Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Church Triumphant: Spotlight on St. Gianna Beretta Molla & St. Louis de Montfort

Happy Thursday all! Today is another installment in The Church Triumphant saint series that Cristina and I conspire on, but this month will be a little different. Both saints will be right here on my blog, one penned by each of us. Exciting yes? I have a co-author! And what do we have in store for April?

Well. :) Today is April 30th, and just a few days ago, the 28th, we celebrated the memorial of a favorite of mine, St. Gianna Beretta Molla! Let's talk about her a little bit, shall we? And then I'll tell you why she's so special to me.

St. Gianna is a contemporary saint, she lived from 1922 to 1962. My parents were alive for the last ten-ish years of her life. She was born into a large and devout Italian family, the tenth of thirteen children. Several of her siblings joined the religious life, and Gianna considered that as well, but ultimately decided to pursue medicine as a career, and later married Pietro Molla. She specialized in pediatrics, and was involved in faith-based social groups such as Catholic Action. Her faith was an important part of her life that she brought into her work as a physician, and then as a mother. She and Pietro had three children, when in 1961, she conceived their fourth child. Early on in her pregnancy, she was advised by her doctor that she had a fibrous cyst on her uterus. Eschewing the advice to have an abortion (which would make removal of the cyst less risky) or a hysterectomy, Gianna chose to have the cyst removed and to carry her daughter to term. Following the delivery via cesarean section, Gianna soon developed septic peritonitis and died. This daughter, Gianna Emanuela, also went on to become a physician, inspired by her mother's example. In May 2004, when Gianna was canonized by Pope John Paul II, her husband and two of her daughters were at the ceremony, marking the first time that a husband was present for the canonization of his wife. There is a book memorializing letters between husband and wife, called The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. How sweet is that?! (and only $6.99 for Kindle!)

St. Gianna's story touched me as a young woman for several reasons (in fact, my Dominican religious name is Maria Gianna!) She was a lay woman, and let's face it, the majority of saints were religious. I can relate to her very much as a lay Catholic woman working outside of the home, and as a wife and mother. And even before I myself was married and had children, I was so inspired by her example of putting the life of her unborn child ahead of her own. Originally I was under the impression that the mass on her uterus was cancerous, but it was not. However, her being pregnant certainly complicated the situation with removing it, particularly given the medical technology of that time. For her, there was only one option, and that was to ensure that her baby survived. All of her actions were ordered toward this goal. I really admire St. Gianna, and with her countenance so relatable to me, I feel like she's a friend of mine, interceding for me and rooting for me up in heaven. *heart*

Speaking of feast days, guess whose feast is also April 28th? Take it away, Cristina!
 ________________________________________


St. Louis de Montfort is very near to my heart for a couple of reasons. I have made consecration to Jesus through Mary with Tiffany the last couple of years. We have a great devotion to our Blessed Mother, and although Tiffany and I focus on the prayers and daily readings from 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, we essentially walk with St. Louis Mary de Montfort as we go about this journey, deepening our faith every year and love for the Blessed Mother.

Tiffany and I also share a great love and affinity for Dominican Spirituality and St. Louis de Montfort was a Third Order Dominican!

St. Louis de Montfort’s feast day is April 28th and he was a great influencer of Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XII and one of Tiffany’s favorite’s, Pope Saint John Paul II.

According to Pope Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, his personal  motto "Totus Tuus" was inspired by St. Louis' doctrine on the excellence of Marian devotion and total consecration, which he quoted:

Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ.

Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ.

A French-Roman Catholic priest, confessor, and Third Order Dominican, in 1700 he asked permission not only to preach the rosary, but to also form rosary confraternities.

St. Louis also founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom who care for the sick.

He wrote many books around his devotion to Mary besides he is most well known for True Devotion to Mary with Preparation for Total Consecration and The Secret of the Rosary. I recently purchased the latter, and was moved by this part with regards to the Confraternity and praying the rosary:

And my dear Catholic people, even if you fail to say your rosary out of sheer carelessness or laziness, as long as you do not have any formal contempt for it, you do not sin absolutely speaking…

For more information about St. Louis de Montfort, head to Catholic Culture. Click here for more information about the Rosary Confraternity and how to enroll.
_______________________________________________

Two fantastic feast days on April 28th, no? Does anyone else have a devotion to St. Gianna Beretta Molla or St. Louis de Montfort? Do let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Catholic Book Club: Vow of Evil (A Sister Joan Mystery)

Happy Catholic Book Club Wednesday everyone! This month I read Vow of Evil by Veronica Black, which is appropriate given the day I had yesterday. And relatedly, the reason why I didn't get to blog yesterday. Read: Evil Reference Shift From Hell After Which I Wanted To Go Home And Cry. Let's just say it involved:

(a) A mean lady,
(b) Some guy talking to himself (who apparently had been disruptive earlier and was threatened with expulsion),
(c) A loud and tension-filled conversation in the middle of the library between another guy and his bank, and
(d) an Arabic/English source reference question that took me an hour to answer.  Good times!

It's one of the dangers of being a librarian. :-\ Evil afoot in the library...*doomy music plays* Instead, I just went home and drank a lot of wine. And I ate tacos. Win!

But at any rate, back to Sister Joan. This is a fantastic series by British author Veronica Black (pseudonym for Maureen Peters), who unfortunately passed away in 2008. Thus, the series comes to a conclusion with Vow of Evil. I read all of the other Sister Joan books one summer a number of years ago, procuring print copies from Amazon long before I had my Kindle. I was addicted, quickly moving from one story to the next. Sister Joan, when the series begins, is 35 years old, a "late vocation" to a fictional, semi-enclosed order called the Daughters of Compassion. She's a feisty little number, and as these things go, gets caught up in a number of local murder cases and helps the police out with solving them. Her personality and interactions with the other sisters is lively, humorous and refreshing, and I found the books a delight to read. Vow of Evil was written in 2004, and back when I was reading the series, this title was not available in print from the American Amazon store. I remember feeling chagrined that I couldn't get my hot little hands on it.

Now, all these years later, I happened upon in on Amazon available for Kindle. Shazam! Downloaded. And this book takes place about 7 years after the last installment in the series ended, so all of the sisters have aged slightly, and Sister Joan has kept out of happening upon dead bodies for a spell. ;-) The short description from Amazon:
It's been some time since Sister Joan of the Order of Daughters of Compassion has had to solve a murder, but there are indications that will soon change. Outbreaks of vandalism in the village coincide with the sighting of a devil in the churchyard and strange candles left burning in the postulancy, now rented out to the Lurgan family.
The Order of the Daughters of Compassion hasn't had any Postulants for a few years, and no new ones are incoming for the next year. The sisters sadly decide to rent out their separate Postulancy building to raise a little money. Meanwhile, Sister Joan notices some strange happenings while she cleans out the structure. She comes across offensive graffiti and defaced library books and wonders who has been sneaking into the old Postulancy? As well, her dog goes missing and is found some distance away, purposely tied up and left there. Once the new tenants arrive, things take an even stranger turn, and the members of the tenant family don't exactly endear themselves to Sister Joan. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the village, an older woman is saying that she has glimpsed a demonic-looking creature in the cemetery. When someone turns up dead, Sister Joan immediately suspects foul play, and that all of the strange occurrences of late are related.

So, my review. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I loved the series as a whole, and I highly recommend it for wholesome, Catholic mysteries. This book did have a few instances of foul language, an FYI if that bothers you. I will grant that it's been about 10 years since I read the other books, but it seems to me that this particular book was a bit different from the others. It felt a little darker, and like our Sister Joan had grown a bit cranky in her 40's. It also got a little slow for me towards the middle. That didn't mar my enjoyment of the book, but I did notice it.

I'm really glad that I got to read this book, since this is the last we'll see of dear Sister Joan. I plan to go back and re-read the other books, since I have lovingly held on to my print copies. Many of them are available for Kindle now, though not all. The ones that aren't are available for Kindle are available via the Amazon Marketplace in print for a penny plus $3.99 shipping. WELL worth it, that's how I acquired my own collection. This site has a very nice rundown of the series, with an overview of the background plus a description of each book, if you'd like to gauge your own interest in the other titles.

Have you read any of the books in the Sister Joan series? Do comment! Tomorrow, I have a saint post planned, oohhhhh! So do come back to join me. :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mother and son bowling, and electric candles?! on the 4th Sunday of Easter...

Happy Monday everyone! I'm feeling a bit sleepy, but otherwise quite well. It's rather overcast here today in Western New York, but there's a definitely spring feeling in the air. We'll take it!

As we continue to celebrate Easter, yesterday was no exception to my feelings of happy joy. :) The kids and I made our usual pilgrimage to the 10 am Mass at our parish, and though the Easter flowers dwindle, the spirit pervades! I was amused to note a short message from our pastor in the bulletin. He's doing his best to not step on any toes given how new he is, that dear Fr. Joe, but decisions need to be made, and money is in short supply, so sometimes tough calls have to be issued. Exhibit A: candles.

:0

Change does not come easily in our parish, and people are attached to their devotional candles. You know, the ones you light on a stand near the front or back of the sanctuary, for a special intention, and then you drop a couple of bucks in the donation slot? They are very popular in our parish, and a year ago or so, the price noted for each size of candle increased a bit. Our former pastor put a note in the bulletin saying that the cost associated with the candles is purely their supply cost, the parish does not make any money from them, but the cost had gone up, so obviously those choosing to purchase a candle needed to know this and start making up the difference. That went fine and without much fanfare, it's simple inflation.

Well, apparently the candle costs have gone up *again* and Fr. Joe has decided to make an alternative suggestion. He doesn't want to charge more for the candles, but yet the parish doesn't have the money to make up the difference. He is proposing that we move to, wait for it...electric candles. "They flicker and look very similar to traditional candles!" Precious Fr. Joe. I have no problem with this, but I can just see the Ladies Sodality mobilizing en masse to protect the integrity of traditional candles. We'll have to see how this turns out. ;-)

After Mass, Henry and I were slated to attend a mother/son bowling event sponsored by the parent association at his school. Henry was very excited about this, and I was very excited to spend some solo time with Henry, but if I'm being honest, I wasn't exactly looking forward to the actual bowling in public thing. I haven't bowled since, let's see...the 80's.

*audible gasp from the gallery*

Being a decent bowler at age 13, but then not bowling since then, doesn't really lend itself to a retained skill set, I am here to tell you. But I didn't want to dampen Henry's enthusiasm, so I did my best. As long as I don't humiliate myself in public I'm good.

That sounds like an ominous way to end off that paragraph, but everything went fine. :) Before we got started, I pulled out my camera and attempted to take a selfie of the two of us:

Yeah, that didn't go so well. :0 Henry was a bit scandalized by the thought of taking a real, live photograph IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE.

"I am humoring my mother, that is all that I am doing."
Henry, the dear, dear, child, has been saddled with my personality. This means that he is shy, introverted and somewhat socially awkward. Don't you wish you had these genes, dear reader?! He is such a sweet boy, but he would never say a word if he didn't have to. While we were waiting for our lane-mates to arrive, we sat side-by-side, totally silent, and happy as clams. Introverts don't need to physically communicate with each other to be soothed by the others' presence, you see. It's part of our behavioral ritual. Our complex and rich non-social infrastructure could be studied for publication in a peer reviewed journal.

;-)

When the others arrived, we did our best to greet them and got started. Henry beat me in both games. :0 Yikes, those bowling skills really don't carry over across decades, do they? I needed to use the special lighter ball because I apparently lack any sort of lower arm throwing strength needed for bowling. But I didn't fall or accidentally throw myself halfway down the lane, or anything like that, so life is grand. I'm not going to reveal my score here, for the sake of protecting at least an ounce of my dignity, but I did manage to pick up two spares, and let it be known that I did NOT have the lowest score on our lane. The fact that the lowest scorer appeared to be about 5 years old did nothing to diminish my joy of victory over this fact.

We had pizza and soda and tons of cookies and a great time was had by all. How was your weekend, dear reader?

Friday, April 24, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 77} Spring reading and yarn, 1st Communion rosaries, and dancing with giant veils, edition!


Well, the sun is shining here in Western New York, so that seems springy, right?  The snow that fell yesterday would dispute this fact, but we're ignoring that little detail. What's going on with me this spring week, you ask? Do read on. :)

-1- April book club coming on Wednesday!

Next Wednesday April 29th marks our next edition of the Catholic Book Club, and this month I'm reading Vow of Evil, by Veronica Black, the last in the Sister Joan Mysteries:


I read the other books in this series some years ago, but was unable to procure a copy of this one as it wasn't available via Amazon's U.S. store at that time. Now, happily, it is available for Kindle, so if you'd like to read it, it's downloadable for under $9. And despite the fact that this is a series, the books stand alone, so don't be scared off from reading this by the fact that you haven't dipped into the earlier titles. These are LOVELY books featuring a crime-solving British nun, I mean, did you ever?

-2- And we also have a crime-solving vicar's wife!

I just can't resist such things. I've read previous books in this series, the Berdie Elliott Mysteries (here and here), and for May I have the Catholic Book Club slated to read Into the Clouds: A Berdie Elliott Ascension Mystery, by Marilyn Leach:


I am so tickled that the story is set around the feast of the Ascension, and I picked it for May for just this reason. I have really enjoyed the other books in this series and am excited to get started on this one. The book is just $3.99 to download for Kindle, if you'd like to join in!

-3- Can you even believe this gorgeousness?

A friend of mine (also named Anne, love!) is a talented spinner and dyer of yarn, and she recently hand painted the following bulky weight yarn that I nearly got apoplectic over:


I mean, I LOVE IT. The colors just scream "SPRING!" to me, and if we're not screaming it, I'm afraid the sun may not get the hint and go hide for another 6 months, so we *must* do our part! I immediately messaged her to buy the skeins, and plan a spring cowl from it, plus matching mittens for next fall.

*squeals*

-4- First Communion gifty goodness!

My cousin invited me to her twins' First Communion party, and unfortunately I can't attend. But never fear, perfect gifts are on their way! I live for this stuff. Allison's shop is freshly restocked with lovely rosaries ready to ship, and I thought I'd share the pocket rosaries that I ordered for the twins (a boy and a girl :)). We have Pope Francis in citrine:

...and St. Therese in pink:


Perfect little gifts, yes? I can't wait to send them along.

-5- Summer dance dress is enroute!

My troupe ordered Baladi dresses for our summer festival season, and since they are custom made, there was a small delay in shipment. Finally, they are on their way to us, and I'm terribly excited. Mine is a halter style with a full flared skirt, because we want things to be as twirly as possible, right?! Nothing better than a new dance costume. Except new yarn. Or a new book. But I digress!

-6- And speaking of summer dancing...

Our spring hafla (in studio show for friends and family) is next Saturday, and we're in high rehearsal mode. Excitingly, for the first time, Mike and both kids are coming! Mike has come before, many times, and Henry has seen me dance a few times, but Anne hasn't. I'm very excited! Given that Anne gets down to the Gloria during Mass, I'm thinking she's going to be out of her seat and joining in the dancing fun at a hafla. :0

-7- "Oh, I think somehow a little water got onto our veil?" "No that's sweat, sorry!"

Soooooo, I've been alluding to this dramatic new choreography we have in which my part in the beginning involves me wrapping up into this giant piece of fabric with my troupemate Amy at the other end, and then we twirl out to do this carousel-like spinning sequence with it. Eventually, we fluff it up airbourne so that other dancers can enter from beneath it. It sounds really cool, but let me tell you, this whole thing has got me really stressed out. :0 Lots of room for error here, and I *really* don't want to get stuck in this thing, and/or trip over it, and/or somehow become engulfed in a wave of hot pink fabric and subsequently fall off the stage. Hence, every time we wrap up in the veil to get started, I'm perspiring. As demurely as possible, I assure you, and this would be the TMI portion of our post today, sorry, should have warned you! But at any rate, poor Amy has now learned of this reality, and so as we wrap up, we both try to think non-sweating thoughts, but it isn't easy, dear reader. The dancing life is decidedly not stress-free, apparently! But we're persevering. We're busting out this new choreography at the hafla as a bit of a trial run for summer festivals, and here's a raised glass to not humiliating myself! Or sweating in public.

All right, I gotta jet. Have a great weekend, everyone, talk to you on Monday! And don't forget to check out more 7 Quick Takes at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"How do you work this thing?! Eh, I'll just start dancing." *3 minutes elapse* "Oh. It wasn't recording." Adventures in dancing when you're clueless...

Yep, that would be ME. An enthusiastic dancer wanting to improve her performance skills, but clearly lacking in focus and technological abilities. What the heck am I talking about? Well, let's settle and allow the humorous anecdotes to fly.

*procures tea*

I have a bunch of dance performances coming up, including some in which I'll dance *gulps* solo. That has been the most intimidating part of performing more frequently for me; it's not dancing with my troupe, it's the solo thing. And the solo thing is totally voluntary, so I'm bringing this on myself. But I know that the only way to improve upon things that you truly care about is to challenge yourself. If I only did things that never take me out of my comfort zone, well, that wouldn't be any fun for blogging fodder, would it? ;-) But more importantly, I'd never improve upon where I'm at. I love dancing, it brings me joy. Why would I want to accept wallowing in the comfortable when I can expand into a much vaster universe of fabulousness? Well, hopefully. :0

And so every year, I dance solo at least twice. This year, it may be more, so I took stock of where I'm at with my solo dancing:  I'm comfortable improvising, I don't need to choreograph anymore, which allows me to be a bit more spontaneous. And for someone as uptight as I am, spontaneity is clutch. ;-) I also make a concerted effort to smile whenever I think of it, to make for a more inviting performance. Nobody likes to watch a dancer who appears to be tortured by the very fact that she is forced to dance in front of US FREAKING PEOPLE. She (or he!) is just nervous of course, but that's the way it appears, and I want to do my best to guard against that.

AND, that's pretty much the size of it. I do well, but could I do better? A million times, yes. :) So I used my little brain to think of ways that I could further improve upon my performance skills. Hark! I have a smartphone now. I can video myself! This way I can see the areas in which I could improve.

That is what I did, and I am here to tell you, dear reader, that watching yourself dance on video is FANTASTICALLY painful:

"Those arms *again*. Do I know no other arms?!"

"What is my face doing there? Oh dear, that isn't good. I look like some nefarious odor has just wafted in"

"My hands, good heavens. The infamous Stupid Hands! Mine could certainly be smarter!!"

I will say though, that it is HELPFUL. It's not pleasant, let's be clear, but in 7 years of Middle Eastern dance, this is the most powerful mechanism I've ever enlisted to improve my own dancing. Of course, this applies only when I use my smartphone video functionality *correctly*. I was halfway through my music yesterday when the screen went dark and I realized that I had never actually hit the Record button.

D'oh.

In tandem with this fun video project, I have been watching lots of YouTube videos of *other* professional dancers. This is also super helpful. I watch dancers that I really admire, and think: what are they doing that makes me enjoy their performance so much? And so I have determined that the thing I need to focus on more is...

*drum roll*

My face. :0 I do smile when I dance, but I need to smile MORE. Infinitely more! When the dancer looks confident, assured and joyful when she dances, THAT'S what I enjoy watching, and what all audiences enjoy watching. The actual movements, sure. I enjoy watching dancers who coordinate movements to perfectly compliment their music, yes. But again, that comes back to confidence. It's that *combination* of confidence and really beautifully interpreting your music that makes a performance so compelling.

And so, when you take your brain away from worrying about what your body is doing while you're dancing...

"Why did I just do that stupid hip drop, I already did about 10 of those in the past 30 seconds, what is wrong with me?! And, man! There went that accent and I was right in the middle of a travel step to nowhere. Blast!"

...you can just focus on being in the moment and letting the music guide your movements. I *know* that I spend a lot of time in my own head when I'm performing: "Ok, I'm doing this, but what am I going to do NEXT? I don't want to look stupid!" Looking stupid is pretty much my worst fear in life. ;-) Sort of like when people list public speaking first on their list of fears, above DEATH. We all fear being up in front of others and making a fool of ourselves more than death. Yes, yes and yes.

So I've realized that I need to keep things simpler. My legs and hips will do *something* relevant and of interest even when I'm not obsessing over them. What I need to keep my mind on is:

"What is my face doing? Am I smiling? If the music is more serious, do I have my 'pleasant face' on?"

Because if I don't have my 'pleasant face' on, the default seems to be "I MAY TURN YOU INTO KUMQUATS WITH THE POWER OF MY GAZE!" face. :0 I look SO super serious. That's my 'thinking face' it seems. Alas, I have to live with it; it's the only face God gave me. :)

When I'm thinking too much about what I'm doing, that's when *the face* comes out, and that's what I have to eliminate. As I videoed myself, working more and more on only thinking about my emotional reaction to the music and how my face is responding, I could see a huge improvement in my performance persona.

And THAT led me to change my music. I dance to a lot to kicky, fast instrumentals and Arabic pop music, because it's busy and fun. But this time I'm dancing to "New Baladi" by Mario Kirlis, which has much slower instrumental sections than I'm used to. But it's a perfect song to try out my new goal of slowing things down and focusing more on how the music inspires me. Because it does. And I don't need to worry about what I'm going to do next, because when I listen to that song my body knows what to do. Thus I can focus on just being in the moment and letting my face remain relaxed and joyful.

Of course, this required that I go into the dreaded AUDACITY (appropriate name *glares*) and trim the music, because it was a hair too long to be hafla-friendly. The resulting inappropriate language I will not repeat here, but let's just say that after an hour of struggle, I have an edited song that is 4 minutes long and that I'm pretty happy with.

*round of applause*

So, the videoing continues:

"What's my face doing?! Man, it's not listening again!"

But each time I notice a small improvement. I'm essentially retraining my brain to focus on different things when I dance. We'll get there. At least I can watch the videos now without cringing. Much. :0

I've got rehearsals with the troupe both tonight and tomorrow, and the hafla is a week from Saturday. Zoinks! I'll report in. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Have a complicated life situation that you'd like to unravel? Join me in a novena!

Good morning all! I've written about my devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots before, but I thought it bore repeating today since this is officially day 1 of the novena as organized by Pray More Novenas. With that site, you can sign up to receive an email each day with the prayers all included, and of course it also serves double duty as a reminder so that you don't forget a day. Though, who is it out there *forgetting* days in a novena and then scrambling to "catch up" on days or otherwise counting a novena as two full weeks to make up for neglected days? Slackers!

*look of innocence*

I know that I absolutely love Pray More Novenas and I'm permanently signed up for all of their novenas. I don't pray all of them (sometimes I'm praying another novena at the time, or otherwise focusing on something different at the time) but I do pray most of them. They put out about one a month, and I love the feeling that I'm praying along with a much larger community.

And Our Lady Undoer of Knots is just such a favorite of mine. Especially thorny situation in your life that's been festering along for nigh a decade? Something you're super worried about, and you don't see how it could turn out particularly well? All perfect fodder for Our Lady Undoer of Knots. I can just see Mary, our mother, up in heaven as I type:

"Good grief, she's done it *again*. Time for another intervention!"

:0

So if you're intrigued, do go sign up! We can pray together, and today is the perfect day to get started.

Some amusing dance updates have transpired this week, and I plan a dancey post for tomorrow, so come one back if you enjoy those! But in the meantime, if you're praying the Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena, leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mother's Day gift ideas?

I need serious ideas here, people, so let's put our thinking caps on. ;-) Mother's Day is fast approaching, and each year I struggle with what to get my dear Mommy. She's one of those people that feels hard to buy for, although she isn't particularly fussy about items she receives as gifts, so I don't why I fret over this so much. But my superpower is to turn ordinary, everyday tasks into Anxiety Levels Worthy Of Classification As A Cardiovascular Activity, so there you have it.

I've seen two things that have caught my eye, but then I want your creative energy to chime in. :) One is this lovely embroidered rosette necklace from Call Her Happy:

She'll customize it to the number and gender of the children of the mom in question, which I think is perfect. My mom has three girls and loves purple, so voila! This is almost certainly going to get ordered.

If you're of the persuasion to make jewelry, I saw this Peas in a Pod Bracelet as an inspiration project on Fusion Beads:

I happen to have two sisters, but you could add or subtract beads accordingly depending upon the mother. I'm feeling a bit lazy about making jewelry these days, but I thought it was a nice idea for a Mother's Day gift.

So. I need your ideas. :) Lay 'em on me!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Things are really blooming, on the 3rd Sunday of Easter...

A daffodil! It's a miracle!
Happy Monday to you all! How are you this fine spring day of Easter season? I'm at work, so you know, I could be better. ;-) But it was a lovely weekend, and I hope that you had one as well.

Yet more flowers blooming in our yard this week, including this lovely daffodil. I had a perfect photo framed in my smartphone of Anne sniffing the daffodil, but some sort of automatic focusing feature very boldly took over my camera and by the time it had finished its bossiness, Anne had long since moved on. Bummer.

We arrived at Mass yesterday to find a bulletin chock full of upcoming parish activities, and I have to say that I absolutely love our new pastor. He's very social and friendly, and I can tell that he is really trying to get to know everyone and inject some life into the community. Starting in May, there will be a monthly coffee and doughnuts gathering after the 10 am Mass where Father will be present for lively conversation. I am very much looking forward to this and am thinking of even calling the number listed for volunteers to help with these.

Indeed, Fr. Joe came over to chat with us following Mass, but let me circle back for a moment since I'm jumping ahead, as I'm wont to do. :) I am loving the readings from Acts that we focus on during Easter, and Mass was as joyful as ever. When I brought Anne back to the sacristy for the inevitably demanded trip to the restroom, I noticed some wilting Easter flowers back there, the true sign of our progress through this liturgical season - lily weeding. :0 But the church just has a different feel to it during Easter, just such a sense of satisfied joy.

After Mass, the kids and I stopped to chat with our friend Kendra, and that's when Fr. Joe wandered over from his spin around to any lingerers. He's newly back from a short vacation, so we got the scoop on that. Priests have real lives too, who knew? ;-) We talked to Kendra extensively about her senior project art show, which had been the following evening at a local gallery. She's about to graduate with a bachelor's degree in Art, her specialty is drawing and painting, and so Henry, Anne and I went to support her. It was hard to see everything because it was VERY crowded, but it was a lovely event, and she is very talented. I saw several other people there from our parish, including her parents and a couple people from the music ministry, and I'm really feeling like I'm getting to know people now outside of Mass, which is so, so lovely.

The only one not enjoying all of this post-Mass sense of community is poor, long suffering Henry, who sits politely by with a "can we go now?!" face. It's not easy being 9. :)

Mike and I also had a really nice date night this weekend, aided by the fact that the kids spent the night over at their grandparent's house. This was hard on Mommy who has never had Anne spend the night somewhere besides home, aside from our anniversary getaway back in January. It's always hard with that first sleepover, I remember it from when Henry was littler too. So I struggled a bit with the two empty bedrooms for that night, but Mike and I went out for a nice dinner and a movie, and that time together is always so valuable.

How was your weekend, dear reader?

Friday, April 17, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 76} Elements of a wacky dance performance, edition...


Happy Friday all! No Catholic content today, this will be a dance focused post, so for those who are interested in such frivolity, welcome! :) My troupe had a performance last night at a college cultural night, and as ever, it was amusing. This is my 5th year dancing with the troupe, so I've been to lots of these, by which I mean public performances. They are very different from dancing at a hafla, which is essentially a studio-wide recital, wherein your audience is the family and friends of the dancers. In a public performance, your audience is the people attending the event you're dancing at, and they may or may not be (a) into dancing, and/or (b) nice. :0 Like I mentioned, I've been to lots of these, and experienced the full gamut of possibilities from: Awesome! to Will This Music Never Be Over?! One of our troupe members, however, is new to our group, and while she danced with us at the last hafla, this was her first, what I term "crazy, public performance." She was pretty wide eyed about the whole thing, as was I the first time I danced at one of these, and understandably so. Because you never know what you're gonna get! And so what were the 7 elements to this particular performance, which do seem so common at many others? Settle in. :)

-1- Rain, rain go away...

We weren't dancing outside (this time), but there was a decent amount of walking outside to get from the parking lot to our destination, and it was raining. Rain = soggy dance coverups, which really isn't a good look, and it also means that Tiffany's hair goes into gigantic expansion mode. Also not a good look. But persevere we must.

-2- "Why are there women wearing voluminous hot pink mumus on the stairway landing?! Never mind, we don't really need to go upstairs after all."

Given how many different choreographies we now perform on a rotating basis, and how many formation changes we inevitably need to make for each event to accommodate for absent members, it's a little nerve wracking right before we perform. Do I remember everything? Do I remember the *new* everything, now that I'm in totally different spots than usual?! So we usually try to find a discreet spot to run through problem areas right before we dance. Last night, we found a back staircase with a decent sized landing, so we clomped down there in our giant pink coverups to practice. Apparently though, this back stairway wasn't all that secret, because several groups of people saw us and immediately hurried off. Even after we were finished and were just congregated on there chatting, people would approach the stairs, see us, and quickly back away. I guess we're kind of scary. ;-)

-3- *peeks in room* "OK, the audience appears ____" (Fill in blank with either (a) dead, or (b) unbelievably rowdy. No option (c) ever materializes :0)

I don't know why, but there isn't much middle ground with audiences at these events. People are either completely silent, such that you fear they are actively hating you and plotting their escape from this torture of watching you dance (they're likely just very polite and feel it's improper to move or make noise during a performance, but there you have it), OR they are completely off-the-wall loud and boisterous. For whatever reason, there usually aren't further alternatives. In the case of last night, we had...

-4- "YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!" *enthusiastic whooping noises and clapping* That would be option (b), rowdy :0

Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative. It's just that when college students are that enthusiastic about a dance performance, I suspect that they were three sheets to the wind before even arriving. I will say that they were *super polite* after we danced, coming over to us to tell us how great they thought the numbers were and how much they enjoyed it. And they didn't appear drunk or disorderly. So maybe they really did love us because we're just that good. ;-) But YEAH, they were into it. People were dancing in their seats and clapping in time to the music. Our kicky drum piece even ramped that enthusiasm up to the next decibel. So you could say it went very well.

Us in motion. I love these ladies.
-5- "Does anybody want to participate in a short demo class, to learn some movements of Middle Eastern dance?" *suddenly everybody is super shy*

 In between our sets, Claire taught a demo class. Inevitably, there is always resistance to this, even amongst enthusiastic audiences. Getting up and dancing in front of people isn't so easy, yes indeed, I am well aware. :) So even our loud college fans had to be coaxed a bit to get some volunteers. Claire is very good at this though, and within minutes she had a crowd up there with her. So that went well too. But then...

-6- "I'm going to let the music keep running. Improvise, and try to get people up to dance with you!"

 Let's all groan together, shall we? Improvising is no problem for me, but I don't want to have to actually (a) talk to anybody, or (b) interact with them in any meaningful way. #introvert! But we are often tasked with doing this at these public events. And the thing is, people are either jumping out of their chair wanting to dance, which is easy, or glued to their seat in terror that you are going to ask them to dance. Me? I don't want to do anything above smiling at you winningly and dancing in your general vicinity. Unless someone comes over to me, I *really don't want to go over to you.* It's just my lot in life as a shy person. I have no problem making stuff up as I go along and dancing around a full perimeter of the room, that's what makes Middle Eastern dance so fun, in my opinion. But this interaction thing gives me hives every single time.

And so for our second set, we danced our new Shaabi piece, and then the dreaded moment came: we struck our final post, and the music kept playing, so we all reluctantly improvised our way out to the crowd. The room had thinned a bit during the demo lesson, so our most enthusiastic supporters weren't there. This was a definite problem. As I improvised my way around the room, I could see some of my troupemates bravely trying to convince people to get up and dance, and getting petrified-looking rejections for their efforts. For my part, I just kept dancing and prayed for the music to end. It didn't.

:0

But I made it. Eventually, a few people got up and we made the most of that. Then we were done. Glory be.

-7- Sweat sets in...

 It was chilly in the room we were dancing in, but as soon as we were done, I realized how warm and sorta gross I was. :0

Exhausted selfie
We worked hard, but it went smashingly well, so who can complain? Back out to the rain we went, pink coverups blowing in the breeze. All glamor, all the time. ;-)

More dance fun to come in just over 2 weeks at our spring hafla! Then festival season sets in, and the real adventure begins. Stay tuned!

If you're still reading, thanks for hanging with me in this dance-themed 7 Quick Takes! It's a passion of mine, and I hope that you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoy writing about it. I'll talk to you all on Monday, but in the meantime, check out more 7 Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Tiffany, why don't you just GO!" Adventures in introvertism...

Yes, I talk to myself. Usually just in my own head, although if I'm in the car alone, I'll sometimes vocalize. ;-) And is "introvertism" even a word? According to my spell check it isn't, but that's another part of the talking-to-self thing: I don't care. I can make up as MANY words as I want, and nobody can correct me!

*goes hog wild*

But at any rate, one of the things I berate myself over is that I don't get out more. There are things that I genuinely WANT to do, want to attend, but yet...I don't. I think this is part of the Introvert Mystique: We're homebodies, we like to stay in. And when we do get out, even to things we genuinely enjoy, we cannot wait to get back home to our Safe and Comfortable Place. Which is our couch, of course. With a book and a glimmering glass of your beverage of choice. Chatting with your friends on social media is also a strong possibility, which is totally fine with your introverted sensibilities since a device stands between you and them and you can control the asynchronous flow of the conversation.

#ironic

OK, so ANYWAY. One of the things that I want to do more often, and I emphasize this to myself annually whenever my brain and I have this particular conversation, is to attend the ballet. I take the kids to see The Nutcracker each year, which is fabulous, but there are SO many other good productions that come through town that I rarely attend. We have a beautiful historic theater downtown, where my mom and I saw Phantom of the Opera last month, but there is also a Center for the Arts at the university for which I work. Each semester, I look at their schedule of performances and think how I'd like to attend 1-2 of them, and then I never buy tickets. And the tickets are SO reasonable! We're talking $30 or less for the best seats in the house.

This year, I finally seized the moment. I asked both my mom and my mother-in-law if they'd like to go see The Sleeping Beauty, which is one of the three great Tchaikovsky ballets that I've never seen and have always wanted to. My mom is in Albany at a work conference and couldn't go, but my mother-in-law could, and so off I went on a gorgeous spring day to fetch our tickets, and last night was the performance.

BEAUTIFUL. It was the Russian National Ballet Theatre, and they did an outstanding job. Some of the principal dancers were exquisite, particularly the man dancing the role of the Bluebird. And the ballerina dancing the role of Aurora: oh my. To dance like that! Stunning.

We went out to dinner first at a Middle Eastern restaurant and then on to the ballet. By Act II I was a bit tired, as it was a Wednesday night (but the only night that this ballet was in town), yet it was SO worth it. I had a fantastic time! And I loved seeing the ballet and reading up more on it in the program.

And so I talked to myself again in my head on the way home. ;-) I absolutely am going to do this again next season when the new schedule comes out. If I notice a ballet that I'd like to see, I'm going to buy tickets. Boom! I need to do more of that, every single year.

Speaking of dancing, I'm slated to do my own (not nearly so exquisite) version tonight at this cultural shindig with my troupe. Here's lifting a glass to not humiliating myself! I'll report in tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Maybe if you travel step your way over here? Does that look lopsided? Oh dear, move back!" More dancing adventures...

My dance troupe has a performance tomorrow evening for the first time since December, and it feels like a breath of fresh air to be rehearsing again. Winter is definitely the slowest time of year for us in terms of gigs, but we use that time to learn new choreographies and techniques. I definitely enjoy both of those things, but there is something exciting about the spring rolling around and us focusing on fine tuning our old and new repertoire for the events we're asked to perform at. Hello to controlled chaos! :)

Tomorrow, we're slated to dance at an arts and culture night at a local college. We've performed there in the past, the last time when I was heavily pregnant with Anne, that one was pretty amusing. :0 I'm not sure how it'll go, given the unpredictable nature of our audience, but we've prepared as best we can. As is always the case with any performance, the entire group isn't available on the given night, so we've been adjusting our choreographies around to fill in gaps and generally make it look like there aren't people missing in the formations. What I always worry about is *remembering* the changes, and then remembering to change it back in my head the next time we perform. A definite *remembering* theme going on here. #AdventuresInAging ;-)

We're not using the brand new choreography, the one with the giant veil wrap/parachute situation going on (thank the good Lord), but instead an older pop piece, the newer drum solo, and the fairly new Shaabi number. That Shaabi number really isn't my favorite (very informal, more sassy style. Guess who lacks any smidgen of sass whatsoever? :)), but I press on. I love the drum piece though.

So we have two sets (pop/drum, then later, the Shaabi), and Claire will dance in between them. I absolutely love performing with the troupe. Every time we do, it's an adventure with really funny stories. Every.time. :0 I will report in on Friday!

Are any of you going to, or involved in, any arts festivals this summer?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thoughts while walking (or driving :))...

The Walk with Fr. Roderick
Hello to you all on this fine spring day! I'm super perky today, which is aided by the fact that I'm wearing a short sleeved top for the first time since September. And it's pink! Life is grand.

As I was driving in to work this morning, I was thinking. You know, about STUFF. I do that a lot. ;-) My little mind is always awhirl while I'm driving or walking by myself. Or when I'm in the shower. :0 Anytime my mind is allowed to wander from the task at hand, it will, it seems. At any rate, in the background I had on Fr. Roderick's The Walk podcast. As you already know, I completely adore that precious Fr. Roderick. I've been listening to his show The Break for, let's see...probably about 6 years now. In that neighborhood of time, at least. When he added in The Walk, I thought maybe it would be duplicated content just targeted at another audience, so perhaps it would be redundant to listen to both. I was wrong, and I happily subscribe to both shows.

The Break has a structure: he talks about current events both in his life and in the news, movies and TV shows, books that he's read, and then a segment that he calls "The Peculiar Bunch," in which he'll address a current Catholic topic. The Walk is totally different. It's complete stream of consciousness as he goes out for a walk to get some exercise. He just brings his audio recorder and chats with his audience about whatever is on his mind during that hour.

I *really* love this format, and I think that part of it is that I relate to it so much. This is pretty much how I write in this blog. :0 I know that there are blogs out there that are more polished and helpful than mine (AKA: better ;-)). And thank goodness for them, because we all benefit from them! But my approach to blogging has always been that this is an online journal that I choose to share with others. Sometimes I plan posts ahead of time, like the Catholic Book Club or the Church Triumphant posts that Cristina and I collaborate on. But usually, I just await inspiration each morning, and then write about that topic, whatever is on my mind in that moment.

And so, this morning I was listening to Father talk about some projects he's working on, and how they're not turning out the way he expected, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, right? God is always working in there. :) And he mentioned how there are so many things he's been able to do that he strove to achieve, but that there are so many others that he'd like to accomplish. As I listened, I related this back to my own life, which is such a pleasing byproduct of this type of informal style. There are LOTS of projects that I've always wanted to try (writing, podcasting...), and yet I often hesitate. I'm worried about...oh, let us count the ways, shall we?

(1) Time. I don't want things to take me away from Mike and the kids too much.

(2) Money. Some projects require a small investment in new equipment, and then I'll shy away from it, which is silly. I buy yarn, dance costumes and books with abandon, why shouldn't I invest in technology that will bring joy and meaning?

(3) Fear of failure. I really should have put this first. ;-) Because this really is a hindrance on me trying new things. Why do you think it took me *years* to work up the nerve to dance solo at a performance? And this is closely related to...

(4) Fear of looking stupid. :0 There it is. I really do fear this. A lot.

But life is short, you know? Not that we should proceed with things full steam ahead without fully thinking them through. But I shouldn't let surmountable fears hold me back so much. So maybe I'll try moving forward on a few projects I've always wanted to try. I'll keep you posted. ;-)

I'm glad that Fr. Roderick's show this week got me to thinking about these things. Do you brainstorm or otherwise wax poetic while you walk or drive? When is your most creative thinking time? Anytime there aren't little voices in the background asking you to assist them with wiping in the bathroom, you say? I can relate to that. :)

Tomorrow will be a DANCE POST! Make sure to head back over if you enjoy such shenanigans.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thriving in fellowship and welcoming back insects, on Divine Mercy Sunday...

Morning all, and happy continuation of the Easter season. ;-) The Octave is over, but nevertheless, we are still celebrating Easter, and I love it. And I absolutely adore Divine Mercy Sunday. I always pray the novena leading up to it (at least, in recent years I have), and it harkens me back to 2005, when I was newly pregnant with Henry and Pope John Paul II passed away on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. He always emphasized this feast, and that is one of the reasons that I am so drawn to it, because I love HIM so much.

And so Divine Mercy Sunday dawned bright and beautiful in Western New York. I think about 95% of our leftover snow has finally melted. People, this is *epic*. Never in my lifetime of living in the Northeast have I ever been more happy to see spring. As the kids and I headed out for Mass, I noticed something in our small backyard. Something fragile and beautiful that I feared I'd never see again: flowers. Real ones. Growing out of THE GROUND:


See them there amongst all the dead and shriveled things? I don't know exactly what they are, they may actually be weeds, but I CARE NOT. They are pretty and colorful, and we worship them. As I was over there snapping this photo, I even saw a bee hovering nearby. A REAL LIVE BUMBLE BEE!! Normally, I steer clear of such creatures, but I practically threw this one a party:

"Welcome to our yard, dear bee! I'm so glad to see you! Go tell your friends to come pollinate as well!"

And things were looking even livelier in the front yard:


Tulips baby! They're on their way. We'll have a party for them as well.

Then we left for Mass, and I am just in love with my parish community. Mass was as beautiful as ever, I loved the first reading from the book of Acts (4:32-35). It harkens back to my parish theme: a sense of community:

"The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power, the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, but those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need."

I just love that. Not a complete analogy, of course, but it is so soothing to me to think of all of us, our communities of faith both local and around the world, in this thing together. We're here for each other, supporting each other and doing our best to give witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

After Mass, we sat and chatted with our friend Kendra for a bit. She has an art show coming up featuring her work, and we're planning to attend. While we discussed the details, Fr. Joe came over and sat with us. What chatted about his upcoming vacation and how he was going to a party later in the day to watch the Masters. I mean...I love this guy! He's the sort of congenial priest I could imagine inviting over for dinner with the family. He's very social and approachable, and I'm so grateful that we have him.

When we got back home, Henry went to a friend's house, so Mike and I took Anne out for a walk with her tricycle. Before she got on, Anne laid flat on the bare driveway:

"Mommy, look. The sun!"

We have been so, so deprived, my poor children. :0

How was your Divine Mercy Sunday, dear reader?

Friday, April 10, 2015

7 Quick Takes {Take 76} Sorrow, joy and consolation this Easter Octave, edition...


Happy Easter Friday everybody! It's a gloomy day here in WNY, but April showers bring May flowers, right? We're going with that. April showers also melt record February snowfall, so we'll take that too. :0 It's been an emotional start to the Easter season for me, so let's chronicle.

-1- In your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of a friend's husband...

The husband of a dance troupemate of mine had been ill for well over a year, in need of a liver transplant. Earlier this week, he passed away. He was just 43. :( Would you take a moment to say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Mike, and for strength during this tragedy for his lovely wife Lara? It's such a heartbreaking situation.

-2- But things are going better for young Julia...

I mentioned last Friday that the daughter of a friend is going through a trying bout with cancer right now. Well, initial results for her first set of treatments are in, and they are *excellent.* Although she still has a long road of chemotherapy ahead of her, the fact that her body is responding so well to the treatment is a tremendously good sign. We are all quite thrilled about this. Keep up the prayers, good prayer warriors!

-3- It's a Marian Consecration start date!

April 10th marks a potential start date of the 33 day preparation period to consecrate oneself to Jesus through the intercession of His mother. That makes the consecration date May 13th, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. This is the first time I've ever used this time window during the year for a Marian consecration renewal, I usually start on January 9th and pray the consecration prayers on February 11th, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. But..., this year I forgot. Oops. :) I was on a second honeymoon trip with Mike, so I had a good excuse. At any rate, I use the book 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley:


If anybody is interested in this, please do join in! I see that it is now available for Kindle, and I don't think it was several years back when I purchased my print copy. Instant gratification! And quick-like-a-bunny joining in with Tiffany in prayer! ;-)

-4- Summer plans are taking shape...

I often dread the summer heat, but this year, after the winter we had, I'm actually looking forward to it. Exhibit A being the fact that I'm voluntarily going to Atlanta in early June for the Catholic New Media Conference. ;-) And I can't wait! But in addition to that, Mike and I talked this week about some dates that we want to reserve for summer activities with the kids. Baseball games, hikes, fireworks, all good stuff.

-5- And speaking of good stuff...

Summer dance gigs are lining up, and I look forward to this all year long. Especially with our Lara going through such a tough time, we are all rallying around her and trying to raise her spirits. She's looking forward to the coming rehearsals and performances as a way to get her mind off of things a bit, and we certainly have an interesting repertoire this year. Saidi canes, gigantic veil wraps and Shaabi folk dance... Betcha can't wait for the stories that are to come. ;-) It's almost certain that I will at some point become engulfed in the gigantic veil and nearly fall off the stage. Almost.certain. :0

-6- Anne's birthday gift!

As I mentioned yesterday, Anne's birthday is next month, and she has asked for a St. Kateri doll. Ta da! She has been ordered:


This would be from Saintly Silver, on Etsy. I can't wait til she comes in the mail! I'm hoping she arrives in time, since they are made to order and I know the wait list can be six weeks, so we'll see.

-7- New spiritual memoir alert!

This morning on Twitter, I happened to see someone tweet about Rachel Held Evans' new memoir, which is slated for release next week, on April 14th:


I absolutely adore memoirs like this. I read and enjoyed Rachel's A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and while I don't agree with her on everything, she is an excellent and interesting Christian writer, and I am pleased to support her work. I plan to download this book to my Kindle the instant I'm caught up on my book club reading. It's currently perched on my wish list. :)

All right everyone, have a fantastic weekend! I have to work the reference desk tomorrow afternoon (insert groan) so I'll be tweeting a lot, I presume. ;-) Other than that, I'll talk to you on Monday!

And head to This Ain't the Lyceum for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Need a quick gift for someone receiving a sacrament in May?

I just love this time of year, don't you? Springtime, new beginnings, Easter...and sacraments of initiation coming up in May. Last year, I just reveled in Henry making his First Communion, I enjoyed that so thoroughly. This year, we don't know anyone receiving a sacrament, and it'll be quite a while until Henry reaches Confirmation age (at least the way they do it in our diocese) or for Anne to receive First Reconciliation, so I'm living vicariously through others. :) I *am* however, on the prowl for birthday gifts for Anne, whose birthday is May 18th, so I was looking and had a few ideas that will work for those needing a gift for First Communion or Confirmation.

Saintly Silver on Etsy, whom I've mentioned before *heart* has a section of Quick Ships of already assembled dolls, ideal for anyone needing one in early May.

She's got 32 dolls listed in the Quick Ship section right now, which is pretty awesome. They usually are on a 6 week schedule to ship, since her order queue is so long and her shop so popular. But she prepares ahead for her rush periods, of which the May sacraments are one. She has boy and girl First Communion dolls (like the one pictured above), with the Anima Christi prayer on the back and a "In Honor of your First Holy Communion" notation. She also has angels, St. Patrick, Mary, and the Holy Family ready for immediate shipment.

Allison also has her rosary shop stocked with rosaries, most of which are ready to ship (just make sure to check for the "Made to Order" indication and avoid those if your deadline is pretty tight). This one in particular is ideal for First Communion, no?

I love the chalice center. But she has a ton of in-stock selection, all beautiful! I like the availability and selection given that First Communions are a mere 4 weeks away.

Do you know anyone receiving First Communion or Confirmation this year?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How is your Easter season going?

Morning all! I have a busy work day today filled with meetings (let's all groan together in harmony, shall we?) so this will be somewhat brief, but I still wanted to touch base with everyone. I was listening to Monday Morning Catholic's Triduum episode on my commute in, and thus dwelling on our current place in the Easter octave, that is the eight days we celebrate a monumental feast such as this one...

Easter is a time of new beginnings, it seems that way to me every year. Everything feels fresh and new. The weather (hopefully; we still have some snow here, but the piles are getting smaller every day), new baby birds and animals, the return of flowers and green things, and the liturgy. We're singing the Gloria again, and saying "Alleluia" for the first time in what feels like forever. And fresh from a Lenten visit to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we all feel revived in our spiritual lives. Hopefully. :)

The spiritual life is never predictable, no? I know this very well, as I'm sure you all do too. I did get to Confession this year, but there have been years where I planned to but didn't make it. Or maybe right after visiting the Sacrament, a spiritual struggle ensued over something you thought was long behind you. Or maybe you feel inexplicable spiritual dryness where just days before you felt vibrancy and renewal. It's never an easy thing, to be sure.

This Easter I'm reflecting back on my experiences during the Triduum with much gratitude. I'm so grateful that I was able to, for the first time, attend all of the liturgies. I'm certain there will be years where that does not happen for any number of reasons, but we do what we can. I enjoyed my experiences very much, and I love that I got to share each of them with someone else - Henry, Anne, Mike and my mother-in-law. It was truly beautiful.

Now, though, we're in Easter and I'm thinking: what's next? It's never boring, that's for sure. I'm excited to see what is to come. Anne's birthday is next month, and with her turning 4, and Henry turning 10 later this year, I feel like life has shifted a bit. Oh right, and I'm older too, yes? :0 It's a gentle shift, but there it is. Am I finally a grown up now? ;-) I feel responsible, but I don't always feel like a *grown up*. When I was Henry's age, and saw adults who are mine and Mike's age now, they seemed SO much older than we are, ha! In many ways, besides acquiring (please God!) a bit more wisdom and experience, I don't feel a whole lot different than when I was 20. But I know that I am different. I just don't feel older, if that makes any sense. But I'm happier, and just as excited for whatever lies ahead.

Those are my reflections early this Easter. How about you? As we embark on Easter season, what do you suspect or hope God has in store for you?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fun spring knitting, and what's that in the garbage can? Oh. Winter knitting gone horribly awry :0

Good day to you all, and as you can see from the title, I decided to pen a light crafting post for today. It's my first day back at work since the Triduum began, and I'm feeling a little blue. I need a pick-me-up! And I always enjoy writing these posts.

So, what have I been working on craft-wise in recent weeks? Things that are springy, to be sure. I used the basic egg pattern from Easter Knits to make this fetching little guy for Anne:


Anne has named him "eggy." :) There are some lovely Fair Isle egg patterns in that book, but I was low on time and went the easy, self-striping route. ;-) Anne also received her much demanded penguin:


He's a baby Emperor penguin, hence the gray body. And I gave him a scarf to hide a slightly wonky neck, don't want him getting a complex. ;-) Anne loves him:


He's already showing signs of giving in to his wonky neck, he's been cuddled and squashed so much. I'm thinking of performing a little surgery and giving him some more stuffing, but Anne expresses much trauma whenever I mention this, and she sleeps with him every night, so no hope of me doing this on the sly. That remains an option though, we'll see how he holds up. The important thing is that she loves him.

Henry has requested a stuffed alien from that same pattern book, which is this one by the way:


I'm hoping to get to him this spring as well. Henry also loves handknit socks, and I have a pair for him in the queue, as soon as I finish the Easter pair I'm working on for myself:


I love self-striping sock yarn, as does Henry. :) This is a specifically Easter colorway, Henry's is called Gingerbread, so obviously leftover from Christmas, but this bothers him not in the least. He's such a good boy, and truly appreciates his knit socks.

So, those are all the GOOD crafting things I've had going on. :) There has been one unfortunate project leftover from the winter, and well... Let's just say that that one went so badly, I don't even have any photographic evidence of it, that's how much I hated it. :0 I rather wish I had saved the photos I took, because they would have provided endless amusement at this point for both you and I, but I was so traumatized I deleted the entire project from my Ravelry gallery, and so my Sunset Cardigan is lost to history.

*everyone breathes a sigh of relief*

This was one of those projects that I felt duty bound to knit because during a sale, I had bought some unfortunate yarn that I later regretted. Has this ever happened to you?

"Oh wow, what a great price on a high quality fiber! The color isn't really something I'd usually pick, but it's very...eclectic! It's different, and I like it. And the price is amazing! I really should buy this."

So I do. And then it sits in my yarn stash. And it sits some more. When the year point rolls around, it glares at me each time I dip into my worsted weight wool bin and don't pick it up. I think to myself that I just need to find the perfect pattern for it, given it's eclectic nature, and it sits some more.

Finally, I make the decision that this yarn has to go. Far too stubbon to try and list it for sale on Ravelry, I find a simple cap sleeved cardigan pattern and get to work, telling myself that I canNOT buy more yarn until this stuff is used up. I feel virtuous.

And so I knit. And knit. And knit. Stockinette stitch, back, and forth, back and forth, until I fear that all creativity has been sucked out of my very soul. But I heroically soldier on. I bought this yarn, gosh darn it, I'm going to use it up. The body looks weird by time I finish, but I add the ribbed trim anyway, and well.

I hated it. :0 Hated it, hated it, hated it. I have some knitting friends who, when they hate a project, angelically pull the yarn back out so that they can reuse it to make something else. Not I, my friends. I hope you're not disappointed in me. :0 But once I hate something, I hate it, there are no second chances. I never wanted to look at that yarn again, and now that it's not here to glare at me any further I'm just going to say it: IT WAS UGLY. It was ugly, and I'm not apologizing to it any further. It had to go. It was so ugly, I couldn't even donate it to the St. Vincent DePaul Society, because nobody else should have to wear something that ugly either.

I suppose I feel a little guilty, but I'm just glad that that torture is over. ;-) Lots of bad mojo removed from my yarn bins. All of the other yarn has already thanked me.

Have you ever had a project not turn out the way you envisioned? Are you making anything this spring? Do chime in. :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

He is risen! Happy Easter!

Happy Easter Monday to all of you! Indeed this day dawns so much brighter than Good Friday. Although her situation is still quite serious, and she has a long and difficult road of treatment ahead, Julia's family got some good news over the weekend that an MRI of her brain revealed no cancer cells, and that is cause for rejoicing. Keep those prayers coming!

And in other good news, Easter was simply beautiful. Granted, Easter season is far from over. We're only on day 2 of the Octave, and Easter season lasts until Pentecost, so much Easter celebrating to continue! :) But as for Easter weekend, I am left feeling so very grateful for my family and my faith. Henry and I attended the Easter Vigil with my mother-in-law, and oh! That is officially my very favorite liturgy of the entire year. I can't imagine ever missing it again.

We entered our parish just before 8 pm Holy Saturday to find the altar beautifully decorated with flowers:

...and we were all clamoring with excitement. :) There were 3 people entering the Church this Easter, one Catechumen and two Candidates. We started with the blessing of the fire, and then the beautiful procession in the darkened church, where we all lit our small tapers from the large Easter candle, and then cantor sang the Exsultet. Henry elbowed me:

"Mom. This is a very long song."

"I know, Honey. It will be done soon."

It wasn't. :0 But hey. It's *magnificent*. As I looked around in the darkness at all of those lit candles, I was reminded of our larger worldwide family of faith/communion of saints, and how no matter what happens, I always have that. And God.

We made our way through the Old Testament readings, and for the first time I realized (probably because our pastor mentioned it before we got started) that all of the Easter Vigil readings are about important events in salvation history. The creation story, the sacrifice of Abraham, the Exodus of the Israelites to the Promised Land, etc. And the Psalms! It was a joy to sing them. I'm not really a singer (that is to say, I'm not very good at it :0) so I sometimes shy away from singing in church. Not Saturday. I joined right in. And the Gloria!

*swoons*

The bells throughout! So, so joyful.We moved through the Epistle and the Gospel, a short but powerful Homily, and then on to the baptismal liturgy. MY FAVORITE PART. I cry here every year, despite the fact that the people receiving the sacraments are total strangers to me. So, so moving to see people enter the Church and our parish community. I was in heaven during the Litany of the Saints, and then the sacraments of initiation were administered. We all renewed our baptismal promises and were dutifully sprinkled with holy water. :) By the time we got to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we were about an hour and a half in, but Henry was holding up like a champ. I absolutely LOVE this liturgy. I hope to never miss it again. All told, it was just under two hours. Well worth it.

Easter morning dawned with snow on the ground here in WNY. :0 But even that did nothing to damper my Easter joy.

Easter selfie
I had a new dress, as did Anne:

New Elsa dress :)
Henry also looked very fetching in a polo shirt and nice pants, but declined to be photographed. ;-) The four of us headed to the 10 am Mass, where we kibbutz-ed with our new friends and were present for another glorious liturgy.

Our return home heralded Easter baskets, and both kids received chocolate (of course), a few small toys, two new saint dolls, and a rosary. Anne has St. Blaise and Our Lady of Lourdes:

Henry received St. Blaise and St. Stephen:

...who went on to hang out with St. Isidore the Farmer and Henry's other saints that he keeps on a shelf:

And then Mike and I got to work baking a ham, mashing sweet potatoes, and whipping up a dessert. By the time our sets of parents arrived at 4 pm, we were ready for celebratory Easter wine and cocktails. ;-) A fabulous time was had by all.

This Easter in particular I am counting my blessings, of which there are many, and feeling grateful for every moment that I get to enjoy them.

How about you dear reader? How was your Easter? I demand that you tell me all about it in the comments. ;-)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday sorrow...

Bare altar on Good Friday at St. Joseph's Cathedral, Diocese of Buffalo
I hope that you are all having a very blessed and holy Good Friday. I am feeling quite melancholy today, and it ties into the suffering theme of the day, I suppose. I've known for a few weeks that the daughter of a good friend was diagnosed with cancer. It's been heavy on my heart, and the news coming out from the hospital via Facebook has been increasingly difficult, particularly today. They received some bad news yesterday. I'm just beside myself, and I can only imagine what her parents are going through. She's just 14, and her name is Julia. Would you wing up a prayer for her health and healing on this Good Friday? It is much appreciated.

On that solemn note, I'm not really in my happy writing place like I usually am when I compose these posts. So I'll keep it brief. But I did attend the Holy Thursday liturgy yesterday, and Henry accompanied me, which meant so much to me. It was an absolutely beautiful Mass. And my very favorite part? The end, with the Eucharistic procession, incense, and repose of the Blessed Sacrament in the side altar. And then the dramatic departure of the priest and deacon without a word. WOW. Powerful stuff, right there. I know that when Anne and I arrive for the Good Friday service at 3 pm, the altar will be bare and the main tabernacle open and empty. Very stark, and fitting.

It's a very gray and dreary day here in WNY, which also seems fitting. If you're able to attend your parish's Good Friday liturgy, that takes the place of Evening Prayer, should you be praying the Liturgy of the Hours this Holy Week. Magnificat, special Holy Week issue, to the rescue. ;-) I hope that you're able to take part in at least one of these beautiful Triduum liturgies, and write in and tell me all about it if you do. :)

I'll be home with the kids again on Monday, but I'll be sure to post about Easter weekend. I'm aiming to attend both the Vigil Mass and Easter morning. #Catholicnerd Until then, I hope that you all have a prayerful end to the Triduum and a beautiful start to the Easter season. Talk to you all on Monday.