what the day will be like. But I'll definitely be with you on Tuesday. *insert heart here* *using asterisks since Blogger doesn't like it when I actually insert a heart there* Make sure to head to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Church Triumphant: Spotlight on St. Paul

Happy Thursday everybody! Time for the second installment in the Church Triumphant series (originally called "The Church Militant," named by yours truly, because apparently I've lost even more brain cells than originally realized :0) a monthly collaboration between Cristina and I focused on our friends, the saints, hurray! Last month we highlighted two protective saints in lieu of Cristina's trip to Rome, St. Michael and St. Christopher. Today we are spotlighting two saints whose feast we will celebrate this weekend, June 29th, Sts. Peter and Paul. Head over to Filling My Prayer Closet for St. Peter's post, we're going to talk St. Paul over here! He's the patron of my home parish, so I have a real soft spot for our St. Paul. :)

St. Paul's story is certainly a well known one amongst Christians, so I'll summarize the key details and try to hunt down a few tidbits that aren't necessarily common knowledge. We know that Paul was originally named Saul, and that he wasn't a Christian. In fact, he was very anti-Christian and had a dramatic conversion experience on his way to Damascus (heading down for some good old fashioned persecution :)) in which he saw the risen Christ. Known as the "Apostle of the Gentiles," Paul traveled around the Mediterranean bringing the Good News to those who did not yet know God. His letters of encouragement to new Christian communities make up a good portion of the New Testament, and we know that he spent a decent amount of time in prison, poor guy. His post-conversion life was not an easy one, to be sure. Around the year 64, tradition holds that he was beheaded in Rome.

In Magnificat magazine for the feast day, we get a lovely reflection on "The Graces of St. Paul," written by St. Catherine of Siena, and her words struck a chord with me:

"...Imitate that dear Paul, who was so in love, and be a vessel of affection that bears and proclaims the name of Jesus. It seems to me that Paul gazed into this eye and lost himself in it. And he was granted such a great soul that he was willing and even desired to be separated from God, an outcast, for the sake of his brothers and sisters. Paul was in love with whatever God was in love with. He saw that charity is never scandalized, is never confounded."

It seems clear to me that St. Paul fell in love with Our Lord, and that love took over his entire life, changing it dramatically from what he had known before. I very much relate to this because although not nearly as dramatic (or vision filled :)) my experience as a young adult coming back to my faith and making it my own bears some similarity. My life had been in a rut. I was unhappy and making poor choices. My faith life was nonexistent. There were little threads there that would lead to something later (like my then-atheist friend Irena wanting me to go to Mass with her; she's Catholic now, btw :0 *angels sing*) but I didn't realize it. Yet one day my heart felt...something. All of a sudden I wanted to read Catholic books. So I did, and I remember the night I started reading the first one I had picked up from a massive sweep of the religions section of Barnes & Noble - I started crying. The book was about Marian apparitions, and that topic is very dear to my heart given that as a teenager I attended a weekly prayer group centered around Our Lady of Medjugorje (not an approved apparition, I know, but the fruits were good in this instance). A wave of nostalgia came over me, and something quite literally burned in my heart. I wanted to go back to having a relationship with Our Lord, and His mother led the way. Then the next day I went to daily Mass like I detailed in the linked post at the beginning of this paragraph, and the rest is history. But the whole thing happened quite quickly and felt sudden. People noticed and wondered what happened that I was suddenly "so religious."

I wonder if St. Paul felt the same way as I did. You're just going about your business, leading your sinful little life :0 when WHAM! You fall head over heels in love with God and all you want to do is serve Him. It's all so wonderful and thrilling, but there are challenges too. Thankfully mine didn't involve imprisonment or beheading, but you know what I mean. Your life is forever changed, and you don't mind a bit, in fact are everlastingly grateful, even with all of this crappy stuff happens to you. It's so worth it.

St. Paul is a kindred spirit - I think he is interceding for all of us to fall more deeply in love with Our Lord as we journey about the road of life. Don't you think so?

Do you have a devotion to St. Paul? Leave me a comment! And don't forget to go read all about St. Peter over at Cristina's place! Next month, we'll have a few more saint spotlights in store for you, we're determining a theme as I type. Oh squeal! I love this stuff. :) I love being Catholic. Thank you all for putting up with me and reading the chatty nonsense that I write. :) Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Something Other Than God

Good day all! Today is June's edition of the Catholic Book Club, and I'm pleased to discuss a book that I had anticipated for quite some time before it was released, and had pre-ordered as soon as the page was up for Kindle: Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It, by Jennifer Fulwiler. I have been a fan of Jennifer's blog and humorous writing style for years, and knowing that she had a memoir coming out kept me excitedly in the wings. You all know how I feel about spiritual memoirs - ADORE. There have been instances in which I have not enjoyed a memoir, and in those cases it was all about the writing style. If the author doesn't have an intimate feel to their writing, doesn't take you along with them as they detail their thoughts and feelings through the journey of life and faith, it just doesn't work for me. I need a slice of life, to feel like I was there observing everything as it unfolds.

And a happy slice of life is what you get here in Something Other Than God in abundance. Given that I've read Jennifer's blog for so long, I felt like I already knew her. As one might imagine though, there was SO much about her life that I did not know, and reading this book was like finding a fantastic buried treasure with all sorts of layers to it you didn't originally realize were there. The book starts with some information about Jennifer's childhood and the foundations of her atheism. I had never read a spiritual memoir before by someone who started out as a staunch atheist, and I was fascinated with what she had to say about why she was an atheist, and even in her most fervent days of that worldview, what specific discomforts she had with it.

From there we move on to her college days and first job, which is where she meets her future husband, and things get *really* interesting from there! I kept thinking, "Oh wow, I didn't know that, how interesting. I wonder what she'll do next!!" And *that* is what I loved most about this book. This is a work of non-fiction, yet it read almost like a novel in the way that Jennifer frames the content. The reader can see the threads there that will be significant later on in the story, we relate to and are rooting for our heroine, and there are all these bumps in the road that we navigate along with her. Suddenly...there are surprises! And I absolutely could not wait to pick the book back up to see what would happen next. There was this one scene, wherein Jennifer and her husband Joe were on their way to a restaurant for dinner, and she's trying to tell him some major news, hedging on whether to spill the whole story before or after they get settled at their table, and...I nearly dropped my Kindle when I got to the end of that chapter. :0 I just about died when I saw what happened. It is not easy to accomplish such a feat as a writer, and I am not at all surprised that Jennifer managed it given what I knew already about her writing talents, but for the reader it just feels GOOD to interact with a book in this way.

And so we travel with Jennifer throughout her early years of marriage and parenthood, and the stirrings she feels in her heart and soul to find out if there is a power greater than ourselves out in the universe somewhere. I love the part that her husband plays in all of this. Although a theist, he was not Catholic, and neither originally felt any inkling to consider the Catholic Church when Jennifer first started investigating God. And so his story becomes blended with hers, in a journey and love affair toward Jesus and His Church. As you can imagine - so lovely, so touching. As I finished the book, I was already rooting for a sequel, the story is just begging for it. Life since their conversion and the explosion in popularity of the Conversion Diary blog - THE READERS DEMAND THIS. :0

This is an *excellent* book. If you haven't read it, well, what are you waiting for? :) It's under $10 for Kindle right now, and you will NOT regret supporting this wonderful writer and reading her story.

Did you read Something Other Than God? Please comment with your thoughts!

In July, I'm going to be reading Pope Awesome and Other Stories, by Cari Donaldson, and I'm hoping to set up a web chat of some kind with Cari. This is going to stretch my non-adept technological muscles as you saw yesterday. :0 We'll see how this goes, which is my way of saying it may go nowhere. But I'll try! Pope Awesome is available for Kindle right now for *$4.99*. Scoop this up, my friends!! We can read along together.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adventures in (almost) video chatting...

BIG NEWS: The Catholic Librarian is entering the 21st century. She has finally acquired...

*dramatic music crescendos*

...a web cam!

Yes, I know. For most people, a web cam in itself is already outdated technology, but for me this is all newfangled and exciting. I don't have a smartphone or a (good) tablet, and so I've never been able to do video chatting of any kind. I do all sorts of other chatting, fear not, but no video involved. However, I've got some stuff planned in which I'd like to be able to record a Google Hangout on Air, and so, you know, I need to be able to hangout. On air. So I ordered an inexpensive web cam with a microphone.

I made Shauna'h test it out with me, and we had a lot of troubleshooting to do to get the microphone to work properly, but eventually all was well. I found out two things in the process:

(a) inexpensive web cams don't put out the best picture quality, as you might imagine, and

(b) the sound stinks.

But you know, it's something.

And so last night I was scheduled to video chat with Cristina. Cristina and I have now known each other for about a year, and have developed a close and wonderful friendship, but we have never met in person. And although we've talked on the phone, we have never been able to combine talking with being able to see the other person. So this was like a big moment. :0

And it made me realize that video chatting adds a whole 'nother element to this new media thing. I like hiding behind my computer screen, it's my favorite way to interact with people. :0 But now...they can see me!

Picture it: Scene at my house after I put Anne down for bed, just prior to our scheduled chat start time...

"Hon, what are you doing? I thought you were going to wash your hair tonight?"

"I did. I just...dried it and straightened it."

And put on fresh make up, but I didn't deign to mention that right at that point.

"Why?"

"I'm going to be video chatting with Cristina, remember?"

"Well yeah, but I don't think she would care if you had wet hair."

"Well I know she wouldn't, but that's not the point, now is it?"

Men.

"Ooookkkkk, but I still...are you wearing earrings?"

"Yes." *pause* "Why is that significant?" *innocent sniff*

"You're nuts."

He said it affectionately. ;-) Although he's probably now worried that I'm having some sort of secret affair. :0

But really, it's like meeting someone for the first time in any sort of a situation. You want to put your best foot forward and make a good impression, no? This makes perfect sense to me. It's also why I carefully selected my chatting outfit. #maybeIamnuts

But in the end, we weren't able to connect due to various life interruptions, which is just how things go sometimes. So there will be more evening hair straightening and makeup application in my agenda later on this week, hee! It's going to be super fun though, the stuff we have planned. I will keep you posted!

And don't forget that tomorrow is Catholic Book Club day! I'll be discussing Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler. If you've read the book, join in with your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Stop it HENRY!!" A story of a weekend "getaway"...

You know, a "getaway" really implies a happy event, a voyage to a fun place where a good time was had by all, right?

;-)

Well, we're dealing with a stacked deck of negative energy here. Why, you ask? Well, we have, for your amusement, what I call The Big 3 working against us:

(1) Mike and I hate to travel. Nothing like starting off strong. :0 We have, what Cristina has coined "Routine Withdrawal Syndrome," (hereinafter "RWS") and a very dire case of it indeed. There is something about not being in my usual happy space doing my usual happy stuff that gets me all agita. This is a term my Italian grandmother uses to describe a state in which one is anxious, antsy, and perhaps a bit wild eyed. That describes me being off routine to a tee. :0

RWS Case in Point:  Mike and I lay despondently side-by-side on an inflated air mattress, trying not to jostle the other by moving and/or breathing too hard.

"What are we doing tomorrow?"

*agonized sigh* "My parents are insisting on taking the kids to that animal preserve. We're going to have to go too."

"Oh. It's like an hour away, right?" *resists the urge to whine*

"YES. And by time it opens and we get there, we'll be coming up against Anne's usual nap time, and she's already WAY overtired."

"Fabulous."

*long suffering sigh*

"Have you seen my hair straightener? If I don't find it, I'll look like Bozo the clown tomorrow."

"Isn't it over there in that pile?"

"No. I had to move that pile to make way for all the clothes Anne is dirtying. Now I can't find it."

"Sorry."

Ugh.

(2) I have all kinds of weird phobias. This isn't exactly the most flattering thing to admit, but it's very, very true, and I address it here so that all of you weird phobia sufferers out there no longer have to suffer alone. ;-) There are things that we don't speak of like Fear of Not Having Bathroom Privacy. You know what I mean. The only bathroom being located right in a main, densely populated household space where PEOPLE WILL KNOW HOW LONG YOU'VE BEEN IN THERE. The very thought makes my heart stop. Then there is the Fear of Having Dirty Sheets. Anything other than dust that my legs have to slip amongst in sheets that aren't mine and my skin crawls. Little pebble things, dirt or otherwise foreign objects? Can't sleep. Or move, for that matter. There is also the Fear of Gross Showers. I'm sensing a dirt-related theme here. #OCD

Freakish Phobia Case in Point: Tiffany is poised to take a shower. As I go to place all of my shower stuff into the stall (all that girly business: shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, razor, yadda) I notice the floor rug/mat in front. I gasp a little bit.

"Oh. There's "stuff" embedded into the rug. What is...Oh God. Can I shake it out anywhere?! No, someone would see me and that would be rude. Can I...oh dear. I can't step on this with bare feet, especially *wet* bare feet, I wouldn't be able to sleep for days. I'm going to have to move it and just step on the bare floor. Which will get the floor wet, but it can't be helped. I'll wipe it up with my towel when I'm done. Uh oh. There's stuff *underneath* the mat too! I'm just going to have to carefully step around...*executes Twister-like movement*"

I nearly killed myself getting out when my feet were wet duplicating this scenario, fyi. Try at your own risk.

(3) We have young children who like to make each other miserable. If there is anything I fear more than having my own routine hacked into pieces it's having the routines of my small children disrupted. My sanity hinges upon a regular nap time and bedtime so that we can have adult fun time. And now we're in someone else's house, and so the children have to sleep in the same room. Where they can talk to and otherwise annoy each other and prevent each other from sleeping. Then they are even crankier and less willing to sleep than ever the next day.

Major.Mew.

Children On the Edge Case in Point: The room Mike and I were staying in was connected to Henry and Anne's room via a vent. 6:15 am Sunday morning we hear:

*high pitched whispering*

*Chorus of "Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes" struck up loudly*

"ANNE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

"Nothing HENRY!"

"ANNE! I'M TRYING TO SLEEP! YOU ARE SO LOUD!"

"Stop it HENRY!"

*high pitched back-and-forth interspersed with lots of acclamations of "Shut up!" and "SSSSTTTTTOOOPPPP!"*

Mike turns to me, air mattress squeaking loudly in his wake: "There is a ban on traveling with the kids for at least the next year."

And let's not even speak of the car ride, I think I'm scarred for life.

But we made it. Last night we collapsed onto our couch, cocktails in hand, and basked in our space and our Sunday night routine. Which is to say watching old episodes of Columbo and drinking. And yammered on about how happy we were to be home. One would have thought we'd been away at a hard labor camp for the past decade. Nope. Gone less than 48 hours.

We're insane.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Catholic Nook: Chaplets

Hi y'all! Time for another Catholic Nook installment, and I have been feeling inspired lately by this small book pictured left, My Treasury of Chaplets, by Patricia Quintiliani. It's out of print, but available still via the Amazon Marketplace, and I bought a copy a few years ago. (reality check: Amazon is telling me that I bought this book in December 2010, that's more than "a few years ago." Folks, this is what happens when you approach 40. You start to lose brain cells and your ability to judge spans of time. You've been warned). ;-)

The reason I originally bought this book is as a reference guide for praying different chaplets. I'm a librarian, I love reference material. *halo* Chaplets are traditionally designed to invoke the intercession of a particular saint or as devotion to a certain title for Mary or Jesus. So, for instance, the chaplet of St. Therese. It has 24 beads, memorializing the 24 years of her life, and on each you pray a Glory Be. Or the chaplet to Our Lady Star of the Sea, with 12 beads representing the 12 stars on Mary's crown, on which you pray a Hail Mary with a special acclamation at the end of each prayer. There are tons of such devotions like this out there, each with (if you wish) customized prayer beads to assist you in praying that particular chaplet. St. Michael, St. Philomena, Padre Pio, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the 7 Sorrows of Mary, the Precious Blood of Jesus, all have a unique chaplet for that specific devotion. I find it all fascinating, so I purchased this book. The author helpfully divides the book into sections for chaplets of the saints, Marian chaplets, and those focused on Jesus.

So, this book sits on my bookshelf, and I pull it out when I need it to look up a particular chaplet and how to pray it. With the novena to the Sacred Heart going on right now, I had thought about learning more on this devotion, and wondered whether there was a special chaplet. There is. For each chaplet, there is a description of how to pray it, and a photo of the chaplet, which makes this book unique as far as what I've ever seen. If I don't have beads configured exactly in the way the chaplet is described, it helps to get a sense of how many times to pray which prayers and in what order by looking at a physical item. It also makes it easier to look for such a chaplet to purchase online if you'd like to. Or to make one yourself. *exciting music crescendos* :0

I looked over the Sacred Heart chaplet. 33 red beads, representing each year of Jesus' life, plus 6 larger beads. From the photo, I could see that the arrangement was 6 sets of 5 red beads apiece, with larger beads in between, and then a "drop" with larger beads on either side of a trio of the red beads. With a sacred heart centerpiece and a crucifix on the bottom, it's a slam dunk. :0 I could make this!

I didn't, although I tripped over myself on the way to grab the tablet and load up red and yellow beads into my Fusion Beads shopping cart, simply because I wouldn't be able to obtain the supplies and get it made in time for the novena, which at that point was only about a week away. You don't need the beads in order to pray the novena, I just thought it would be nice. But certainly for the future, I will make this at some point.

As I flipped through, I came across a chaplet to St. Dominic Savio. St. Dominic Savio is a patron of young boys, and his story is a favorite of Henry's. His chaplet consists of 3 white beads on the drop, and 14 blue beads, the colors representing St. Dominic's purity and his devotion to Our Lady. There are specific prayers for each bead. Eureka! I have cobalt blue beads and white pearls in my bead stash. Yes, I now have a bead stash in addition to a yarn stash, no judging. ;-) All I would need was a centerpiece and crucifix, since Henry owns a St. Dominic Savio medal that I could hook on. I found a chalice First Communion-type centerpiece and a coordinating crucifix, ordered those, and away we go. Chaplet will be created soon! I'd like to pray it with him sometimes before he goes to sleep. Fascinating stuff, no?

Do you all have a favorite chaplet that you pray either regularly or around a specific feast day? Leave me a comment!

Just a housekeeping fyi: I'm headed to Pittsburgh this weekend with Mike and the kids, so no post tomorrow. I'll be back with you with full details on Monday. Talk to you then!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hot off my workbench...

...aka the dining room table. :)

I've been hard at work on my new beading obsession when the kids are asleep. The results are far from perfect, but I'm learning real quick-like, and enjoying it very much. I really like my latest two creations, one of which is an Our Lady of Guadalupe rosary:



You know how I am about orange. :0 So this is a mix of different orange shades, citrine, and red for the Aves, and deep teal for the Paters. I love how it came out.

I also made my very first rosary bracelet, da da DAH! I call it the spring colors rosary bracelet:


I had to use a crimping technique for this, and I struggled a bit. It turned out lovely, as you can see, but this morning on my way into work, the crimping bead on the one end came loose and so I'm going to have to restring everything, sigh. All of the beads and the clasp are fine, but it needs to be restrung and recrimped, such is life. But at any rate, this is made with Swarovski round beads in pink, green, blue, yellow and orange, with an almond pearl for the Pater.

Besides repairing the bracelet, I have more rosaries on the horizon (Our Lady Star of the Sea for myself, and 2 Guardian Angel rosaries, one for Anne and one for my nephew Will), a St. Dominic Savio chaplet for Henry, plus some earrings for myself. Excited!

Speaking of chaplets, I'm planning to write a bit about those tomorrow. Are there any chaplet lovers out there? I love discovering new chaplets devoted to specific saints or needs. We'll delve in tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Adventures in a yarn shop...

Hello dear readers! Very glad to be back with you today. Yesterday was just one of those days, you know? The weekend, as you saw if you follow me on Twitter, left a lot to be desired, and then yesterday went sort of predictably:

Day starts off: Eh. You don't want to be in a bad mood, but you're not exactly optimistic for a stellar day given what you're working with.

Day progresses: A perk of hope. Get lulled into a false sense of security.

Day continues to progress: Hopes unceremoniously squashed.

Work day ends: You are despondent.

You go home: Crapola.

Day ends: You are drinking.

Some days are just like that. Not very often, thankfully. Today, things are decidedly better and I'm feeling perky. And all this despite the fact that it's going to be the warmest day of the year so far here, and my car is guaranteed to resemble an oven by time I get into it to drive home tonight. Huzzah!

But now that I'm feeling back to my old self, I wanted to briefly chronicle my experience last Friday doing something that I have never done before, but will now become a regular part of my summer rotation: a pilgrimage to the local yarn shop.

Given the sheer amount of yarn that I own, you're probably wondering where the heck I got it if I don't go to the yarn store. Well, dear reader, I am an introvert. Introverts shop online. I go "in", I take my time, I carefully browse the offerings and make obsessive compulsive checks on Ravelry for color swatches and reviews, I put stuff in and take stuff out of my cart at a whim, all without anybody talking to me. Isn't it glorious?!

But on Friday, I was having lunch with my knitting group, and we agreed to take a field trip to a local shop that we've all been meaning to try out. We wanted an adventure.

It's a small place, but the minute we stepped into the door, it was as if the very gates of heaven had opened up. Yarn was stacked into cubbies covering every inch of wall and spilling out of baskets on tables and on the floor. A group of women was seated in a cozy nook, knitting and chatting. Knitting and crochet magazines and books filled a bookcase and were tucked into some of the cubbies for inspiration. A swift and ball winder was at the ready up by the register to immediately wind up your purchase so that you could cast on the instant you got home. I nearly died.

We immediately spread out to divide and conquer. I inspected the entire store, but two areas drew me sort of like a dog is drawn to certain spots which are inevitably stinky, but in this case the result wasn't nearly so gross: the sock yarn kiosk and the cotton cubbie.

Fancy sock yarn always does me in. It is inevitably tightly spun into a springy coil and hand dyed in gorgeous saturated colors that self-stripe or self-pattern or self-something-really-cool. There was some Frolicking Feet sock yarn that I could not stay away from, in irresistibly titled colorways like Tiger, Sugar Maple, A Maine Summer Sky, and Cozy Cove. I kept picking the hanks up, and reluctantly putting them back down. At over $20 a hank, I had better have a really special gift in mind, and right now I simply do not need more sock yarn. I have other beautiful hanks at home which are still unknit. So you see, $25 for a skein of yarn does not put me off in the least, no sir. I just have to be able to justify it with a specific project, and right now I can't. Blast.

So I moved on to the cotton area.I don't really need any cotton right now either, but it's the summer and a girl could always use a new dress scarf, right? Cotton is the perfect fiber for summer, and I do adore seasonal projects. As soon as I got over there, I honed in on a gorgeous skein of Cascade Ultra Pima. Pima cotton looks like silk, and the shine makes the colors simply glow. This one in particular I couldn't stay away from:


In person, it looks like a deep turquoise, and I was smitten. In the fall and winter, I'm all about oranges, reds and greens, but in the spring and summer I can't stay away from blues. There's just something about that color in the summer that I adore, reminds me of a cozy seaside village.

I held it several times, like a new baby. There was only 1 skein in stock in that colorway, so the only possible use for it would be a scarf unless I ordered more. Which I really didn't want to do. I looked at the other colors, which were also beautiful, but none spoke to me the way this skein did. Unhappily, I put it back, thinking of the large containers I have at home filled with yarn. And the yarn that won't fit in the containers that I snuck into the guest room closet. And the yarn that I have tucked into a filing cabinet at work. Oops.

Eventually, everyone else was checking out and having their yarn wound and I was mentally patting myself on the back for my self control when suddenly I was at the register and that skein of turquoise yarn was on my elbow. How did that happen?! I swear it jumped on there of its own volition, and since it was only $10, I didn't want to hurt it's feelings by not taking it home. That wouldn't have been very nice, now would it?

So I bought it, and had it wound, and threw caution to the wind and cast on that very night for a seafoam stitch scarf. LOVING. I will post a photo when it's done and in its beloved home draped around my neck.

I've been doing lots of knitting and crocheting lately, seasonal items, and it's been soothing me greatly. What have you all been up to so far this month? Comments, please!

:)

Friday, June 13, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 44} Summer travel, heat and reading edition...

-1- Happy Friday everyone!

In the craziness that is this summer, our weekends are just packed every single week. This weekend is Father's Day, so no rest for the weary. We have breakfast AND dinner engagements to attend on Sunday. :) Not to be bad sports, but Mike and I agree that our current incarnation of Mother's and Father's Day is just absolutely exhausting. Are we grateful to have both sets of parents, plus a grandmother, still in good health and with us to celebrate on these days? Absolutely. But would we rather loaf around the house eating cheese and sipping cocktails on our big day? Yep, yep and yep. Alas.

-2- Tiffany has to travel next weekend. Prepare for the whining.

Anything out my normal routine is always hard for me to enjoy, and traveling definitely falls into this category. We're not going far, just driving south to Pittsburgh to visit with some family there, so no air travel involved (thank God for small favors :)). But the packing. And the car ride. And the children fighting in the backseat. And worrying whether Anne will actually sleep somewhere different (the child is so much like me in her routine-oriented ways. This is God having a good time at my expense, isn't it?) And the socializing. And all of that stuff. I'm certain that it will be fine, but traveling isn't my favorite thing to do.

-3- Summer is officially here. A/C units are installed. *circuit breaker shorts out*

You all know how I feel about summer (my least favorite season), but this year I'm making the best of it. Life is short, you know? You need to be able to enjoy everything, and not rush through it. To get to fall. The most glorious season in all the universe.

But I digress. The weather has really been very nice here, not too hot so far, but we had a few nights this week wherein sleeping was uncomfortable. We do have fans, and put those to use, and Mike and I do pretty well with sleeping even while warm. The children however seem to generate body heat at a rate of 50x the average adult human, and their rooms get SO much warmer than ours when it's humid outside. And when they don't sleep well, we don't sleep well.

4:15am:

"MOMMY! I NEED YOU!"

We want to keep those occasions to an absolute minimum. But our house is old, and whoever originally wired it thought that it was a fine idea to have the entire upstairs, plus the downstairs bathroom, all on one circuit. This means that we cannot run an a/c unit in all 3 bedrooms without tripping our circuit breaker. And on extremely humid and uncomfortable nights, this is a problem. Thankfully, an electrician is coming to give us an estimate on Monday. Here's hoping the bill isn't too painful.

-4- Nothing says "summer!" like sweating in a dance costume while dancing in the road...

 Summer is also festival season for my dance troupe, and we're gearing up. We're learning a new drum choreography, and adapting our Arabic pop piece so that we can use canes as a prop. We have a big event in July, and then several in August. Given the way the schedule is set up, it looks like we'll be dancing all group numbers, no time for solos this year, which is kind of a relief. You remember last year, right? I swear I still have Dance Costume PTSD as a result of that festival. But this is a new year, right?! Hoping for the best.

-5- Catholic Book Club, summer edition!

I've got a really awesome summer of Catholic books lined up, and I've been reading away like a busy bee. The spiritual memoirs I've selected to review this month and at the end of July are on my right sidebar list (Something Other Than God, and Pope Awesome and Other Stories). August will be unveiled soon, and let me say that I'm *super* excited about this! It will be a little different from the books I've selected previously. Stay tuned!

-6- Dreaming of Montana...

I've gotten back into my Harlequin roots, so if you enjoy romance fiction, the next 2 takes are for you. ;) I've been reading on my precious little Kindle like crazy this past month, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading romantic suspense that just whisk you away in time and place. I started a series by a Harlequin author I really like, BJ Daniels, called Whitehorse Montana. I'm reading the first book in the series right now:

LOVING. I adore series with a common mystery and/or setting throughout, so this fits the bill perfectly. There are 6 books in the series, and I actually read one of the later books a few years ago, it was what got me turned on to this author. I'm looking forward to going through them in order now. Harlequin Intrigue is my favorite of their secular romantic suspense lines.

-7- This one involves Montana too. How strange.

I see a theme here. :0 But yesterday I discovered a brand new series from my very favorite Harlequin line, Love Inspired, which is their Christian imprint. There is a series beginning in July called Big Sky Centennial, and will feature a new book each month by a different author, all relating to the small town of Jasper Gulch, Montana celebrating it's 100th anniversary. The first book centers around the 4th of July celebrations, and there will be a book a month through December. SO EXCITED. I already have the first four books preordered to download to my Kindle on the release day. This is the first book, due out July 1st:

I plan to do lots of light reading this summer. :)

Ok everyone, have a beautiful weekend! 7 Quick Takes is being hosted over at Team Whitaker this week, go have a look!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Little girls who unfasten their diapers in the night...

Precious Anne. :) Who *is* in fact potty trained, but can't go through the night yet, and we're fine with that. She was in need of some new summer sleepwear, and so I made a pilgrimmage to Carter's on my way home from work Monday. Well.

I hate this seasonal clothing problem that we all must suffer through. As in how all the summer stuff is being eliminated long before the 4th of July. The climate here is so different from season to season that it's not helpful to need a new winter jacket in January, to find bikinis and short skirts already out in the stores, know what I mean? And this is what I encountered in Carter's. Short sleeved nightgowns already on clearance with stock looking like nightgown-clad locusts had just breezed through the store. I mean, clearance prices are great, but finding what you're looking for in your size is now a problem.

I come home with 4 nightgowns, plus a 3 piece short/pant/top set bearing flamingos. Because...who can resist flamingos? They were even pink and orange! But I digress. One of the nightgowns is the style I was looking for. You know, a nightgown, it's not that complicated. The others were, well, like this:

Mike took one look and arched a dubious eyebrow:

"Are you sure that's a nightgown? It looks like a dress."

Female clothing styles may often confound my husband, but on this one, he is right.

"I'm sure. It's part of their princess line of sleepwear."

*sigh*

I mean, it's adorable, don't get me wrong. Come night time, I asked Anne which gown she wanted to wear, and she picked one of the princess offerings. I put it on, and she floated down the stairs like a fairytale queen. However, 2 nanoseconds later...

"Ow Mommy! This hurts!"

I look over to find Anne, her arms extended out in second position, looking miserable.

"What hurts Honey?"

"My arms!"

She fingers the frilly tulle at the sleeves. I tried to convince her that it didn't actually hurt, but she wasn't buying it. She didn't want to take the gown off, mind you, but the princess life isn't as cushy as we all think, apparently. I put the others immediately into the wash, hoping to soften them up before wear. Meanwhile, the next morning:

"Mommy! My diaper came unhooked!"

And this is what I was worried about with nightgowns. Easy diaper access = potential crib sewage situation. *second sigh*

Last night, I convinced her to wear the more traditional nightgown, and I could tell that she liked it and that it fit comfortably. I was still worried about the diaper situation, but praying for improvement.

4:45 am this morning:

"MOMMY!" *sobbing!*

*third sigh*

I get up and head into Anne's room. She's standing up. That is a good sign 0% of the time.

"What's wrong Honey?"

"Can you hold me?!"

Shocker. Her diaper was fine, something had just spooked her. I rocked her and got her some water, then she went contentedly back into her crib.

So maybe the diaper situation won't actually become a crisis situation. The nightgowns are coming out of the wash tonight, so here's hoping for some softening. And some more selection next year, when we have to shop for summer nightgowns in February.

*fourth sigh*

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

From 2 children to 3: Adventures in Going Out to Eat

Yesterday evening we borrowed a child :0 and treated everyone to dinner out at a local pizza place. We had our 2 kids, plus Henry's friend Matthew. This particular restaurant has a "Kids Eat Free" special on Mondays, and though I know they're not obliged to offer any special at all, this one is a bit limited. 1 child eats free per adult, with a cap of *2*. Not a fan of big families at this particular pizza joint, apparently. :0

So off we headed, with our temporarily larger family. Things I noticed about toting along the 3 children, rather than 2:

(1) Zone Defense, rather than Man to Man: Somebody always has to have an eye on multiple children. Like for instance, during the several bathroom trips that Anne is certain to demand, the first of which will be the instant we walk into the door of a new place:

"Do they have a bathroom here?!"

How I long to say no... But alas. Mike stayed with the boys while I toted her to the ladies room. Which brings me to an aside: when Henry was littler, we used to take turns bringing him to the bathroom with us. With Anne, that does not happen, and I suspect that it's because we both secretly find the Men's Room to be a terrifying place. What does it smell like in there?! I don't want my impressionable 3 year old to have to find out. #scary

(2) Boys are Handsy: I don't know if that's really a word, but there you have it. Boys, when they get together, are so physical with each other. Lots of wrestling and tackling. Tons of thumping noises coming from upstairs as they leap over each other while they reenact some army scene.

"No more headlocks until we get back home ok?!"

(3) Boys Tease Girls: UGGGHHHH...We spent two full car rides with the boys ganging up to mercilessly tease Anne. Bathroom humor is inevitably invoked. #goodheavens

(4) Boys Try to Impress Each Other: We had a chocolate milk drinking contest that resulted in a round of waters being forced upon everyone before the food even came. They were unamused.

(5) Tiffany Gets Very Anxious About Minding Other People's Children and Worries Until They Are Safely Back Home Again: I don't know what I'm afraid is going to happen, but it's like when you have to take a doll home for your home economics class in 8th grade to pretend it's a real baby, and I leave it out on the back porch for 12 hours because my mind wandered. I worry that I'm going to screw up and something terrible will befall the poor child and then everyone will know that I'm secretly the worst mother in the history of the universe. So I found myself attempting to calm my nerves early on in the dinner process:

"Would you like a beer or wine list?"

"Oh, yes please."

"Beer list? Or wine list?"

"What? Sorry, I was distracted by my daughter trying to climb the dessert case. BOTH."

We had a good time, but indeed, I was relieved to get home with 3 happily full and content children...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pentecost Sunday...

Happy Monday everyone! I'm back at work after a perfectly lovely Pentecost Sunday. It was an overcast day, one with a cool summer breeze that make you very happy to nestle inside. 

Anne really likes going to Mass these days, she's always anxious to go, but Henry is still difficult to get motivated. He likes going up to communion, but we have a lot of work to do with getting him engaged in the liturgy. Ever since his First Communion preparation though, he *has* been doing much better with following along in his missal. That's a definite improvement. I love looking over and seeing his little brow furrowed as he flips to the appropriate passages, so sweet.

So we packed up and headed out, me sacrificing myself by letting the children pick the music that we listened to on the ride to our parish. I had a big bag of clothes that Anne has outgrown to pop into the donation bin in the parking lot, and Henry always fields this task. He does a great job at hoisting the bag into the bin and getting it to fall through in one attempt. My attempts are not nearly so elegant or successful.

We get into the church, and I made sure to point out the red banners and vestments to the kids, explaining that they were just for Pentecost. Anne was wide eyed, Henry looked noncommittal. :)

We all enjoyed the special Sequence that the congregation sings on Pentecost, and Anne happily pointed out that the fountain in place on the altar for Easter was still present. I wistfully told her that this would be it's last week, since we officially go back to Ordinary Time after Pentecost Sunday, all the way to Advent. *sob*

Both kids were very well behaved for Mass. Henry looks adorable when he processes up for communion, hands folded prayerfully. Anne has even started walking on her own in the communion line so that my hands are freed up to receive from the chalice as well.

After Mass, I remarked to Mike what a lovely Easter season it was. A lot of my Lent was very spiritually dry, but I had a hall-of-fame Holy Week, and the Easter season that followed has been very fruitful. May, in particular, resonated with me this year. Likely because I had a child receiving a sacrament this May, I really reveled in Catholic sacramental season, and noticed the other associated traditions. The May Crowning, ordinations to the priesthood and diaconate, rosary processions. All so special.

Later in the day, as we were home preparing for a Sunday dinner with my mom, it started raining. An absolutely fabulous, perfectly cool summer rain. I was so glad to be home and thinking about Pentecost Sunday, and upcoming Ordinary Time. There are still so many riches to be had there, and I'm looking forward to exploring them with you. :)

How was your Pentecost Sunday? Leave me a comment!

* Photo from Holymusic55 on Photobucket

Friday, June 6, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 43} Adventures in cardiology, and anxiety-driven crafts edition...

-1- A real blogging lovefest...

Happy Friday everybody! This will be a quicker than usual 7 Quick Takes for me ;-) since half of my day was taken up with something I'll talk about in a moment. But I didn't want to skip blogging today, because I do enjoy 7 Quick Takes, and blogging is very cathartic for me. So here I am, at your service for the next 6 takes.

*beams*

-2- Precious Anne

This morning, Mike and I had to take Anne for an appointment with a local pediatric cardiologist. At her well visit just over a week ago, our pediatrician heard a heart murmur when she examined Anne. She referred us for an echocardiogram to assess what was causing it. Since minor heart valve defects do run in my family, I felt a little freaked out, but I thought I held it together well. :)

Well, everything is just fine. Anne had an EKG, the echo, and an exam by the cardiologist. She does have a discernible murmur, but this is very common in children, and hers is not being caused by any structural defect in her heart. *HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF*. Anne was SUCH a good girl, lying still for her echocardiogram, putting on this adorable little hospital gown, not crying when those sticky circles had to be ripped off her skin, poor babe. We took her to a playground afterward to play for a good long while, and then out to lunch. It turned out to be a very enjoyable morning, but I am very glad to have that worry behind me.

-3- Worrying makes me a very busy bee...

I work up a lot of energy when I worry, and so now you can see the fruits of my labors. :) I finished the hip scarf for my troupemate Mackenzie, who graduated a few weeks ago from college. Da da DA!

Because pink and orange is the happiest color combination in the history of the world...
Very pleased with how it turned out. I am now officially on to baby knitting, and summer top crocheting. :)

-4- More Type A productivity, step right this way...

I mentioned that I'd gotten into learning how to work with beads, and that I was learning how to wire wrap so that I could make rosaries. I was smart about this and set my expectations very low. :0 Not looking for professional quality here, just a way to feed my rosary fetish and maybe make some gifts. Here is what I have so far: A colorful rosary for Henry in blue, green, yellow, and orange, with a St. Kateri center, and attached. St. Maximilian Kolbe medal (since apparently, trying to find a St. Maximilian Kolbe centerpiece is more difficult than a trigonometry exam):

The bead mix is called "Margarita," which just sounds happy and summery to me. :)



Then I made this for a very special friend :), Our Lady Undoer of Knots in her traditional colors of deep red and cobalt blue:

Which I hadn't noticed before are also very patriotic colors, and matched perfectly with Anne's recent patriotic Hello Kitty outfit:

"I would like to keep this rosary, Mommy!"
I'm just warming it up for Cristina while I slip over here...
I've been having a *super* good time making these, and although far from perfect, my wire wrapping technique has improved. I have an Our Lady Star of the Sea project planned next. :0

-5- Books!

I've also been a VERY good girl with my reading list. Don't forget that the Catholic Book Club is coming up at the end of the month, and this month I will be discussing Something Other Than God, by Jennifer Fulwiler! I finished that just the other day, and I can't wait to discuss it with you. I also started July's selection, which is Pope Awesome and Other Stories, by Cari Donaldson. I am on spiritual memoir overdrive, and loving every minute of it because that is one of my very favorite genres. And these are both heartwarming stories, written by wonderfully funny women. I keep snorting aloud in bed as I read, causing Mike to look over at me strangely. I have 3 words for you:

Bachelorrettes.in.Alaska.

If you have any idea what on earth I'm talking about, you HAVE to read Pope Awesome. Cari is from the same generation as me, and I am relating to just about every pop culture reference she tosses out there. I'm pretty sure the exact teal taffeta homecoming dress she mentions in chapter 1 has a sibling in my old bedroom at my parent's house.

Go. Buy. Read. Discuss on July 23rd. I demand this. And it's only $4.99 for Kindle, a total steal!

-6- So what else is going on this weekend?

Mike and I are going to a wedding, of some theater friends of his. We haven't been invited to a wedding in years (a product of our age, I'm thinking, although again, WE'RE NOT THAT OLD) so I'm excited. Although I have to admit that my social anxieties are coming out a bit. We won't know that many people there, so if worse comes to worse we can just be anti-social and talk only to each other, although that *does* seem to miss the point of why we accepted the invitation to begin with. We'll see. It's an outdoor wedding, which is uncommon for me, so hopefully it won't be hot. You know how I am with heat. Which is to say FREAKISH.

-7- Here I am, Holy Spirit!

And of course, Sunday is Pentecost, yay! I'm looking forward to going to Mass on that day. And then it's back to Ordinary Time for us. This particular stretch of Ordinary Time is a bit quieter than that bit we get between Christmas and Lent, but I suppose that fits with summer. We have the feast of Corpus Christi later this month, and then the Assumption in August. There are some interesting feast days in July, including both St. Henry and St. Anne, and St. Maximilian Kolbe in August, one of Hank's personal favorites. But things get fascinating again in the fall, with all of the angel feast days, and then the Carmelites in October, and oh! I love this stuff. :) Look for more Church Triumphant posts from Cristina and I each month to chronicle all the good saint stuff!

Ok everyone, talk to you Monday! Head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A tribute to a wonderfully kind and funny man...

This morning as I drove into work, I was contemplating what to write about today. I had a few ideas, but thought of saving those for 7 Quick Takes tomorrow. Then, in light of current events which I will talk about in a moment, I thought: what's the point of "saving" things for another time? The older I get, the more I realize how precious and fleeting life really is. Things simply don't always proceed the way you plan or expect. As I recall EWTN foundress Mother Angelica once saying: "Nothing lasts forever, Honey." On this earth that is, as difficult as that is to accept.

And so yesterday, I was working along at my computer, when suddenly I saw a new email notification come into my inbox. The subject read: "Death of Professor _______." I immediately gasped out loud, and with the thin walls over here, that means both of my office neighbors heard me and likely thought I had injured myself. I'll call the professor in question "Dr. B" because I'm weird about using last names on this blog, it's the paranoia in me. :)

I knew Dr. B. He taught philosophy here at the university at which I work, and has been here for over 50 years. He was also one of Mike's mentors here when Mike was obtaining his Ph.D. in philosophy just before we got married. Dr. B specialized in Kant, ethics, and the philosophy of religion, and was a devout Lutheran. In philosophy, whether you're a theist or an atheist is rather a big deal, and he felt strongly that all students should study religion from an objective perspective because of its importance to our history and way of thinking.

Besides philosophy, he taught a course called World Civilizations, and that is how I knew him. Every semester, he would ask me to come and teach a session on finding material for a research assignment to his 230 student class. Needless to say, I found this very intimidating. :0 (outcome of that original panic-stricken post over here for any interested parties). No other professor has ever wanted me to teach in their large lecture class like that, they would break it up into smaller segments. Not Dr. B. He liked things done a certain way, and he was sure I was up to the task when I inherited the library liaison responsibility to the World Civ. course.

He always provided me with his assignment and request for instruction in a timely manner. When I arrived at his classroom, he was *always* looking dapper and wearing a jacket and tie. He was supremely cordial and professional. He commanded respect by his presence, and I *never* called him by his first name even in an informal email. He expected his students to do research and write a coherent college-level paper, which not all professors here do anymore.

He had high expectations for his students, but was always kind and accommodating to answering questions. He had a reputation for having a stash of chocolate in his desk for if you were having a bad day when you came to see him, and if you were having a REALLY bad day, a flask of scotch. :0

I taught for him this past February (if you read that post, the followup is that a few days later, he sent me the nicest email saying: "My apologies for the omitted '0' on the note confirming your presentation, resulting in your room search Tuesday." I mean seriously, the man is a gem), and the last time I saw him was later in the spring semester, just walking through campus.

"Hello, Dr. B!"

"Good day to you." *tip of his hat*

There is not another faculty member on campus as gentlemanly and unique as he.

And so when I saw that email, I gasped out loud, and started reading the obituary that was contained therein. Then I started to cry. I never looked forward to those big classes because being in front of so many people really brings out my anxiety, but I always enjoyed working with Dr. B, and I will miss that so much. Mike took the news hard, too. He had always admired Dr. B, and couldn't wait to hear my amusing stories after I taught for him every semester. His death feels very sudden, although based on his obituary, I can tell that he was a lot older than we thought he was. He easily looked 10-20 years younger, but he must have been well into his 80's.

One final anecdote: for a two year spell, I was on the Faculty Senate here. *cue an agonizing musical selection in the background* PAINFUL. Long, tedious meetings, filled with academics who very much enjoy hearing themselves talk. The shining light was always Dr. B. He was a Parliamentarian for the Faculty Senate, and would intercede when needed for interpretations of the necessary bylaws. I can think of few things more horrifically boring than that, but Dr. B took his charge very seriously and with relish. He was always standing in the back of the room (he had a back problem that made it painful for him to sit for any length of time) waiting patiently with his laptop propped onto a table for when his services were needed.

One day a particularly gruesome meeting was underway. The usual chair was absent, and the discussion was quickly deteriorating into chaotic ego enhancing nuances. Some of the faculty were arguing about some university policy, and several stated that they felt the policy should be amended to reflect their thoughts on the matter (naturally). Several of them termed this "a friendly amendment." The person running the meeting finally got a word in edgewise (no easy feat with that group):

"Let's ask our Parliamentarian for the procedure on adding an amendment to the policy."

*Dr. B straightens and calmly walks to the center of the room, sans laptop*

"Well, I am glad that you asked. First of all, there is *no such thing* as a FRIENDLY AMENDMENT. Bylaw section 85, subsection (a)(4) clearly states that........ Furthermore..."

All off the top of his head. He had been reading up while they were all arguing. :0 I had to physically restrain my face not to burst out laughing. The "friendly amendment" crowd was shut down summarily and without further ado. That was, without a doubt, the highlight moment of my two years in the Faculty Senate. He was just totally without ego or guile. A breath of fresh air.

I will miss him very much. Let's all wing up a prayer for the repose of his soul, and for the comfort of his family today. As ever, your prayers are much appreciated. :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Girl at the End of the World

http://www.amazon.com/Girl-End-World-Escape-Fundamentalism-ebook/dp/B00FDS55VS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401895832&sr=1-1&keywords=girl+at+the+end+of+the+world
Today I am reviewing Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future, by Elizabeth Esther. Spiritual memoirs are a favorite of mine, so I was extremely excited to read and review this book. Let's get right to it. :)

Our author describes growing up in a Southern California family who became part of a manipulative religious group. Her grandfather started a church that she calls "The Assembly" and it quickly became extremely structured, rule oriented, and ultimately downright abusive, both physically and emotionally. Women did not have much choice in what they wore due to "modesty" rules. They also did not have much choice in their marriage partner due to a heavy hand by church leadership on the pool of prospects. Children were spanked daily from infancy sometimes until they were teenagers in humiliating and painful ways. Some parts of this book were difficult to read, to be honest.

But the story is compelling. Throughout, the reader is of course rooting for the author to come out of this experience unharmed. And as we move along her story, it's impossible not to want to find out what happens next, despite the disturbing events that she is chronicling. Apocalyptic predictions abound in this church, and so she discusses the protocol her father devises should the End come. The author describes being fearful as a child of the Rapture happening and her being "left behind" in a way that just breaks your heart. She was just a little girl, and truly afraid of the abandonment this would entail. Any parent can't help but want to hug her and assure her that everything will be fine.

However, in the environment in which she was raised, children were not made to feel emotionally secure. Their church was built on a very narrow worldview and focused so much on the whim and interpretation of their pastor. Following church guidance was the priority, not comforting the anxieties of children about their future or day-to-day difficulties with their way of life.

This memoir has a different "feel" to it than other religious non-fiction that I've read. It's as if the author is telling us her story while trying to guard herself emotionally from the painful events as much as possible. Given her experience, this is totally understandable, and it provides the reader with a tangible sense of what she went through. Real emotion is conveyed here, the words acting as a conduit into a young life inside an insular religious group.

You'll have to read the book to find out exactly how things turn out for our author, but I'll say this: this book involves a conversion story. And our Blessed Mother is a key part of the emotional healing this author was so badly in need of. :)

This was an excellent and fascinating read, and I highly recommend it. You can read chapter 1 for free here. The book is available via Convergent Books for $14.99 (trade paperback), or $11.99 as an ebook.

*Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sun aversion, and crafting for others...

Happy Monday everyone. :) Just a quick post today on something I was dwelling on as I was sweating my buns off at Henry's soccer game yesterday. Which could be a post in and of itself...

(Begin tangent...)

I am so not cut out for hot weather, thank God I live in the snow belt. The sun and I are not exactly best friends, let's put it that way. I'm so fair skinned, and the older I get, the more that situation keeps coming to the forefront. Picture everyone from the dermatologist to the DENTIST telling me:

"Oh wow, you have really sensitive skin."

So, several tubs of SPF 250 later, I'm ready to brave the soccer game, and I totally overdress to try and keep the sun off my tender flesh, and then I'm SWEATING. People, I hate to sweat. I absolutely loathe that sensation of actually roasting out there in the sun, and you can feel things getting wet, and then your clothes stick to you (or God forbid, some other surface), and just GROSS!! Ugh. Ok, anyway, I was sitting there praying for God to be merciful and send some cloud cover, and to get my mind off things, I started thinking about all of the craft projects I have going on right now...

(End tangent...)

For those of you out there who enjoy handcrafts of any kind (and I'm pretty inclusive in my definition here - sewing, knitting, crocheting, beading, painting, embroidery, plastic canvas, all of that good stuff and more), isn't is so pleasing to make things for other people? I just love doing that. I do make things for myself too, but I would say the majority of what I make is for gifts. And the reason is simply that I enjoy that. I think about the other person as I work on it (or their unborn baby ;)) and I find creating the item with those thoughts in mind to be very pleasing indeed.

Gifts I'm working on right now:

(1) A crocheted hip scarf for my troupemate, who recently graduated from college. I wish I had pictures of all of this stuff, stay tuned later this week! I've never made anything like this before, so I'm having fun with it. I just finished crocheting a mesh fabric in bright pink cotton that forms the body of the scarf. This week, I have to crochet the orange flower border and attach it. I'm really excited about this. The mesh turned out great, I can't wait to see what it looks like with the border.

(2) Dun dun DUNNNNN.... rosaries. :) This is like a Tiffany dream come true, right here folks. These are not exactly professional quality or anything like that, but I can now wire wrap rosaries, and let me tell, this is DANGEROUS.  It's like when Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad was both making AND smoking the blue crystal meth. Addicts should not be dealers. ;) But here I am, Rosary Fetish Girl, making rosaries, and this could quickly get out of control, but I LOVE making them. Each one is different. Different beads, different colors, different centerpieces or medals attached, different crucifixes to coordinate with the designated Rosarian Theme (I just made this up, but doesn't it sound good?) I'm loving this. If I know you, and you're Catholic, expect a rosary in your mailbox sometime soon. ;)

(3) I'm about to start a baby cardigan and hat set for Shelia, and I'm super pleased about this. :) I'm picking out pattern and yarn right now, one of my favorite parts of knitted projects! As soon as the hip scarf is done, this is going into my in-progress knitting basket.

So, of you crafty souls out there. What are you working on? What are your favorite crafts?