Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Catholic Book Club: The Cana Mystery

Happy Wednesday everyone! And welcome back to the Catholic Book Club. :) We're on a short run of fiction for November and December before moving back to non-fiction titles in January and February, and today I'm going to be discussing The Cana Mystery by David Beckett.

I love Catholic fiction, as you all know. And I *really* enjoy mystery/suspense books, as you also know. So, the category of The Cana Mystery, a Catholic suspense novel, is perfect for me. I was super excited to read it.

And here is where things get different than usual. :) I read about 30% of this book (according to my Kindle) and then I stopped reading it. I'm going to be honest and say that this book just wasn't for me.

Why? Well, several things. First, let me tell you a bit about the premise. This is from the description on Amazon:

The book's plot tracks a brilliant American grad student, Ava Fischer, summoned from her studies in Boston to solve an ancient puzzle. Reunited with an old flame, Ava is chased from Yemen to Egypt to Malta and, finally, to Italy. The couple must rely on their wits as they struggle to stay alive and escape a mélange of murderous terrorists, evil drug lords, and other ruthless villains. The meticulously-researched plot involves Pope Benedict's resignation and Pope Francis' election, set against a backdrop that spans centuries.
Totally awesome premise, to be sure. And the book is doing stellar in Amazon Kindle sales, which is so, so wonderful for a Catholic author and publisher. It certainly has a lot of appeal.

But I didn't love it. :) I'm just one person, certainly, and there are many who disagree with me, so I think you should read it to form your own opinion. And it's only $4.99 for Kindle, which is a fantastic price. So if the premise and genre are of interest to you, I'd say download and read it.

Here are my thoughts: There is one thing that usually spells "death knell!" for my not liking a book, and that is that I don't bond with the main character. And the ominous sign of me not even finishing a book (a rarity, just to be clear) is that I flat out *don't like* the main character. And that happened here. Ava got on my nerves. :0 She came across as very self-centered to me, and generally grated on my patience. For instance, the narrative mentions several times that after she arrived in the Middle East, she wasn't dressed appropriately for the culture. She was wearing shorts, tank tops, that sort of thing. And Ava noted it, and seemed to want to correct that, but then didn't. That bothered me. Someone who studies ancient languages must also be sensitive to the modern cultural norms in those areas of the world. She was knowledgeable about this, but didn't seem to care enough. That just didn't win me over to her side. To be fair, this could have evolved later in the book, past the point where I stopped reading. So I can only speak to the portion of the book that I did finish.

Additionally, the plot asked the reader to suspend our disbelief quite a bit. And that is always the case in books within the thriller genre, that's totally fine. But that combined with my nostril-flarey opinion of the main character were starting to add up to me not enjoying the book. And then it happened.

:0

*It* being the thing that I couldn't get past. That's why I stopped reading.

So we had Ava and a male companion being chased by bad people. Good. :) But then they involve *other* people in their escape. I'm thinking: don't they realize that they are putting those people in terrible danger?! I mean, there is no mention of this, no emotional self-flagellation in the aftermath of this. I know we're suspending our disbelief about certain things, but this struck me as a huge gap in character development that they seemed utterly clueless to this. And then, predictably, terrible things that I knew would happen, happened. They involved torture. And they involved children. That's what *it* is.

I know this is fiction, it's not real. But we all know that there are actual, real life things happening right now just like this. And reading this book brought those to mind. And as a parent, even in fiction form, I can't read about it. I can't. Or maybe I should say that I won't. It physically hurts me inside to read things like this. I can't get past it. I couldn't continue reading the book.

I know that everyone doesn't feel the way that I do. I'm certain there are many parents out there who are able to read fiction like this and it doesn't bother them. It doesn't mean that they aren't caring, they're just able to distance themselves from the depicted events since it is fiction. We're all different. But me personally, I can't go on with a book when I'm that upset by it. So I deleted it off my Kindle and immediately felt worlds better. :)

But I *know* there must be other strong opinions out there on this book, both positive and negative, and I hope that you'll chime in! I know Shelly mentioned reading this book, so Shelly please leave your thoughts! To be sure, any book that evokes such a passionate response from readers, even in a way the author doesn't necessarily intend, is well worth discussing. I've been involved in in-person book clubs in the past, and during the best meetings we ever had this was in fact the case. In many ways, the worst thing you can say about a book is that it is totally unmemorable to you. If you've read this book, whether you agree or disagree with me, please leave a comment!

Ok everyone, a few quick housekeeping items: next month's book club selection is Advent of a Mystery, a light, seasonal suspense title set in an English village, following the adventures of a vicar's wife. I just started reading this, and it's darling so far. This book is out-of-print now, but it is available from the Amazon Marketplace for a penny a copy, plus shipping, if you'd like to join in. The review day in December is always a little earlier to accommodate Christmas, so we'll be discussing this book on 12/17.

Also, happy Thanksgiving everyone! I won't be blogging the rest of the week, but I'll chat with you all again on Monday to talk about the First Sunday of Advent, *squeals*!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A few pre-Advent sales not to miss...

Hi all! This is going to be a fairly brief Tuesday post since I'm still catching up at work and I have to leave early to take Henry to the allergist. And then I'm off tomorrow, so I'm queueing up the Catholic Book Club post to be ready, I'm *that* dedicated to keeping my promises on blog content. ;-)

#TypeA

But I wanted to share two sales with you that I have already either done damage at shopped :) or will be shopping this coming weekend. Great gift opportunities as we approach Advent and Christmas season!

My own personal Yarn Unpacker...

If you know anyone who is a knitter or crocheter, Knit Picks is having their biggest sale of the year all this week, through Monday December 1st. I was fanning myself in my office yesterday morning when the sale went live and I grabbed a sweater quantity of a cashmere/merino wool blend for 50% off. And a gorgeous alpaca/merino tweed for a cabled cardigan for Mike. I know it's hard to guesstimate how much yarn someone would need to make something, but 5 skeins of something in worsted weight would be a good amount for a hat and mittens, and 10-15 is generally a sweater quantity. A 100 gram hank of fingering weight yarn will make a gorgeous pair of socks. Just some ideas. ;-)

And of course, any shopping with the Catholic Librarian wouldn't be complete without mention of rosaries...

This is a gift, but I like it so much I want to keep it for myself :0
The absolutely lovely Etsy shop Rosaries by Allison will be having specials all December long, beginning with Small Business Saturday on November 29th. I adore Allison's rosary designs, and frequent her shop for rosaries for myself and others. She will also custom design anything you have in mind! For the coupon codes for the sales, "like" her shop Facebook page and you will see them there as the dates come up. I'm planning on heading over to her shop on Saturday since there are a few rosaries that are simply calling my name, and I'm not telling you which ones, so that I have a hope of them still being there this weekend. ;-)

Happy shopping everyone! I'll chat with you tomorrow for the Book Club!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Parking kerfluffles & adorable kid time on the Feast of Christ the King...

Happy Monday everyone! I'm absolutely buzzing from an early morning sale at my favorite online yarn shop, but I'll talk about that more tomorrow. I have a busy couple of days here at work, since we were all off last Thursday and Friday due to the storm, and I'm only here for a few days this week due to Thanksgiving. So, blogging-wise, I'll be posting today through Wednesday, which is book club day. The posts will likely be a tad more brief than usual since I'm more pressed for time. But it's a treat for me each day to write, and so here I am, at your service!

You're welcome. ;-)

Yesterday was the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday prior to Advent. :0 Super exciting. I was telling the kids about that as we drove to Mass. Whereupon we arrived in the parish parking lot to find it stuffed full. This was a mystery. Unless there's a baptism taking place during Mass, or it's Christmas Eve, the parking lot is rarely completely full. I circled, then quickly parked in a neighboring lot which is for businesses that are all closed on Sundays. We hustled into the church and noted the setup on the altar: a chair covered by red and gold vestments, and a small table with a crown of thorns. Nice touch. :)

As we got settled in a pew, I pulled out the bulletin, which contained a warning not to park in neighboring lots, as the parish had been warned that tickets would be issued.

:0

Ugh, I was torn on what to do. I didn't feel like schlepping Anne back to the car to move it (Henry could stay by himself just fine, but I knew Anne wouldn't), plus then I'd have to find a spot on the street. A conundrum. I decided to take my chances and leave it. I'm thinking the bigger problem is likely the Saturday vigil Mass, which is better attended with the added factor of the neighboring businesses being open. It all turned out fine, by the way, no ticket. :) But I won't park there again! It distracted me for all of Mass.

At any rate, Mass was lovely. Father's homily addressed how this is the triumphant end of the liturgical year, and a time to be generous and give to others as we approach the expectation of Advent. He mentioned the 10 am Thanksgiving Mass, which I always want to go to but never do, and how everyone can bring a donation for the food pantry up to the altar during the Offertory. This seemed up Anne's alley, so I asked her if she wanted to go, and she said yes. :) So those are our Thanksgiving morning plans. I always want to just veg and watch the parade, but let's be honest: the parade is lame. :0 I do still like watching it, but one certainly can't watch it continually from 9 am until noon lest we die from the cheesiness, so this will break things up nicely. We'll be back long before Santa makes his grand entrance in front of Macy's.

When we got home, both kids wanted to break out their nativity sets, which I put the kibosh on right away. Henry acquiesced to getting one item out per day until next weekend, and in the process of going through his Bethlehem village pieces took out a Fontanini music box he received last year. Anne was *very* taken with it, and cradled it for the rest of the night, photo above. :) She kissed each member of the Holy Family for good measure. She is absolutely adorable.

We all have our Advent calendars and music at the ready for next Sunday. I have my Magnificat Advent Companion all set to go, and my plans firmly in place. Bring on Advent!

How was your Feast of Christ the King, dear reader? Do detail in the comments. :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 62} Crazy lake effect snow edition...


-1- I live near Buffalo, and there's barely any snow here. I'm being serious :0

 I mentioned this earlier in the week, but the pocket of Western New York that I live in has received only a few inches of snow over the course of this week. We're certainly not immune to snow storms here (north of the current disaster area), although we do get a lot less snow than the affected area on the whole. But people from outside the area keep asking if we're doing ok, and not believing us when we say that we barely have any snow here. :) Lake effect storm systems are just unpredictable and localized like this. For instance, this is our front yard:

 And this is somebody else's, about 20-25 minutes away:

Craziness, yes? :0

-2- But even when it's not my roof collapsing, I'm having anxiety attacks all the same...

 A LOT of survivor's guilt going on around here. We all have friends and family in the affected areas, and we feel terribly for them. Thank goodness for social media or we'd be totally cut off from them, since there is quite literally no way to get to them. The roads are impassable, and driving bans are in place. They are trapped. And I'm so worried for them. Roads are starting to be cleared more today (a good friend on Facebook posted a photo of her street being cleared, not by the usual hulking snow plow, but a FRONT LOADER) but the situation is still incredibly bad. So, they've been trapped (with hopefully enough food!) since some haven't *even been able to open their doors* due to snow drifts, but now a warmup and rain is on the way this weekend, and thus major flooding concerns are ensuing. And fears of massive roof cave-ins. :( Let's please all offer up our prayers today for all those that are going through this right now.

-3- No school and work. Yay?

 Despite the weather being absolutely beautiful where I live and work, school closings abound, including the university at which I am employed. The issue is that a significant number of faculty and staff live in the storm aftermath and are unable to travel in to work. This bare bones personnel situation has led to the closings, with the hope that everyone will be dug out by Monday. Here's hoping.

-4- "Mommy! Henry blew on my hair!"

 And so, joy, I've been home with the children the past two days. ;-) No, obviously this is a good thing, especially since we're not imprisoned in our home by snow, so we can still get out and about. Mike has still had to teach for the most part, as two of the colleges he teaches at are further north of here, where there is even *less* snow. So, the kids and I have been trying to keep ourselves busy. We made a trip to the grocery store yesterday for the important snow day implements of hot cocoa, marshmallows, and microwave popcorn, and have settled in to watch some holiday movies and cook/bake. I let Henry pick out some recipes, and so yesterday we made a chocolate peanut butter pie and turkey bistro sandwiches. We're making salmon with orange vinaigrette tonight, fancy. :)

-5- "Mommy I'M BORED."

 Thus, I suggested that we pray a family decade of the rosary in preparation for Advent. :0 Henry looked a bit less than enthused but played along, and Anne was enthusiastic at *first*. But when she realized that she didn't already have the prayers memorized the way she has the St. Anthony prayer committed to memory, she threw her rosary beads across the living room in frustration. We're still working on the reverence thing over here. :0

-6- Speaking of Anne, this about sums up her mood these days...


;-)
-7- Even dance performances are impacted by the snow...

I was figuring that it was coming, and yesterday my hunch was confirmed. Claire has a LOT of students who live in the storm center, and had no idea if they would be freed in time to attend the hafla scheduled for Saturday. She decided to officially postpone, and our new date is Saturday, December 6th. I'm glad she moved it, it seemed too dicey for too many people given the storm situation. This gives everyone time to recover from the snow and get more practice time in. So updates on that event closer to the new day!

All right everyone, I need to go check on my young, they're being suspiciously quiet. Well, Anne is up in her bed for a nap, so that is indeed a *good* sign, but God only knows that Henry is up to. :) I'll talk to you all on Monday following the feast of Christ the King! We'll probably talk about that feast and a snow update on Monday, I'm thinking of a Catholic gift idea post for Tuesday, and then book club on Wednesday. That'll be it for blogging for the week as we take a brief Thanksgiving holiday hiatus. :) Talk to you all soon!

More 7 Quick Takes are over at This Ain't The Lyceum today!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Church Triumphant: Spotlight on St. Cecilia

Hello all! Rather than from my normal perch during quiet spells on the reference desk, I'm blogging from my home office today. :) In a shocking development, the library that I work at is *closed* today, and that happens very rarely. Classes are cancelled at the university (another fairly uncommon occurrence) and so library administration felt it prudent to just shut down for the day. But again, here's the thing: there is *no snow* here. :0 We have a few inches on the ground, that's it. But so many faculty, staff and students live in the affected areas and are trapped in their homes that it seemed foolish to carry on as if nothing was happening with such glaring absences in personnel. And so I'm home today, with both children since Henry's school is also closed. Soooo...I don't have too much time to blog until my attention is demanded by a shrill voice elsewhere ;-) and thus let's get underway with November's edition of The Church Triumphant!

We're continuing with our theme of corresponding month feast days, and so today I'm spotlighting St. Cecilia (feast day November 22nd), while Cristina is discussing St. Catherine of Alexandria (feast day November 25th, and the patron saint of librarians *squeals*). These are two saints with personal significance to us, and they also have a connection to each other! PERFECT! Curious? Do read on. :)

St. Cecilia is an ancient and important saint on the calendar, being one of the few mentioned in the official Canon of the Mass during Eucharistic Prayer I. She lived in the third century and wished to remain unmarried in the service of her faith. She was betrothed against her will to a non-Christian man named Valerian. Cecilia prayed that this man be converted, and that she might remain a virgin. According to tradition, Valerian saw a vision of an angel praying beside Cecilia. Subsequently, Valerian indeed was converted and baptized, along with his brother. Both men were later killed after being discovered giving proper burial to martyred Christians. When Cecilia saw to their burial on her own property, she was arrested. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods and refused. For this, she too was martyred.  Yucky detail alert, which often seems to be the case in these early martyr stories :0 - when attempts to suffocate her failed, she was beheaded. Her tomb was exhumed in 1599, and her body found to be incorrupt.

Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, and this is because a passage invoking "a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse" is attributed to her. In iconography,  she is always shown carrying an instrument of varying types.

Here is another riveting fact, and one previously unknown by me: Cecilia has a connection to one of the patronesses of the Dominican order, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Apparently, St. Dominic had a vision of the two of them, and... you're fascinated, yes? Go read Cristina's post to find out more!

St. Cecilia has a lot of personal significance to me, as she is my confirmation patron. I'm a cradle Catholic, confirmed in 10th grade, so I'm going to be honest: I wasn't at the most mature point in my faith at that time, and I chose Cecilia because I liked her name. I mean, my name is *Tiffany*. I don't hate my name, but I've never loved it. Admit it, you've read books in which a character named Tiffany was an airhead or otherwise stole the heroine's boyfriend, right? If it were up to me, my name would be Jane. Or Mary. Teresa would be lovely. Something Catholic and classic. :) Instead, I'm left defending the way Tiffany is allegedly derived from Epiphana and my feast day is the Epiphany. I mean...you understand, right? :0

I thought the name Cecilia was so feminine and pretty, and that's why I chose it. Years later, when my faith meant more to me, I researched Cecilia and found her story so intriguing. I loved reading about how brave she was, how dedicated to her faith. And I think that she had a hand in my adult faith formation, as I wrote about previously. Her late November/just prior to Advent feast day always seems to be significant in terms of faith developments for me. Coincidence? I don't think so. :)

I'm looking forward to her feast day on Saturday, and don't forget to head over to Cristina's to read about St. Catherine of Alexandria, whom we'll commemorate next Tuesday the 25th.

Do any of you have a devotion to St. Cecilia? Detail in the comments. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Snowy times here in WNY, and the comfort of Catholic rituals when someone you love has died...

Good morning everyone, and a blustery one it is here in my corner of Western New York. The developing story throughout the day yesterday was rather surreal. Where I live and work, there was literally NO SNOW. It was a sunny and beautiful day, just a dusting on the ground. But not far south of here? Holy smokes. :0 Well, I think this speaks volumes:

This the reality of lake effect storm systems, they are intense and heavily localized. Those unaffected are *really* unaffected. :) But we all had survivor's guilt yesterday, because we were seeing all of these photos in social media of our poor friends digging out from feet upon feet of snow. And we're used to snow around here, as you might imagine. But this was SNOW in volumes that even ski country rarely sees. The storm sat over the same area for something like 12 hours and just dumped snow with no stoppage in play.

We had a storm that was somewhat similar back in 2000, and although it lingered like this one did (causing the same sort of roadway and trapping of people problems), it didn't linger for nearly as long. I was at work and got stuck there, and I wasn't too happy about it. :) I remember sleeping on the floor of my office, using my suit jacket as a pillow, and thinking that maybe I should move.

I did change jobs and career fields, but I obviously didn't move, and I'm not sorry I didn't. I love WNY, despite it's weather "eccentricities." :) It keeps things interesting, that's for sure. And I do love the four seasons, it makes me appreciate everything that much more keenly.

But anyway, today the storm moved northward, and so HELLO! Picture me on my commute in to work begging for the intercession of St. Christopher to get me to my destination safely. It did look rather snowy when I set off, but I said to myself:

"I'm Western New York stock, I'm HEARTY! Onward into the snow!"

Well. :)

As soon as I pulled out onto our street I could see that visibility was poor. I pressed on and turned the first corner. Oy. I contemplated going back, but for stupid reasons, kept going. Soon, I was nearing a more populated road but could barely see a foot in front of my car. My back window, completely clear when I pulled out of the garage, was already coated with heavy, wet snow, and despite my rear defroster being on, it would not clear. I could hardly see in either direction.

By the time I was onto the main road, there was no turning back. At least there were other car lights to use as markers, but it was impossible to pull off the road if you wanted to, for fear of someone accidentally hitting you. It was a rough go.

I felt grateful to make it onto campus in one piece, but now, a mere hour later...things are totally fine. :0 Sunny, zero snow. The storm has moved further north, obviously deciding that it had had enough down time. We're only supposed to have about 5 inches total by end of the day *tomorrow*. So, we're really in very good shape up here. South of here, they're totally trapped. It's going to be a tough end of the week for them, with more snow on the way tomorrow, followed by a warmup over the weekend that is causing major flooding concerns. Joy.

Before I sign off, I wanted to mention my experience last night at the wake for Claire's mom, Betty.



What a lovely family she raised, and the photos at the funeral home were a testament to her beauty, faith, and family. Betty and family are all Catholic, and I brought a Mass card indicating that I had enrolled Betty with a local religious community who would pray for the repose of her soul throughout the year, and in the years to come. I always find such cards to be so soothing in the aftermath of a person passing away. Betty was dressed in a beautiful blue dress she had sewed herself, and was holding light blue rosary beads. Her Mass of Christian Burial is being held today, and that liturgy is SO meaningful, I remember it well from when my grandma passed away. This is a lovely explanation of the Catholic funeral liturgy, for anyone unfamiliar with it.

When I was visiting with Claire, she mentioned that her mom had declined very quickly over the weekend, but remained conscious until Saturday, and she passed away soon thereafter on Sunday. On Sunday, Claire called her mom's priest to come administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. An hour after the priest left, Betty passed away. Claire felt like her mom was waiting for that, which just made me tear up. So lovely!

The instant I got home, I filled Mike in on the proceedings:

"...and that's how I want things, should anything ever happen to me, ok?"

*look of intensity*

Mike doesn't like it when I raise such issues, preferring not to think about me predeceasing him (he's so sweet :)) but he could tell I meant business last night.

"Don't worry, I will call the priest."

"Yes. Last Rites. Mass of Christian Burial. I don't care what else you do or don't do, go to town. But those are a must."

"I assure you, the most Catholic things possible will happen."

:0

So that was my evening and early morning. How are you doing, dear reader? :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some sad news in my dance world...

Morning all! I hope your Tuesday is dawning bright. It's a lovely day today, despite many of the local schools being closed, including Henry's. :0 It's a bit of a mystery as to why this is the case, given that the big lake effect storm system is passing through our area well south of where we live. But there you have it. Henry, for one, is thrilled. He and Anne are with my in-laws right now. So that's the daily weather update.

As for dance updates, things are a bit more up in the air than any of us could have anticipated. On Friday, we found out that Claire's mom wasn't doing very well. *sniffle* She's 90, and has been frail for some time, but things took a very sudden deteriorating turn. Our scheduled performance for Saturday at the fashion show was obviously off. Yesterday morning, I found out that her mom had passed away. :(

Rest in peace to a super sweet lady who *sewed our troupe coverups* just this past spring! At 90, she remained alert and able to take care of herself and others. She died at home, with her daughters caring for her. To me, that is the way to go, yes? This is so hard on Claire, who was extremely close to her mom. I'm feeling very upset for her.

I remember Claire telling us once that her mom would tease her that she thought she'd do something different with her life than be a belly dancer, like study law:

"And I told her, c'mon mom. MY STORIES ARE WAY BETTER!!"

:0

The wake is tonight, and I'm planning to attend, Mass card in hand. Prayers for the repose of the soul of Elizabeth, a fantastic and much loved mother and grandmother.

So, dance-wise, I didn't know what would happen, if the hafla would be postponed or not. And, of course, it would have been completely understandable if it were. Yesterday evening Claire let us know that she wanted to go forward with the hafla. The Mass of Christian Burial is tomorrow morning, and after that she thought it would be nice to have dance as a distraction. Thus, plans are moving forward.

 The troupe did gather last Friday evening to practice our choreographies, but without Claire, our fearless leader, something was definitely missing. :) We will have class this Friday to practice the group numbers one last time.

In the meantime, my sword and I have been spending a lot of time together. :) I have changed my music (you know, AGAIN) but I'm *really* happy with it. It's a slow piece that I discovered late last week on iTunes, but it has multiple segments to mix things up and clear musical cues for when I'll change do certain things. Intro, travel around the room. Do some interesting things with the sword like balance it on my hand and my arm, a spin sequence. Then I'll balance it on my head with about 1:30 left in the music. It's a great song, and if you aren't inspired by what you're dancing to, it really shows, in my opinion.

Practice has been going pretty well. I haven't danced with my sword regularly in some time, so my skills needed dusting off a bit:

"Maybe I could add some hand undulations here, that would be nice...OH! That's right. Never lift your arms to the side when you're dancing with a sword." :0

I'm going to be improvising, but there are certain things I still plan out, that has always worked well for me. Structured improvising, I suppose we could call it. Because we always need at least *some* structure. ;-)

In the past, I've always had the sword waiting for me out in the room somewhere, and I'd dance a bit and then go pick it up. This time I'm choosing to enter holding the sword, so it and I are bonding quite a bit as we prepare for our big 3 minutes and 40 seconds of glory.

#HopingThisGoesWell

But either way, it's a good blog story, right? If you see a post next Monday entitled:

I'M NEVER DANCING AGAIN, LET'S FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED!!!

You'll know it didn't go well. ;-)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ordinary Time is coming to an end...do you all have your Advent calendars ready?!

It certainly appears that Anne is ready to do battle as she prepares for Advent, no? :) We were having dinner with some friends last night and Anne dug this getup out of their toy basket. Heart-stoppingly cute, that she is.

Anyway, yesterday morning our parish was hosting a small Advent goods sale in the back entryway, and naturally, my Catholic tchotchke-loving children had to have a perusal.

#SoProud

New Advent calendars for everybody! They now each have a traditional paper calendar in addition to chocolate ones (we haven't showed them those yet, otherwise we'd never hear the end of the pleas for an early break-in). And Henry has a Lego one. Whew!

Ok, so Mass itself. In a sense this was the "last" Sunday in Ordinary Time, since it's the final Sunday so named, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next week is still technically Ordinary Time, however, with the feast of Christ the King. Advent *really* feels close at this point though!

Our parish still has the November setup of saint relics on the altar, and the Book of Remembrance for us to write in the names of our departed loved ones. I so love this tradition. We're lingering on this theme, and as well we should, until the official start to Advent on November 30th.

The kids and I arrived at the church for 10 am Mass pretty chilled, it's certainly gotten wintry here of late. In fact, we're going to be under a lake effect snow watch Tuesday night and Wednesday, but that's a subject for another post. ;-) The church was nice and warm, and we settled in.

And, ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please... For the very first time since Anne reached non-diaper wearing status, we had ZERO TRIPS TO THE BATHROOM DURING MASS!!!!

*wild applause*

Wow, was that a treat. :) The kids were both very good too, just a little bit of elbowing each other to contend with. For the most part I got to hear the readings (the Gospel was the parable of the talents), although during the homily I was dealing with a few Anne-isms, which is to say answering "whispered" questions and commentary:

"Mommy, LOOK AT THAT PRETTY GIRL IN THE YELLOW JACKET!"

This was an older woman sitting behind us who positively beamed with Anne's praise.

Unfortunately, the opposite was bound to occur as well:

"Mommy, HOW COME THAT MAN HAS SUCH BIG EARS?!"

Oh my. Luckily, that person was sitting far enough away that I'm hopeful he didn't hear her. Even with his allegedly large ears. :0

I'm praying the Novena to Christ the King right now (in addition to the 54 Day Rosary Novena, novena overload! :0), and so I had all of those intentions in mind as we prayed following Communion. Speaking of novenas, allow me to detour for just a moment: I think that following the 54 Day Rosary Novena (which ends Sunday November 23rd), I will reserve a spot on the top of the blog as a general "Current Novena Page." So, whatever novena I'm praying at that time, I'll label a page that will display there so that anyone who would like to join in can, or could ask me to pray for their intentions. If I'm not praying a novena at a given time, I'll have the Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena information listed there, since one could start that novena at any time, it's always a winner. :) I'm excited about this idea! We all benefit from praying more often, and from praying for each other. Yay. :)

Following Mass we went to the Advent sale mentioned above, and then headed home. We had dinner with friends, and a grand time was had by all. I am very glad that this is the last full week of November prior to the Thanksgiving break. Since Mike and I are perpetually on an academic calendar, I still think of Thanksgiving this way. :) I'll be off starting on Wednesday next week, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Thus, blogging will be light next week, but you'll all be too busy eating pumpkin pie anyway, right? ;-)

Tomorrow, I have a dance update, which is always fun. I'll report in then, but in the meantime: how was your 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time? Leave a comment. :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 61} Finishing up my holiday crafting, dance performance updates & what's going on with the book club? edition


-1- *gets winter coat out of storage with a sour expression*

Winter has officially arrived here in Western New York, we've had light snow flurries the past two days. I don't mind the winter, but we had such a long one this past year (Polar Vortex, anybody?) that it feels like we haven't had much of a break from it, so I'm a bit more resistant this year. These flurries we've had though are the very best kind, with big fluffy flakes that barely stick to the ground. They truly are lovely.

Somewhat relatedly, I'm pleased to report that Anne seems to be on the mend from her first cold of the winter. We had a better night, with only one wakeup. During which time she called out for Daddy, so...

#ScoreForMommy :0

This morning, she was running around, drinking her juice like normal, and acting sassy. So I'd say she is feeling a lot better.

-2- Dishcloth madness!

I'm officially coming to the end of my holiday crafting, and I'm pleased as punch about this. I have 3 dishcloths remaining to crochet for family Christmas Eve gifts, and I'm just making a menagerie of patterns, like this one:

They're not all in Christmas colors, but I did make one set that way. I've been using one of my favorite pattern books of all time, which is 2 Hour Dishcloths:

The patterns are lovely, and as the name indicates, very quick to work up. #HappyLibrarian

-3- *feels virtuous*

And the final project that I'm aiming to finish before Christmas (hopefully before Thanksgiving!) are Mike's requested brown tweed socks. Ta da!:

Not exactly the most exciting knit in the world, but I have one cuff done, and I'm very proud of it. :0

-4- "We'll just show up and see what happens!"

Ok, so moving on to dance. Our next troupe performance is slated for tomorrow, and as of right now, the date hasn't changed, so that's good. The organization at some of these events we perform at isn't always the best. We're also simultaneously preparing for the hafla on the 22nd, and we have a new Shaabi choreography in the mix, so lots of rehearsing going on. For the performance tomorrow, we're using a few choreographies that we already know very well to keep things easy. We're splitting up into small groups for two shorter numbers, and then performing all together for another. I'm assigned to the new drum number *beams* which pleases me since I love that one. Soooooo, hopefully this will go well. :) It's a fashion show of some kind, but my understanding is that there is no official runway to worry about (whew! Too many calamities to worry about with those) so we'll see what the conditions  are like. It's always an adventure! I will report in early next week with the amusing details. :)

-5- Bonding with my sword again...

And so FINALLY I picked music and decided what to do for a hafla solo. I chose a slower song that I've always loved, and I think it's ideal for sword. It has a couple different segments of music: an intro when I can kind of swirl about the room since I'll be dancing in the round. :) An up-tempo sequence where I can dance with the sword before balancing it, then a real slow segment where I can balance, followed by a pickup in the music when I can dance with it balanced on my head. All in 3 and a half minutes. :0 I need to just run through the music a bunch of times so that I feel very comfortable with it in terms of my improvisation, so here's hoping everything goes well. As ever, I will keep you posted. :)

-6- Currently on my Kindle...

I couldn't resisted starting the November installment in the Love Inspired Big Sky Centennial series, His Montana Homecoming:


It's set around Thanksgiving, and I just love that I'm reading along with the seasonal timeline. Next in my queue is A Subtle Grace, by Ellen Gable:


This is historical Catholic fiction, and I can't wait to start reading! I'll be reviewing it as an informal part of the Catholic Book Club whenever I'm done, which will hopefully be by early December.

-7-This month's book club is going to be *mighty* interesting...

The November edition of the Catholic Book Club, which is The Cana Mystery by David Beckett, will prove to be an interesting one, I'm thinking. :) My reaction to this book is much different than I was expecting, and I will be laying out all the interesting details for you on November 26th, so tune in then.

Ok everyone, I'm off! I have an Information Literacy Coffee Hour to attend this afternoon (the fun never ends in library-land :)) and then an errand to run on my way home, before dinner, family time, and then dance rehearsal. Talk to you all on Monday!

And don't forget to head to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In the home of the Catholic Librarian during the wee hours of Thursday morning...

It became apparent yesterday evening that Anne wasn't cutting a late two-year molar: she was coming down with something.

*groans*

Now, the poor babe. I felt terribly sorry for her as she struggled to blow her adorable little nose and generally looked like a limp noodle. But I knew what this meant...

No sleep for us. :0

It's legit and everything, but I'm better able to deal with a lack of sleep when I'm not currently sleep deprived, know what I'm saying. ;-) So, come 2 am, it's tough no matter how sympathetic the conditions. And so the night transpired as follows:

7:30 pm: Anne goes up to bed. She demands two stories instead of just one and I oblige her. I tuck her in and she seems fine, but I know that stuffy little nose is going to be trouble later on in the night. I have her blow it as best she can.

11 pm: Anne awakens and demands that Mike read her a story. He obliges her.

1 am: Anne awakens. Mike goes in and soothes. 

2 am: Anne awakens and I go in. She's terribly stuffy and miserable. I rub her back and soothe her a bit, and she falls back to sleep. Noisily.

4 am: Anne awakens. I can tell by the surly nature of her cries that the chances of her going back to sleep are approximately 0%.  I go in with my pillow so that I can sleep on the floor next to her bed, hoping this will provide the impetus for some sleep to be had by both of us. I do a soothe, and set up my pillow along with a big quilt to lay down in the small space between her bed and dresser.

"Mommy's here Honey, so everything is fine. I'm going to sleep right here next to you."

"Mommy, can I come down there?!"

"Oh no, Honey! You're nice and cozy in your bed. Mommy will be right here. There's not a lot of room down here."

*feverish little face peeks over the edge of the bed*

"But Mommy. I WANT TO BE RIGHT BESIDE YOU!!"

Well then. I could feel the love. :0 But I wasn't feeling The Sleep, that's for sure.

"It's ok, Honey, I'll come into your bed."

Within seconds I was squashed up against the wall in her twin bed, hot toddler breath on my face. Soon, lots of little body position changes were taking place, and various limbs were jammed into my rib cage.

*flashes back to being pregnant*

Not much sleep ensued for either of us, to be sure, but at least I got to lie down. And stay warm, it was ROASTING in her little room. No wonder her cheeks are always so pink. :0

She was pretty miserable by 6:30 am, tossing and turning like crazy, and so we were up for the day.

"Here Honey, let me get you dressed. I'll make you some eggs for breakfast."

"I don't WANT to get dressed!!"

It's nice to know that some things never change, yes? :0

She seemed to perk up a little after eating and having some orange juice, but she's clearly not anywhere near 100%. I'll baby her this evening lots. After that, I have late dinner plans with some girlfriends from college and thus will get a short nursemaid respite for good Middle Eastern food, wine and conversation.

Here's hoping that we get some sleep tonight.

*weak smile*

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Advent 2014...let's start planning!

Morning everyone! I'm feeling pretty chipper today, which is surprising given that Anne didn't sleep all that well. She's been doing better overall, but last night just wasn't a good night for her. There was a "MONSTER IN MY ROOM!" incident, but I think that happened only because her mouth was bothering her and she couldn't sleep. She's getting a molar, and clearly wasn't feeling great, poor babe.

Besides that one wakeup, Mike and I slept well, although Anne woke up with a super sour expression on her little face. :) I downed a few cups of coffee and was ready for the day, so all is right with the world.

I've been thinking about Advent a lot this week, and I'm sure the thought has crossed all of your minds as well, since it will begin just over two weeks from now. This coming weekend is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, followed by the Feast of Christ the King the next, then BAM! The First Sunday of Advent. :) Hence, we need to start planning...NOW!

#hyperorganized

I treat Advent very much like Lent. It's a season of waiting, of expectation, not yet a time of celebration. And I like to have a spiritual plan for it. I try not to be TOO ambitious, in such a way that it's doubtful I'll be able to stick to The Plan for the entirety of the liturgical season. In recent years, I've tried to really tailor The Plan to my current responsibilities and lifestyle and make it doable. So here goes. :)

(1) I'd like to use my Divine Office app as much as I can. I'm aiming for Morning and Evening Prayer each day, but I recognize that I may not always get to it. That's ok, but the goal is to always get back on the horse and start praying again. I'm absolutely loving this app, so I'm optimistic on this one.

(2) The Magnificat Advent Companion. Here is my lovely print copy, courtesy of the fabulous Cristina:


We plan to pray together this Advent. :) You can also download the Advent Companion for I believe 99 cents on Amazon. There are meditations for each day, special prayers for blessing your Advent wreath and tree, Advent Stations of the Cross, all kinds of Catholic goodness in there.

So, the Divine Office app and the Magnificat, those are the two things are that I will focus on daily. For weekly items, we have:

(3) Mass and adoration. As much as I love daily Mass, it's just not feasible with my current schedule and responsibilities to my job and family. But during Advent, maybe I can squeeze an extra Mass in (in addition to Sunday) once or twice per week? That is a feasible goal. The semester will end during Advent, so the parking situation, and my meeting schedule, eases, and thus getting to work 15 minutes or so later than usual will not be a problem. And I would LOVE to find a way to get to adoration once per week. We'll see how this goes, but this will be my aspirational goal for Advent. :)

I also love to fill my Advent with traditional items like Advent calendars and a family Advent wreath. Of course, I will take pictures of this year's installment to post here. :) Henry has a Lego Advent calendar, and both children are getting chocolate ones. I'm ordering a print one as our "main" Advent calendar, and this is the one I have picked:

I remember calendars like this very fondly from my childhood. Each day you open a window to see a picture and a short Scripture verse. *heart*

I also got turned on to Advent music last year:


I listened to this album on Spotify last year, but I think this year I'm planning to buy it. I actually have the old fashioned CD in my Amazon cart since that way I can listen to it easily in the car if I forget my iPod (yes, my car has a CD player, it's old fashioned just like I am :0) plus have the digital files.

Oh, oh, oh! I just saw this last night on my Facebook feed: if you're a fan of nuns and sacred music, the wonderful Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (my favorite nuns EVER) have a new album out:


I'm planning on procuring it. :) I have their 2013 album, Mater Eucharistiae, and just love it. This will make a beautiful Advent addition to use as we pray our rosary.

So, what are your Advent plans, dear reader? Please do detail in the comments. :) And I do mean detail, I'm a detail-oriented kind of gal. :0 Let's get specific here, people!

;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Favorite Christmas gift ideas?

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope that you are all doing well. I'm a busy bee today cocooned happily in my office working on some projects, totally uninterrupted by meetings.

#Amen

Aside from Blackboard giving me a few troubles (which I solved by changing browsers, take that!) it's been a pleasant day. I have lots of interesting blog fodder swirling around in my little head (fascinating developments with my current read, fun dance events coming together) but I'm saving those for later in the week.

I was listening to Catholic Weekend this morning on my commute to work, and one of the panelists mentioned Mystic Monk coffee as their Pick of the Week. I was instantly intrigued, and thought their store would be a great place to shop for a few family gifts.

Well. :) Yes, I shopped, order placed! I loved being able to procure a few Christmas gifts while also supporting a religious community, and thought I'd give them a little plug here. They have a great selection of specialty coffee and tea, and also have a bunch of other gifts for sale: religious items, coffee mugs, a chant CD, chocolates, you name it. Go check it out.

I'm awaiting the last of the saint dolls I ordered for the kids' stockings (John Paul II for Henry, and St. Therese for Anne, and both shops are officially no longer taking orders for Christmas, saints are popular gifts apparently :)), and I have several beautiful rosaries from Rosaries by Allison that I'll giving as gifts this year as well. I'm also making some things, as you all know, because I like to solidify my place as a Crafty Overachiever. ;-)

I need to settle on some other gifts for the kids and Mike, mostly consisting of books and a few movies. We're a book nerd kind of a household. I have some puzzles and baby doll supplies in mind for Anne, and a Kindle Fire for Henry. I'm very excited to see everyone open everything on Christmas morning.

So, dear reader, what are your favorite and/or new gift supply stores and general ideas for Christmas 2014. Big bonus for you if it's an online store that you provide to the introverted Catholic Librarian. :0 Chime in in the comments!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Birthday party frivolity and priesthood aspirations?! - on the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica...

Happy Monday everyone! I had a jam-packed family weekend, and a beautiful Mass yesterday, and I hope you did too. We had Henry's birthday party on Saturday (dance on Friday, will talk about that later this week :)) and the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica on Sunday. Ready? Let's chronicle!

So, Saturday we hosted a small family party for Henry. We were keeping it simple with regard to food: ordering pizza and wings, having a cheesy dip as an appetizer with assorted veggies, chips and crackers, store bought cake, and lots of alcohol. I mean, that's a winning menu right there, folks. ;-) When I host things, I get all neurotic, so I like to keep things as simple as possible. That way I can just flit around and assure that everyone has enough to eat and drink without *also* worrying about setting the oven aflame or otherwise poisoning everyone accidentally. Before everyone arrived, Mike was bemoaning the lack of space in the refrigerator as he tried to wedge the cake in there, and I noticed my box of nearly empty Chardonnay in the corner. Well, Tiffany to the rescue! I cleared space in the refrigerator while also relaxing a bit before guests started arrived.

#halo!

And everything went great. I got to see an aunt and uncle from out of town that I don't get to visit with often enough, and a great time was had by all. Henry got some fun gifts, including this year's Lego Advent calendar, a few movies, a Lego Arctic set, and a new piece for his Fontanini nativity village. He was happy. His birthday is always a nice prelude into the holidays and time spent with family.

And so Sunday I was feeling in excellent spirits as we headed out to Mass. Both kids behaved very well, we just had one incident of Anne's baby doll (remember Tennis Baby?) losing her plastic bottle as it was dropped and bounced up about 3 pews, and apparently they engineer such things to be *as loud as humanly possible*, but other than that, things were good. As the feast day name indicates, our priest spent the homily talking about the history of the Lateran Basilica in Rome and it's place as the papal seat in Rome. When Mass was over, I let the kids collaborate to light a candle again ("Here's the money, but you have to take Anne with you." "MOMMY. Do I *have* to?!") while I wrote our deceased relatives names in the Book of Remembrance, which our parish has out every November.

Throughout Mass, I had been thinking about how I'd like to make Henry the subject of my next novena. :) He's going through what I remember going through very vividly as a child, which is Aversion To Mass Syndrome.

"Do I HAVE TO go?" is asked each week, with a look of torture present. "Mass is BORING."

For awhile, he would follow along in the missal, and that seemed to help, but lately he's been uninterested in doing that. I don't want him to see church as a bad thing, something I make him do and he doesn't want to do. And, you know. That's pretty much how it works right now for him. :0 Because yes, I do insist that he goes and Mike backs me up on this. But I'm hoping that his love for Catholic traditions and saints outside of Mass will open his heart to having a prayer life and a relationship with God that he relates back to the Mass. That's pretty ambitious hopes for a child of 9, but I think it's a worthy goal. Hence the novena.

But adorable anecdote here, and it brought so much hope into my heart. God indeed does have a sense of humor, and seriously, that is a quality that I LOVE in a man. :0 Later Sunday evening, I was upstairs putting Anne to bed. Mike and Henry were talking downstairs. As I joined their conversation, Henry was saying something about jobs some of the boys in his class want to pursue when they grow up. So I asked him if he had ever thought about what *he* would like to do for a career when he grows up. I was especially interested in his answer, since Henry has never said or shown any interest in any vocation or career up to this point. He mentioned something about construction and electricians, and so we talked about that for a few minutes. Then I asked him about his friend Raymond:

"Hank, have any of your friends at school mentioned wanting to be priests when they grow up? Maybe Raymond?"

Raymond seems an ideal fit to me, and the Catholic mother was being nosy. :0

"Raymond? No, he's never said that. But last year, Mrs. W and Miss S? (his third grade teacher and the teacher's aide). They both said that I should be a priest. They said it a bunch of times."

Well. I nearly fell off the couch with my partially knitted sock in hand.

"Really?! Why did they say that?!"

I was trying to keep my excitement contained, but was doing a pretty poor job of it. ;-)

"Well...I won that religion award. Three years in a row. And they said I know so much about the saints and stuff."

He looked pretty sheepish as he was explaining this, but I couldn't help my reaction. So here goes:

*nostrils flare with pride*

I am far from perfect in all ways, especially in my abilities as a mother. And God knows that I am no saint-in-progress and that I could do so much better with raising my kids up in the faith. But I do try, I do, very hard. And sometimes, trying hard is all we need to do. God will do the rest.

Certainly, I don't know that Henry is actually going to be a priest. He'll figure this all out when he is an adult. But just that someone else suggested it to him based upon his knowledge of the faith? That meant the world to me. I was glowing for the rest of the evening. Somehow, I think that everything is going to turn out all right with this intention, even if the route is roundabout. :)

*contented sigh*

How was your weekend, everyone?

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 60} Henry's birthday celebrations, knitting, music & book club updates, and 2015 patron saint! edition


-1- A Manhattan, a glass of Chardonnay, and a Shirley Temple...

Last night Mike and I took Henry out for his birthday dinner, and he chose a local steak house. This particular restaurant is a fan favorite of ours, since Mike and I went on one of our early dates there. It has a charming sort of ambiance going on, with lots of wood paneling everywhere. And for whatever reason, this restaurant employs separate cocktail servers to fulfill drink orders apart from your assigned waiter or waitress. I've never been to another restaurant quite like it. And so when the cocktail server came for our drink order, ours is listed above, and I'm certain you can identify who chose what. :) It was a special night, and everyone ordered their favorite special drink. A good time was had by all.

-2- A very exciting patron saint reveal!

Every year I use Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator to randomly select a patron for this blog. I get very excited by this, since it's always a surprise. :) I love how the application leaves time for you to pray as it works it's magic behind the scenes. Since it's November, I thought it would be good to get the saint squared away so that I'd be ready to put the photo and information up soon. So, here we go!

*drum roll*

*generating saint name...*

And we have:

St. Basil the Great!


Father of Eastern monasticism, he was a devoted scholar and writer. He's the patron of monks and reformers. This guy is for me! His feast day is January 2nd, and that just seems fitting since my wedding anniversary is in early January, and this year Mike and I are celebrating 10 years. Perfect! You'll soon see him gracing the right sidebar as the Catholic Librarian blog patron for 2015. :)

-3- Knitting needles have been flying...

I've been very busy with holiday crafting, and I can't post pictures of everything since many of the items are secrets for certain people who read this blog. (shhhhhhh... :) But I did finish something last night that I've been working on for quite awhile, and it's for myself, so it's safe to show you all. Ta da!

This is a shawl pattern, called Leftie, which aims to help you use up leftover fingering weight sock yarn. I chose a chocolate brown colorway called "Kindling" as my main color, and used leftover green, orange, red and yellow to make the leaves, for a fall foliage theme. :) I really love how it turned out.

-4- Frantically listening to my ridiculously large collection of Middle Eastern music...

After a week off for Halloween last Friday, I'm back to rehearsing with my dance troupe tonight. I've missed them so much. *heart* We have a troupe performance on the 15th of this month, and our studio-wide hafla is the 22nd. This includes Middle Eastern dance, Bollywood, Flamenco, Tango and Ballroom. Super fun. I'll obviously be dancing with my troupe, but have I picked solo music yet, you ask? No, of course not.

:0

At this point, I've pretty much boxed myself into improvising, which is fine. I like improvising. But for the love of all that is holy, I have to pick a song! I keep listening to my various sub-Middle Eastern playlists (because who can have just one when you're a hyper-organized and neurotic librarian?) and hoping for inspiration. There are a few that are contenders, but eh. I don't know. I still haven't finalized this, and I really need to get this settled.

-5- Currently on my Kindle...

I've been very busy reading fiction these days, and I'm currently reading The Cana Mystery, by David Beckett:

This is a very fast-paced style thriller, and I'm moving through it quickly. It is also our November Catholic Book Club selection, and only $4.99 for Kindle if you'd like to join in! I'll post my review on November 26th.

-6- Catholic Book Club selections have been updated!

I also recently updated the Catholic Book Club notice on the right sidebar for the next couple of months, so we're all set with a reading plan. *happily adjusts bun* In December, we'll be reading Advent of a Mystery, by Marilyn Leach. This seemed appropriate for the season. :) My in-laws bought me a copy as a gift for Christmas last year, and I haven't gotten to read it yet. It is not available new any longer via Amazon, but you can procure a copy for a penny (!) via their Marketplace sellers. In January, I am extremely excited to be reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, which I've been eyeing up for some time. I have developed a serious devotion to Blessed Mother Teresa over the course of this fall, and I am dying to read this book and learn more about her. Terrific fodder for discussion! That review is scheduled for January 28th.

-7- Hosting duties this weekend, hence: wine

And finally, my weekend plans. We're having a small family party for Henry on Saturday. I told Henry that this is a perk of getting older - your birthday is not merely a single day, it's an entire *weekend extravaganza.* :0 So we're hosting some relatives, ordering pizza and wings, and making assorted appetizers. Hosting people in my house, even family, tends to bring out the neuroses in your Catholic Librarian quite a bit: is the house clean?! is there enough food?! is the food GOOD?! does everyone have something to drink?! is everyone having a good time?! And so I flit about anxiously making everybody nervous. :0 I do try very hard to relax, and thus a box of white wine will find it's way into my refrigerator before tomorrow afternoon.

Party at Tiffany's house! Doesn't it sound like a good time?! ;-)

All right everyone, that's it for today. I hope that you all have a great weekend, and I'll talk to you on Monday! Don't forget to head to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes. :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Today is my Henry's birthday...

Time sure flies when you get old, yes? :0 By which I mean ME, not my son, who turns 9 today. It really doesn't seem like it was that long ago, but there you have it. I chronicled his birth story here before, for those of you who enjoy reading such things. I tried to keep the medical details to a bare minimum ;-) so it's a fun read.

I remember the aftermath of his birth and entrance into my life quite vividly. I was a new mother at 30 years old, and so I thought I was all prepared. HA! :) Right after he was born, I was SUPER EMOTIONAL about even looking at him. I just loved him so much and was utterly taken aback by the force of the bond I felt with him. I would look at the scrunchy little newborn photos the hospital photographer took and start crying. This went on for *weeks*, people. :0 Hormones - through the roof! I remember the entire first year being a bit of a haze while Mike and I adjusted to being new parents and realized that we knew absolutely nothing.

*gentle snort*

Henry was such a good baby, always loved to eat, that kid. His baby photos are all super adorable and chubby:

Me with shorter hair and looking a lot like my beloved younger sister :) And Henry's cheeks! So pinchable.


I remember being very relieved on his first birthday, that we had achieved a major milestone by making it through and managing to figure things out enough to keep Henry alive :)

In a post-cake stupor.
So, contemporary Henry. He's looking handsome these days, isn't he? :) He looks SO much like Mike. It's hard to find recent pictures of him, he's pretty elusive, that Henry. His personality is very reserved (sound familiar? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree :0) and he's not a huge fan of having his photo taken.

I sent him to school today with chocolate cupcakes for his big day, and he seemed very happy and excited this morning for all of the special treatment he'd receive in celebration. He wanted marble cupcakes, but...well, you know that I'm not exactly a good baker, right? :) It's just not one of the gifts that God gave me. I'm a decent cook, but baking? Prepare to scrape cream cheese off of the ceiling once I'm done from an electric-mixer-out-of-control situation. I'm just not good at it. So Mike buys this boxed mix for marble cake, and one would think that would be pretty easy to make, right? One would think. :) I mean, it's already done for you. All I had to do was add eggs, water, and oil. Well.

There was also this little envelope in there of baking cocoa and so I tossed it in with the other ingredients. Because, you know. It's an ingredient. The instructions said to combine *the ingredients* into the mixer bowl. If I had kept reading, I would have seen that you needed to separate the chocolate into a separate bowl for the swirling that is involved in marble. Mixing everything together isn't exactly conducive to swirling.

#alas

Chocolate for everybody! It didn't seem to faze him a bit. So, cupcakes at school, and then Mike and I are taking him out to dinner to a restaurant of his choosing tonight. He picked a local steak house, and so that's where we're headed. I'm looking forward to it. Mike also picked up hockey tickets for him and Henry to go to a game next month, and we're giving those to him tonight.

Henry is a *really* good kid. He is pestering his sister about 95% of the time :0 but that aside, he is a very sweet and even tempered child who is a joy to talk to. I can't wait to see him grow up and the man that he will become, and that eventuality is looking closer every day.

*sniffle*

Happy 9th birthday to my Henry!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Catholic Book Club: The American Catholic Almanac

Morning everyone! I'm pleased to have a book review for you today, courtesy of the Blogging for Books program over at The Crown Publishing Group. I'm selective about what I pick out over there, since I only want to read books that I think I'll enjoy and that you (my dear readers :)) are likely to find interesting. Plus, my reading time isn't as abundant as I'd like it to be, that whole job and motherhood thing. ;-) So I'm careful about bringing books into the fold of my official Reading Queue.

This one caught my eye immediately, and indeed, after hearing one of the authors interviewed on Catholic Vitamins, I zoomed right over to Amazon on my handy smartphone and added it to my wish list. When I saw that I could review it with Blogging for Books, it was a total no-brainer.

So we have here an interesting-sounding Catholic reference source - could there BE more perfect fodder for this blog, I ask you?! The very title intrigued me right off the bat: The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States, by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson. This is one of those "entry a day" titles in which for each calendar day, the reader is presented with a blurb or saint story, etc., as a way of building spiritual reading into one's daily routine. That this book focused specifically on Americans and the Church in the United States *really* captured my interest, since I had never seen a similar title. I honestly know very little about the history of the Church in America. My mom's family were Italian immigrants, and there are many of those (along with those of Polish descent) here in WNY. All of them were/are Catholic. I know of other places on the East Coast like that as well, but aside from some American saints (the history of WNY's own Venerable Fr. Nelson Baker and Our Lady of Victory Basilica is included in this book on March 19th!), that was the extent of my knowledge about Catholic history in the United States.

This is the perfect book to remedy that situation. Each day you can read about an American Catholic person or event that you likely have never heard of before. The entry for the day I'm writing this post, November 5th, is about "Pope's Night." I don't know about you, but I didn't know a thing about that until I read it. It sounds all lovely, but actually was an annual night of anti-Catholic sentiment stemming back into seventeenth century Britain that came over with British immigrants into Boston. Apparently, George Washington intervened. I mean...fascinating!

Of course, you are not bound to read the book via the daily selections, but can read it in larger segments or skip through to find entries that are of particular interest to you. For my part, I honed right in on entries discussing Native Americans, since that is also part of my family heritage. March 13th features Fr. William Ketcham, who worked with St. Katharine Drexel to build Catholic churches and schools in late nineteenth century Oklahoma Territory. February 19th (the day after the birthday of your very own Catholic Librarian ;-)) discusses John Basilone, a native Buffalonian of Italian descent who attended local Catholic schools. He grew up to be a Marine, fought in Iwo Jima, and became the only enlisted Marine in World War II to win both the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. Interesting stuff, yes?

I do plan to make this book a part of my morning routine, having it handy on my work bookcase for a reading of the daily blurb before I start on my to-do list. I love the thought of learning even more about the Church in America. This is a *very* interesting and well-written book.

My only constructive criticism is the lack of a general index of all people, places and events noted in the book. There are indeed multiple appendices (the librarian celebrates) of:
  • The American canon of Saints, Blesseds, and Venerables.
  • Dioceses of the Church in the U.S. with date of founding.
  • America's Minor Basilicas, with dates of designation by the Holy See.
...but there is no comprehensive index with page numbers for easy flipping to specific entries. In this sense, it's difficult to use as a reference source, and you're more likely to use it by calendar day, or by flipping through and stopping as things catch your attention. And many things will, trust me. :) Beer monks anybody? Go check out June 19th!

You can get a preview of this book for free here, and that includes the Preface (which has some really interesting background on the book) and the first five entries for January. It retails for $24.00 in hardcover, and Amazon has it for $16.52, with a price of $10.99 for Kindle. I do heartily recommend this title for its interesting topic and plan to keep happily using my copy.

Has anyone else picked up this book and started reading? Do leave your comments!

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Getting all tech-savvy with my prayer life - the Divine Office app :0

Happy Election Day everyone! I'm reporting in quickly, as I still have stuff on my to-do list and I want to leave a hair early to go vote. Mike and I are total Election Day nerds and have a full evening planned of walking to our polling place to vote, cooking a special meal, and procuring an autumn-inspired growler of ale with which to watch the returns later.

#fun!

But I wanted to mention something that became quite a little obsession of mine over the weekend - the Divine Office app. Let's discuss, yes?

I've only had a smartphone since May, so this whole newfangled world of apps is fairly new to me. I am aware that even using the word "newfangled" makes me sound ancient, so let's just press on, shall we? ;-) I own the 4 volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours. I have used them in the past, and I adore them. Plus - beautiful, leather bound books. This in and of itself is a huge plus for me. I'm a librarian, I love books.

I spent quite a bit of time reading up on how to *use* the print volumes and became decently proficient at ribbon placement and flipping. This could be a new Olympic sport for Catholic librarians, I'm thinking. It is not easy, I tell you. There are Propers here, and Psalters there. Feast days everywhere. :0 It takes a definite commitment to sort it all out. There were seasons in my life in which I was very good about toting the appropriate volume along with me and then praying Morning and Evening Prayer. But most of the time...they sit on my bookshelf and look lovely.

Every once in a while, Lent or Advent will roll around, and I'll make a resolution to pray with them for the entirety of the season, and usually the wheels come off of that plan long before my goal. There was one Advent, when Henry was a baby, that I stayed on course not only throughout Advent, but Christmas season as well, and it was spectacular. But I've never been able to keep at it for the long term.

Well. Then I acquired aforementioned smartphone and learned all about the beauty of apps. It was *months* before I realized that there were APPS for Facebook and Twitter and doesn't that make things so much easier?!?!

Yes, I know. *delicately clears throat while adjusting bun* Then I found all sorts of fun apps for things that I use all the time (Amazon, Etsy) and my universe was happily expanded. I downloaded the free Laudate app and the Pope app and figured I was good to go.

I kept hearing about the awesomeness of the Divine Office app, but I never really pursued it much after finding out that it was $14.99. Not that $15 is breaking the bank for me, but that's a lot for an app, right?

Well, it is, but WOW. I finally bit the bullet over the weekend when I was in my happy All Souls Day cloud and downloaded it from the Google Play store. No more flipping - each day is all set to go for you, saint feast days and any other solemnity goodness included. You open it up, and bam! There is your day, with the entries at your fingertips to click on, for:
  • Entry about the day generally
  • Invitatory
  • Office of Readings
  • Morning Prayer
  • Midmorning Prayer
  • Midday Prayer
  • Midafternoon Prayer
  • Evening Prayer
  • Night Prayer
And the best part is yet to come, wait.for.it... There is the text there, yes, but for each there is an *audio file*. It is a thing of beauty! Click on it, and you feel like you're in a monastery praying along with your community.  LOVE.

They have about a week ready to go in advance, so you could always download the files if you're going to be traveling and prefer to save your data. I really, really love it, it was worth every penny. I've been using it daily, fitting in whatever offices I can, and it's been a joy. With Advent coming up, I feel like it's the perfect time to try and use it for a full liturgical season again. Here's hoping. :)

Of course, it is also available for iOS, and I hear that version has this precious little spinning globe, noting with points of light where others are praying using the app. I WANT. That isn't a part of the Android version just yet. :0

Does anyone else pray using the Divine Office app? Chime in!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rainy Halloween fun, and the feast of All Saints & All Souls...

Morning everyone, and happy Monday. :) I'm not really feeling very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but that's just the way things go sometimes, it *is* Monday after all. But I had a very pleasant weekend, so let's chronicle!

Halloween, for the second year running, was rainy here in WNY. But I was armed with my drinky drink, so I was happy. ;-) Although Anne did shed a few tears at dinnertime because she didn't want to eat what we had made (this is a very common occurrence these days, unfortunately), no full out temper tantrums came into play, for which I was supremely grateful. After dinner, we costumed the kids up and waited for it to get dark. Mercifully, both got into their costumes and wore them without incident:

Moment before heading outside, everybody is happy. Including the photographer, with her "water" bottle in tow...
Anne was so excited that as I was getting my coat on, I could hear her outside having a lengthy conversation with one of our neighbors about the merits of chocolate vs. non-chocolate candy. It's been clear for quite some time that Anne is the sole extroverted member of my household. :0

Sooooo, Mike goes out on the porch to hand out candy with our lit Jack O'lantern, a chair, and a bottle of beer, and I head down the street with the kids. The rain did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm, to be sure. I had my rain jacket on complete with hood covering my hair, and was sipping my drink while texting Cristina. Priorities. ;-)

Both kids were very good, saying "thank you!" at each house. Anne's costume, especially her glittery purple mask, earned rave reviews. In lieu of saying 'trick or treat!' she just said "May I have some candy?" and she's cute enough to get away with it. Henry, of course, was horrified by this. :)

We get down to the furthest point of our journey, the very end of our street, and the inevitable happens:

"Mommy, I have to go pee RIGHT NOW! I AM GOING TO PEE IN MY COSTUME!!"

#longsufferingsigh

Back to our house we go, Anne doing a careful pee pee walk, Henry with a sour expression. We do what we need to do at the homefront and head back out. We get to most of the houses on the other side of the street before Anne declares that she is "so tired Mommy!" I drop her back at our house to hand out candy with Mike. I took Henry out for a bit longer, and all went well.

The only difficult part was the inevitable wrangling into bed for Anne, who despite being exhausted, did not want to go to sleep. She relayed the story to me the next day as follows:

"Mommy, I was so tired last night. So I got on the floor and cried."

"How come you didn't just go to sleep if you were so tired?"

"I did not want to go to sleep. So I threw my toys instead."

"But going to sleep would have made you feel so much better."

*thoughtful silence*

"Next time I will go to sleep, Mommy."

Interesting insight into the toddler mind, no? :0

After that big night, I was rather contemplative about it being the weekend commemorating the feast of All Saints, and then All Souls.


I really wanted to go to Mass on Saturday morning (I was sad that there was no official Holy Day of Obligation this year), but didn't end up making it because we had a ton of household chores needing our attention. I eagerly anticipated the feast of All Souls on Sunday, and got my new issue of Magnificat all ready.

#Catholicnerd

The kids were both really good at Mass, Anne even respecting my request to keep the bathroom trips down to one. :0 And it was just one of those Masses that seemed particularly meaningful to me for no specific reason at all. I mean, the feast of All Souls has been significant to me for some time now that I have relatives who have passed away, and I remember them in a special way each November. I write their names each year in our parish's Book of Remembrance. But yesterday I felt it even more so. I just felt very connected to my Catholic community yesterday at Mass - both here and around the world, and from the great cloud of witnesses in heaven. I was able to pay more attention at Mass and simply appreciate everything more, especially the Eucharist, and it made me feel so happy to be a Catholic. So, that's the sappy part of my weekend. :)

I have other good fodder to discuss, such as my ideas for making this upcoming Advent a prayerful one (hope springs eternal!), and I will discuss that tomorrow, so come visit me again then. How was your Halloween and feast of All Souls? Do leave a comment. :)