Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dancing photo shoots, saint dolls & novenas - it's the "little bit of everything" post!

Happy Tuesday everyone! And I am in fact glad that it is Tuesday today. Yesterday was a bit crazy, although a fun day in the end. Let's procure our tea and get started. :)

Last night was super busy because Mike was teaching, I had a photo shoot to attend for my dance troupe, and Henry had a soccer game. Multiple grandparents had to be brought in as reinforcements to get all of this on track without a hitch. :) But it did all work out.

For my part, I headed out about 5:30 pm wearing my pink troupe costume and coverup. Dance coverups are really just caftans, a long, flowy garment of some sort to keep your costume hidden unless you are actually performing. My troupe has matching coverups in hot pink, so picture me leaving my house looking like Mrs. Roper headed out for a hot night on the town. :0 I can only imagine what my neighbors think I'm up to when they see me coming and going. But I didn't want to change at the venue, since we were taking the photos on the back patio of the restaurant Claire works at during the day. It just seemed awkward to have to worry about changing in their restroom, so I went already assembled. I got some strange looks as I walked through the restaurant to the patio, but it's nothing that I'm unused to, lol.

And we had fun. We took a boatload of group shots and one individual shot each. It's nice back there with a view of a small creek and waterfall over the wrought iron fencing. The weather was beautiful too, with mild temperatures, a clear sky with setting sun and just a gentle breeze. So we'll see how those turn out.

Back at home, Henry finished up his indoor soccer season, Mike got though another long Monday of teaching, and Anne colored with my mom, bossing her around the whole time about how to do it "correctly." :0 The night was a success.

Also on my horizon this week is Christmas gifts. I've been knitting, crocheting and beading like the mad women you all know and love. I've been working my way steadily through my list, but of course, the list has undergone some alterations. I will devote a separate post to that at some point. :) I also have a list of items handcrafted by others that I want to get the kids, which use crafts that I decidedly do not excel at. So, we're talking painting and sewing. I've been procuring those little by little since the summer. I have the wooden dolls I mentioned previously, and for Anne I bought a Saint Softie from Saintly Silver on Etsy. She arrived yesterday. :)

This is, of course, Our Lady Star of the Sea, one of my very favorites. :) She is terribly, terribly cute, although not nearly as large as I was expecting. I was thinking this would be something Anne could snuggle with in bed. Well, no. :) She's only 4.5 inches tall, and 2.5 inches wide, a very petite Mary! So this is more in the realm of a small saint doll rather than a cuddleable. But that's ok! She's lovely, and will make a cute stocking stuffer. The dimensions are right there in the description too, apparently your librarian can't read correctly in public. :0 (This is the standard size, fyi. There are in fact listings for larger softies). She's adorable, and check out the back:

A stitched on prayer! All of the dolls have individualized prayers on their backs. A lovely touch. This is *super* cute and a very nice gift for the Catholic child in your life. The owner does have a 5-6 week turnaround time because her shop is so popular, so if you want some for Christmas, better get started now. ;-)

So, I've been tucking all of these things away as the weeks go by. Next on my list is a nativity set for Anne, and I may get her one a wooden one via St. Luke's Brush. We'll see! But I'm excited.

Also! Tomorrow is the feast of St. Therese and we finish her novena up today! Has anybody seen any roses? I haven't, but I wait in joyful expectation. :) AND tomorrow I'm starting the 54 day rosary novena. So if you'd like to join in, have at it! We need to pray a full rosary every day for these 54 days, that runs tomorrow through the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Who's in?

*beams*

Monday, September 29, 2014

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - It's all about grace...

Happy Monday everyone! Although, I admit, I'm not all that thrilled that it's actually Monday. I had a meting at 9 am this morning, and I just didn't feel quite ready for work socializing yet, PLUS it didn't leave me enough time to make tea, and so now I'm on chat reference and writing this post, tea-less. That's not exactly a good combination.

:0

But at any rate, we had a very active weekend for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which I will chronicle here. I can't leave my desk to go get hot water for tea, which seems profoundly unfair, but you go ahead and enjoy yours as you read.

*martyr*

Ok, so Saturday morning Mike and I took the kids apple picking. This is a fall tradition, and this year we tried out a farm that is much closer to our house than we've journeyed to previously. It was about 30 minutes away, rather than an hour, which translated into SO MUCH LESS bickering our back seat from our offspring. *sighs* It worked out very, very well. The children cavorted on a hay maze and interacted with turkeys. The turkeys were happily pecking away at several pumpkins that were hung up for their ease, and were very friendly. I found it a big discomfiting that there was a sign up advertising fresh, organic Thanksgiving turkey. :0 This is why I could never work on a farm. #wuss We all picked apples, and there was a nice variety in season. We came away with about 12 pounds of apples, some of which Anne and I used to bake an apple cobbler yesterday, see baking selfie above. :) Which resulted in this cuteness happening:

Anne in her new apron. Precious.

We ended up at the vigil Mass, since Henry was spending the night with his grandparents and I told him he still had to go to Mass. This wasn't exactly a popular decision with Henry, but I explained that now that he's received his First Communion, he has a lot more responsibility with regard to Mass attendance. Not attending means that he has to go to confession and tell the priest why he didn't go. That, and Mike backing me up, seemed to make all the difference, and Henry got ready for Mass. :)

Anne was actually out for a girls afternoon with my mom, so it was just Mike, Henry and I at Mass. It's been so long since I went to Mass without a sassy little one climbing all over tarnation that I almost didn't know what to do with myself. :0 I could actually *pay attention* and follow along in my Magnificat, bliss! I enjoyed the Gospel reading very much, from Matthew Chapter 21: Which of the two sons does his father's will? The one who said he would go work in the family vineyard, but then didn't keep his word, or the other who initially refused, but later changed his mind and silently went to work? God appreciates our honesty, and will always welcome us into the fold, even if we were originally pretty stubborn about the whole thing.

This related back to the Gospel reading from last weekend, and it made me appreciate the sentiment anew. The Magnificat reflection following the Mass readings was penned by St. John Vianney, and focused on the danger of lukewarmness in faith. A sinner laments his sin when his conscience kicks in. A lukewarm person, on the other hand, thinks that their relationship with God and their actions are just fine, there is no need to change anything. You suddenly develop a habit of sleeping in on Sunday mornings. "God's ok with it, He knows that I still love Him. I'll go back to church when I'm feeling better." One week becomes another, and next thing you know it's been months since you've gone and received the sacraments. But you're still convinced that God is cool with this.

Been there, done that, my friends. :0 The reflection was a refreshing reminder that even when I get down on myself about the things that I just can't seem to get right, the fact that I still keep trying to do better is a really good thing. I recognize that I continually need improvement, and this fact alone doesn't put me outside of God's grace, you know? It's actually a *good* thing.

After Mass, we dropped Henry off at my in-laws for his sleepover.  This meant that Mike and I had a few hours to go out to dinner, and we had plans to go to a local Mexican place we had been wanting to try out. We had originally planned to bring Anne with us, but she was still with my mom. You know what this means, don't you?

HHEEEELLLOOOO MARGARITAS!!!!

A fun time was had by all. ;-)

How was your weekend, good and gentle reader?

Friday, September 26, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 55} Cute kid stuff, lots of fall book recommendations, and 54 day rosary novena! edition


It's the end of the first of the three autumn months, and what have I been up to, you ask? It is my favorite season of the entire year, after all. Let's settle in with our tea and discuss. :)

-1-Evil smoke detectors that attack in the night...

Work has been busy, as it always is at this point of the semester. I arrived home the other day, pretty pooped, and Anne summoned me immediately into the living room.

"Mommy color with me."

There was no asking involved. This was a demand. :)

"Sure, Honey. Aw, what happened to your finger?"

A bright green band aid was adoring her right index finger.

"The smoke detector did that." *very casual*

Now, Anne is afraid of her smoke detector. I don't know why precisely, but she has expressed this in the past, with lots of requests for the smoke detector to be taken out and "given to another child." Obviously, this is not happening.

"The smoke detector cut your finger, Sweetie?" *very skeptical*

"YES." *very serious* "It's watching me, ISN'T IT, MOMMY?" *WIDE.EYED.FACE*

Ah ha. The blinking light is clearly the culprit. Tiny piece of duct tape, coming right up.

-2- Henry simmers with excitement, Tiffany nervously bites her nails & downloads Kindle books...

Mine and Henry's trip to Maine is in two weeks. Henry is practically levitating he's so excited. Me? Yes, I'm very excited about the actual visit. But I have to fly to get there. And you know...well. I don't like to fly. :) I do it, but I don't know that I'll ever like it. It's a combination of the lack of control and fear of enclosed spaces. I've been listening to the Airline Pilot Guy podcast, hosted by one of my favorite SQPN'ers, Capt. Jeff, and that has helped my fear quite a bit, actually. Knowledge is power, I suppose, and traveling by air is statistically much safer than other forms of travel, and it's helpful to know the reasons why. So, good. Right?

Mostly. :) The fear is less than it has been, but I'm still not anxiety-free. I have my Kindle loaded up with books and am plotting a special portable knitting project to provide distractions on the travel days in question.

-3- Speaking of Kindle books, my current fiction selection...

I started a new Love Inspired Suspense miniseries last week, and so far so good. This is a Christian line of romances, and there are traditional titles (called simply "Love Inspired"), the suspense line, and a historical line. I'm not so much interested in historical romance. Occasionally, but not often. However, I love the traditional and suspense titles. They all feature the characters bringing their faith into the situations they are facing in the book and are quite lovely. The miniseries that I started reading is called Witness Protection, and it is a six book series featuring characters within the federal witness protection program and the U.S. Marshals who guard them. Book 1 was discounted one day (check out Inspired Reads for the scoop on how to find discounted religious titles on Amazon :)), so I downloaded it, and I'm so glad that I did. It is Safe By the Marshal's Side, by Shirlee McCoy:


I already have book 2 on my Kindle, that must have been featured in Inspired Reads one day as well, which is The Baby Rescue, and I plan to download the others and make my way through the miniseries. Happy. :) This particular miniseries has a different author for each book, which can have mixed results (I really like Shirlee McCoy, I've read her books before, so she sets a good precedent :)) but I'm intrigued enough by the theme to keep going regardless.

-4- Fans of saint books for middle readers will want to check these out...

Henry and I recently finished our first installment in the Encounter the Saints series from Pauline Books & Media, which was St. Thomas More: Courage, Conscience and the King. Excellent! Henry was quite taken with it. I have to write a review of it for Catholic Library World now, I have them to thank for introducing me to the series. These books are perfect for children aged 9-12. We liked the St. Thomas More book so much that I promptly ordered 3 more for our bedtime reading, and the first one he wants to start with is St. John Paul II:

We also ordered the selections featuring St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Maximilian Kolbe. We can take one along with us to Maine. :)

-5- October book club!

Just a reminder that our October book for the Catholic Book Club is Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus, by Philip Michael Bulman:

I've been wanting to learn more about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus since hearing about it in a podcast earlier in the year, so this book is perfectly timed for me. It was just released this summer, and I'm very excited to dive into this for my spiritual reading in the evenings!

-6- Also starting in October, all rosary fans join in!

Beginning on St. Therese's feast day (Oct. 1st) I'm going to be praying a 54 day rosary novena. October is the month of the rosary, so it just seems perfect, no? :) Who would like to join in? We'll start, like I mentioned, on Oct. 1st, and finish on Sunday, Nov. 23rd, the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Each day, we'll be praying a full rosary. For half of the novena (27 days), we pray for our intentions, and then for the subsequent 27 days we pray in thanksgiving for whatever result is God's will for that intention. There are instructions for the novena about which mysteries to pray on what day, but I'm going to be honest: I pay no attention to that. :0 I pray the mysteries of the rosary according to the day of the week and liturgical season. For Ordinary Time, that means this breakdown:

Monday: Joyful
Tuesday: Sorrowful
Wednesday: Glorious
Thursday: Luminous
Friday: Sorrowful
Saturday: Joyful
Sunday: Glorious

-7- Gratuitous baby photo, because who can resist those?

Real quick, I want everyone to go admire precious Baby Gift Universe, little Miriam (don't you just love her name?!) in the baby surprise jacket and hat that I knit her (scroll to take #6 in that post). *heart*

Ok all, I have to get back to work! Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll talk to you on Monday. Go check out more 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Church Triumphant: Spotlight on St. Vincent de Paul

Morning everybody! I'm delighted that it's once again Saint Spotlight Thursday. :) Cristina and I have developed a pattern whereby my book club posts are the 4th Wednesday of every month, and then our saint posts immediately follow, on the 4th Thursday. Very fun!

This month we chose to highlight two saints with feast days coming up within the week, a nice way to stay in touch with our liturgical calendar. #CatholicNerds
Cristina is talking about St. Gabriel the Archangel over on her blog, you don't want to miss this one! There are baby pictures of her adorable son, a namesake of St. Gabriel! *squeals!* His feast is Sept. 29th. Joining him on that feast day are also St. Michael and St. Raphael. I just love that feast of the archangels, and the feast of the Guardian Angels is shortly thereafter, Oct. 2nd, fyi. It's just a lovely part of Ordinary Time. And I'm going to be discussing St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast is Saturday, Sept. 27th. Let's get started!

St. Vincent was born in the late sixteenth century into a humble peasant family in France. His family was able to secure part of his education with local Franciscan friars because they wanted to encourage his intellectual pursuits. As a teenager, he began studies for the priesthood, and was ordained at age 20.

He devoted his priesthood to ministries for the poor and the sick. He founded the lay Confraternity of Charity, the Daughters of Charity, and the Congregation of the Mission, all of which ministered to the poor, nursed the sick, and aided the unemployed. St. Vincent desired to help those who felt they had no one to turn to: outcasts, prisoners, prostitutes, slaves, homeless men and women.

From Magnificat for his feast day, we read:

"He instructed his followers, 'If a needy persons requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer.'"

St. Vincent died in 1660 and is the patron saint of all works of charity.

My personal tie-in to St. Vincent de Paul is that after many years of attending public city schools, I enrolled in a Vincentian college. Founded by the Congregation of the Mission, my Catholic college has a service mission that all students were required to partake in as part of their education there. I remember volunteering at a local hospital as part of the way that I accrued my service hours, and our curriculum included courses in both religion and ethics. It was a breath of fresh air after my prior educational experiences. Which is not a dig at public education at all, because that in and of itself is a valuable service, but I came from a fairly rough middle and high school experience.

While I was a student there, my faith was not yet "my own" in an adult sense (especially if you look at some of the decisions I made during that time period, yikes!), but God was very much working in my life. Although I still found Sunday Mass a bit trying and I lacked a full understanding of what occurs during the liturgy and of the Eucharist, I discovered daily Mass while I was there. The college has an absolutely stunning chapel on campus (and it is a registered parish within the diocese, Mike and I were married there! *heart*) and I happened upon daily Mass one day. That truly changed my life. I started going somewhat consistently throughout my time there. I loved the spiritual pick-me-up of the 20 minute service, it packed quite a punch. Even in my young and naive state, I recognized that something powerful happened at Mass and I was more easily able to identify it in the shorter format since my attention wasn't wandering. An important seed was planted. Around my senior year, I stopped going, and then my faith languished a bit until my second year of law school when I had a major spiritual "reversion" of sorts that led to me becoming rooted in my faith as an adult. And what was the event that tipped the balance towards making that happen? Daily Mass. :) Different college campus, but it all comes back to the Eucharist. Thus, it seems to me that St. Vincent de Paul had a hand in me coming back to my faith, and now cherishing it.

Does anybody else have a devotion to St. Vincent de Paul? Tell me all about it in the comments. And don't forget to visit with Cristina to chat about St. Gabriel. Talk to you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Dominican Life

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today is our official Catholic Book Club installment for September, which is Dominican Life, by Fr. Walter Wagner, OP. You all know that I am a Third Order Dominican, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Go get your tea, let's get started!

*procures hot water*

This book is actually a compilation of retreat talks that Fr. Wagner gave to a community of Dominican nuns in Summit, New Jersey. The nuns transcribed and edited his presentations, aiming to retain Father's conversational style with only minor edits for readability. Each talk is its own chapter, and begins with a quote from the Rule of St. Augustine, which is what St. Dominic chose as the guiding precept for his order. Following that, Fr. Wagner expounds upon the selection, discussion the content a bit before moving on to its applicability to Dominican life. It's a very interesting and encompassing Table of Contents (you can see the full sample via the "Look Inside!" feature on Amazon), and therefore I think worth including here:

The Purpose of the Rule
The Rule as the "Other"
To Be Rich
The Sharing of Wealth
The "Special" Religious
Dominican Liturgy
Abstinence in Religious Life
The Contemplative Gaze
Work in Religious Life
The Dominican Habit
Dominican Chastity
Dominican Correction
Dominican Identity
Dominican Bodiliness
Dominican Dysfunction
Dominican Authority
Dominican Freedom

As a Dominican, I found this to be fulfilling spiritual reading. The chapters aren't lengthy (the total print book length is 222 pages, so not a heavy lift in terms of size), which I see as a positive thing. Ideal for a short bit of contemplation each evening before bed. Fr. Wager indeed has an engaging and personal style that comes across nicely in the text.

The thing that I *didn't* love about this book is that I personally find it jarring to read something that feels more like a speech rather than a book. It does indeed read like a transcript. There is still good content there, but I found it a bit distracting. The other thing is that although a layperson can certainly glean lots of good wisdom in these pages (as I in fact did), it does feel like content that was aimed at a target audience of religious. Not everything in the book applies to laypeople. So, that too left me wanting a bit more.

I think that the best way for laypeople to get the most out of this book would be to read it in very short increments, perhaps even less than a single chapter at a time, to really reflect on the material and how it could apply to to a lay lifestyle. As well, the material that is more clearly relevant to the nuns is simply very interesting information for laypeople, an inside glimpse into life within a Dominican monastery.

As a Kindle download, this is only $7.99 and I do think it is a worthy addition to ones queue of spiritual reading, taking the things I mentioned above into consideration. For Dominicans, it really is an essential read, I think. Has anyone else read this book, or perhaps a related book on Dominican spirituality? Chime in in the comments! How can Dominican spirituality be applied generally to all of us in the pews on Sunday mornings?

Do check back in tomorrow for the saint spotlight feature that Cristina and I collaborate on, The Church Triumphant. And next month, Catholic Book Club looks at a new book on devotion to the Sacred Heart, with Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus, by Philip Michael Bulman.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Your child feels called to the religious life - are you smiling or tearing up? Perhaps both :)

I'm being a bit tongue in cheek with the title of this post, because I think everyone who reads this blog knows how lovingly I speak of the religious life. I considered it for myself, and although that was not my vocation, I retain a HUGE soft spot for religious men and women, and monastic living. I read tons of books about it, and find the experience so very sublime.

I have in the past fielded the question of how I would feel should Henry want to be a priest. I have always answered, without hesitation, that I would be thrilled. Depending upon who is asking the question, I have received a variety of responses. :0 Some Catholics nod with understanding and agree that they try to foster an openness to a religious vocation in their children. Others may be sympathetic to the way I feel, but don't necessarily share the sentiment. A few people of various religious persuasions have said to me:

"But...no you wouldn't! Don't you want grandchildren?"

I think Catholic religious vocations seem a bit odd to Christians who do not have celibate clergy, and the nun thing seems downright mysterious. It's different from the way many Christians do things, Anglicans and Orthodox being the exceptions that come immediately to mind (though they do have married clergy, but also religious orders). And this is a fascinating sub-topic, but I'm losing my train of thought as is so often the case. :0

This response has made me think about my answer, although my answer has not changed. Sure, I would love grandchildren someday. However, there is no guarantee, regardless of what vocation they enter into, that my children can and/or will provide them. Life doesn't always work out the way we plan, no? There are lots of couples who would LOVE to have children but are not able to. So my child entering religious life isn't the only reason that they may not have children of their own. The important thing is to discern ones' vocation carefully and to do what God is calling you to do. If my children do that, I will be one happy mother.

But over the weekend, this topic came into my heart anew. A friend from social media, Mike Gannon, announced that he is joining the Carmelites. This wasn't exactly a huge surprise, I could see it brewing for well over a year now. I got home from dance class, saw his Facebook and Twitter posts about it, then went and read his blog post (linked above):

"OH! OH, this is VERY NICE, but..."

*SNIFFLE!*

Mike found me shortly thereafter, wiping my nose as I stared despondently at my phone.

"What's wrong?"

"Mike Gannon is going to become a Carmelite friar. It's GOOD! It's just...I will miss him so much on Twitter!!!"

Because you see, the religious vocations of others are all about ME and my social media experience. :0

I realized that my happy go lucky response about my son and the priesthood was based upon him deciding to become a *diocesan* priest. This is quite different from joining a religious order, where a person is obliged to their community. For both men and women, becoming a member of a religious community means that you must follow the structure and rules of your order and your superior. For cloistered nuns, and also monks, this new lifestyle is quite dramatic. It's not like a man studying for the diocesan priesthood who still has the freedom to go about daily tasks as he pleases in many ways.

I did think about this last year when someone else I followed on Twitter (and a good friend of Mike Gannon's), Channing Dale, entered a cloistered Carmelite community. I didn't even know her, but yet I very strongly felt her absence in my Twitter timeline. And although thrilled for her and for the Church, I felt a bit sad when she left. (I remember saying to my knitting friends: "Her last day on Twitter is coming up. I can't even imagine how she'll feel right after she deactivates her account. And, AND! WE WON'T KNOW, WILL WE, BECAUSE SHE CAN'T TWEET!! *sob*) And the same thing is happening with Mike Gannon, though more strongly because I "know" him better (we've never met in real life). He's a staple in my online Catholic community, and I always enjoy his contributions on Catholic life and issues. I will miss him. :(

Mike will hopefully be back on social media at some point beyond his postulancy, but it is a bit of an unknown. Channing (now Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Divine Heart) will not be back due to the specific nature of her cloistered vocation, and this made me think very deeply about something inherent in the religious life, and indeed in a vocation to marriage as well: there is a dying to self involved. It is more dramatic for cloistered religious than it is for others, but there it is. And for people who know and care for a person entering a cloistered community, there is a sense of loss there, I think. I understand that the gain is SO much greater, for everyone involved. But in our humanness, I still think that this is difficult. In terms of your daily interactions with the person, it may feel a bit like they have died. Poof! They are just gone, and you cannot simply call them to hear their voice. That is terribly hard.

For a parent, I imagine that this would be *incredibly* challenging. I'm not saying that I would begrudge my son or daughter a religious vocation, certainly not, but there are things that I would struggle with. Particularly if it were Anne entering a cloistered monastery. I would get over it, and I would be so very joyful about my child offering their life to Jesus, but I would grieve a little bit for their company, I think.

Just keeping it real here, as I always strive to do. :) I would still be thrilled if Henry or Anne felt called to the religious life, whether it be to a cloistered or active community, or for Henry to the diocesan priesthood. But there is an element of emotional pain that I think would be very real as a parent adjusting to this change.

Thoughts? :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - God loves us even though we are unworthy. THANK HEAVENS.

I am really growing to enjoy these Sunday reflection/Mass experience posts that I've been putting out on Mondays. :) This may very well become a regular feature. I'm going to need to make this one somewhat short since my schedule continues to be a bit busy, but no worries! I'm still here with you for the duration of my chat reference shift, so whatever I can get written in that time frame is fabulous. I just have to deal with the chat questions as they come in. For instance, I just helped someone who was looking for books on potty training in our library. Our academic, state university library. That's not a research interest that we have a large collection in, to put it mildly. Glamour, all glamour. :0

Anyway, I'm leaving early to take Henry to the dentist, which is fun for absolutely no one, although I at least get to read a Love Inspired Suspense title on my Kindle out in the waiting room, in contrast to poor Henry. But I digress. Henry was a very good boy at Mass yesterday, so he should get a reward far more appealing than a trip to the dentist, that's for sure.

Anne on the other hand...well, she made the Gospel reading very applicable to my situation. Not that I could HEAR the gospel, since I was taking her, at her very loud request, to the bathroom (ironically enough. *commiserates with chat patron*) When we returned, I got out my Magnificat so that I could go back to the Gospel, since it caught my attention as I was carrying Anne back to the sacristy. It was the parable from Matthew about the landowner hiring workers at varying times during the day but paying them all the same wage, regardless of how long they actually worked. The lesson being that God will forgive us and give us our reward in heaven no matter how worthy or unworthy we are, so long as we agree to what He asks of us. In our case, we should repent, ask for forgiveness, and go forth desiring to please Him.

This made an impression on me given that I had yelled at my children as we readied for Mass. :-\ It doesn't justify it, but they had fought all morning, and then *someone* refused to put her shoes on as we were about to leave the house. It was a frustrating situation, I was feeling emotionally at the end of my rope because they had both been behaving so poorly for hours leading up to this, and the shoe thing just made me snap. Can't *anything* be easy with a 3 year old? Apparently not.

It's a good thing that God never turns his back on us even if we're late to the party, no? Our opportunity to be redeemed is just as strong as someone who has lived the life of an angel from birth. Is there such a person, by the way? I'm thinking no. :0

I thought about this throughout Mass, which was good since Anne did not make things easy for me, and praying for patience certainly helped my cause. For the second time in 2 weeks, she had to be removed from the sanctuary for poor behavior, and a talking to administered out in the side vestibule. We had things like, oh... leaping off of the pew and into the aisle. Obstinate and dramatic throwing of self to floor when Mommy tries to pick us up. Loud *shushing* of the MUSICAL ENSEMBLE when they started playing. When our favorite usher came to collect our envelope, Anne looked at him unblinking as she held the envelope hostage, him with the basket offered in smiling expectation of her cuteness. Without missing a beat, Anne slowly *crumpled the envelope in her fist* as if sending some sort of nefarious message about the depth of her capabilities to embarrass her mother. It wasn't a good scene.

But we made it, and the Gospel message was certainly well received. We are all in need of God's grace. Especially this Catholic librarian.

And speaking of helping each other along in this earthly path, don't forget that today is Day 1 of the Novena to St. Therese. Sign up to join in!

I have a post planned tomorrow on the religious life and our children/friends. If that's a topic of interest to you, do come back to chime in!

How was your weekend, dear reader? Leave me a comment. :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 54} Feasts, novenas, eye searing crafts & teaching edition...

-1- Tiffany is actually going to be *quick*? How shocking!

This is going to be a fairly quick edition of 7 Quick Takes (and if you've been reading my blog for some time, you know that I have a very loosey goosey interpretation of "quick" :)) since I have yet another busy work day today. Imagine that! Actual *work* interfering with my fun Catholic/writing/dancing/online shopping tasks. I have two World Civilizations classes that I'm going to be presenting in today, so I need to finish my preparation and then teach in the afternoon. It's not my favorite part of my job, if I'm being honest, but I always prepare and do my best to be concise and engaging. I could juggle knives and some kid in a hoodie will still fall asleep in the back row, but you can never win 'em all. ;-) I try my hardest to do the absolute best job I'm capable of, and it usually goes very well. So here's hoping!

-2- Today's feast day is...

 St. Januarius:

Ever heard a strange story about some blood in Italy liquifying and bubbling on an annual basis? That's this guy. :) Gosh, I love being Catholic.

-3- St. Therese's feast day approaches!

The novena to St. Therese begins Monday (9/22) and I will be joining in for certain.  Sign up via that link and you will receive an email with the prayers in it each day, makes it easy to not forget. I adore St. Therese's feast day. The thrill of looking for the sign of roses while you pray it just adds to the allure. :) Back when Mike and I were dating, I threw a party on the feast of St. Therese, cooked all of this crazy flower-related food, and invited all of our Catholic friends. He seemed to find this pretty charming and proposed to me soon thereafter. :0 I've always loved her feast even more as a result.

-4- 54 day rosary novena anyone?

 I'm thinking of starting a new 54 day rosary novena right after the St. Therese novena. Does anyone want to join me? So, we would start on her feast day of October 1st, and commit to praying a daily rosary for 27 days of petition (that would end October 27th), and 27 days of thanksgiving, giving us a final date of November 23rd, which happens to be the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. If you'd like to join in, I'll post reminders on the key dates next week. :)

-5- Book club on Wednesday!

 I will be posting a review of our September book club selection on Wednesday, which is Dominican Life by Fr. Walter Wagner, OP.


I'm about 88% of the way through the book according to my Kindle, so I will finish up this weekend. I have mixed feeling about it's usefulness for laypeople, and I will detail all on Wednesday. :) If anyone else has read this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments on that day!

-6- Crafting with very LOUD yarn...

 I love colorful things, and apparently my children have inherited this trait from their mother. At Henry's request, I made him a pair of socks with yarn that actually hurts your eyes to look at it:


I just finished them this week and he's already worn them. :0 For Anne, I'm knitting watermelon mittens:

Mitten #2 is just missing a thumb and will be finished tonight. The striping pattern doesn't perfectly match Mitetn #1, because nobody got time for that. ;-) But they look handknit and fabulous.

-7- My favorite post to write this week...

...if you haven't read it, is my troupe's dancing adventures on Wednesday. I just love chronicling those. Although far from glamorous or perfect, my life is worlds more interesting now than when I was an awkward teenager and twentysomething, let me tell you. And I'm very grateful for it, and to have my Mike by my side as we navigate life's journey together.

All right, back to my lesson planning! Talk to you all on Monday! Head to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes, and have a great weekend! :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tech Thursday question: Family tablet?

In a bit of an interesting trend, I appear to be coming up with technology questions on Thursdays. I was looking for a topic for today's post on which I could be brief, since it is a bit of a busy day. I'm on a search committee, and we had a meeting this morning at 8:30 (thank God there was coffee). Not that 8:30 is all that early, it's just that I had to be on campus, stuff dropped off in my office, and then journeyed to the other side of the academic spine and ready to talk to other human beings by 8:30. I had to get up a bit earlier and leave right after Mike dropped Henry at school in order to make this happen, so my routine is all off. And you know how I am about my routine.

:0

Anyway, as I was contemplating what to write (came up with the 54 day rosary novena, which I will incorporate into tomorrow's 7 Quick Takes post, so look for it there :)) I journeyed over to Amazon to check on a book order I had placed for Anne that is due to arrive later today. And what do I see? Amazon has new Kindles out today, one of which is a Fire Tablet for a mere $99
 My interest was immediately piqued, because tablets have been on my mind. We need a new family tablet, and so Christmas gift ideas have been floating around in my brain. We really just need something that Mike can use for web browsing (he doesn't have a Smartphone, and isn't interested in one just yet), Henry can use for games, and I can use for video chatting. I can also use my phone for that, but a bigger screen that you can affix to a spot via a stand up case would be very useful depending upon the circumstance. This new and very inexpensive Fire tablet actually has a front and rear facing camera. Intriguing. However, I haven't heard fantastic things from other Fire owners on their impressions of older versions of this product.

I am also considering an iPad Mini:

They can be had on Amazon for around $250, and I've heard nothing but good things about the quality of the product. This would have a bigger screen and a nicer camera. It is certainly more expensive, though. Since I have zero experience with either of these items, your input would be greatly appreciated. :)

I have a Kindle e-reader which I absolutely adore, but that is a completely different product from the tablet line. I also note that all Kindle e-readers are now moving to a touch screen. I would love one of those, but I can't justify it just yet when my older Kindle still works like a champ, and I use it *daily*.

Ok, so, have at it! I would appreciate everyone's input on this one. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Muddy grass, dead leaves and active insects: Adventures in garden belly dancing...

This is a two dance post kind of a week, apparently. :) But they're fun for me to write, and I hope that you all enjoy reading them even if dance isn't your passion as it is mine. I thought I'd pen a quick summary of our performance adventures yesterday, since they are inevitably amusing, and this instance was no exception. It'll be back to Catholic stuff tomorrow and Friday. :)

As I mentioned, our venue was a community garden, and we were under the impression that the place was quite spacious. We all met at the studio and drove in one car to the garden since it was in a city location none of us were very familiar with. Well.

We roll up in Claire's car and survey the scene. In unison, all 4 of us say:

"Oh."

Decidedly NOT spacious. A corner postage stamp with a few handfuls of people standing around. A good number of children and some adults, several of whom look a bit sketchy.

Mackenzie summed up exactly what we were all thinking when she said:

"So often with these dance gigs, you drive up and see the event, and you just want to keep on driving."

:0

We pile out of the car. We knew that there would be zero space in order to dress, so we all arrived in our costumes with flowy coverups over top. We each have flower trays, Claire has a giant sound system, Mackenzie has a silk veil blowing in the breeze behind her, and I have a sheathed sword. Inconspicuous we were not.

Everybody turned to stare at us as we walked up. Claire found the woman who had organized the event, who had lovely purple hair, by the way. :) No judgement here, this is coming from the woman wearing a hot pink caftan cover up. I always thought pink highlights in my hair would be pretty cool, actually, but I digress.

She's all excited to see us and Claire asks her where we will be dancing.

"Oh anywhere you like! The grass isn't *too* muddy."

Glamour, all glamour.

We find a tiny cleared spot to set up and confer in a huddle. We make the immediate and unanimous decision to excise the solos, save for Claire's. This is an awkward situation without many audience members, and shorter is always better in such circumstances. Leave 'em wantin' more!

I will say that the small crowd that gathered around us seemed pretty into it. There were maybe 20 people there, and they looked on curiously and politely as we got ready to dance. We start the first group number.

As we enter and start our first formation I espy a gaggle of small girls in the front of the crowd. They appear *very* interested, and one little girl is clearly watching me and mimicking my arm and hip movements, trying to dance along with us. She was *adorable* and I gave her approving beams in regular intervals.

Our grassy surface was making turning difficult, and leaves kept getting caught in the hems of all of our skirts, so we dragged them around with us, there was no help for it. :0 I stepped on the hem of my skirt multiple times, crunching leaves as I went, that was a first. But keep dancing I must!

Around the time we started the drum piece I noticed that a few cars had stopped to watch us dance, and lots of people were taking photos and videos of us on their phones. I always wonder about where those photos end up, but such is all of our lot in life in today's day and age.

When we finished, Claire came out to dance, and she immediately got the eager little girl up to dance with her. This went over very positively, and soon she had other willing volunteers to dance with her. She is *very* good at interacting with the crowd that way. One girl was reluctant at first, but soon Claire had her relaxed and dancing. I'm *terrible* at this. I really don't want to ask anyone to dance with me for fear of rejection anyway :0 and should they show any signs of reluctance I'm already wide eyed and dancing in the opposite direction.

#IntrovertBellyDancer

When Claire's song was over, we just had our tray/improvisation number left to go. Leaving the most fun for last, no? :)

We did the tray balance thing, and Mackenzie was the first to improvise. She used a silk veil and swirled around in an absolutely lovely fashion. I had my sword at the ready and was batting away a few insects while enjoying her dancing as she floated to one side. It took me a couple seconds to realize that she had exited our "stage." She didn't use up quite as much music as I anticipated, but then again, normal people don't time things as anally as I do. :0

I recovered quickly and sashayed my way out to the forefront. I had been so caught off guard with my start time that I didn't really have time to be nervous. I spun a few times and balanced the sword on my fingers while I did a few hip movements. The music crescendoed, it's wonderful when things work out like that :0 (if I had tried to plan this, it never would have gone so well), so I took the opportunity to balance the sword on my head. It went well, and I could tell that our gaggle of tiny girl fans really liked this part. The sword is always a crowd pleaser. :)

I danced until a good stopping point in the music and exited so that Lara could dance with her flower tray. When she finished up, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were done, and our small audience seemed to have enjoyed it. Only about 15 minutes had elapsed. :0 But, hey. They weren't paying us, and things ended with the crowd happy. That's a good note to finish things on.

So that was that. It wasn't glamorous, but it certainly was fun and makes for a good story. Onward to our next dance adventure!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Belly Dance Tuesday: "Just make something up. Can you bring your sword?!"

It's *always* interesting with my dance girls, let me tell you. We were back together on Friday after a 2 week break and excited to move on to new movements, choreographies and performances. Claire brought back tons of great fodder from the convention she attended in Miami, and we had a good time with that for the first half of class. She took a Shaabi workshop that particularly inspired her, and she led us in energetic new combinations in that style. Shaabi is a less inhibited style of dance, commonly called "Egyptian street dancing," and it isn't my favorite. What can I say? I'm inhibited. :0 When it was my turn to make my way across the floor, Claire called out to me:

"Do your shoulder shimmies like this, more free form. Less ladylike!"

*snort*

So after all of that, we had to rehearse for this garden gala that we're set to dance in tonight. Turns out, only 3 of us, plus Claire, can make it. This make choreogrphies and formations very difficult, with so few people. But we've been dancing together a long time, and we always find a way to make things work. Our solution?

"I'm going to put the music on. Let's see what happens!"

She put on a pop song that's been in our repertoire for quite a long time. We had to switch up sides to enter from with just 3 of us, but other than a few minor modifications, it actually worked. Good. We have the new drum piece that would not have worked with 4 people (since Claire joins us for that one), so she put on a previous drum number. Claire calls our memory of this particular piece "Pavlov's Dogs" because she thinks we know it so well we could do it at any time without thinking. And she was right. We all remembered it. Another score. So that's 2 short numbers taken care of.

"How long do we have to dance for?"

"We have an hour. But that's not happening. Sooooo... as long as we can?"

Joy. :0 And we're going to be outside, with chilly weather.

"Ok, let's talk about the wings number. Hopefully it won't be windy."


Because nobody wants to see the miraculous flying belly dancers.

We quickly determined that our wings number would look weird with only 3 people, given the formations we usually have in the choreography. We start out that piece with a tray balancing sequence. Claire suggested we do the tray balance segment, and then just take turns improvising for the rest of the song.

Now, here's the thing. :) When I first started dancing, the above sentence would have made me reel back in horror, as if I had just seen maggots in my garbage can or some such thing. Up in front of people who are watching me. Dance. Without a fixed choreography of any kind, just making a routine up on the spot. Oh, and:

"Why don't you each use a different prop. Tiff, can you bring your sword?"

With a sword balanced on my head.

Fantastic. :0

But I've gotten braver with dance the older I get, so thank God for small favors. We each have about 45-50 seconds to improvise. I know this because I carefully timed the music and divided by the number of people. I'm a Type A freak, no need to belabor. ;-) At first, I thought that given the short time frame, I would just balance the sword on the side and when it was my turn dance out with it already on my head. But I changed my mind. With a sword, dancers *always* balance it while out in the performing space. You can build some nice anticipation that way, and it just looks nicer. Plus, it will eat up a little time. ;-) So that's what I'm going to do. I'm hoping that it goes well.

#PrayForMe

So that's 3 numbers. Claire will do a solo.

"We still have a lot of time to work with. Why don't you guys do solos too."

So now I'm making up yet more stuff, this time for a full 3 minutes. :0 This involved picking out a song on Claire's iPod that I can improvise to. All by my lonesome, eek. I picked an even tempo instrumental piece that I'm very familiar with. 2 minutes and 58 seconds of anxiety, right there.

I do like improvising better than choreographing a piece. I'm more relaxed and I perform better, I know this for a fact, I've seen the videos (yikes! :0 It's always terrible to watch yourself on video, in my opinion). But it's still scary. :) I'll usually plan how I'll enter the stage, an ending pose, and maybe a few accents therein. But otherwise, I just do whatever moves me in that moment. Sometimes, two movements will come into my mind at the same time, collide, and leave me executing a mangled combination of both that resembles Middle Eastern dance only in the most tangential of ways. But I press on. I always feel better about my dancing when I improvise. I feel like I project a more relaxed vibe, which is always good. The emphasis being on *more.* I'm never fully relaxed when up in front of other people, but I do what I can.

Soooooo...that's the "plan." :0 I practiced a bit over the weekend, but I don't have a lot of free time at home in order to dance. Plus, my practice studio consists of our kitchen with the microwave as my audience, so conditions are not great. 

I'm sure this is going to be amusing, and I will report in tomorrow. Hopefully, I won't be completely traumatized. ;-)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Of swinging from pews & tantrums in the aisle - Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross 2014...

I generally like to tie the theme of these liturgical day posts around the readings, but that would assume that I actually *heard* the readings, soooooo...that can be a problem on weekends like the one I just had. :) In looking back through my Magnificat, I see that the second reading and Gospel were very dramatic in tone (the "at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend" reading from Philippians, and "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" from John) so that fits with the tone of my weekend, I suppose. ;) Let's discuss.

This weekend marked the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a nice highlight to celebrate during Ordinary Time. We decided to attend the vigil Mass this week to accommodate a Sunday morning trip to the cider mill, and instead of our regular parish we went downtown to a beautiful historic church that Mike loves.

Well. It seems to me that our daughter, little Miss Sassafras Anne, behaves much poorer when we're all together at Mass. When I have the kids by myself, she toes the line pretty well. Usually. You know how that goes. So anyway, we arrive just before Mass starts, and I was all looking forward to some quiet time to pray and recollect. This church has a large and beautifully detailed crucifix near the front of the sanctuary by the votive candles, and I thought that would be perfect to use as a meditation aid for this particular feast. Doesn't that sound lovely?

Unfortunately, the moment we cross the threshold of the holy water font, Anne announces:

"MOMMY! I have to go to the bathroom!"

I try to talk her out of this so that we can at least have Mass underway before we have to depart again, but she will not be dissuaded. We find an empty pew, and Henry says that he also has to go. A real party, no? I head to the back with both kids while Mike gets our stuff settled into our pew. I couldn't find the restrooms at first, then discover that there is only a single stall unisex situation. Henry hustles in.

*long suffering sigh*

I stand with a squirming Anne outside the door until he is done, and then she and I go in. Only for her to sit on the toilet for perhaps 30 seconds before declaring that "the pee pee isn't coming!" Wherefore art thou, pee pee? It was hiding, apparently. And no amount of persuading was getting it to unmask itself.

I got her reassembled and washed up. By the time we get back to the pew to join Mike and Henry, Mass has begun, and the congregation is singing the Gloria. And then the real fun begins. :-\ I was looking forward to seeing the red vestments and any other special liturgical enhancements for this particular feast, but my attention was totally distracted by Anne's attempt to swing from the end of the pew out into the center aisle. Immediate ceasing of this activity brought about truculent responses and dramatic evasive body movements. When my quiet but stern lecture to her on proper church behavior resulted in the ever popular Toddler Makes Body Go Limp While You Struggle To Corral Them As They Begin To Scream maneuver, Mike scooped her up and brought her to the back vestibule for a spell. Since he holds her and won't let her down to run around, Anne *hates* this, as you might imagine.

By this point, it was the homily, so I had completely missed the readings. But I had a nice break with just Henry by my side to listen to that and recite the Creed. Mike and Anne came back around the time of the collection, during which time Anne refused to put the money in and it had to be wrenched out of her fist. When I got the money out of my purse, she noticed her forgotten little pink Lalaloopsy purse on the pew beside it. Before I can stop her, she grabs it and dumps the contents out onto the pew. Clattering out we had:

A Brillo pad;
A headband;
A keyring in the shape of an alpaca;
A plastic cracker with slice of cheese affixed;
A plastic piece of cake;
A purple toy cell phone complete with picture of Dora the Explorer on it.

She rummaged through the stuff just long enough to make a lot of noise with it, and then turned her attention to the giant pulpit positioned to our left. This church has an old style raised pulpit that's in the center of the congregation, and I've only seen it used during Christmas Eve Mass. Anne decided that it would be super fun to go over there and explore the bottom of it, which we didn't necessarily have a problem with, but then she started running in circles around the base. Yeah, NO. Her retrieval went over like a lead balloon to the surprise of absolutely no one, and by this point I was counting down the liturgical acts until we could hightail out of there. A shame, but such is the way of things when a toddler is in tow.

And the cider mill thing that we rearranged everything for? Let's just say that I'm repressing the memories from that little outing, and so are poor Mike and Henry. Going anywhere with a 3 year old runs this risk, and our luck just ran out this weekend.

When we got back from that disaster on Sunday, I decided to run some errands to try and perk myself up, and I brought Anne along so that Mike could get some lesson prep work done at home. I will say that she was actually pretty good for this trip, with the exception of trying to boycott sitting in the cart at Target, saying she's "a big girl now!"

#WHYGODWHY

I remedied this little situation with good old fashioned bribery, and everything was fine from that point on. We made it to Target, Carter's and the craft store, all without incident. Our last stop was at the liquor store to pick Mommy up a treat for later. ;-) We got there at approximately 12:02 pm, and in New York alcohol can't be sold until after noon on Sundays, so the place with mobbed with anxious football fans. :0 It was a humbling commentary on my weekend as I stood in line with two magnum sized bottles of wine, and my toddler shouts over to me from her perch at the display of mini sized $1.00 bottles of vodka:

"MOMMY! THEY HAVE THE CHERRY WHIPPED CREAM KIND YOU LIKE!!"

...and I don't even blink before replying:

"Ok Honey, grab two!"

:0

And so that was my weekend, dear reader, how was yours? I have lots of dance news, but I'll save that for tomorrow. Belly Dance Tuesday! Come on back tomorrow afternoon if dance posts interest you. :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 53} Fall weekend activities commence, and encountering the saints edition...

-1- Apple cider for everyone!

Hello everyone, and happy Friday! This second weekend of September marks my family's official beginning to the frantic stuffing in of autumn-related activities. Fall is my absolute favorite season of the entire year, and I never want to waste a single opportunity to partake of something festive. This weekend, we have lined up a trip to the farmer's market on Saturday morning, and then a pilgrimage down to our favorite cider mill on Sunday. The cider mill is so popular, that we're attending the vigil Mass on Saturday evening just so that our Sunday morning is freed up to arrive at the mill the instant they open. Otherwise, you get trapped in a long line and the place is so small that you really can't breathe, let along shop in the cute gift store while chasing after unruly toddlers. :0 I'm hoping to come home with some pumpkin fudge and lots of candy corn, in addition to the requisite vat of cider.

*beams*

-2- Getting to be sweater weather, and who doesn't love *that*?!

We've had some mild weather here in WNY at the beginning of September, but this weekend is taking a turn to more seasonable temperatures. There is a little bite in the air this morning, and I've officially moved from my open toe work shoes to my cute new pumps. And lots of cardigans.

But finally, I blocked and dried the tweed sweater that I knit for myself. Only took a year, I'm super speedy like that. ;-) Here it is, with my weekend up-do in place:

I'm very happy with how it turned out, but it is wool, so there is an itch factor. I'm going to get a light long sleeved tee or something like that to go underneath. Nice and toasty for the winter.

-3- Been a busy, crafty bee...

Besides finishing the sweater, I knit a hat for my nephew:

This is the second of two, for a set of twins. :) I'm going to Maine to see them next month for their birthday, and I wanted to assure that the hats were done in time. I'm very excited about that trip. I also made a pair of earrings, I call them Copper Fire :)

I really like the cool cord that hangs from the back of your ear when you wear these. They're very simple, but fun and go with so many outfits.

-4- Back to my belly dancing ways...

After a two week recess, my dance troupe is finally back in session tonight. I have missed it badly, but with that nasty cold I had, the break was actually timed fairly well.  We have a performance coming up on Tuesday, so tonight will be some frantic practicing of routines that hopefully haven't gotten too rusty in our minds. After dancing together for so long, we're pretty good at winging things on the fly. I will report back in on the performance front on Wednesday, and I'm very glad to be getting my weekly dance fix back. :)

-5- You mean there are children's books on saints that I haven't discovered yet?! NOT POSSIBLE.

You know me and my Type A devotion to the saints. Not to mention my Type A approach to books and librarianship.

*halo*

Well. A few weeks back, I received a book to review for Catholic Library World. The editor let me know it was a middle reader book, and asked if that was all right with me. Of course! I answered. I always like getting new ideas for reading material for Henry. Well, it arrived, and it's:

http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Thomas-More-Conscience-Encounter-ebook/dp/B00L8B0VVI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410530922&sr=1-1&keywords=encounter+the+saints+thomas+more

:0 I LOVE it! It's part of a *whole series* of books, published by Pauline Books & Media, called "Encounter the Saints," and they are written for middle readers aged 9-12. Henry and I have been reading a chapter each night before he goes to bed and it's very well done. There are several others in the series that I'd like to get him, especially the St. Kateri volume. Nice Christmas gifts I'm thinking!

-6- The book club approaches!

Our next official Catholic Book Club date is September 24th, and I have started reading the book in the evenings. This month, we're reading Dominican Life, by Walter Wagner, OP.

This is a series of retreat talks that Fr. Wagner gave, and it's a very nice way to wind down the day and reflect on things. The focus is on the Rule of St. Augustine and how it applies to religious men and women, and laypeople alike. Do join me if this sounds interesting to you! I have this on my Kindle, and it's $7.99 for that version right now, $12.60 for the paperback on Amazon (eligible for Prime!).

-7-Liturgical calendar nerdiness

This Sunday is technically the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but it is also the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast commemorates the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, which was built on the location of the Crucifixion. When the church was under construction, three crosses were found, one of which was identified as being that of Christ. An interesting story there, involving St. Helena, go check it out. :) Our priests will be wearing red vestments that day in commemoration, another fact I find terribly interesting. I love Church calendars.

My attention to this upcoming feast was drawn by listening to Monday Morning Catholic this week, a podcast I've been subscribed to for about 3 weeks now. I really like it, and you can subscribe easily on iTunes. Besides the Sunday readings, this week the panel also discussed liturgy generally, and being the Catholic nerd that I am, I was totally fascinated.

All right, back to work for me. Talk to you all on Monday! And check out more 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On a difficult morning, gifts to help us remember the importance of intercessory prayer...

Morning everyone. This is always a difficult day each year, and as I was plotting out a prayer plan of attack yesterday :) the mail arrived, and I received some beautiful reminders of our faith and the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. Remembering that we can call upon their prayers brought me great comfort, and I thought I'd share what I received with you all, to perk us up a bit on a very somber morning.

I mentioned previously that I adore saint peg dolls, and I collect them and buy them for my children. Henry, in particular, likes to display his along with the small saint statutes we seem to acquire any time we're at a Catholic gift shop. Henry is a huge fan of the saints, and I had a proud Catholic mother moment when his teacher commented to me how well he does in their religion curriculum and always contributes interesting saint tidbits at impressive intervals.

#beams

I adore instilling a love for the saints into my children, and I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to share this with them. A few weeks back, I placed an order with St. Luke's Brush on Etsy for a few new saint dolls. These are the friends that arrived yesterday :) and they and I had a little photo shoot in my office this morning so that I could show them to all of you.

For Henry's Christmas stocking, I chose one of his very favorite saints, St. Isidore the Farmer:

Isn't he amazing?! Here's a side view:

He is depicted carrying a scythe and a sheaf of grain. The detail is just spectacular. I'm so excited to give him to Henry.

For the family generally, to adorn the fireplace mantle, I requested a custom doll since the shop didn't include a listing for her: Our Lady Star of the Sea. The owner/artist (his name is Gary) is *extremely* kind and attentive, and got in touch with me to talk about the imagery to use in the doll. He messaged me a few days ago to let me know that Our Lady was completed, and that he thinks it's one of the best dolls he's ever painted. Given that I had already seen his gorgeous work, I couldn't imagine how this could possibly be even better :0 but I was pretty antsy with excited anticipation. Here she is:

She is *beautiful*! She has a gold star in the center of her nautical wheel, and is holding an anchor. On the sides, you can see the the edges of the anchor:

...and the lovely waves of water:

I am so, so pleased with the dolls. I have Our Lady Star of the Sea on my desk now, and just looking at her makes me feel soothed. Especially on a day like today, it's a wonderful reminder every time I see her to pray a Hail Mary and ask for Our Lady's intercession for peace in our world.

There is now a listing up for Our Lady Star of the Sea, if you or anyone you know has a devotion to her, like I do. :)

Let us all remain in prayer today as much as possible, and ask for the intercession of our family in heaven.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A tech question (unusual, coming from me): Is the iPod dying off?

Happy Wednesday everyone! I often do book reviews or talk about Catholic products/themes on Wednesdays, but this week I didn't have any of those things ready to go. Instead, I've been thinking about the Apple event yesterday, and how this all affects me in my quiet Catholic librarian sphere. I certainly use a lot of technology, especially at work, but I'm not what I could call a "tech person," really. I'm often way behind the current trends with regards to my personal electronic devices, although I usually come around. :) I'm just very selective about what I buy, wanting to be sure that I'll use and enjoy it.

Besides a laptop that I acquired when I started law school, my very first electronic device was the original iPod Shuffle. The one that looked like a pack of gum. :0 To this day, an iPod (I now own a 7th generation iPod Nano) is the only Apple device that I own. But I was hooked immediately on the convenience and versatility of an MP3 player. I'm from the mix tape generation, so you see what we're working with here. ;-) I got started on iTunes, and the rest of my music and podcast life is history. I'll come back to this in a second.

Besides my iPod Nano, we have a family Nook tablet (which I hate, but that I acquired used and very cheaply) that introduced me to the beauty of quick access to information. Not having to wait to boot up the desktop to post something to Twitter, or look up the title of something? Brilliant! I also have a Kindle e-Reader, which I absolutely love and adore. I was resistant to getting a smartphone for a LONG TIME, but life with a Qwerty keypad gets old quickly in our text message centered world. And text messages are just so imperative for us telephone-conversation-hating introverts, are they not? :0 I also wanted to change providers, because I was paying far too much simply for a call plan that I barely used and 500 monthly text messages. I moved over to Republic Wireless, and bought a Moto G smartphone.

Well. I love it. :0 I mean...I can't even imagine the way I used to live without this thing. I didn't consciously choose an Android device over an iPhone, but this was one of only two phones available if you wanted to go with Republic, so that's what I did. And it was the right decision, I'm saving a ton of money and I love the phone, so it's a win/win. But there are certainly disadvantages to not having an iPhone in our now Apple-centered world of small electronic devices.

And this is where we circle back to my beloved iPod. I'm a dancer, I have a lot of music. And I need to be able to play it easily at various venues for performances, which have so far all been iPod docks. I also download a lot of podcasts. I ADORE Catholic podcasts, I subscribe to eight of them, plus five secular ones. I listen to them everyday while in the car or otherwise have some down time by myself. And so my iPod gets a lot of use.

But it seems to me that Apple is being very quiet about iPods lately, no? The iPod lineup hasn't gotten an update since 2012, and I read that the iPod Classic has flat out been discontinued. The iPod Touch, Nano and Shuffle technically are still available, but their demise is being predicted by many (according to the Google search I did on this very topic :)). A lot of people aren't investing in a separate MP3 player anymore when they can use their phone or tablet to store and listen to their music.

For me, this is problematic, mostly because I don't have an iPhone. My music is all in iTunes, and I don't know how to get that onto my very non-Apple phone. Plus, it seems to be that this would take up a lot of space, and I don't have the capability to play it in my car or for dance events (that I know of). With regard to my car, we're talkin' serious old school here, people. I have a 2000 Honda Civic. This thing doesn't even have an auxiliary input. :0 I use an *fm transmitter* with an adapter since my Nano has the new lightning connection.  Hey, the car still runs like a top, I'm not ready to get rid of my baby yet. :)

Sooooooo...I still love my iPod. It's nearly 2 years old and is starting to misbehave occasionally, so I was thinking of replacing it. But with what? I could get another Nano. But should I? Is this going to be usurped by some as-yet-unknown new device? Or am I going to have to figure out a solution for my phone?

All thoughts are very welcome in the comments. :) And if you haven't read the comments from yesterday's post about getting more involved in our home parishes, please do! Some excellent fodder in there to think about.

*photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/devos/74096598

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Need some ideas - parish involvement? Chime in!

Our very first long Monday of the fall semester is behind us, and I'm very glad that it's Tuesday. :) Mike has his longest day of teaching on Mondays, and the kids had their challenging moments while home with me in the evening, but we navigated everything well. Today is a beautiful day, and I'm wearing cute new tweed work pants and my acorn earrings, what could be better? ;-)

This morning, I was listening to Catholic Weekend on my way into work, and Fr. Cory Sticha (@FrCorySticha on Twitter, whom I met at last year's CNMC, and is absolutely adorable) was talking about a conference he recently attended about building a vibrant parish. He discussed reigniting the parish council at his church, and building a new leadership team.

This got me to thinking, especially with it being fall and the season wherein parish activities get kickstarted for a new year: how can I become more involved in *my*parish? I've wanted to do this for awhile, and the right opportunity just hasn't seemed to come along. I used to volunteer for Children's Liturgy of the Word, and that worked out well for a few years. I felt a bit burned out with that after a time, plus once I started bringing Anne to Mass regularly, it just wasn't feasible anymore. So I began just scouring the bulletin weekly for ideas, and so far...nada. There is a Women's Sodality, but they meet on Monday nights, which is a night I can never attend because of Mike's teaching schedule. Mike also points out that I may be significantly younger than the other members of that organization by several decades. :) That really wouldn't dissuade me if it weren't for the problematic meeting time, although I note that their activities often take place during times I also couldn't do because of my own work schedule (cleaning the altar at 2 pm on Thursdays, for instance, or praying the rosary following 8 am daily Mass). So, for the time being, the Women's Sodality doesn't appear to be right for me.

I would LOVE to look into the parish council, if only my parish appeared to *have* one. :0 I never see anything about that in the bulletin. I just keep mentioning this intention in my prayers, and hoping that one day something will jump out at me.

Do any of you volunteer at your parish? If so, what do you do? How did you originally get involved? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear new ideas!

Monday, September 8, 2014

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - reflecting on love while at Mass with spirited children, and fall crafts...

Aren't they precious? :0 Anne helping her daddy mow the lawn yesterday afternoon following Mass. Anyway, happy Monday, everyone! I'm back from a beautiful fall weekend, filled with both challenging children and lovely free time. Let's discuss. :)

It was a beautiful Mass yesterday, late in our season of Ordinary Time leading up to Advent, with the readings focused on loving our neighbor. At our parish, the music ensemble was back from summer hiatus, the bulletin was filled with information on the parish groups and events starting back up, and fall was definitely in the air. Anne was *very* climby - on the pew, down the pew, down on the kneeler, under the pew, swinging from the end of the pew (!). I restrained and distracted her as best as I could. There were a lot of other children there, which helped, since she spent a lot of time clandestinely spying on them.

Henry was very quiet and good, as he always is, but now that he's a bit older and receiving communion, I've been working to instill more reverence into his routine at church. Genuflecting before the tabernacle, praying after receiving the Eucharist, things like that. I can tell that he doesn't like it when I point these things out to him, which makes him not want to do them all the more, so I try and restrain myself when possible and lead by example.

But I'm Type A, so it's not easy. ;-) And I take my promise and desire to raise my children in the faith very seriously. Keeping with our theme from the readings for this Sunday, teaching my children the faith is a duty, but it is a duty that I truly love. I love my faith, and I hope that that love shines through to my children and makes them want to emulate it.

Both children really love the seasonal Catholic traditions that we practice in the home, so I was thinking that Advent may be a good opportunity to light a fire under Henry without his really knowing it. :) In addition to the fan favorite activities of Advent calendars and the Advent wreath, we could start a small prayer tradition. Perhaps I could take Henry with me to Adoration for Advent? I'm toying with some ideas, but a major liturgical season is always the perfect opportunity to introduce a new routine and tradition. I will keep you apprised of my ideas on that front as the season draws closer.

In crafty news, with the NFL season also starting yesterday (I don't count that ridiculous Thursday situation the NFL insists upon :0) I was feeling very much in an autumn mood. While Anne napped, I worked on some seasonal jewelry. I just love seasonal items, the craft store is one of my favorite places to be in the spring and fall. This, of course, from the woman who made Easter egg earrings, after all. ;-) And so, as a sister to the infamous egg earrings, come ta DA! Acorn earrings:

I love them. :) I wore them the whole day yesterday. I also made an autumn-hued rosary bracelet:


I need a cross charm to hang from it, that's enroute, but the Ave beads are a Swarovski pearl mix called "Maple" and I paired it with tiny copper crystals and an olive crystal Pater bead. I love how it turned out.

How was your weekend, everyone? Leave me a comment. It's Monday, and I could use a pick-me-up. ;-)