Thursday, December 13, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 3 - The Eucharist, and the importance of trust...

brrrrrrr, it's getting pretty wintry here in WNY, and I hope that you are all keeping warm and cozy.

*virtual hug*

I have lots going on over here (all good stuff) and I plan a separate post for that in addition to our final Advent Book Club post next week. Our Book Club selections are only for a single chapter next week, so that works out very well.

This week, we are snugging up with two modern saints, St. Edith Stein and St. John Paul II. Is this an awesome duo or what?! I'm super excited to dive into what they have to tell us about our faith, and how specifically we can tie that into Advent. Are you ready?! Grab your mug of hot cocoa!


It is most important that the Holy Eucharist become life's focal point: that the Eucharistic Savior is the center of existence; that every day is received from His hand and laid back therein; that the day's happenings are deliberated with Him. In this way, God is given the best opportunity to be heard in the heart, to form the soul, and to make its faculties clear-sighted and alert for the supernatural. 
- "On Woman" by St. Edith Stein
To Reflect: How can I improve the way that I make the Eucharist the focal point of my day?

The Eucharist, YES. Whenever our faith needs a boost, the Eucharist is where we need to be. I used to be able to attend daily Mass, and I miss those days so, so much. My schedule and state in life make that something that just isn't happening right now. But if we're receiving on Sunday only, how can we carry the Eucharist with us in our hearts throughout the week?

We can make an Act of Spiritual Communion. From EWTN:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and united myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Fabulous, right?  We could incorporate this into our daily prayer for Advent quite easily. When we make the Eucharist the center of our faith, we can hear God so much more clearly. He is able to speak to us much more clearly this way. This makes me really appreciate Sunday Mass that much more when I dwell on this!
Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter's Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words 'Be not afraid!' 
- "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" by St. John Paul II
To Reflect: Do I fully trust in God's mercy and goodness, or does fear play a role in my everyday life?

John Paul II. 😍 I just love this man so much. And being that one of the messages he is most known for in his papacy is that of releasing fear, he is even dearer to my heart. As someone who struggles with anxiety daily, being afraid of things is something I'm very used to. And St. John Paul II tells us to NOT be afraid, because God has redeemed us. In the end, isn't this the only thing that is important? Yes, we have daily challenges and worries, but nothing can truly harm us because God has us. He has redeemed us, and we have hope for eternal life with Him. I personally *know* that I struggle with trust and with fear. It's a daily source of consternation for me. But I keep trying, and we're all in this together!

I find this Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life SO HELPFUL, and I have a printed copy of it in my office. Definitely check it out! It is absolutely perfect for the Advent season.

All right, those are my thoughts for the week. Please leave yours in the comments! Next week, we are finishing up with Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence!"

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 2 - Prayer & Interior Silence...

Welcome back to week 2 of our book club for this Advent, reflecting along with the saints in Exploring the Catholic Classics! :) Today we are scheduled to touch base with St. Teresa of Avila, and St Francis de Sales, so we will have a mix of high mystical wisdom offered to cloistered contemplatives, and practical spirituality for the layperson. :0 I love it!

#eclectic

Our themes for the week, as you can see from the title, are prayer and interior silence. I 'm actually writing about this very topic for Catholic Mom this month, if you'd like a little more to dig into this Advent! I'll post the link as soon as it's up early next week. :) All right, let's get started, shall we?
Let us now return to our vocal prayer so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at once: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion--and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly he is teaching you...He will help you in all your trials and you will have him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you? 
- "The Way of Perfection" by St. Teresa of Avila
To Reflect: In what ways can we create a domestic monastery for ourselves in our prayer lives and in our homes?

St. Teresa's life in the convent was certainly different than our own life experiences, and she did not have laypeople in mind when she wrote her work! However, I think that, in our own way, we can all cultivate a little "domestic monastery" for ourselves within our homes, and within our hearts. I like to have little nooks around my house where I have holy reminders that make a nice focal point for prayer. Small pictures and statutes of our Lord, Blessed Mother and the saints make perfect fodder. I'll leave rosary beads in each room for easy access if the mood strikes. ;-) Inspiring things to look at help to inspire us to pray, no doubt about it.

And during Advent, as we try to cultivate that peace and silence within ourselves, inspiration to pray is the perfect way to keep this cycle going. Even amidst noisy chaos, we can harbor quiet joy within. Thinking of that special night, the feelings that Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing, the expectant excitement mingled with fear of the unknown...I like to take time to dwell on those things, and they help to keep my inner being at peace. Thinking of our Lord right beside us as we contemplate these things, as we pray and ask for protection over our loved ones...the quiet intimacy that St. Teresa lays out here is absolutely perfect for the season of Advent.
After finishing your mental prayer, watch against disturbing the inner peace it bestows. If possible, keep silence for a while and quietly transfer your heart from prayer to other duties. Should you meet someone on the way home, or even at the church door, with whom you must converse, do so, of course, but still try to preserve your tranquility. You must learn how to go from prayer to duties brought on by your vocation and state of life...Since both prayer and the duties of your state in life are both in conformity with God's will, you must pass from one to the other with a devout and quiet mind. 
- "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St. Francis de Sales
To Reflect: What is a practical way to start our days with prayer as St. Francis suggests? In what ways can we carry the resulting sense of interior peace throughout an entire day?

And then we come to our practical guy, St. Francis de Sales. ;-) He is a favorite of mine, for sure! He talks further about bridging that gap between our mental prayer and busy states in life. I love how he emphasizes that both things (prayer AND your daily responsibilities as a lay person) are God's will for your life, and there is no need to fear that we are failing in some way as a good, holy person if our minds and time are so often taken up with changing diapers or the expense reports that you need to complete by the end of the fiscal year. These are things that need our attention, and there is nothing wrong with that. We can just do our best to keep our minds quiet; when we have a free moment, offer your day and it's challenges up to God, and wing up a prayer for continued peace and tranquility. During Advent, this is more important than ever!

What are your thoughts on maintaining quiet prayer and a sense of inner tranquility during Advent? Have any experiences to share about previous reading with St. Teresa of Avila or St. Francis de Sales? Do comment away! Next week, we will turn to modern saints Edith Stein and one of my absolute favorite guys ever, St. John Paul II! 😍

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 1 - Peace & Simplicity...

Welcome, welcome to the 2018 edition of the Advent Book Club here at humble little Life of a Catholic Librarian! This is becoming quite a lovely annual tradition. In the past, I've also resurrected the Tea Time podcast for Advent and Lent, but I have to come clean and admit that I don't see that happening right now. Just not enough time in this stage of my life to do both blog and podcast, and if I have to pick one, I'm stickin' with old faithful: the blog. :) I've been blogging for about 10 years now!

At any rate, the 1st Sunday of Advent is this weekend, and we're starting our book club in anticipation of that big day. We're beginning with an excerpt and reflection question from chapters 1 and 2 of "Exploring the Catholic Classics," and getting ourselves all serene and anticipatory for Sunday. ;-) Chapters 1 and 2 feature the work of St. Thomas a Kempis and St. Therese of Lisieux. I'm going to put a distinctive Advent spin on the selections I'm pulling out, and you could certainly do this come Lent as well. :-) Let's see what these two holy individuals have to share with us that can boost our prayerfulness and quiet anticipation of joy during Advent:

Much peace could be ours if we did not occupy ourselves with what others say and do, for such things are of no concern to us. How can we long to remain in peace if we involve ourselves in other people's business, if we seek outside distractions, and if we are rarely, or only to a small degree, interiorly recollected? Blessed are they who keep to themselves, for they shall enjoy much peace. 
- "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis 
To Reflect: In what ways can I structure a prayer routine that will help me to focus on Jesus and the cross as I go about the other daily tasks of my work?

In my adult years, peace is what I am striving for most during Advent, rather than the chaotic frenzy that is the Christmas shopping season in our secular world. Don't get me wrong - I love that everyone joins in the happiness of the Christmas season. But in terms of our faith, Advent should not be frenetic, even if we do have a lot of shopping to accomplish. It should be quiet and serene, focused on the simple joy of the expectant parents. Our world may not be quiet, but we can be in the silence of our hearts. Even where noise reigns, we can carry the precious feelings of new hope in a special child on a cold winter's night.

And in this way, our daily prayer during Advent is ever so important. Each morning, we can read from our Advent devotional of choice to carry the words in our hearts throughout our day, keeping Advent quiet and peaceful in our own way throughout the day. Focused on Jesus and what He did for us, but during Advent thinking specifically of His Incarnation.

He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers he has created are lovely. The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daily of its simple charm...It is just the same in the world of souls-which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever he glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be. 
- "The Story of a Soul" by Therese of Lisieux
To Reflect: Do I allow feelings of unworthiness to bring me to despair, to not continue to strive to improve myself? If so, in what way can I remind myself daily that God has chosen me and wants me for himself?

Simplicity is big for us during Advent, yes? And St. Therese is our queen of being small and simple before the Lord! We are like small, but still beautiful flowers, to our God. Thinking of flowers during the cold of winter brings such a smile to my face. Our gardens will bloom again in the spring, that is another simple joy that can remind us of the message of Advent.

Simply because we are small does not mean that we are unworthy of God's love, or that we in some way are failing at our lives. God has made us in His image, and wants us for Himself. We don't need to be a celebrity in order for this to happen, God wants everybody. Even the small things that we do during Advent to keep God in the forefront of our minds, and to keep the spirit of quiet anticipation alive in our hearts, are all incredibly pleasing to Him! We should take joy and serenity in this.

Thank you so much for joining me for this exploration of the Catholic classics! This book is a self-paced journal designed to be consumed at your leisure, so feel free to join in at any time! I would love to hear your responses to the excerpts and reflection questions in the comments, so have at it! πŸ˜€ We'll be discussing chapters 3 and 4 next week, featuring St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales!

*swoon*

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! No full post today, as we're all busily baking and cleaning, I am sure. ;-) Just best wishes, and a reminder that if you'd like to join in our Advent Book Club, to procure your book! We are going to be leisurely making our way through Exploring the Catholic Classics, examining 2 excerpts and going through 2 reflection questions per week. :) Schedule and all the deets can be found here!

I'll be doing lots of knitting, visiting, and relaxing over the next week, and I hope you will as well. :) Enjoy, and chat with you next week for our first book club post! We'll kick off right before the first Sunday of Advent.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

More holiday plans, Catholic Vitamins, and Preparing for Advent!

Happy mid-November to all of you! How are those holiday plans coming?!

😬

We're getting there, I promise. Let's do a quick round robin of the past week, and then talk Advent planning!

Last week we talked a bit about The Nutcracker in it's film adaptation, and although that doesn't replace a live performance, I was thinking about skipping that this year in the interest of time. However, Anne and I agree that it just wouldn't be the same without dressing up for our annual pilgrimage to the Center for the Arts here on campus to see a local production of The Nutcracker. So I'm procuring tickets for us later this week. These are special memories that I hope Anne treasures as much as I do!

Every Thanksgiving season, I look forward to the feast of St. Cecilia, and I talk about that for my November offering over at CatholicMom.com. I'd love for you to check it out and comment over there if you also have an interest in, or devotion to, this lovely saint! I think of her so fondly at this time of year.

In other Catholic news, I was on the Catholic Vitamins podcast this past week, along with Allison, talking with the positively delightful Deacon Tom Fox about the Stay Connected series of journals. Allison and I each also talk a bit about of faith journeys and some amusing anecdotes along the way. We'd love for you to give it a listen as we approach Advent!

OK, so Advent, the big news around here right now. ;-)  I received positive feedback on using my journal, Exploring the Catholic Classics, for our Advent Book Club, and I'm so excited about this! I'm thinking we'll work it like this:

Everybody procure their books in the next 1-2 weeks, and we'll start our posts the weeks after Thanksgiving. You can order on Amazon for $14.95 (eligible for Amazon Prime 2-day shipping), or via GraceWatch Media for $11.90 and free shipping with coupon code GRACE15.

Posts will be one per week, starting Thursday November 29. There are more chapters than there are weeks we'll be meeting, so what we can do is tackle 2 chapters per week, but let's keep it light. You can work through the journal at your own pace (which is what it's designed for!) but each week I'll post one of the excerpts from each of the 2 chapters, along with one of the reflection questions that speaks to each passage. We can all discuss our answers to the questions. :) Then you can go back to the rest of the content during the week, or another time altogether, your choice. Here's the schedule!


  • November 29th - Chapters 1 and 2
  • December 6th - Chapters 3 and 4
  • December 13th - Chapters 5 and 6
  • December 20th - Chapter 7


I think that this will keep us nice and grounded during Advent for a contemplative and serene experience. πŸ˜‡ Are you planning other devotional activities for your Advent this year? I'd love to hear about it!

ooo, P.S. I'm sort of feeling a fiction book club after Christmas, maybe a Winter Book Club installment? Lent doesn't start until March this year, so perhaps we could do something in January or February for this, inspirational or secular fiction is what I'm thinking. Thoughts? :)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms", and Advent Book Club plans!

Hello, and how are you all doing on this gloomy November day? ;-) I can't even believe how quick we are coming up to Thanksgiving! Mike mentioned that it's falling the earliest that it can this year, and I'm really feelin' it!

I'm moving along with Advent plans (which I'll come back to) and birthday stuff for Henry (he turned 13 yesterday *sob!*), and general November preparations, which include both hosting Thanksgiving dinner AND the fall hafla at my dance studio. Always an eclectic mix around here, to be sure. ;-)

As well, this is the time of year that I go into Nutcracker mode. If you do a search on this blog for "Nutcracker" you will find quite a few posts dealing with The Nutcracker ballet and my obsession with it. I go to see it performed live every year in November/December, and last year I procured several DVD's of various ballets around the country performing it so that I could have some variety in my Nutcracker viewing. 😎 I love it, I really do.

This year, my mom and I plotted to take the kids to see the new Disney film adaptation, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms," and all of us being off for Election Day this week, we took advantage of discount day at the theater. Quick review follows, no spoilers!

Granted, I knew that this would be a more dramatic re-telling of the story, likely with some plot line embellishment, and little to no dancing, just given the format. And I was correct. :0 The film is lovely to behold. Visually, they can do so much more now with surreal settings like this, yes? I was quite taken with the aesthetic picture it painted, and wished I could be absorbed into that world for a time. I enjoyed the actors very much, and the cast was wonderfully diverse. What I didn't love was that the story seemed rushed at the outset - I want to linger at the Christmas Eve party and build up all that anticipation of the adventure Clara has to come! Once she enters the other realm, the story definitely differs from the ballet, but again, I expected that. With no dancing, you need to fill in the narrative with a bit of other drama. ;-) My mom kept saying:

"This is so strange."

But to be honest, The Nutcracker is a bit strange under all circumstances, right? πŸ˜‚

I truly enjoyed the experience, though it is no replacement for seeing The Nutcracker in ballet form performed live. I'd recommend it, though the villain scenes might be a little scary for young kids, it depends on the child.

This has me all in the holiday spirit, and as such, let's talk Advent!

πŸŽ‰

I'm planning to try and read the daily Mass readings throughout Advent, likely using Sacred Reading. I also enjoy our little Advent Book Club each year. Last year, for both Advent and Lent, we read fiction titles. I'm all about that, believe you me. Thinking this year we could try something different. How would you feel about working our way through a devotional journal for Advent? We wouldn't have to make it all onerous, but maybe plucking out 2ish reflection questions to answer together per week? I'm thinking about using one of the new Stay Connected journals that yours truly is a part of. Thoughts? If we used mine, it focuses on spiritual reading (in manageable bite-sized pieces!) which might be a lovely theme for Advent.


What do you think? We should plan over the next 1-2 weeks so that we're all set when Advent begins on December 2nd. We could maybe work through one of the others (themed on either the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or spiritual invitations) for Lent. I'm excited, and would love your opinion!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

I suppose that when you're a nerd, nerdiness extends to all areas of your life...

All!

*waves*

Happy week to you, I hope it's going well. I've been busy, as ever. Still teaching, which is at it's peak for the semester in terms of the grading load. But it's almost done! Our regular teaching wraps up this week. I may still be called upon to teach what we call "one shots" in other courses/seminars, but in terms of my more onerous regular teaching load, that will be done until late January. The break will be lovely!

At home, my kids are now at an age that they're actually developing social lives of their own, and this is resulting in yet more busyness. It is also resulting in yet another new season of our parenting journey, and thus is super stressful. 😬 Henry is trying out for the basketball team, and generally wanting to participate in more events with his friends at the school. He is in 8th grade (😭😭😭) and therefore this is completely normal. In fact, it should probably have happened years ago. But Henry is a reserved kid, just like I was, so I totally get it. He's maturing and coming out of his shell a bit, and I'm so pleased about it. But it's definitely a whole new slew of emotions and worries to manage.

*bites nails*

Anne is her usual sassy and social self, so nothing new there. ;-) We're all just generally in awe that the fall has moved along so quickly, and that somehow Thanksgiving is fast approaching!

As is usually the case this time of year, I get into high dance mode. Dancing, as you all know, is a strong part of my creative identity. And in the fall and winter, I usually have some solo/professional opportunities lined up that I am preparing for and my inspiration level is high. I have those opportunities in the spring and summer too, but with many of them being outside in the heat, it just makes for a completely different experience. I'm not looking to try out my ambitious and experimental new silk veil plans when it's 90 degrees out and all I can think about is not flinging sweat out into the audience.

😱

In the fall and winter, I can really focus and try out new things. I've got some plans for the winter that I'm really excited about (details to come), and it's really bringing out the bookish perpetual student vibe in me. Yes, I am a nerd. Apparently, one can even be a Belly Dance Nerd. This means:

(1) Scoping out books on the history of Middle Eastern dance on Amazon, and obsessively reading articles online.
(2) Curating playlists of both golden era and modern dancers to watch at lunch.
(3) Carefully watching aforementioned videos every day to soak up the movement quality via osmosis.
(4) Doing casual research on the proper elements of a Magency. Doesn't everybody wonder about such things?!

I am indeed a lifelong learner, and I'm hoping that this will keep my mind young. ;-)  I'm preparing a Magency piece for our fall hafla, and my troupe is going to be performing our Cairo-style Saidi piece at a workshop in Syracuse in early December. The workshop is on Turkish Roman dance, which I've never studied before.

*nerding out!*

I'm so excited. I have a 12 yard skirt in my Amazon cart because I'll need one to perform the Turkish choreography in the show after the workshop. No bare midriffs in this form of dance, so I'm coordinating with a sleeved top and hip scarf that I already own.

So much beaming. I'm hoping to adapt the Magency piece for something else next year, that's the thing I'll talk about later. It's all very exciting, rest assured. At least for me! :0

Do you enjoy still learning new things, and "going back to school", if you will, when you find something new that tickles your fancy? I'd love to hear all about it!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Adventures with sheep and wool, 2018 edition...

πŸ˜ƒ

I have returned from another year of adventures at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival in the beautiful Hudson Valley, and as ever, I had an inspiring time! I love being surrounded by a community of kind, creative people, with our fiber stimuli right at our fingertips. ;-) And being in Rhinebeck, NY in mid-October, is well...it's an inspiration unto itself:

*squees!*

The infamous Rhinebeck tree, which I photograph every year
This year, just like last year, it was VERY CROWDED on Saturday. I do struggle with claustrophobia when in enclosed spaces squeezed with lots of other people, so I did lots of removing of self from various outbuildings when the need struck. :0 Shopping is difficult with so many people wedged into the buildings and tents, but we made do. Yarn hunting brings out that survival instinct in us. ;-)

This year, I actually stumbled onto the animal parade! Can you handle the cuteness?!

Don't they look *so soft*?

They are also super regal :-) 
I just love the random "baaaaa!!!" that you hear throughout the fairgrounds as one makes their way from building to building. ;-) I peeked into the animal barns several times to admire cute noses moving to and fro as their owner munched on hay. And look at THIS CUTE GUY!

My new best friend 😍
The angora rabbits were AMAZING. I have literally never touched anything so soft in my life. They loved to be petted and held, and to munch on their food, pink noses twitching in the breeze. I LOVE THEM.

Rhinebeck provides project inspiration for me for the rest of the year, so I always make sure to photograph finished items that I love when I see them set up in a booth, as inevitably they have a tag indicating their pattern and yarn source. I photographed these 2 early on Saturday:

"Hogwarts Express" by Susan Ashcroft

"Silverleaf" by Lisa Hannes
It goes without saying that I purchased yarn in an owly colorway to make the Hogwarts shawlette. ;-)
In fact, here is that yarn, along with an autumnal variegated in sport weight that I simply could NOT pass over:

The colorway is called "Cider." I mean, for REAL.

By end of the day Saturday, I had accumulated quite a few other goodies as well:


A kit to make a beaded cowl is on the left. Alpaca socks for the kids, and fleece-lined glittens for myself are in the center. On the right are 2 hanks of a medium orange fingering weight yarn to make a leaf lace poncho, and a bottle of bourbon for Mike. πŸ˜‚Yes, there is a predominance of orange and brown in my choices. I am a true autumn girl. Speaking of orange:
My Rhinebeck hat!
I made the hat, along with the top I'm wearing. One of the best parts of Rhinebeck is the parade of handknits that is on display. Every single person (man, woman and child) is wearing handknit items. Sweaters and shawls dominate, but mittens and hats abound, scarves and cowls peek in there too, and you may even glimpse a handknit dress or skirt. It is one of the funnest aspects of this fiber festival, and I love joining in! It's wonderful to plan your annual Rhinebeck outerwear back in the spring. :)

This year, I was determined to partake of a few Rhinebeck traditions I had not tried yet, such as the falafel booth:

It was spectacular
...and the apple cider donuts. I waited 35 minutes to procure 4 apple cider donuts for my family and I, and I got off easy. Apparently, the line was an hour or longer at other parts of the weekend!

Most of all, I just enjoyed being a part of all of these wonderful moments:






Life is short, yes? And though we may not enjoy every moment, we can savor the really precious ones. And it was that in droves. Wonderful memories of shopping yarn, walking amongst the fall leaves, people-watching for the handknits, eating dinner with friends, and taking in the gorgeous Hudson Valley scenery on the drive over. Life really is beautiful.

How was your weekend, friends? I'd love to hear all about it!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Keeping the faith, and preparing for more frolicking with yarn...

Hi all! I have a big weekend coming up, and this week so far has been absolutely insane, with tons going on both at home and at work. But all is well! This weekend I am bound for Rhinebeck, NY, where I will attend the NY Sheep and Wool Festival for the second straight year, and I could NOT be more thrilled! I had such a wonderful time last year, and I feel blessed to be going again with my knitting group. Mid-October, in the Hudson Valley, amongst friends, food truck falafel, fiber-bearing animals, and reams and reams of gorgeous yarn. It is a dream come true, I tell you! I will report in next week with all of the yarny goodness. πŸ€—

In other news, we were at an open house this past weekend for the local Catholic boys high school that Henry would like to go to next year. The excellent, expensive, Catholic boys high school. 😬But it was a wonderful experience, and Henry handled himself so beautifully in a new situation, interacting with lots of people, both of which I know make him very nervous. I was so proud of him. πŸ’— The entrance exam is November 17th, and I would appreciate any prayers for focus and discernment that you could wing his way!

In the lead-up to the open house on Sunday, we all attended Mass together as a family. And it was the 8 am Mass. Remember what happened the last time the kids and I went to the 8 am Mass Henry was serving at? Yeah. It was a bit of a disaster. I was feeling so low, and our experience at that Mass only made things worse. Well, needless to say, I wasn't exactly looking forward to going back, but Henry was serving, so I steeled myself, and Mike came with us, which is always lovely. After Mass, this same person came up to talk to me, which I have to say is perplexing, because we don't know each other at all, but I'm a friendly sort. It was again a little strange, but there was a key difference: God allowed me to see something very important. This man doesn't have any ill intentions, he is simply a bit socially awkward. I felt a lot of peace afterwards. And it changed the way I look back and view the other situation as well. I'm feeling peaceful and grateful for this revelation. Sometimes these little things mean a lot, you know?

And in that same vein, attending Mass has become easier for me again. In my time of spiritual dryness, it was hard to go to Mass, but I went anyway. Now, I feel peaceful there again. I know that we don't *need* that feeling in order to go, but it does help, yes? And so here is the crowd sourcing part of our time together. ;-) My subscription with Magnificat is up this month. I have always loved Magnificat, and I still do. I just ordered Anne a subscription to MagnifiKid, in fact. But I thought before taking on another 2 year subscription, I would look at the other options just to see if I liked any of those better. A refreshening and reevaluation process. I spied with my little eye Word Among Us and their format of a small monthly magazine with the optional supplement of the daily Mass readings really appealed to me. Does anybody subscribe to either of these, and what are your feelings on what they have to offer? How about a regular old Sunday missal? One of the things I love the most about Magnificat is the beautiful artwork and the special Holy Week issue each year. Word Among Us seems to have uplifting articles to read throughout, appealing to a bookworm like me.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How are those crafting obstacles coming along Tiffany? you reasonably ask...

Well.

😬

I suppose I shouldn't be so dramatic. Projects like these take time! AND, we do have some progress. Looky here!


I had finished Anne's Lighthouse Pullover over the summer, I think I reported in on this last time we broached this topic. Since then, I made both school uniform cardigans (for which I deserve a medal; navy blue garter stitch gets a wee bit boring after a spell :0) AND I made a Rhinebeck sweater. I will grant, NOT the sweater I was originally planning to make, but a sweater that I will wear at Rhinebeck nonetheless.

Look how cute my little pupil is in her new cardigan!

Pattern is "Sugar Maple" by Carina Spencer
So I'm making progress! I'm getting into holiday gift making season, so I did forget about at least half of the projects that are on this list. :0 But I'll get to them. It's a marathon, not a sprint, to be sure!

In other crafting news, there's been lots of excitement! I know I mentioned over the summer how I had gotten involved in Hogwarts at Ravelry, I waited excitedly on Platform 9 3/4, submitted a project in the Orientation thread, and was happily sorted into Gryffindor when the new term started. I did well, submitting projects to multiple classes and Weekly Challenges, and so logged in at the end of the rotation to submit my intention to stay on in Gryffindor House. Well.

*beams*

I had a message from the absolutely LOVELY Head of House in Gryffindor asking me to be the Prefect for the upcoming rotation. I was a little nervous about taking on a more active role so early on in my Hogwarts studies ;-), but I was also pretty excited. It's like my dream come true - I am Hermione!


So far, it's going positively swimmingly. I just check in every day and encourage my fellow Gryffindor Lions in their crafting goals. I adore the community there, and am enjoying myself tremendously! I also get to see our fellow Life of a Catholic Librarian community member Melanie, who is the ambassador to Platform 9 3/4 for Hufflepuff. She is also running one of the storylines this term (aka a class) and I really want to make something to submit over there!

πŸ˜ƒ

So much fun. It's all about community, yes? About fostering and nurturing healthy relationships with wonderful, kind people. God is so good to us!

What are you working on this week? Are you starting to plan out your holiday gifts? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

My book is actually IN PRINT!

I had planned a craft post for this week, and I *promise* that we'll do that next week, because there is lots of excitement in my crafting world right now. :0 However, my little mind was all diverted this week by book stuff. LOOKY WHAT CAME LAST NIGHT:


😍

It's all a little surreal that I have a book that actually exists in real life πŸ˜‚. I'm so excited to dive into these and use them for scripture study and journaling! That might make a good Advent and Lent project? Thoughts? I definitely want to do this with Deanna's and Allison's books, but I'm curious as to whether or not I'd be able to re-read my own like this, ha! While I was working on this book, every morning before I jumped into writing I would pray to the Holy Spirit to have it be His words and not mine, so maybe? I'll be curious to see. ;-)

Importantly, these are now available to order on Amazon. This means a couple of important things: for one, you can now get them with your Prime shipping if you are a member. Also, you can see interior previews of all 3 books, which I LOVE to do before adding things to my cart! For my book, you can now see the entire Introduction!

*streamers*

Finally, you can *add reviews once you've read the books* which we would so gratefully appreciate! Even if you did not purchase the book from Amazon (but ordered via the publisher, Gracewatch Media, or in the Indiegogo pre-order campaign) you can still leave a review on Amazon. This helps other readers to discover these books while they are searching and browsing for related titles. This is so crucial to the success of the series! Allison is hoping to add 3 more books to the series next year, and growing these initial 3 titles is a huge part of that.

Another tidbit: you *can* order via the publisher, Gracewatch Media, and the books are actually cheaper there. They retail for $15, are marked down to $14, and by using the code GRACE15, you will receive 15% off. This makes the books $11.90 each, and Gracewatch offers free shipping on orders of $10 and up. The disadvantage is that the shipping is not 2-day like Amazon Prime, but if you are not a Prime member, or you are not in a rush, you may be interested in this route. :)

These journals would make excellent holiday gifts, for sure. They're personal and relatable, and just lovely and inspiring to page through. I am so excited to be a part of this project, and I hope that you'll share in the excitement with me!

πŸŽ‰

Is anybody interested in using one of these during Advent and making a book club for it? Would love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"What are *you* looking at? Haven't you ever seen a head piece made out of pom poms before?!" Adventures in workshop gala shows...

Well, I'm back from my little adventure in Toronto, and somehow dragging myself through the week despite getting only about 10 hours of sleep over the course of the entire weekend. :0 It was one of those stretches wherein you know that many years from now, when your grandkids ask you to tell them a fun story about adventurous things you did when you were young (or, ah hem, YOUNGER), this particular event will come to mind, because it is the type of situation wherein you build memories. This is wonderful. The only disadvantage is that when it's 5 am and you're wide awake in panic mode wondering if you remembered to pack all of the pieces of your costume, knowing that you have a 2 hour drive, 4 hours of workshops, and a 2 hour gala show that you're performing in, ahead of you, well...that kind of stinks. πŸ˜‚

Saturday, in particular, was a very long day, and about a quarter of the way through the second workshop (on Golden Era technique and styling 😍)I was beginning to wonder if I was going to in fact make it all the way through without falling asleep in a corner. The first technique workshop was AMAZING (and this dancer teaching the workshops, Shahrzad, an American dancer who lives in Cairo is *phenomenal*) and I was super jazzed, shimmying my little heart out. Then the second workshop hit, and I faded a bit, thinking: "it's ok, I can do it!" Then I realized that I could do it, but maybe not particularly WELL, I just had to try and stay awake and do what I could.

Later, back at the hotel, as the 4 of us readied for the gala show, the restroom was consumed by our makeup and hair rituals, false eyelashes being applied with much bravery. Brandy, Claire and I were performing as a trio in a Saidi piece. Saidi is a very specific style within Middle Eastern dance (Saidi is often referred to as a folkloric dance, but Shahrzad explained why she does *not* consider female dancers performing Saidi to be traditional folklore, and I learned so much from her!) and it has it's own distinctive movements and costuming. When Westerners hear the words "belly dance" they are expecting a certain thing, and Saidi is not that thing. However, belly dancers perform Saidi as part of their repertoire within Middle Eastern dance. See how much fascinating stuff there is to learn, and why I love it so much?! πŸ˜€

So we have this SUPER upbeat and fun Saidi choreography planned, and our costuming was created by Claire to emulate Cairo style Saidi. Here is the enormously talented Vanessa of Cairo (who is renowned for her Saidi dance) in a costume that ours was modeled on:


Saidi is usually performed in a long sleeved gown like Vanessa is wearing. And yes, this particular style within Saidi embellishes the costume with pom poms on the hips and head. :0

We of course wear coverups over our costumes when we are not performing, but let's just say that when the 4 of us walked down through the hotel lobby and then out onto the sidewalk to await our Uber driver...we received a lot of stares.


Without any sort of context of who we were and where we were going, the pom poms just made people think that we may have lost our minds. But I mean, really. This was downtown Toronto. They've never seen anything stranger than a gaggle of women in hot pink mumus and pom pom headbands? I ask you! πŸ˜‚

We got to our venue, and then waited. And waited. And waited, for the show to start. They were running behind, which we totally get, but exhaustion was definitely more than taking root at that point. We made it, however. Our Saidi went great (although I actually bounced one of my gigantic earrings right out of my ear while I danced :0), and I got a huge thrill out of seeing Shahrzad perform live. It was wonderful. But to say that we booked it back to our hotel so that we could leap into bed and get some much needed sleep was a huge understatement. πŸ˜‚

Sunday we had 2 more workshops, and then the drive back home. It was all worth it, but home sweet home! How was your weekend, dear reader? What's happening for you this fall? Next week, we're back to a little crafting!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Some weeks are just like this...

Have you ever had a week wherein you felt like you couldn't catch your breath, there was just so much going on? That's this week for me, and as I type this, it's only Tuesday! πŸ˜‚

Let's take a look at yesterday, shall we?

πŸš—

I teach 3 classes in a row, starting at 9 am, on Monday mornings. I got the kids' lunches all set, readied myself, and rushed into work. "Rushing" is always the theme of our day on Mondays, to be sure. Little Honda Fit and I pulled into the parking lot at 8:30. I took out my phone, and found a text from my boss (also my co-teacher for that 9 am slot) that she's at the classroom troubleshooting some issues with the online quiz we were set to administer that day. I let her know that I'll be there as soon as I can, and headed into the library with my gigantic Mary Poppins bag of crap.



via GIPHY

I stashed my stuff, quickly ran through my email, and headed out to the classroom. Upon my arrival, I started the frantic task of readying the classroom while she finished with the quiz. We finished in the nick of time, whew!

The 3 classes go fine, but this was the first time we've taught this particular lesson in this particular fashion, and there were some kinks to work out. I have really good groups of students on Monday, but by the end of the whole ordeal, I was downright grumpy. I grumpily groused back to my office, and entered my attendance. I went through new emails, and by this time I was hangry in a major way. I finally heated up my lunch, and tuned into the replay of the latest Facebook live sale with my local Lularoe consultant, Mindy. I'm sure most of you have heard of Lularoe, but it's clothing in limited edition prints. It can be hard to find a specific style/print in your size, because they only make so many of them. I had had Mindy keep an eye out for a specific top in my mom's size that I knew she had been hunting for, as I was looking for something special as a birthday gift to her. Mindy fortuitously received one in a shipment from the warehouse, and all was well.

So I'm watching the replay of the live sale, and I see that my mom had joined in on the video. I am hit with Sense of Foreboding Feeling #1 on the day. Although I knew she couldn't snag the exact top I had purchased for her, I knew that Mindy had also received similar tops in a few other sizes. I didn't want my mom to grab one of those, thus dampening the exciting nature of my birthday top coup.

Well, you guessed it. A top comes up in a size above hers that is VERY SIMILAR to the one I got for her, and boom. She claims it. I may have flared my nostrils. I may have gripped my sandwich in consternation. My mom is so hard to buy for!

I messaged Mindy, and we commiserate. We brainstormed, and I decided to try and pick something else out for my mom. This made me feel better, but it did add "stop at Mindy's" to my already packed to-do list on the week.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some grading and other workly maintenance. I left promptly so that I will have time to make dinner before my marathon of an evening. By which I mean a 3-tiered, 3 hour, stretch in which I had to attend the parent orientation for Anne's classroom, have a dance rehearsal for an upcoming performance, AND go to my regular Monday night Hipfit class.

😬

So the first thing I did was go home and make an egg souffle. πŸ˜‚ The doesn't really seem like the first thing most people would do in a frenzied state, but I am not most people, I suppose. I am much, much more scattered and ridiculous than most people, ha! I quickly made the souffle (while having a cocktail, I'm not going to lie) and it actually turns out OK and does not fall! Hey, I was as surprised as the rest of the family. I changed into my workout clothes, and realized that I would have to wear those to the parent orientation night.

😱

I popped a skirt on over my leggings as subterfuge. As I pulled away from the house, I realized that I forgot to ask Anne what her classroom number was. That really just fits with the day, does it not?

I arrived, parked Fit, headed in, and wandered around. Someone took pity on me and asked what room I was looking for, and they directed me to the 2nd grade area. Gratefully, I found familiar faces, and then honed in on the sign-up sheet for parent/teacher conferences. I wanted a prime 6 pm slot. I saw it available, snagged it,  and made a spectacle of myself taking a photo of the sign-up sheet with my phone to text to Mike so that he can mark it on our family calendar. This made me feel organized.

Feeling a bit more in control, I headed into the classroom. Here is where I'm faced with Sense of Foreboding Feeling #2 on the day. This happens to me a LOT if you couldn't tell already. I recognized the other parents. But this was not Anne's classroom. This was the *other* 2nd grade classroom.

😳

I slunk out of the room, frantically erased my name on the sign-up sheet to the amusement of parents texting others out in the hallway, and kept walking. I finally encountered Anne's 2nd grade classroom, signed up for a conference, and miserably sat down on her tiny little chair in the stifling hot classroom. I will say, they kept things moving efficiently, but this had been a LONG day (for everyone!) already. The instant we were done, I had to jet to the dance studio for the drum solo rehearsal (I was late, and joined in mid-dramatic walk on stage) followed by our regular Hipfit class. By the time I got home, you could have scraped me up off of the floor. I was all done in.

Today, I had 2 classes, more grading and attendance work (I have 250 students, ugh), I'm stopping at Mindy's, making broccoli cheese soup, and then rehearing for our OTHER dance performance, which is this weekend in Toronto. It's broiling hot outside, and we're having a dress rehearsal tonight in our non-breathable, long sleeved, Saidi gowns.

😭

It's mid-September, people! It's not supposed to still be humid and in the high 80's, at least not in my part of the world. At any rate, the rest of the week is exactly like this (I teach until 6 pm Wednesday, have Girl Scouts with Anne Thursday evening, and need to prepare for my trip to Toronto on Friday). I definitely feel flustered and overwhelmed. But life is good. It is! I just feel a weensy bit overwhelmed right now. ;-)

So we're performing this weekend plus taking 8 hours of dance workshops. Yikes! I just did the math on that one. πŸ˜‚ Am I too old for this?! Happily not, but I tell you, sometimes I wonder! I also have crafting stuff going on, and lots of family activities. Life is full, to be sure! Next week we can talk dance and crafts. And books. I have tons of ideas! I just need time to implement them. ;-) Have a great end of week, everybody! What's up with you this fall day?

*heart*

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fall teaching begins, and book club news!


Well, well, well, here we are at the start of my teaching for the fall semester, we're nearly done with the week, and I'm still alive, hooray!

πŸŽ‰

So far, so good. Our lesson on identifying and evaluating source types has gone over exceedingly well (I know it sounds dull, but trust me, we've spruced it up to be fun :0), my students have been angels, and I've felt meaningful poignancy after each class. There is no way that this will last for the entire semester. πŸ˜‚ But hey. I'll take it!

In other news, the fall CatholicMom.com book club has officially started, and I am SO honored to be a part of it all!


You all know that I am a huge proponent of a good book club. We're not having one here on the blog until Advent, so if you have a hankering for one before then, why not jump in on this one? The author interview is up, and there's definitely still time to download the book and wade in! It's very friendly and accessible reading for a non-fiction selection, so you'll be caught up in no time! If you'd like to participate, take a peek over at the main book club page, where you can find all the posts linked as they go up, and a there's also spot to sign up for email reminders on all book club posts! My post on chapters 1-5 goes up this Saturday.

*halo*

I really think you'll like this book. The author provides personal anecdotes that are incredibly relatable as she addresses 15 lessons she's learned in her relationship with God. For example:

"It's Going to be OK" - On the Power of Prayer, and
"No One Said it Would be Fair" - On Accepting our Crosses

I really enjoyed how she arranged the book. And this is my favorite style of non-fiction, with a personal narrative woven into larger spiritual wisdom. I enjoy taking on and trying out new things with the changing of the seasons, so maybe this will catch your fancy this fall!

Next week, I'll have a dance post for you as I'm headed to Toronto to take a workshop with a very well-known dancer, and perform in the gala show! My nerves are all atwitter!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Oh. I guess I'm dancing to this song now instead!" More adventures in summer performing...

Last week took a lot out of me, my friends. πŸ˜‚ I'm hanging in there, though. Just trying to keep on, keeping on, if that makes any sense. Henry and I wrapped up our St. Kateri novena for his high school intentions, which was lovely. The kids' first week back at school is newly ongoing 😬 which is a big adjustment for everybody, and I start teaching again next week. So I've been trying to focus on those things and distract myself a bit.

My babies! 😭

As well, my troupe and I performed at an outdoor artisan's market this past weekend, our last outdoor event of the year, which provided lovely distraction fodder. I love performing, I really do, but if I'm honest I have to admit that I do not love dancing outside. The surface is always unknown ahead of time, and generally questionable for the duration, it's usually sweltering hot, there is no shade, etc. Just not the funnest thing to perform with this set of circumstances.

And Saturday was no exception. :0 We arrive and it's one of the hottest days of the year, despite it being September 1st.

#longsufferingsigh

The band ahead of us finished up a tad early, and so we got right on it, anxious to perform our set and clear out before the afternoon heat got any worse. By the end of our first group piece, I was sweating, but it wasn't too epic. Next up, I danced a solo, and ordinarily, I *never* start on the stage. I let the music start, and then I dance out at some point. Usually, this fits with the music, and plus it gives me time to gather myself before I go out. Plus, I just think it looks more dramatic. ;-)

Well, on Saturday, I had chosen a baladi to dance to. A baladi is a specific type of arrangement in Middle Eastern music wherein the song begins with a very slow sequence called a taqsim. After the taqsim, the music picks up with a specific rhythm that builds in speed throughout the song up to a crescendo at the end. Given the taqsim at the beginning of a baladi, it may be a better choice to start on stage. Depending upon the specific song, it might not be too easy to travel onto the stage, the music just doesn't support that movement. So when Claire asked me which I preferred, I made the decision to begin out on our "stage" area.

I swirl out, strike a pose, and wait for my music to start. Let's just say that I had a bit of a long wait. πŸ˜‚There was a glitch with the sound system, and all the while, I'm still in my dramatic pose. Then, hark! Music starts, but it is not my music. Now, I'm an improvisational dancer, I do not plan out choreographies, so I can dance to anything on a moment's notice, but this was a Saidi song, meaning a folkloric piece that my troupe costume wasn't appropriate for, nor was it the style of dancing that I was planning on. I waited for several beats, hoping that the music would stop, but it didn't. :0 Everyone is watching me expectantly. All the while, I'm thinking:

"This is why I like to start offstage!" πŸ˜‚

And this is also why, although nerve wracking, my life is a heck of a lot more interesting than it was in my teens and twenties.

Life doesn't always go the way we plan, yes? Well, neither do our dance events. So, I raise my posed and lowered gaze and start to dance. Then the music dramatically cuts out. I stop dancing, strike another pose, and beam out at the audience. They beam back. Shortly thereafter, my baladi begins and I dance to that with much relief. It goes very well.

We had three more group pieces, and by the second one, my hair was indeed epic. It was glued to my back and became the consistency of the mop that you use on your kitchen floor. During one particularly memorable moment, a rivulet of sunscreen and sweat poured into my eyes, and I had to blink uncontrollably for the remainder of the song. When we got to our final drum solo, in which we have several head movements wherein we toss our hair...let's just say that my hair didn't move a muscle. :0

I had a lot of fun, but I was glad when that one was over. We have more performances coming up, but thankfully, all indoors!

How are you doing this week, dear reader?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

When you find it difficult to have faith...

I hope that the title of this post doesn't sound too dramatic (I bandied about with several different options before settling on this one), but I think that when you have a blog, it's important to be honest. That's what makes the content compelling, and that's what builds trust and community. I always keep it real here at Life of a Catholic Librarian, so this week I decided to write about the struggle I'm having right now. Of course, this isn't about ME at all, it's about a crisis in our Church (including my own diocese), but it has set off an emotional buildup within myself, to be sure.

I don't often refer to current events here in my posts, but this is one of those times wherein one simply has to. In my lifetime of being a Catholic, I've never felt the way that I do right now. I'm not going to leave the Church, but in all honesty, it hurts right now. It rather hurts my heart to be Catholic. I feel deeply upset at the way some of our spiritual leaders have abused their power and physically and emotionally abused others, both children and adults. It is quite easy for a person to think: "How can this be Christ's Church? How can I stay here?"

I know. I do.

I don't have any answers. I'm just trusting that given that it *is* Christ's Church (I firmly believe this), He will make all things new, and bring some good out of all this evil. We humans tend to screw things up royally, and need God to guide us. We need that more than ever right now.

When I went to Mass this weekend, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty low, based upon all of the above. And I did not have the best experience. Remember that whole bringing-up-the-gifts-too-early-debacle I detailed about a month ago? Well, I was once again back at the 8 am Mass because Henry was serving. This time, Anne was with me. That same sweet usher was looking for volunteers again, and this time, Anne eagerly volunteered us.

😳

I mean, I like helping out, I'm just not my most awake and with it at 8 am on Sunday morning. So I was extra vigilant, keeping an eye on the ushers as they collected the envelopes, and then waited for them to definitely process up the aisle, bound for the small table with the gifts, before Anne and I got up to join them. Everything went great, and Anne bowed to the altar just like I taught her. I reflected on the Gospel reading after communion (which was right on point, btw. In fact, let's pop it in here):

"Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?' Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, 'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.'...As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve: 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered him: 'Master, to whom small we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

For realsies, YES?! There could not have been a more perfect Gospel reading this week, but let's come back to that. Let's return to my traumatic experience at Mass. 😭 So,  everything was going soothingly well. Then Mass ended, and Anne and I waited for Henry to come back from the sacristy.

Sigh.

A man comes up to us. I recognize him from Mass, but I do not know him, or even his name. He comes up smiling at us, so I assume he's going to say something nice. Because that's just what I do, I assume the best of people. While still all smiley, he tells me that when *he* brings up the gifts, he gets up as soon as Father gets out of his chair, rather than waiting for the ushers the way that Anne and I did. Then he says:

"I heard the lady in front of me tsk, then say: 'amateurs!'"

And he bursts out laughing like this is the funniest thing he's ever heard.

Friends, I was not laughing. In fact, I said nothing while he laughed, until he got the hint and slunk away. I would not normally react like that; I would play along and pretend I got the "joke" so as to put the other person at ease. But I was really stung. I felt hurt by his words, and that he went out of his way to relay them to me. He couldn't have known that I was generally feeling low that day, upset about everything that we were all just finding out about, and that this would make me feel infinitely lonelier in my faith. But for the rest of the day, I felt terrible. I thought to myself: "what am I even doing here?"

And I'm glad that my thoughts took that turn, because that brings us full circle back to the Gospel reading: I'm here because of the Eucharist.

That's it, really. Although there are many close friends in my community (both locally and online) that I share my faith with, I'm not Catholic because of the people. I'm Catholic because of the Eucharist.

Each morning when I've woken up this week, I think about that. I think about that Gospel reading from John. I downloaded a Kindle copy of the Liturgy of the Hours, and when I can, I pray Morning/Evening Prayer. Randomly, the one I've been able to pray every day is Night Prayer. I remind myself that my faith is about Christ and His True Presence in the Eucharist, and I don't need to feel particularly touchy feely about my bishop or about my fellow parishoners in order for my faith to be firm. Hopefully, that will all resolve eventually, but I don't need to force my feelings into anything. It's the way I feel right now, and that's OK.

It's all a little raw this week, do you agree, my friends? Do you have certain things that you do when you find that it's a challenge for your faith to thrive? Specific devotions or ways of focusing your thoughts and emotions? Perhaps we can all have a virtual group hug this week!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Back-to-school briskness and busyness, and school-related novenas...

St. Kateri is our back-to-school patron this year!
Anecdote of the day: Anne greets me first thing this morning outside our bedroom door, wearing her nightgown, tossled hair, and a frown:

"Mom. You have to come quick."

Uh oh.

She hustles me down to her little bedroom, where she has clearly *just* stepped out of bed, and points an accusing finger at a shelf:

"How did Peppers get up there?!"

Peppers is her new stuffed animal friend, a parrot. I actually have no idea how Peppers got up onto a shelf, as I tucked them into bed together last night, and that does seem a little scary, doesn't it? Did he fly up there?!

πŸ˜‚

"Daddy probably put Peppers up there when he checked on you last night, Honey. Maybe he had fallen out of the bed."

"But why would he put Peppers up there and not back into bed with me?!"

Well, I don't know. But Anne was clearly outraged. :0 Poor Peppers.

In other news, we're in full on back-to-school prep over here. Although we're still getting flare ups of humidity around these parts, September is in the air. We're getting occasional cool nights, and the campus where I work is beginning to look different. Students are arriving for orientation, and there is a bustling sensation in the air. Classes start for them on Monday. I don't start teaching until week 3 due to the way our library lab is structured, so I still have some time to breathe, thankfully. My kids don't start school until the Wednesday following Labor Day.

It's kind of a big year for my Henry, because he's going into 8th grade. That's the highest level in his and Anne's Catholic school, and the whole thing is a bit emotional for me.

😭

I'm struggling with/panicking about this quite a bit. Next year, he will start high school, and it does NOT seem like this is possible. I know, I know, I've whined about this before. :0 But I can't help it. This is big. I never pictured myself as old enough to have a child in high school, and here we are on the very precipice of that. I'll make it, but it isn't easy. At least I have Mike to share the journey with me. *heart*

As we move into the fall, Henry is facing the Catholic High School Entrance Exam. We don't know for certain that he will attend Catholic high school (i.e. whether we can afford it), but his top choice is the Catholic boys high school that is minutes away from our house. Assuming that the financial aid package is manageable, we'd love to send him there. But it's a big "if," to be sure.

Accordingly, given that the entrance exam is in early November, and sometime thereafter we would find out the financial information, Henry and I are going to pray a novena starting Sunday (August 26th) using this novena to St. Kateri.

Would anybody like to join us? This would mean that the last day of the novena would be Labor Day here in the U.S., and since my kids start school right after that, the timing seems apt. :) I asked Henry which saint he would like to ask to intercede for him, and he chose St. Kateri, isn't he precious? If you'll be joining us, let me know!

All right, I have a bunch of beginning-of-semester emails to send out, so I'd better get on that.

*groans*

How is your back-to-school season going? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Books and Back-to-School on the feast of the Assumption...

Books still available for pre-order!
Well, happy feast of the Assumption, everybody! I'm going to be honest and admit that I was dragging a bit to get myself to Mass today. I had planned to go to the 8 am at my parish, and well...

😳

Let's just say that didn't happen. πŸ˜‚ Plus, I had a meeting at 9 am (that I had forgotten about, OOPS!) and so I would not have made it back for that on time. I was all rushy rushy, juggling my lunch, various morning beverages, and gigantic bag (Mike: "has this gotten bigger?! Me: "Well, yes. Didn't you see the big package that came yesterday with my new bag in it?" πŸ˜‡) to get into the library and throw aforementioned stuff down before heading to the meeting. The meeting wrapped up at 11, and luckily there is a parish near campus with an 11:30 am Mass. Honesty time again: I did not feel like driving over there, but I did it anyway, because I knew that it was the right thing to do, and sure enough: BAM. Outstanding experience. I mean, the Eucharist is there, what more do we need, right? But the priest also had a beautiful homily about a statue that he had seen recently of Our Lady being assumed into heaven, and how it was different from other common images we see of Mary, wherein she is clasping her hands, or holding them extended downward. In this particular statue, she was holding her arms up, her gazed fixed upward towards heaven. He spoke of this posture reminding him of faith, hope and trust, and it really touched my heart. What an excellent feast day blessing.

In other news, I see from my Facebook feed that mid-August is officially back-to-school time. My kids don't go back until after Labor Day, but still, there is a definite back-to-school feeling in the air, yes? My piece for Catholic Mom this month reflects that this important change is very much on my mind this year (it's a focus on St. Vincent de Paul as a patron for our little back-to-schoolers!). My babies are going into 8th and 2nd grade, respectively. I mean:

😭

I can't believe that this is really happening. Henry has just one more year in the same school as Anne, and then he will be off to high school. This does not seem possible. I mean, just yesterday, he was toddling into our bedroom in the morning in his footed sleeper, to curl up with me and watch that creepy show with the hands until he had to get dressed for daycare.

😭

I guess I'm at that point in life that I just never foresaw. I saw myself getting married and having kids, by which I mean LITTLE KIDS. They are NOT SUPPOSED to get to be 13 years old and go to high school!

*blink blink*

I'll make it. Sometimes real life just seems a bit surreal.

Also this August, pre-orders for the Stay Connected journal series that I am a part of are open for only a few more days! I wanted to post about this again because the publisher decided on a final retail price for these initial 3 books, and they will be $14.95 each. The pre-order price of $9 per book, or $25 for the initial set of 3, is an INCREDIBLE bargain! You can also get my book in bulk quantities (3, 5 or 10 copies) for up to 50% off right now for a Bible study group, and now is the absolute best time to pull the trigger on that due to the price break. 10 copies for $60! My book focuses on spiritual reading, and pulls out excerpts from some classic works of Catholic literature for us to study together. Quick promo video for your leisure time! πŸ˜ƒ


It's been such a pleasure to work with Allison Gingras on this series, and I am SO EXCITED about the full launch on October 1st (feast of St. Therese, she's featured in my book!) and doing some traveling to promote the book. Details to follow when I have them!

*streamers*

In the meantime, how is your back-to-school season going? Any fun plans for fall? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Adventures with swords and winged insects on a hill - more festival dancing, 2018...

You know, when I was a shy, mousey kid with glasses and an overbite in elementary school, I suppose that I didn't think my life would turn out in a particularly interesting way. I wanted to be quietly happy, and that is indeed how it turned out, but I will admit that my adult life includes some elements that I did not foresee all those decades ago. The librarian part is not a surprise. Nor is the wife and mother part (though I did fear at one point that that may never come to pass due to aforementioned shy, mousey, teeth situation I mentioned above). I guess I saw myself perpetually wearing a collared shirt and knee length skirt, my hair in a bun or braid, pushing a book cart around a small public library like Aurora Teagarden. I'd go home, make dinner for my husband and kids, and read a lot. That was pretty much it. :0

My belly dancing adventures have added a layer of excitement and fun to every arena of my life. It brings me unending creative inspiration, a beautiful community of women who support me emotionally, and events that I share with Mike and the kids. And the unexpected fun and laughter at some of the situations that we find ourselves in? Well, there's just no way I can ever put into words the joy it has brought me.

Friday night my troupe and I were slated to perform at an outdoor event memorializing a local musician who passed away a few years ago. After two full days of performing in the daytime heat last weekend, we were really looking forward to this much shorter, more informal gig. And indeed, it was a fun and wonderful adventure!

We arrived about a half hour in advance of our 8:15 pm performance slot, all gussied up in our hot pink costume coverups. :0 There was a band playing on the grass beneath a tent cover. We've danced on a multitude of different surfaces, but grass was a first for us!

The event organizer greeted us warmly and, shouting over the neighboring band, told us that he was so excited we were there, and that we'd be performing on "the main stage." There was a beat of confusion, because we all assumed that we were standing next to the main stage. Then he pointed to the top of a hill.

Yep. The main stage was UP THERE. πŸ˜‚

I had a hard time believing anybody would hike up that thing to watch us dance, but up we went, me wishing the entire time I had a decorative band for my Fitbit so that I could have captured those awesome steps. ;-) At the top, we found a sound system, and a couple making out. I am not making this up. :0 We discreetly made camp at the sound system, tried to find as even a spot as possible that we could dance on, and waited for the band to finish playing.

They did, and people actually hiked up that hill to watch us dance. :0 The evening was taking on a surreal feeling, but hey. That's part of the fun.

We organized ourselves as the sun set, swatting away mosquitoes all the while. This is officially the first performance wherein I wished that I had slathered myself with bug spray ahead of time. ALTHOUGH, the bug spray would have been a decidedly bad combination with the sheer volume of sweat that I accumulated on my face and hair. It was still quite warm and humid, even up on a hill. ;-) We danced several group pieces, and interspersed solos in-between. Sword and I had our big moment towards the end of the set:

Sword having his time in the spotlight ;-)
And Sword was a good boy. But I tell you, belly dancing, while balancing a sword on your sweaty head, up on an uneven hillside...well, it's not all it's cracked up to be. πŸ˜‚ In the past, once I got Sword balanced, I was only taking him off my head in case of apocalypse, or maybe just moderate cataclysm. I was much more leery of re-balancing it, so would live with terrible sliding sensations and other crazy crooked concoctions while I danced. Now? Every professional gig I've ever done has requested that I balance the sword. So I do, and now have a lot more experience. Sword goes on and off my head with lightening efficiency depending upon the conditions and his stability up there. So after balancing him for a spell, I swooped him off my head and did a bunch of swirly things with him. Then when I heard my song nearing it's end, I re-balanced him like a champ and ended with the sword on my head. Sword did good. :0

By our final number, my hair was sticking to my back and we all had at least one bug bite. The crowd was lovely, though, and we all have a fun and wonderful time. The event organizer is of Middle Eastern descent, and was thrilled to have us there.To me, this is what being a belly dancer is all about. We are representing a culture, and we have a responsibility to do it correctly and authentically. We are proud to present Egyptian dance, and to do it with joy.

And we have fall belly adventures coming out way! More performances, a workshop weekend in Toronto, an exciting new class, and the semi-annual hafla. I also have lots of yarn crafting adventures on tap as well, so there will be updates on that front too! How is your August going, dear reader? Share at will in the comments!