Friday, February 27, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 71} 7 things I remember from growing up Catholic, edition...


Morning all! I'm feeling a bit better today, though still on the mend. My nose seems to not be trying to kill me anymore, so I'll take it.  In thinking about what to write today, my mind drifted back to Lent. Catholic stuff, hum... It's Friday of the first week of Lent, and we're all very heavily immersed in our Lenten promises and meat-free meals. I have a completely different perspective on all things Catholic as an adult than I did as a child. I *love* hearing conversion stories, and I think it's because I'm not a convert. I was raised Catholic, so it's fascinating for me to read about what causes a person to choose to be Catholic. Now, in a sense, I chose it too, but let's circle back to that. I'll tell you a little about my story and you can leave yours in the comments. :) So. What are 7 things I remember from my cradle Catholic childhood?

-1- Mass is boring :0

Oh baby. :) Other cradle Catholics out there, you felt this way too, right? When you're raised as part of something, it takes on a feeling of being pretty ordinary, yes? I did not enjoy going to Mass as a child, and the reason is that I did not understand exactly what was going on there, and why we were doing this. I felt like I was forced to go by my mom, and I'm certain that Henry feels this exact same way about his current situation. :) I did not understand that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, and that the liturgy is taken from Scripture and has eternal meaning. I just knew that we had to go silently sit on these uncomfortable pews for 45 minutes and I did not like it. When we got to the Our Father, I'd get all excited because I knew that meant that we were about 75% of the way through. I had it calculated. :0

-2- But religious education classes? WORSE

Lord, *help*, but those classes were painful. I remember tromping there every Tuesday afternoon, jealous of my classmates who simply got to go home an hour early from school. Yes, I grew up in Niagara Falls, a very Catholic city, and the public schools actually dismissed early on Tuesdays so that the Catholic children could attend religious education. Odd, but true. I never enjoyed those classes, because I didn't understand why I had to go. We didn't go to Mass every Sunday, so why the emphasis on these classes and making the sacraments? At this point in time, my dad wasn't Catholic, so that was certainly a factor in the mix. The classes seemed trite and unimportant to me. I didn't connect them to any larger moral and religious worldview.

-3- God though? Always there

Although I didn't really understand my Catholic identity very well, I was raised with a firm belief in God, and that has never failed me. I remember being about 4 years old and "seeing" Jesus one night when I was alone in my room and frightened about something. I don't know if that was simply a dream or not, but I don't consider that detail all that important. The important thing was that my belief in Him comforted and soothed me, and I never doubted His presence and love for me.

-4- First Communion is such a fond milestone of Catholic childhood

Even though I didn't understand the Eucharist until I was an adult (I'm certain I was told about it, in those much maligned religious education classes :) but I was never paying attention; I am the QUEEN of mind wandering) I remember being excited about making my First Communion. In fact, I remember the morning quite vividly, and given how long ago that was (doing public math, hum... just over 30 years ago; great, now I feel old) it's fairly significant that it still stands out in my mind. It was a beautiful spring day, with a cloudless blue sky, and I remember putting on my dress and veil and being SO EXCITED to process into the church with my class. I kind of wish I had a photo to share, but, nah. It was the early 80's, let's not go back there, shall we? I'm pretty sure my dress had puffy sleeves and *pleats*.

:0

-5- Confirmation? At least it's cool to pick a new name

Yes, the ambivalence continued, I'm afraid. In our diocese, Confirmation takes place in 10th grade, and at that point I felt no connection to my faith whatsoever. I chose St. Cecilia as my patron simply because I liked her name. I remember being annoyed that the girl ahead of me in the line up to the bishop had also chosen Cecilia as her name, which makes no sense, but there you have it. After that, I thought no more of Confirmation other than that it meant that I no longer had to go to religious education classes. Victory!

-6- But those graces? They're sneaky :)

Well hello there, college. Despite you being of the Catholic persuasion, you're not exactly a hotbed of devout activity. But...

By now, my dad was Catholic. And I had been attending a Marian prayer group with my mom for several years, at first simply because they served snacks. :) But I kept going because of the fellowship, and all that praying, as well as accumulated sacramental graces, had a lasting impact. There was a beautiful chapel on campus, and one day in my freshman year I had a bunch of time between classes, so I stopped in. Daily Mass was ongoing, and what's this?

Once you go to daily Mass, you're done. That is the sign of imminent conversion of heart. I went as often as I could throughout college, though that waned a bit more towards the end of my time there.

-7- Ultimately, I become a "vert"

I remember reading once that there are three ways that Catholics can describe themselves:

(1) A convert - came into the Church from a different faith, or no faith at all;

(2) A revert - raised Catholic, actively left the Church, and formally returned; or

(3) A "vert" - never left the Church, but didn't form a full Catholic identity until sometime past early childhood, when the person embraces their faith by taking the time to truly understand it.

Granted, baptism makes a person Catholic, even if they receive it as an infant, as I did. But ultimately, you do have to choose to be Catholic if you're going to continue your faith as an adult. Otherwise, the seed will wither and not take root. Although I went through some bad times after college, during which I stopped going to Mass and made some terrible choices, my heart was once again moved to seek Him out (lurking sacramental graces once again saving my undeserving self). And when I went back to daily Mass? Boom, I was done. :) Haven't looked back since.

I enjoyed this little trip down memory lane! Maybe next week I'll write about the things that really changed my heart about my faith once I studied and examined them during graduate school. But I digress. What is your story? Do tell me all about it, I love faith stories! And don't forget to check out other 7 Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum. :)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Still sickly, but who can sleep? Hence, lots of knitting and reading going on...

This will be a shorter post today since I feel like a stiff breeze could blow me right over. :) I just have a cold, it's not the end of the world, but MAN is it hanging on. My energy is just depleted, and I feel like all I want to do is curl up in bed. In fact, I did just that yesterday afternoon, which is always the true sign of me feeling poorly. I took the day off yesterday to attend Mass at Henry's school since the bishop was coming, but it ended up turning into a sick day of sorts (though I did attend the Mass, and it was smashing). While Anne napped, I ended up in bed doing that thing that parents do during the day when they are exhausted/sick which resembles sleeping, but is not *actual* sleeping. While I lay there with the covers pulled up over my head, people peek their heads in and out of the bedroom, what sounds like a herd of elephants go up and down the stairs, doors slam, restroom facilities are used without the door being shut (that would be Henry, ironic, isn't it? since he slams every other door), loud arguments break out...ah, Anne is up!

But I did lay down, which should have made me feel better, except it made me feel worse, and I got out of bed cold, somewhat crabby and even more tired than when I got in it. Joy.

But in the mean time, Mike is in final rehearsals for his play, which opens this weekend. Can I just interject how absolutely adorable my husband is in actor mode? I mean, he's cute all the time, but this just heightens his attractive qualities. I've been helping him memorize his lines, so that has been a pleasant interlude in my sickly-ness.

Otherwise, I've been reading a lot to pass the time while I lie around feeling listless. My current read is a light inspirational romance from the Love Inspired line, Hometown Valentine by Lissa Manley. Seasonal and sweet, we have an uncle suddenly left with his infant niece when his sister passes away unexpectedly, and a local woman coming to his aid who is hoping to break out of her small town by scoring a slot on a fashion-centered reality TV show. I'm enjoying it.

And I've been knitting! I finished my Downton Abbey mystery shawl, ta DA!

I love the lace, even though I swore at it while I was knitting it. :0 Since I finished that, I've been working on a gray cardigan, (the drabbest color in the history of the universe, which I'm choosing to call "smoky sunset" in an effort to make it more appealing) and my crocheted forest-themed afghan. So far so good!

How is everyone's Lent going so far?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Catholic Book Club: The Three Most Wanted

Happy Catholic Book Club Wednesday everyone! I am *very* excited about February's selection, which is book 2 in the I Am Margaret series by Corinna Turner, this installment titled The Three Most Wanted. If you haven't delved into this series yet (and this is for adults and young adults alike, I would say high school age and up) I would encourage you to read my review of book 1 to get a sense of the dystopian foundation for the series.

Did you go back and read it? :0 It's important, since otherwise the description of the second book will be confusing. But heck, never mind my review, read the book if you can! I cannot say *enough* about how much I am enjoying this series. Importantly, this review will contain spoilers of how the last book ended, so if you're committed to reading the series, go ahead and pause here.You can come back to read the review and leave your comments after you're done with book 1. :)

But here is the description from Amazon for The Three Most Wanted:
"2,000 KILOMETRES – 3 NEW ADULTS – A BLOC-WIDE MANHUNT
SAFE? NOT EVEN COMPARATIVELY.
“Bane? Take Margo and go. You’ve done everything you can. Just leave me here, I’ll be fine.”
“No, you won’t,” said Bane.
“Fine. I won’t. Doesn’t make any difference now. Go.”

Margo, Bane and Jon are posing as just three more summer backpackers... but they have two thousand kilometres to go and the EuroGov’s hunt is closing in. They’re not the only ones in trouble. Major Everington is on trial for his life. And all those who help and betray them have problems of their own – the EuroGov has a lot to answer for. Even if they make it – just how safe is the long-besieged Free State?"
So we have our three endearing main characters from book 1, Margaret, Bane and Jon, and they are trying to walk to the Vatican, which is a Free State within this evil EuroGov empire. Annnnddddd, they have quite a lot of ground to cover. :) Margaret and Jon are Catholic, which is fiercely forbidden within this government-controlled territory. They forged a friendship while imprisoned together in the last book, after they failed their Sorting. Meaning that they are detained until the government decides to kill them for use of their body parts. Bane helped them escape, and he and Margaret are in love. Bane isn't a believer, but is sympathetic to the cause. These three, after freeing an entire facility of detainees, are very much wanted by the government. They desperately need to get to Rome before anybody recognizes them, so that they can seek asylum.

Along the way, as one would expect, they encounter a whole lot of challenges. Food is a huge issue, and Jon is injured. But Bane and Margaret will not leave him behind. It's all of them or none of them. They unwittingly run into different people who act as though they will help them, but...can they be trusted? The penalty for helping fugitives is high, but pretty much everyone in this universe has something to gain (or at least the hope of a gain) by trading information to the government in exchange for a detained loved one.

And this author expresses all of this SO WELL. I can literally *feel* the desperation in this book. Young people whose sweetheart was taken, or parents with children in a facility (or worse). It's heartbreaking, and people are in palpable emotional pain over it. And Margaret, Bane and Jon's feverish attempt to survive, their instinct to preserve their own life and the lives of those they love, is also palpable. I felt like I was right along with them as they traveled.

These books have a solid Catholic pro-life worldview that is espoused by our heroes and heroine, and the story as it unfolds will grip your imagination and make you appreciate your faith anew. I LOVE books like this, that are thrilling page turners, and that I identify with in terms of both the characters and the faith/morals presented. Once again, I found myself bringing my Kindle in with me to work so that I could read over lunchtime. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the power of a book.

As you would imagine, there are things that transpire in this book that are HARD. There was one particular scene that made me tear up over breakfast, and that was the first day of the lunchtime Kindle habit since I simply *had* to find out what happened next. I've spoken in other posts about having a difficult time reading about torturous, evil things, in one instance discontinuing my reading of the book. Although things that are unspeakably awful happen in these books, I did not have the same reaction to them at all.  The author handles it so adeptly, letting us see how our Catholic heroine applies her faith to deal with the events. The reactions of the characters are so genuine, so true to how the author has developed them, it all just *fit.* An evil empire is going to do evil things, but with our faith to sustain and guide us, we are strengthened and soothed. I was so inspired by the example of these characters.

So, if it wasn't already obvious, I HIGHLY recommend this book, as I did book 1 in the series. The instant my Kindle got to 100%, I was tweeting Corinna asking her about book 3 and I HAVE GOOD NEWS: it is coming out March 15th!

*angels!*

I can.not.wait. CANNOT WAIT! I am completely hooked on these books. They are all $3.88 for Kindle, and seriously: that is the bargain of the year!! We need to support creative and talented Catholic authors like Corinna. So if dystopian fiction is your thing, give these books a whirl. I really think you will love them.

Is anybody else reading this series? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bravely battling my cold, & a touching experience at Confession...

Good day to you all. *weak smile* I appear to be in the full throes of this cold, but I'm focusing on the fact that I am super grateful to not have the flu. I'm feeling very run down and stuffy, and my voice is taking on that husky quality that my husband finds very appealing (*snorts*), so I'm hoping to make it thorough my work day unscathed, especially since I had to teach this morning. That went well, but I am DRAGGING. I had to turn my Introvert Who Needs To Act Like An Extrovert Energy Meter over to "Mega Watt!" so that I wouldn't wilt mid-class. It worked, but I'm feeling the aftereffects. Thankfully, my adorable Mike made dinner before he went to teach, so all I have to do is pop it into the oven when I get home. 

But today is Tuesday, which is the day that Confession is held at one of the parishes near our house, the parish affiliated with Henry's school, actually. And when I go to Confession, this is usually the session that I stop in for. At our home parish, Confession is offered on Saturdays and it just rarely works with whatever we have going on that day. Tuesday afternoon I can stop on my way home from work. And it's Lent. So I have confession on my mind.

Thus, I was thinking about the last time I stopped off for Confession, I think it was in December. I really wish my little Confession app kept track of the last date I attended, I don't think it does that?! IT NEEDS TO DO THAT. But I may be doing something wrong, wouldn't be the first time. ;-)

At any rate, I step into the church, dip my fingers into the holy water font, and as I go to cross myself...I see a large line positively *snaking* back from the confessional. And I, in selfish fashion, heave a long suffering sigh. I'm feeling rushy because I want to get home to Mike and the kids and was hoping for no line. But the last time I had tried to go to confession it had been cancelled, and so I really wanted to get in before Advent was over. So I tiptoed my way to the back of the line.

And there I waited. :) I waited so long that I actually started a rosary to use up some of the time. A few people ahead of me was an older man. When he came out of the confessional, hope sprung in my heart because then I was only a few spots away from having it be my turn. He made his way slightly behind where I was standing and knelt in a pew. Suddenly...

I could hear him talking. To God. :) And I hope that he doesn't mind me reproducing this here, but since he is a total stranger to me, and I don't even remember what he looks like, he couldn't possibly be more anonymous, so I think he would be OK with it. :) I wasn't eavesdropping; he was speaking audibly, and what I heard touched me so deeply:

"Lord, I'm trying not to sin. But please take the temptation away, Lord. You know I don't want to sin, but it's so difficult when I'm tempted."

I don't know (thankfully, because that's just between him and God) what exactly he was referring to, but it matters not. It could apply to pretty much anything, and let's just be honest: any one of us could be having this exact same discussion with God about a sin that we struggle with. I was just so moved by the honesty and vulnerability in his approach to prayer.

And thus I felt quite humbled when it was my turn to go into the confessional. Why was I in such a rush?  My focus was all wrong. Indeed, as my Confession experience was wrapping up, the priest reminded me to share my struggles with God and to just "talk to Him sometimes, like you would a friend." I thought of that older man again, and I have kept his example in my heart since that day.

I don't know that I'm going to end up stopping off at Confession again today (feeling pretty run down) but I will one Tuesday prior to Holy Week, for certain. And I'll think about my fellow penitent each time I go.

Have you ever felt particularly moved at Confession? Do share (with however much or little detail you feel comfortable with, of course) in the comments. :)

It's book club day tomorrow! The post won't be out until the afternoon since I'll be home with Anne and I need to blog when she naps. But I'm so excited to talk about this month's book!

Monday, February 23, 2015

So much snow and an insidious cold, but the warmth of community, on the 1st Sunday of Lent...

"You kind of set off an eternal winter, everywhere!"

Yes, that would be my family standing on the snow beside our driveway, and that thing behind their heads is our ROOF. That pretty much sums up the state of things over here in WNY right now. I usually enjoy winter, but this year has me very weary. And now I have caught Anne's cold, so you can just imagine the level of crankiness I bring with me this morning. Aren't you delighted to be here? ;-)

So I'm feeling all stuffy and weak, and I'm not happy about this at ALL. I just brewed some tea, so hopefully that will help. But anyway, you're not here to dwell in cold misery with me, let's focus on the positive, shall we?

As I mentioned on Ash Wednesday, our parish has a new pastor. There was a retirement elsewhere in the diocese, and thus some subsequent priest shuffling to accommodate for that. The kids and I really liked our first impression of the new guy, Fr. Joe, on Wednesday, so I was excited to see how he handled his first Sunday Mass with us. After all, that would be the first time many parishoners saw him.

I know that I remarked on Wednesday that he was a good homilist, and he only reinforced that yesterday. As we all sat down following the reading of the Gospel, he paused, then said:

"I've been thinking about what I'd say to you all right now...for the past two months."

Immediately, we were all rapt with attention. :) He talked about how happy he was to be with us, and how he wanted to get to know us all. He said that he loves sports and if we let him know when the kids had games, he would come watch. He wove in humorous anecdotes from his own life to let us know how he planned to structure his homilies for the foreseeable future, and how we can try and grow in holiness together throughout Lent and thereafter. He made some jokes and mentioned that his favorite drink is a Manhattan. I love this guy! He was done about 5-7 minutes later, and here's the thing - he didn't need to go on for any longer. What he said resonated with the group, and everyone was hanging on every word. It was a very effective and engaging use of time. When he stepped down from the lectern, there was the slightest pause of surprised silence before the congregation gave him a round of spontaneous and hearty applause. I'm not normally a fan of clapping in Mass, but this time it fit. He made us feel wanted and special, and we wanted him to feel appreciated and welcome. It was lovely.

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist I just felt all warm and glowy. I was worshipping with my family in faith, and I'm very excited about where we are headed together. And we have two people from our parish receiving the sacraments this Easter Vigil and coming into the Church! *tears!* We did a little send off for the Rite of Election as part of the liturgy.

I could hear people talking about Fr. Joe as we all exited the church following Mass, and everyone seemed pretty chirpy and happy about the whole thing. We paused to talk to a sweet teenage girl who has taken a shine to Anne, and to our favorite usher, and I really feel like we're becoming a part of the community. I will grant, we've been members of this parish for about 7 years, but when you're an introvert, these things take time. ;-)

I feel very blessed this Lent. How was your first Sunday of the season, dear reader?

Friday, February 20, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 70} Lenten Friday stresses & wild goose chases, but also birthday week continues! edition

What's going on in my part of the tundra on this Friday after Ash Wednesday? Do read on!

-1- Worried about my little button!

I'm worried about Anne. :-\ I noticed when I checked on her last night prior to heading to bed that she was snoring and seemed restless and congested. Sure enough, she woke several times last night, seeming stuffy, uncomfortable and out of sorts. This morning she was a bit chilled. :( :( :( My babe! I'm very worried that she picked up whatever awfulness Mike had last week. I'm praying that it's simply a cold.

-2- "Please call me back. I'm looking for the following minutia about a person whose name I don't even know..."

And that's not really that much of an exaggeration.

I.Tell.You. *long suffering sigh*

I got on the reference desk this morning already preoccupied about Anne, and the angry red voicemail light was on the telephone. I glared at it, but that decided did NOT make it go away. So I retrieved the message, and it was one of our rather infamous patrons. That is to say, a person not affiliated with the university who regularly calls the reference desk asking odd questions that require the librarian to go on a bit of a wild goose chase. I'm not saying these are simply challenging research questions, because of course that is our job. Without going into detail, I'm saying these are eccentric questions, requiring lengthy and frustrating time spent in answering them, asked by an eccentric individual. I'm certain my fellow librarians know exactly what I am talking about. :)

So it was one of those, and I then had to spend the requisite lengthy and frustrating time so that I could get back to her.

#offeringitup

#martyr!

;-)

-3- Wine and Vegetable Pho are a *very* good combination...

But in happier news, I am milking this birthday week thing for all it's worth. I got together last night with some girlfriends from college for an evening of fun conversation, wine and Vietnamese food. And thinking ahead, this Catholic girl ordered a meat-free dinner so that I could eat the leftovers for lunch today. I am SO looking forward to that after this seemingly endless reference shift is over. The only downside to the whole affair was the fact that we had to go outside after we finished dinner to drive back home. Nothing like blowing and drifting snow blown right into YOUR FACE and negative temperatures to suck the joy out of you. But we persevere.

-4- More wine, but only *after* we're done balancing things on our heads while we dance...

Tonight after dance rehearsal my troupe is getting together at the studio for wine and dance talk. We've been wanting to do this for some time, and this is just the date that worked for all of us, it actually has nothing to do with my birthday. But I'm counting it as part of my birthday week anyway. :) We'll also be shoring up our somewhat staggering repertoire of dances, which while intimidating, is also fun, because they're all so different from each other. Never a boring Friday night, that's for sure! And we're still working on that crazy giant veil choreography, so I'm sure I'll have amusing details to report next week. :0

-5- Romantic dinners are bliss

Mike and I LOVE going out to dinner together (without the kids :) although we like going to dinner the 4 of us as well), and every nice occasion we have we plan a dinner for it. Birthdays, wedding anniversary, dating anniversary (we added that one in just for the fun of it), holidays = dinner. My birthday dinner is scheduled for this Saturday and I am SO looking forward to it. It's still Lent, but it'll be Saturday, so meat is an option. Happy!

-6- Busily doing our Lenten reading...

But back to Lent. If you're following along in the Magnificat Lenten Companion are you partaking in today's suggested penance of skipping part of a meal? Well, the text actually said "skip a meal or part of one." I have to be honest and say that I don't think it's healthy to skip meals, so I'm not choosing to do that, but "part of a meal" I can get behind. So I have my leftovers for lunch, but no supplemental side or sweet bite for afterwards. I'm enjoying these suggested penances, it's really causing me to put a lot more thought into Lent this year.

-7- Catholic Book Club Wednesday approaches!

Are you reading the second book in the I Am Margaret series by Corinna Turner, The Three Most Wanted?

!

I cannot reiterate enough how much I am enjoying these books, and how talented this author is. I have a lot to say about this installment in the series, and I hope that you consider reading these books along with me! Each of the books is less than $4 for Kindle, and so.worth.it. My review of book 1 is here, and look for my review of book two on Wednesday, February 25th!

All right, I have to jet, but I look forward to talking to you all again on Monday! Check out more 7 Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Catholic Nook: Chaplet of St. Dymphna

Good day to you all, and I hope that your Thursday after Ash Wednesday is off to a good start. :) I've been happily reading along with my Magnificat Lenten Companion, do you have your copy? If not, you can download the Kindle version for 99 cents. I'm loving mine. Today's suggested penance is to offer up your day for someone, and keep that person in mind all day. I love that! I have my person all tucked in my brain, and am offering away. :)

And with Lent turning all of our minds to prayer, I thought I'd pen a Catholic Nook post today. These posts tend to favor a discussion of chaplets, because I love them so much. :) And here we have another one!

Allison made this chaplet for me, that is in fact my St. Dymphna chaplet posing in the photo for this post. She almost always has a St. Dymphna chaplet in her Etsy store (like this one), or you can ask her to custom make one for you.

St. Dymphna is the patron saint for those suffering from mental illness. She has a rather sad story, involving her father trying to attack her, and ultimately killing her. The mental illness patronage comes into play since what father not afflicted by mental illness in some way would treat his daughter like this? St. Dymphna forgave and prayed for him, and now we can ask her intercession for matters involving mental health. For me, I've struggled with postpartum depression in the past, and so I'm very sensitive to this issue. I find this chaplet soothing to pray if I'm feeling anxious or down about something.

The traditional colors of a St. Dymphna chaplet are red (symbolizing martyrdom), white (symbolizing virginity), and green (representing mental illness). To pray with this chaplet:
  • On the St. Dymphna medal, ask for her intercession and lay out your intention.
  • On the two "drop" beads, pray 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary.
  • Then, on the other beads, pray the Glory Be 15 times, in honor of the 15 years of St. Dymphna's life.
Simple and fast, and very comforting.  Has anybody else prayed this chaplet before?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Of new priests and ash blobs on Ash Wednesday 2015...

I call this one "Birthday Girl With Ash Blob" :)
Hello everyone, and a blessed Ash Wednesday to you! I just returned from Mass with the kids and...SUBLIME! We have a new priest at our parish and this was his first liturgy with us. I was nervous about this, because I really liked our other priest, and well, change is hard for me. ;-)

So we arrived and settled into our pew, our pile of coats, hats and mittens taking up the space of a whole separate person, and out comes the priest. Right away, I liked his face. :) He has a kind face. He seemed enthusiastic about being there, and like he really wanted to put his best foot forward. I warmed to him right away.

When he told a cute Lenten story from his Catholic school childhood to begin his homily, followed by an endearing joke, and then said how happy he was to be there with us...he won me right over. I love that style of presentation, very accessible and easy to relate to. He spoke for a few minutes about how he would share his story with us a little each week, about his journey to the priesthood and to our parish, and also share his Scripture reflections with us, so that hopefully we can grow in holiness together this Lent. And BOOM! That was it. Short and sweet, but extremely engaging and effective. I love this guy! I looked over at Henry and saw that he was actually paying attention and looked impressed.

#victoryisours

We all received our ashes, in the usual form, which is a rather blob-like structure, for whatever reason. A few people left right after receiving ashes, which I have to admit I find a bit baffling. Ashes but no Eucharist? But in fairness, they may have been on their lunch hour and had to get back to work. The fact that people journey to church at all on Ash Wednesday is an excellent thing.

So now we're home and Anne is down for her nap. I'm drinking tea to distract myself from my tempting pink cookie cake, and plotting egg salad sandwiches for dinner. It's truly been a lovely Ash Wednesday so far.

The only sore spot on the day was one minor incident this morning involving my wood knitting needle breaking about 90% of the way down a row of 353 stitches worth of fingering weight leaf lace, setting some stitches loose, and well. It wasn't pretty. :0 I had some *strong* words for that needle and I viciously removed it and replaced it with one of it's nickel-plated cousins. I hope it felt appropriately contrite and insulted. Some yarn overs had to be sacrificed in this process, causing me to have to unknit backwards so that I could fix the problem spot. I wasn't too happy about all of this, but all is well that ends well. I have one leaf that looks a bit drunk but it'll have to do.

OK! I'm cold and need more tea. I'm planning a quiet rest of the day, but I'll be on Twitter for anybody who wants to chat. :) And I'll be back tomorrow! How is your Ash Wednesday going?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday - why is it so beloved, and what happens if your birthday falls on it?!

Ash Wednesday is interesting, is it not? It's certainly an important day in the tradition of our faith. It marks the beginning of Lent, our major penitential season leading up to the holiest day of the year. It offers a physical sacramental to remind us of what we are doing and why during Lent.  The Church asks us to fast from food between (smaller) meals, and to abstain from meat, denoting the serious nature of the day. So there is all of this, but technically Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics are not bound to attend Mass on that day, and indeed many parishes hold scripture services with ash distribution instead. My parish does. Although there is still an 8 am and a noon Mass, and my forehead as well as my children's will be in attendance at one of them. :0

Yet, Ash Wednesday is one of the highest attended services of the year (along with Christmas), even more so than Easter. Our diocesan newspaper mentioned this in an article recently. It doesn't really make any sense, but there you have it. There is obviously something about the ritual of ashes that resonates with people who otherwise attend Mass infrequently. Thoughts on this?

At any rate, let's talk about Lenten birthdays (great post on this topic at Catholic All Year, by the way). When one's birthday falls on a Church mandated day of fast and abstinence, what does one do? Celebrate before, or after? Or, if you're me, BOTH!

:0

Indeed, my always dreary February birthday falls on Ash Wednesday this year. So, hey! Why restrict one's birthday to a single day? I'm calling this a birthday WEEK (sans Wednesday) and just enjoying the ride. :)

I met Mike and the kids at a local Irish restaurant after work yesterday for a family birthday dinner. Shepherd's Pie and Harp, I mean...life is good, yes? We had a very nice time. When we got home, this was waiting for me:

awwwww....
All I asked for this year was a cookie cake, and to go to the Catholic New Media Conference. I'm getting both. :) I feel loved. *beams* So we enjoyed some of the cake last night, and Mike and I watched Downton Abbey after the kids went to bed. It was a *wonderful* evening. Tonight, we're going to enjoy more cake. Because tomorrow is, you know, Ash Wednesday. :)

So, I've decided that tomorrow, although technically my actual birthday, is just going to be Ash Wednesday for me. I'm taking the day off from work, going to Mass, and just going to focus on the Lenten side of things. And I'm looking forward to it, I love Lent. But no cookie cake. :) We will fast tomorrow. Thursday, I'm having dinner with some friends from college, and Saturday night Mike and I are going out to dinner by ourselves. That's a lot of birthday, yes? Plus, I have the CNMC to look forward to in June. I'd say this is a pretty great year.

What are your plans for Ash Wednesday 2015, dear reader? Do tell me all about it. :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Of winter storms and exempted Mass obligations on the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time...

There *is* a street carved out in there...
Monday. And here I am, all freed from my house, WOOOOOOO! :0 The time with my family was good, don't get me wrong, but there is something psychologically difficult about feeling like you *can't* leave. Rabid claustrophobia, anybody? At any rate, how did this all go down, you ask?

Well, before we even get to the weather, let's talk about my poor, poor darling husband. In the 12 years that I've known him, I have never seen him as sick as he was this weekend. I had mentioned on Thursday that he had been very sick the night before with what we believe was the flu, so I stayed home to take care of him (and Anne, who he would have otherwise been handling alone). He was *very* sick on Thursday, but seemed to get a bit better as the day wore on. Friday, he was still pretty sick, but again, the worst seemed behind us. Then Friday night hit.

I was once again woken by a shivering, feverish, coughing Mike. This was a setback, and we realized that he was going to be down for the count for probably a full week when all was said and done. And Saturday morning dawned with a blizzardy looking snowfall. Mike was scheduled for play rehearsal (he has a lead role in the local community theater's upcoming production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap), I was scheduled on the reference desk in the afternoon, and the entire family was invited to a birthday party in the evening that we were all looking forward to. Well. :)

Play rehearsal was cancelled, the reference desk closed, and travel advisories issued by our county. The party was still on, but we let the hosts know that we couldn't make it. Not only were the conditions a bit dicey, but there was no way we could get out of our driveway. Mike was far too sick to be able to shovel the snow, and I'm going to just admit that I'm *terrible* at shoveling snow. I try, I really do, but lack the upper body strength to make any sort of difference in a timely manner. We were stuck.

As all of this was transpiring, the weather forecast was predicting record low wind chills for Sunday, between 20 and 30 degrees below zero. Soon thereafter, I saw announcements by our diocese on social media that the bishop had lifted the obligation to attend Mass this weekend due to the dangerous weather conditions.

!

I was sad, but I knew there was no way we could make it to Mass. I shouldn't take the kids out in that sort of cold, plus the driveway was an *entity* at this point. Mike does not sit still very easily, and by Sunday he was anxious to start doing things again, but I gave him my stern librarian face. He was still coughing and pretty weak. He should NOT be outside in those conditions shoveling snow.

So we stayed in. Did I mention that I was sad? Because I was. :( We put the EWTN Mass on, and I managed to get both kids to sit still for two decades of the rosary. Anne now has the Hail Mary memorized, and my Catholic sensibilities just sing when I hear her recite the prayer. #cutie! But not being able to receive the Eucharist? That's a big deal, and it made me appreciate the privilege anew.

After that, I did a LOT of crocheting of a giant wool afghan, for obvious reasons:

I love how it's turning out (autumn forest theme ;-)). But seriously, I need ALL THE WOOL. ALL THE TIME. It was so cold yesterday, that I was wearing long underwear underneath my other woolen layers IN THE HOUSE. IN.THE.HOUSE. My hands never fully warmed up such that I actually started to worry and contemplate wearing gloves. I usually don't mind winter, but this year, even I, your resident Winter Evangelist, am sick of it.

The dangerous wind chills continue today, and all week will still be well below normal for us. Sunday we're projected to go up into the 20's, Fahrenheit. We're all reacting to that as if a giant sun beam has come down from from the very beaches of heaven.

The 20's. Still 10 degrees below freezing, but hey, P.A.R.T.Y!!! It won't feel like knives when you breathe anymore! We'll take it!

In other news, I made Valentine cupcakes with the kids:

Because they're cheerful, and there was nothing else to do. :0

"Mom. I'm BOOOOOOOORED."

We persevere. I've already looked up the times on my parish's website for Mass on Ash Wednesday, because now I feel all deprived and teary about it. Let's talk more about Ash Wednesday tomorrow, shall we? But how was your last Sunday in Ordinary Time (until June), dear reader?

Friday, February 13, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 69} Lent lists are so much more fun when you make one with a friend edition...


Oohhh, it's the last Friday of Ordinary Time before Lent. How did *that* happen? It's a humbling thing as you get older how quickly time goes. And not as in "wow, how is January already over?" but rather "2005. That wasn't 10 years ago, 1995 was, can't you do math?!" Yes, DECADES are like the blink of an eye, let alone liturgical seasons, so let's make them count, shall we?

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd like to do for Lent this year. I chronicle my plans here not to be sanctimonious, but quite the opposite. I make plans because I frequently get all ambitious, and then I fail. A LOT. So the list helps keep me accountable and get me back on track when I inevitably fall off the wagon. And I created this list with the fabulous Cristina, who has her own list over at Filling My Prayer Closet today. It's quite smashing, so go read it. ;-) OK, Lent 2015. What's happening?

-1- My overall philosophy for Lent. This may be the most boring subheading I've ever written :0

I was having a difficult time coming up with a plan for Lent this year. Then I had a phone conversation with Cristina, and she asked me what I thought of when I pondered Lent - giving something up, or something else? Boom! Starting point, right there. :) It's true, for the past several years I haven't given anything up for Lent. I've preferred to see it as a time set apart, a time to add things in, and generally focus on being more prayerful. I like that philosophy enough to continue it this year, so that's what I'm going to do. And the first thing on my list is...

-2- Marian Consecration

For the past two years, I've undertaken consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary via the 33 day reflection period originally put forth by St. Louis de Montfort. The first year that I did this, I used the book 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley, and that's what I'm going to use again this year:


I usually embark on this at the very beginning of the year, starting in early January and consecrating on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in mid-February, but with my little second honeymoon with Mike falling right at that time, I kind of forgot. ;-) So this year I decided to build it into Lent, and thus the prayers/reflections begin February 20th, with a consecration date of March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation. This is a beautiful undertaking, and I adore this book, so I've you've never done this before, consider joining in! The book is available for Amazon Prime shipping, and can be to you easily before the 20th. :)

-3- A daily rosary

I love praying the rosary, I really do. It's so soothing to me. I'll be honest: I don't always get through a full five mysteries. But I see it as a good thing even if I pray a mystery or two in the car each day. So, for Lent, I'm going to take that up a notch by really applying myself to start AND finish a rosary each day. I'm certain some days that won't happen, but I will do my best to apply myself and strive toward this goal.

-4- Magnificat Lenten Companion

These little books are always a joy each Advent and Lent:

http://www.amazon.com/2015-Magnificat-Lenten-Companion-ebook/dp/B00S8XPDYY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423847114&sr=8-1&keywords=magnificat+lenten+companion

I often get the print copies, but this year I forgot to order in time, so I downloaded the Kindle copy. For 99 cents, this is a steal. There are daily reflections, and this year, there are suggestions each day for small acts of charity or penance that you can try out. Excited. :)

-5- Sacrament of Reconciliation

I am *so bad* about availing myself of confession. I do go more than once per year, but seriously. I should do better. Lent is the perfect time to go, regardless of when I last went. So I will make it a priority to get there before Easter, and I downloaded the Confession app to make the Examination of Conscience easier. I used it last time I went to confession, and I really liked it. I do wish it kept track of when I last went to Confession, but I don't think it does that, at least the Android version. Anybody know if this is possible?

-6- Fasting

So, I'm not really a faster (sp?!) aside from the what the Church requests on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Since I have relatively little experience with this, I thought it would be nice to experiment a bit. I'm thinking that I will select a day every week or two to eat very lightly at lunch or dinner and not eat between meals at all. The point, of course, being to focus more on spiritual things rather than on food. We'll see how this goes.

-7- Friendship

And happily, I have my very own prayer partner to check in with and encourage me. :) I'm hoping that this is a fruitful Lent, leading up to a spectacular Easter. What are you doing for Lent this year? Let's help and encourage each other. Please detail in the comments!

OK everyone, I'm off! Work to finish, family to feed, and then dance rehearsal later. I will talk to you again on Monday, and in the meantime, don't forget to check out other 7 Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Read and Stitch: A mystery set in Amish country & a mystery shawl revealed!

Afternoon all, I'm reporting in from the sick bay. Poor Mike has what appears to be the flu, and there was no way he was going to be able to manage Anne today on his own (let alone teach), so I stayed home to nurture everybody. I felt terrible for him, but I couldn't help discreetly edging away from him in bed last night as he hacked and shivered pathetically. Germs, stay away! 

But I still wanted to check in with another Read and Stitch installment. These posts have been fun so far, and I'm hoping to keep them going every couple of months. This month I read Murder Tightly Knit, by Vanetta Chapman, and Cristina is reviewing the second book in the cross stitch series she started, Stitch Me Deadly by Amanda Lee.

Ok, so Murder Tightly Knit. This is Book 2 in the Amish Village Mystery series. I did not read the first book in the series, which is Murder Simply Brewed, but I do think the books stand alone. I chose this one because of the knitting title, but the connecting theme within the series is this Village of affiliated shops, set in Amish country Indiana. Hence, the first book featured the woman who manages the Village coffee shop, and this book features the yarn shop. Or, at least, that's what I *thought.* :) One of the characters in the story does indeed work in the yarn shop, but the main character is a non-Amish woman named Amber who manages the entire Village. We as the reader aren't in the yarn shop all that much. I was a little disappointed by that, but this is a sweet story nonetheless.

The action centers around the murder of a young man in the local Amish community, one who had left and recently come back to the fold. He's been in contact with Mary, the woman from the yarn shop, and she seems to be a conduit of sorts with members who have left the community. Mary seems jumpy and like she knows something, and the reader is given a glimpse that the killer is (or at least dresses like) an Amish man. Intriguing, yes?

The characters in this book are likeable. I mentioned Mary and Amber, and we have Amber's husband Tate, Hannah from the coffee shop, plus some co-workers in the Village who provide comic relief and other development of the story. I loved the setting and definitely am thinking about reading the other books in the series.

I will say that it felt like it took me a long time to get through the story. Sometimes that happens when a book, while I like it, doesn't fully grab me. So, there's that. But I liked this book and would consider others in the series. Vanetta Chapman writes a lot of Amish fiction. Has anybody read this or other of her books?

As for me and my knitting, my Mystery Knit-along Downton Abbey shawl is one clue away from being complete. So far we have, ta da!

Not the greatest picture, but this was in the late evening after struggling with that lace chart so I wasn't exactly feeling up to a big photoshoot. ;-) Speaking of the lace, let's just say that mine is a little...unique. I'm going with "customized," let's never speak of it again. :0 Suffice it to say that when 350 stitches worth of yarn overs and decreases are on your needles and you discover a mistake from the previous row...yeah, I'm not going back. Life is too short.

I also started that wool stash busting afghan that I mentioned, in fall/forest colors:

I like it! I discovered a mistake in the pattern, this did not make for a happy Catholic Librarian, even when she's drinking wine. But all is well now and I like how it's coming out. The brown will be consistent throughout, but the pairs of contrasting colors will all be different, albeit within the same colorway theme. Or so I tell myself. It doesn't matter, I'll be warm. :0

Any other crafters out there? What's on your needles, do tell?!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"You need a lot of air under the veil to keep it high, try not to smother anybody!" - latest dancing adventures...

Hi all! I'm a little tired this morning, but hanging in there. Before we get into the topic at hand, did you see Catholic All Year's post today about celebrating birthdays during Lent? It's a good one, and immediately caught my attention since this applies to me. Give it a read!

But this winter, dancing has *really* been instrumental in keeping my spirits up, and I thought I'd devote a post to it. Because it's fun, you know? We all need winter fun. :0

During the winter, we don't have as many performances, and so my troupe devotes the time to developing new choreographies. At this point, we don't necessarily eliminate old choreographies from our repertoire, so we have quite a few dances now in the Rolodex files that are our brains.  And with 10 members, many of them new, we often have to change around old numbers to accommodate the extra dancers. So we have new dances, old dances, and new/old dances. As you can imagine, that is a lot of choreography to keep tabs on. But I tell you what! I've read several articles stating that dancing is correlated with lower incidences of dementia. I think the reason is that choreography memorization is good for your brain cells, in addition to physical activity also being good for one's mental condition.

#bonus!

At any rate, our current projects are finishing the fairly new Shaabi number (not my favorite, but I do what I can, it's just...it's a sassier style of dance, and well. I'm not sassy. This is why I never excelled at Jazz :0), reworking the old tray and wings number to accommodate more people (think: large iridescent butterfly wings sweeping all round, we don't want those accidentally clearing a table of its hummus and drinky drinks) and a brand new veil number.

So the new veil number is...interesting. I do so love this aspect of Middle Eastern dance, the gal with the short attention span is never bored, I tell you. There is always something new to learn.

We started last week learning a beautiful arm sequence for the melodic beginning to the song. Lovely, yes? Suddenly, Claire interjects:

"Oh, Tiffany and Amy, you're going to be wrapped together in a big veil for this part. Did I forget to mention that?"

 She had. :0

So, Amy and I are supposed to wrap ourselves into this single giant piece of fabric for the arm sequence, sort of like two peas in a pod. When that finishes, we twirl out of opposite sides to then do this circle thing with the veil ("circle thing" is it's real, technical name ;)), and then lift it up for other dancers to pass underneath. I could tell Amy was worried:

"I'm kind of afraid I'll hurt somebody with this thing."

Yes, this particular veil is our very own Hot Pink Weapon of Potential Suffocation. It's a lot bigger and heavier than a traditional veil, which is made of 3 yards of silk or chiffon.

After everyone else makes their swirly entrance from underneath it, we have to discard this monstrosity without tripping anybody. Fraught with danger, I tell you. This is from the gal who once slipped and fell during a 4th grade production of The Wizard of Oz. I still need therapy over that one. ;-)

Once that adventure is behind us, we're joining in to a happily veil-free footwork sequence that we're going to learn on Friday. We'll see how this goes, but especially because this choreography is being designed for the outdoor festival we perform at each July, I'm thinking a high wind warning could mean not all of us make it out alive.

*snort*

I love dancing with those girls. So much. Never a dull moment, and the creative inspiration means the world to me. I'm toying with dancing a traditional Baladi piece at the next hafla, oohhhh! That will be a first for me. Excited. :)

Does anybody else have a favorite dance form? Do detail. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

St. Michael novena, upcoming Lent plans, and can't miss out on the Catholic fun!

Morning all! No new snow today, and I got out of the driveway without getting stuck, so this makes for a perkier Catholic Librarian. :)

I also received notification in my email that Pray More Novenas is starting a novena to St. Michael the Archangel today. His feast day isn't until September 29th, but petitions for healing and protection seem timely in the days leading up to Lent, no? Perfect! I created a blog page to remind us all of the novena, and you can access the Pray More Novenas page that way as well. The novena runs today through Ash Wednesday.

Speaking of Lent, I've been awaiting inspiration, and the fount of beatific visions just isn't coming to me right now, but no matter. I am a librarian, I am resourceful! I made a list *pushes glasses into place* and talked to Cristina. We have a plan, folks! An official plan. More about that in 7 Quick Takes this coming Friday. 7 Lenten things, oh yay!

In other exciting developments, I have official flight reservations to attend the Catholic New Media Conference on June 7th.

*balloon release!*

 I agonized over the available times, wanting to arrive early enough on Saturday so that I don't miss anything (without having to pay for another night of hotel by arriving Friday night) and then secure a not-too-late flight back home Monday. However, I don't relish the thought of getting up at some ungodly middle-of-the-night hour, so I didn't want it to be TOO early. I reluctantly chose a 7:30 am Saturday flight, which means I'll still have to get up pretty early, but it's not apocalyptic. Mike pointed out a 9:30 am flight:

"Well yes, that would make for a much more pleasant morning, but then I won't get in until 3:50 in the afternoon, and if there's a delay? Too late."

A layover is at play, ugh.

"I'd rather get in as close to noon as possible. There will be activities planned for the evening, and I don't want to miss those. I can't risk missing ANYTHING FUN."

I take my fun very seriously when I am with people whose company I covet and enjoy.

*Mike arches an amused eyebrow*

"Ah. We can't have you missing anything fun, especially when it's Catholic fun."

"That's right."

*approving nod*

Glad he saw the reason behind my stance. ;-)

So I'm all booked for that trip! I get in just after 1 pm, so if you're going, let's start planning the fun now. :0

Monday, February 9, 2015

Of hazardous snow & unfortunate haircuts, on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time...

*cue dramatic violin music*

Your Catholic Librarian is VERY SNOWY over here in WNY these days, and while I generally enjoy the winter, things are fairly unpleasant right now in terms of driving. Me no like. My car is constantly getting stuck and I'm getting rather exhausted of the whole thing. But let's not dwell! If there is anything that is for certain, it is that spring will come and the snow will melt. Eventually.

*squints*

In the meantime, we've been keeping busy with indoor activities. Unfortunately, this meant that Anne busied herself when my mother-in-law's back was turned on Friday and cut her own bangs. She has a bit of a Buster Brown situation going on now:

At least she looks contrite...
But we fixed it as best we could, sigh. We had a long talk about scissors generally, but also about scissors and hair, and she has vowed never to cut her own hair again so that it can grow out very long like Elsa's.

Speaking of Elsa, I'm blaming her for the gigantic piles of snow in the church parking lot on Sunday, rendering it an *entity*. It's already a small lot, and the number of available spaces was nearly cut in half. And then people invented spaces, which made it difficult to even navigate through the "aisles," so the kids and I circled onto the street where...the situation was also somewhat dire. :0 We had to park quite a ways up the street, and then tromp over to the church. Whereupon, immediately upon entering, Anne slipped and fell on melted snow, poor babe. This winter is taking it's toll on all of us. :-\

The instant we walked in and saw how crowded it was, I had a flashback to last week's bulletin which noted that our parish was celebrating Scout Sunday this week. I think many parishes observed that last Sunday, so I had forgotten about it, and the extra people explained the catastrophic parking situation. Our favorite usher helped us find seats, and Anne trembled with excitement about going up for Children's Liturgy of the Word. She's really gotten into that, it's very cute.

As Henry and I listened to the homily, I remembered that our pastor's time at our parish is coming to an end. :-\ This is not a very uplifting post, is it?! I'm so sorry! :0 I do have fun knitting disasters and dance foibles to report on later in the week (think: me twirling out of, and then wielding in a parachute-like fashion, a gigantic piece of hot pink fabric, sort of like a veil on steroids. Bet you can't wait :0) so do come back for those hijinks! But yes, our pastor, so sad! He's been there for nearly a decade, and is ready to move on to a new situation, so the diocese assigned him to a parish about 20 minutes away. And we don't actually know what will happen to us. There has been no announcement about a new pastor. We do have a deacon, but no other clergy. I'm not certain who will be saying Mass starting a few weeks hence, which is disconcerting, to be sure.

So that was our Sunday. A bit out of sorts, but Lent is coming, we will refocus. :) I also did a LOT of knitting this weekend, and will report in on my Downton Abbey mystery shawl progress during the Read and Stitch post I'm hoping to have out on Thursday! How was your weekend, dear reader? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 68} Brightening up our winter with happy thoughts, books and crafts! edition...


As I was trying to think of ideas for this post, I made a list (go ahead, make fun ;-)) of things running through my head this morning, and tried to come up with a "theme." I had a few topics I knew I wanted to talk about, but no idea what they had in common.  So here's what I came up with! Because we could all use a few bright spots in winter, yes?

-1- Thinking positive thoughts, since it's still looking apocalyptic out there

We awoke this morning to more snow. I don't mind snow, I really don't. But there has been zero instances of the temperature rising above freezing, hence no meltage of aforementioned snow, and we're running out of space to put it.

View out my office window
My poor, ancient little car was doing it's best imitation of The Little Engine that Could this morning on my commute in. It's dicey out there, for sure. But spring is coming! In a...little while, let's stay positive! With Lent comes good fish fry, and February is a short month, so then there's March and St. Patrick's day revelry and St. Joseph tables... See?!

-2- Yay for blog comments, because I think I have finally stopped Blogger from eating things!

OK, *so.* I have known for a bit that Blogger occasionally gets hungry and consumes comments. I kept thinking to myself:

"I need to look into this and see if there is anything I can do."

But then I would forget. #gettingold

So finally, after hearing from more than one person that they left a comment I never ended up seeing, I remembered to do a little research, and unsurprisingly found information from other people who were experiencing the same problem. They had a suggestion for changing the comment settings, which I did, and this week I have had a record number of comments.

!

I AM HORRIFIED. If you have left me comments in the past that you never saw, I promise I was NOT moderating them out and snubbing you! I publish everything except spam. And abusive or inappropriate comments, though that has never happened. I think Blogger has been messing with all of our minds for YEARS now. Good heavens. So I am happy that I seem to have this under control and that I am hearing from all of you more. *thrilled!*

-3- Crafty, cozy fiction

Moving on to book news, lots going on there. I've been busily reading a book that will be part of the Read and Stitch series as soon as I finish, and to give you a sneak peek, that is Murder Tightly Knit (An Amish Village Mystery), by Vanetta Chapman:


Knitting, the Amish, a small town? These are all desirable characteristics in a book for me! Very excited to discuss this one, which should hopefully be next week!

-4- Upcoming book club selections have been updated!

I updated the Catholic Book Club reading list to reflect what I'll be tackling for the next four months, so join in if you see something you like. For this month, we have book 2 in the exciting I Am Margaret series by Corinna Turner, which is The Three Most Wanted:


If you haven't read the first book in this series, you might want to start there. You will get through it quickly, trust me, because you won't want to put it down! Both are $3.88 right now for Kindle, a BARGAIN.

In March, we move back to non-fiction for Lent, and will read Trusting God with St. Therese, by Connie Rossini:


This looks to be the more personal style of non-fiction that I really enjoy, and I'm looking forward to reading this. Only $4.99 right now for Kindle. Then coming up in April and May I chose two mystery titles, because it will be spring and I just love those. :0 A Sister Joan mystery, and another Birdie Elliott mystery (remember her, the vicar's wife?) this one centered around the feast of the Ascension, I couldn't resist the timing on that one. I'll talk about those more as the dates draw near. :)

-5- Spring rosary design, because who doesn't need an arsenal of rosaries based on the seasons?

My best rosary gal pal Allison has her shop in vacation mode right now because she recently delivered a beautiful new baby girl, and so in the mean time I've been busily planning rosary gift and chaplet ideas for when she opens back up. :0 Right now, I'm thinking spring, and so maybe a cherry blossom hued St. Therese rosary and chaplet for a friend? Oh, the fabulous possibilities are endless. But I do, truly have a list of gift ideas on my desk, and when I need a pick-me-up, I pull it out and make more notes. I am a nerd.

-6- Stashbusting afghan, thinking warm thoughts...

I am a big fan of crocheted afghans, it is true, but all of the blankets I have are made out of acrylic. It's the budget, acrylic is far less expensive than wool. But as I went through my stash the other day *halo* I realized that I have a bunch of skeins of wool left over from various projects, or for projects that I lost interest in making. I had a bunch of brown, a skein of pumpkin, some green and yellow... Then I remembered the Forest Path afghan from Knit Picks, which I've been admiring for weeks now:


I purchased the pattern and just a few skeins of wool to supplement what was in my stash, but I already had over half of what I would need to make the afghan in my custom stashbusting colorway. :) Because the blanket is crocheted in a schema of different pairs of colors surrounded by your main color, you could use up tons of single skeins that are lying about in your stash. Your finished blanket will end up having a lot more colors in it than the original design, but that matters not so long as there is an overall palette that fits together pleasingly. The extra wool is on it's way and I'm very excited!

-7- Is there *anything* in our house anymore that doesn't have an affiliation with Frozen?

A package from Amazon arrived at our house yesterday evening containing the small gifts I had chosen for the kids for Valentine's Day. One of which is this set of wooden puzzles for Anne:
I had gotten her a few Frozen puzzles for Christmas, and she does use them, but they're made of traditional cardboard, and the pieces are smaller and harder for her to manipulate and keep together. These wood pieces are perfect for 3 year olds. And I love that you can store the puzzles in the wood container. Score. Happy winter activities for us all!

How have you been doing, dear reader? Leave a comment, now that you reliably can. :0 And check out more 7 Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Of really bad evenings and needed Lenten plans, come cheer me up!

I'm going to be honest - I woke up in kind of a surly mood. :0 I have St. Agatha right here with us because it's her feast day and I need a pick-me-up. Hi St. Agatha, pray for us please!

Ok, so my porky mood. Que pasa? I didn't have the best of evenings yesterday. It was just one of those times when nothing seemed to go right (aside from my potato soup in the crock pot, that stuff is *fantastic*) and the kids were bent on irritating each other, and Mike had play practice, so I was refereeing the two ruffians by myself. And then Anne didn't want to go to bed. AGAIN. And then once I got her in bed and started working on my Downton Abbey shawl I did something wrong and suddenly my 321 stitch shawl was 322 stitches. Lesson to all of us: when you are tired and cranky and your small child is howling upstairs because she doesn't want to sleep, that is the WRONG time to try and tackle a lace chart. You're welcome. ;-)

AND THEN my son comes to me and admits that, for no discernible reason, when taking his before-bedtime asthma medication, he took three times the recommended dose rather than the single chewable he has taken every night for years and years. Well, this may have been right around the time of the lace chart mishap, for understandable reasons, now that I think about it. But at any rate,  I feel myself pale and fire off a litany of questions to him, which makes him get this confused look on his face, like "what's the big deal?"

OH.SIGH.

Mike got home right around the time Henry was in tears as I made the necessary phone calls. He's fine, we just had to keep an eye on him, and needless to say we had a stern talk with him about prescription medication. Not a good evening.

So I woke up with all of that still weighing on me, you know? Henry was still fine this morning, all is OK there. But I just felt... blah. And my throat has been feeling "off" since yesterday afternoon, I'm worried that some nefarious illness is lurking there waiting to strike. Plus, it's February 5th, which this year means that Lent begins in...

13 days.

!

I have barely thought about Lent. I have no plan formulated or goals set or anything like that. I've been enjoying my Ordinary Time, it is true, but I do have to begin thinking of ideas since Ash Wednesday will be here before we know it. What are you all doing for Lent this year? If you have ideas, please do let me know. I love getting comments, it always makes my day, and I could use some cheer right now, yes? :)

I'm off to order some yarn to make myself feel better...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Spring semester teaching begins, and adventures in voluminous snowfall...

Apparently some brave soul did attempt to walk that way...
It's another wintry morning here in Western New York, and my commute in was a bit on the harrowing side. :-\ Never a people to shy away from a snowfall challenge, even hardy Western New Yorkers and our hulking snow removal equipment can't keep up with clearing our drives and roadways right now. The plowed snow piles are so large surrounding the ends of driveways that it's hard to see around them to make turns. Not pleasant. And I believe we're getting more this weekend, so...

*eyebrow scrunch*

But let's chronicle starting with yesterday, since I had my first class of the spring semester. Getting up in front of a room full of people and talking about...anything, really, just does not come naturally to me, it's definitely the most challenging part of my job as a librarian. I always aim to do a good job, but it makes me seriously anxious. So yesterday afternoon I trekked across campus (thank God for the indoor walkways here negating the need to go outside) with my jump drive in hand to teach an American Pluralism class about how to find articles and online encyclopedia entries using an exact citation. Thus, it was just a short presentation I was going to be giving at the beginning of an hour and a half lecture course. 230 students, gulp. I found the room, one I'd never been to before. The instructor wasn't there yet, so I asked a student just to make sure I was in the right spot, and made him nearly jump out of his skin. Am I that scary? ;-)

At any rate, the instructor arrived, we chatted, and I opened up the web page I needed and the help document that I had created for them. I'm a big fan of organized lists, to the surprise of absolutely NO ONE.  So I did my thing as concisely and clearly as possible *gold star!* and was done well within 15 minutes. Brevity is a virtue when it comes to college students. I finished on a high note, and nearly left the room with the wireless microphone still attached to me, nobody's perfect. :0 But I got back to my office feeling relieved that the first class of the semester is behind me, it always gets easier after that.

Shortly thereafter, I left for the day, bound for the small grocery store near our house to fetch a few supplies for dinner that we didn't already have. We were making Stromboli, and so I needed dough and pepperoni. This small grocery store has a notoriously tiny parking lot, even in the best of conditions, so I was already dreading what was to come before I even got there. In the winter, their lot gets even worse because several spaces are taken up by plowed snow. Sure enough, as I went to turn into the drive, the giant snow piles were obscuring my view of a car coming out, which made for a dicey entrance. As I was maneuvering this little transaction, I could see an empty parking spot. My heart lightened. Suddenly, another car zooms over and parks in it.

*long suffering sigh*

No worries, I told myself. I see another spot...

Oh, nope. There was a small car hiding in it. I pass slowly through the rest of the small space with hope alive, all to no avail. I glance in my rear view mirror and see that several other cars have entered the lot and are driving around with solemn expressions on their faces, so I make the decision not to re-enter (why create a near occasion of sin? ;-)) and head to the nearby side street to park.

As I turn the corner, I can see the spot that I want, right behind another car, still close to the store. Wait, what is that SUV doing?! Yep, turning around in the nearby driveway TO PARK IN MY SPOT.

By this point, I was feeling *really* put out and nostril flarey. I had to wait while the car PARKED IN MY SPOT and then because of the driveway and a fire hydrant, park even further down the street. I get out of my car and see that the sidewalk is pretty much inaccessible because the snow lining the street is VERY TALL. Fine, I walk in the street, but then have to scale a snow MOUNTAIN at the corner in order to access the walk leading to the store.

 As I summited my own personal snowdrift, I could see the inevitable: there were suddenly no less than 3 or 4 empty parking spots. That's right, I have the power to make full parking lots empty out by the sheer volume of effort I have to put into parking someplace *far* less convenient.

Ugh.

I hurry into the store, fetch my stuff, and hurry out, rescaling everything and glaring at the *still* empty parking spots, compelling me to utter something under my breath that I will not repeat here.  :0 The drive home was slippery and sloppy in the slush that the plows just aren't able to keep up with, and this morning was no exception. Mike has been executing an Herculean effort to keep the driveway as clear as possible, but there is still always snow in it. Heavy snow, which keeps grabbing our car tires and making us get stuck, which happened to me again as I tried to exit on my way to work.

Yucky.

This is February in my part of the world. :) How are you doing, dear reader?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Can you hear the angels singing, heralding my snowman stocking? And throat blessings!

Happy feast of St. Blaise everyone! I was delighted this morning as I listened to the latest episode of The Break with Fr. Roderick on my commute in, that during his Catholic Stuff segment he talked about St. Blaise and the tradition of the blessing of throats. Perfect timing!

Henry said that the priest at his school comes to each classroom to bless the children's throats on the feast of St. Blaise, so he was getting his blessing today. So cute! As I mentioned yesterday, the rest of us will get the blessing this coming Sunday at our parish. I wish I could have gone to daily Mass this morning for it, but sigh. Just not possible right now with our schedules.

But in other news, the feast of St. Blaise heralds a very exciting development in my knitting life. Wait for it, wait for it...

*trumpets blare!*

Frosty, my very first Intarsia project, is DONE:

Well, just about done. He still needs to be seamed, as evidenced by the loose yarn at the toe, but otherwise, he is done. Oh, and I do have to add a loop at the top for hanging, but never mind that. The hard part is over, and I feel all thrilled. YAY. I aim to deliver him to his new owner next week. I don't know how to embroider, that's why the white strip at the top is blank. The recipient's mom is going to embroider her son's name on there. There *is* a Rudolph version of this pattern as well that is super cute, maybe I should...

NO. I shouldn't. :)

All right, this is a shorter post today because I'm all behind due to my snow day yesterday. Did I mention that. We got a LOT of snow here yesterday. :) The school was technically open, but I was happy to use a vacation day. It was pretty bad out there for the morning commute, and it was no problem to log on from home to fulfill my Monday morning hour of chat reference. I also have a class to teach this afternoon, my first of the spring semester.

*sweats*

I'll be fine, but anxiety, here I come! How are you all doing, dear readers? Leave a comment to share. :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Adventures in intarsia knitting and Lent is coming! - The 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time...

Good morning all, and I hope that you are recovered from your Super Bowl festivities. ;-) We had a good time, inviting a few friends over. One of whom Anne has a crush on. :0 When your 3 year old is making valentines and wearing a dress in an attempt to capture the attention of a grown man, oh my. I'm not looking forward to her teenage years.

But yesterday was a fun day for other reasons too. The kids and I were at our usual 10 am Mass for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, one of the final few Sundays prior to the beginning of Lent. I'm still at 6's and 7's about a Lenten plan for this year. I'm sure I'll come up with one, and I will post it here, but so far I'm not feeling ready. I still want to enjoy Ordinary Time for now.

Our parish still has our poinsettia display on the altar, albeit along with the green banners symbolizing Ordinary Time. But Candlemas isn't until today, so everything still fits. :)  I was hoping for the St. Blaise blessing of throats, because this seemed to be the closest Sunday to his feast day of February 3rd, but the bulletin announced that we would be doing that *next* Sunday, so the preference must be for the Sunday following the feast. Our parish also always offers blessed candles for sale following Candlemas, so those will be out next weekend too. A bonanza of fun rituals and sacramentals for the Catholic nerd.

Mass was lovely, the music was particularly good this week. Anne is LOVING Children's Liturgy of the Word, she's asking every day about it. Yesterday, however, she was tired, and that's never a perfect situation. When Father called the kids up to go back into the sacristy, Anne straightened herself up with excitement, but then paused:

"What's wrong, Honey?"

"Where's my duckie?!"

She has this baby chick that I crocheted her for Easter last year, and suddenly he's her best pal.

"Oh. I think we left him in the bathroom, Honey."

Because, of course, our butts can't hit the pew upon arrival before she's asking to go to the bathroom. And duckie had made the trek with us.

"DUCKIE!!"

One would have thought he was trapped in a burning building.

"Don't worry Honey, I'll get him and bring him back to you, ok?"

*dubious expression*

"OK."

After she left the pew, I spotted the duck hiding underneath her coat. I grabbed him quickly, and made my way discreetly along the edges of the church, planning to bring him to her via a side door once she was back in the sacristy. But you know, Anne is 3. Discretion isn't in her vocabulary just yet.

Suddenly, from behind, I feel someone yank the duck out of my hand. It's Anne, and she looks furious.

"I'LL TAKE HIM MOMMY."

The look she gave me conferred the fact that she thought I was duck-napping this thing and was the worst human being on the face of the planet. Before I can stop her, she then proceeds to RUN across the altar to catch up with the class.

Oy.

Back at home, with Anne safely down for what I'd hoped would be a 3 hour nap :0 I was busy at work on this snowman stocking that I've been procrastinating over for months. This is actually a commissioned project, which I rarely do, but it's for a friend of a friend, and came with a heartbreaking story about a grandmother who knit all her grandchildren matching snowman stockings but whose arthritis no longer permits her to knit. So now, this friend has a new baby with no stocking. I mean...I couldn't turn that one down.

She said that she has other friends who knit, but they all said this pattern was too difficult to replicate, which should have been a clue, no, that maybe I was getting in over my head? The snowman is knit onto the fabric via a technique called Intarsia. This is when you are knitting a picture in the middle of a solid color. I have done Fair Isle knitting, which is when you are stranding the colors along as you knit. Intarsia is different. Because the colors are so localized inside the design, you need to have each color segment of yarn sectioned out and hanging there for every pass through the picture. Thus, even if you're using red in three different places within the picture, each of those instances requires a different segment of red yarn, you're not just carrying a strand of red along with you. What this means is that you have a gigantic mess on the wrong side of the fabric, with bobbins of yarn and yarn ends dangling about with abandon.

I finally told myself that Frosty had to get made, and since the weather was too snowy for a walk yesterday, I buckled down. Frosty looks pretty innocent, doesn't he?

But this is what it required to make Frosty:

And this is AFTER I wove in about a hundred thousand ends because I just couldn't take it anymore. AND I'd cut off the black and white bobbins since I was done with them. I mean...I was beside myself on every row untangling active bobbins from other ends and strands coming from God knows where:

"All right, I need the red."

Yes, I was talking to myself.

"Here's a red! No, that's the wrong red, I need the mouth red, not the end segment red.  Wait, what the...*&%$#! Where did that green come from?! And a black strand, I thought I wove those all in! Stop it, stop it, NOW THERE'S A KNOT!!"

Needless to say, I found Intarsia to be pretty stressful. #TypeA However, I'm really glad that I know how to do it now, and it is a cool looking result. Once I got through the color chart *angels sing!* I'm now grooving right along. The heel is done (it's white) and I'm finishing up the gusset. Just the foot and a white toe and we're done! Oh right, then I have to seam it.

*long suffering sigh*

But THEN I'll be done. And Frosty will go on to his new home.

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