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!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - Spotlight on Catholic apologetics, Part II...

This summer is really flying by, yes? Hard to believe, but it's our final installment in the 2018 Summer Book Club! This summer, we've been discussing Kevin Lowry's How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, and last week we chatted about how how we all enjoyed his conversion story. Let's pick up where we left off!

So the second part of the book changes course, and Kevin then moves into a discussion of 8 "things" that were obstacles he had to overcome prior to becoming Catholic. I've seen discussions like this in many other conversion memoirs that I've read, and as a cradle Catholic who grew up in the Northeast, they have always been a source of fascination for me. Beliefs that I just took for granted (i.e. a devotion to Mary, that getting to heaven involves more than faith alone) were a huge source of controversy to others, and I had no idea until I was an adult!

It's been awhile since I read a conversion story like this, so I was interested to see Kevin's list as well. It included:

(1) The Eucharist
(2) Confession
(3) The Mystical Body of Christ
(4) Mary
(5) Faith vs. Works
(6) Authority
(7) The Church's Imperfections
(8) Himself

No big surprises there. :) These are all things that are very different for non-Catholics coming from a Protestant background, and these individuals may have some biases worked up against the Catholic belief system on these issues. He touches upon this in #8. I think he also makes an excellent point about #7, which in our modern times is an increasing tragedy for all involved. 

Numbers 1 through 6 I have read about in just about every other conversion story I've encountered, so they are certainly poignant items for those looking into the Church. This is an educational list, to be sure, and his discussion is on point. I do feel like the discussion was a bit abbreviated in this section, as compared to other books like this that I have read. Beth Anne mentioned this issue last week as well, with regards to the latter part of his conversion story in part I, that suddenly we went from a more detailed-driven narrative, to it being more cursory. This discussion felt more cursory to me than its' peers in this genre. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Since I have in fact read a lot of conversion stories, I have explored extensively on all of these issues, but if this is the first book of this type that a person has picked up, they would likely be left wanting a lot more information about these doctrines. The amount of information provided here is not necessarily convincing, I don't think, as to why the author converted to Catholicism. Obviously, he did a lot more research that he simply chose not to include here, and he may have been going for a shorter book that is easier to read. I get it.

Those are my impressions of the second half of the book! What were yours? I'd love to hear them!

Thank you so much, friends, for spending July reading along with me on the topic of apologetics! Our next book club will be for Advent, and sometime in the late fall I'll post a list for us to vote from. That'll be super fun, won't it?! πŸ˜ƒ

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Adventures with sweat and high powered wind - summer festival dancing, 2018 edition...

Hello all! I had time for a short dance post, and I promised last week that I'd get an update in prior to our last Summer Book Club installment.

*beams*

And so here I am, reporting in for duty. On the whole, it went very well! We danced on both Saturday and Sunday, and they were definitely long days, no doubt about that. We danced in what we call "pop ups" around the festival in the early afternoons, and then danced in a stage show during the later afternoons. All numbers went well, but as is always the case during the last weekend of July every single year, it was hot, and so we get very, very hot and sweaty. That does not make for the most pleasant of costume situations, to be sure. ;-) And dancing down on the road during the pop ups is uneven and makes turns a tad precarious. Our drum solo tried to knock us off in this fashion one-by-one, but we managed to thwart it. :0

The stage shows were beautiful. I was tired, no doubt about that, but I was very happy with how all of the pieces went, both solo and group. It was windy though, which always makes veil work a bit dicey. I practiced veil entrances for both of my solo pieces, and well...

...let's just say that didn't work out exactly as I had planned. πŸ˜‚ On Saturday, I stubbornly still entered with a veil, determined not to let the wind foil my beautiful swishing sequence. I got on stage, the veil flew over my face, and I beat it back behind me so that I could release it, pretending like I planned for that to happen. :0 I left it at the back of the stage so that I wouldn't accidentally step on it and slip, and it FOLLOWED ME ALL THE WAY UP TO THE FRONT, then blew right into the center of the space, slowly balled itself up and rolled around like a tumbleweed, before finally blowing right off and into the audience.

Sure. I meant for that to happen, as well. ;-)

Sunday, I gave up the ghost and entered without Veil. That went great, aside from the fact that sweat rolled into my right eye while I was dancing, causing my eyes to blink and water uncontrollably for the remainder of the piece.

All glamour, all the time, in the life of your belly dancing Catholic Librarian. 😎

And the group pieces were lovely as well. There were a lot of them, and thus a lot of quick costume changes, resulting in a bit of...:

"Wait. What dance are we doing?!"

...even as we were about to get on stage. :0 But hey, we're professionals. Which means we pull it off no matter what! And that we did.

It was a fun weekend, and I can't wait to do it again. Which we will. On Friday.

*collapses*

I haven't fully recovered from the last one yet, that's all. πŸ˜‚ And guess who's coming along for the ride? Our good friend Sword.

😨

I'll let you know how it all goes next week! How was your weekend, dear reader? Book Club post will be up tomorrow!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - Spotlight on Catholic apologetics, Part I...

Here we are, at last ready for the entire first part of our Summer Book Club, as we read How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry! We had an introduction to the book last week, but I *finally* procured my library ebook copy. I actually read this book in a few days, so I returned my library copy such that the next person on the waiting list could have it.

*halo*

So, what are we waiting for? Let's dive in!

The author divided up his story into 2 parts, with this first one being devoted to background information on his life, and his conversion story. I truly loved his story. Memoirs have always fascinated me - we all have a story to tell, and they are all compelling! Of course, they have to be told in a way that holds our attention, and Kevin does that beautifully with his funny and endearing narrative.

By his own description, he was a somewhat rebellious teenager who did not take the deeply ingrained Presbyterian faith of his parents very seriously. Nor does he take his college education very seriously, at least at first. His father is the one who suggests the Franciscan University of Steubenville, interestingly, and encourages him to attend there. While they are there touring the campus, Kevin sneaks away with his fake i.d. to procure beer and generally act in ways that teenagers do that make us cringe. These are things that we all either did, or thought were cool, at the exact same age, but now make us flare our nostrils and talk about how youth is wasted on the young. One thing I was confused about that the author does not clarify is why he starting attending college at age 16? Maybe he was homeschooled?

So he gets accepted, but his immaturity and general lack of wisdom (which we are all afflicted with at this stage of our lives; such painful memories! :0) cause him to make poor choices. He doesn't do his school work and gets very poor grades. He drinks a lot of beer and has a frightening experience in which he has no memory of an entire night. He does not attend church and his spiritual life is totally adrift. He flunks out of Franciscan University.

While he was there, he DOES meet very nice students, and many of his experiences cause him to wonder what it is about their Catholic faith that draws them to it. One morning after Sunday morning Mass lets out, he finally approaches the chapel, but does not go in. He feels an unmistakable peace, and is confused about it. He still thinks that Catholics are a bit odd and does not pursue it at this point, but I related very much to his story at this juncture. I felt that peace outside of a Catholic college chapel too, right before my reversion of heart back to the faith, while I was law school in my twenties.

So he goes to work back home in Toronto and matures a bit. Eventually, he wants to return to college, but finds that his nearly nonexistent grade point average is going to make this very difficult for him. He realizes that returning to Franciscan is truly his best shot at ever getting a college degree, and he pleads his case. They allow him to return under strict academic conditions, and he works very hard to meet them. He does so, and also meets a woman who will become his wife, Kathi. She too is not Catholic.

Ultimately, they graduate, marry and start a family together. They seek out a spiritual home, and Kevin begins to be bothered by how difficult this is, and how different each of the churches is. He eventually contact Scott Hahn for a chat, and Dr. Hahn gives him a rosary to pray. This is the beginning of the end of Kevin being a non-Catholic. :0

I was expecting that he would take Dr. Hahn's classes at Steubenville, and that this was partly what led to his conversion, but that isn't what happened from what I can glean. Although his heart softened towards Catholics during his time at Franciscan University, and he became intrigued by the fervor he saw in his Catholic classmates, all of the research he did that ultimately led to his conversion happened AFTER he graduated. Scott Hahn became his sponsor when he was baptized and confirmed into the faith. We knew that Kathi also decided to come into the Church with Kevin, but we also find out that Kevin's parents too become Catholic at a later time! So, obviously his dad had a soft spot for the Church all along.

I enjoy conversion stories, and this one is no exception. I found the story poignant and touching, and I laughed out loud in places. It was a joy to read. What were your thoughts on this part of the book?

Next week we will move into the main obstacles Kevin faced as a Presbyterian contemplating the Catholic Church, and how he overcame them. Join us again then!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer updates, and some big book news! (finally :))

Summer Book Club post is coming tomorrow, don't worry! I actually devoured the book in a few days, so I'm all ready to go for our discussion! Part I is tomorrow, Part II is next week. I even returned the ebook to the library so that the next person on the waiting list could have immediate access to Catholic apologetics goodness.

πŸ˜‡

I'm also busy frantically preparing for our big summer festival this weekend. This year is a whole new level. I'm in something like 500 dances. πŸ˜‚ I'm not really exaggerating by all that much, unfortunately. It's...a LOT. We're doing pop up dances throughout the festival both days, and then a 90 minute stage show on Saturday, 60 minutes on Sunday. I have many group pieces pervading, and then a solo on both days, a longer one on Saturday. The sheer volume of costumes and accessories that I need to pack is making me increasingly paranoid about forgetting something and/or generally screwing something up majorly. I'll be there close to 6 hours on each day.

😳

Pray for me. :0 I'm certain that I'll be reporting in on all of the amusing details next week!

All right, so the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

*trumpet blares*

The book that I've been mentioning for about 2 years now, and working on for well over a year, is now in the printing process, and available for pre-order as part of a scripture study series for Catholic women!


https://igg.me/at/stay-connected

Aren't they STUNNING?! Look at those pretty pastel colors!! My baby is the lavender one 😍:

*heart*
These books are down-to-earth, and easy-to-read, and are designed either for small group study, or from the comfort of your own couch with nothing but comfy clothes and a cup of tea as your companions on the journey. Each book has a different theme: the invitations of Jesus, classical works of Catholic literature, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All 3 books are organized into 7 chapters with opening and closing prayers, reflections on the chapter topic (in the case of my book, a different Catholic classic is featured in each chapter), connections to scripture, and discussion questions. These have journal prompts and space built right into the book, so there is plenty of room throughout to record yours/your groups' thoughts and experiences. You can see this below in the delightful interior design!


I could not be more pleased with how these books turned out. I plan to work my through all 3 as scripture studies and journals, and am just about jumping up and down with excitement! If you join the pre-order campaign, you will have your journal(s) in September!

πŸŽ‰

We are trying to gather initial printing costs for our lovely publisher, Gracewatch Media, and a successful campaign also means more journals will come out in 2019! The pre-order comes with MAJOR discounts for you. Each journal is available for $9 (25% off), or you can buy all 3 for just $25 (30% off). There are also bulk discounts available for each book, so you could also procure 3 copies of any 1 book for 30% off, 5 copies for 38% off, or 10 copies for 50% off! This is *perfect* for a Bible study group to go in on together! Domestic shipping costs are extremely reasonable as well. Ordering during the campaign also means that you'll get your journals way sooner than waiting for the full launch.

πŸ€—

If you'd like to support our humble campaign, I would be most grateful! These are marketed towards Catholic women, but I do truly feel that these journals are quite applicable to men as well! They also make great gifts for the women in your life.

The campaign is open for 20 more days! There WILL be online book clubs for these books as well, keep your eyes peeled, and I will keep you in the know. ;-)

Do you need a daily way to delve into scripture? Are you a journaler? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - How God Hauled Me Kicking & Screaming into the Catholic Church, Introduction...

OK, so remember that saga of me acquiring our book, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, from the public library in ebook form that I detailed a few weeks back? Right. Well, the saga continues. πŸ˜‚But I have a plan and am still able to start our book club! Pull up a comfy chair with your morning beverage.

So, I have been incensed patiently waiting my turn in the queue for the ebook copy of our book. Let the record reflect that I not only originally requested that the library purchase this book, but that I added myself to the ridiculous waiting list on June 28th. I was at that time #2 in the queue. JUNE 28TH.

It is now July 18th as I write this, and I still.do.not.have.the.book. This is a real problem with ebooks in public libraries, imo. People do not necessarily "return" the book when they're done reading it the way they do with print books. So the loan period is always reaching it's max before the next person in line can have the book. Granted, the loan period is shorter with ebooks than it is for print, but the waiting lists for ebooks is absolutely absurd. You can wait *months* for popular titles, and it is not nearly that bad with their print counterparts.

Anyway, enough complaining about that. Just under 2 weeks ago, I moved to #1 in the queue. The maximum borrowing period for an ebook is 14 days. So, by mathematical certainly, I will have the book Friday. (**edited to add that on July 19th, I now have the book! *streamers!*)

In the meantime, I was able to score a preview of the book that allowed me to read the foreword, Introduction,  chapter 1, and part of chapter 2. My thought is that this will serve as the introductory post to our book club, and then next week we'll discuss the remainder of Part 1, and then Part 2 on August 2nd. I know that I could just purchase the ebook and have immediate access to it. But at this point, it's an official Point of Pride that I await the library copy. :0 All right, ready to discuss the concept and beginning of this book?

πŸŽ‰

I noted right off the bat that the foreword was written by Scott Hahn, a Catholic apologist whose conversion story I'm very familiar with. He and his wife's book, Rome Sweet Home, was a huge influence in my own faith walk in my twenties. Let's have a quick moment with definitions, shall we? Apologetics:

reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine

So, when we speak of Catholic apologetics, and Catholic apologists, we are speaking of men and women who dedicate time to defending our faith in an academic sense. Such work can be very instrumental in drawing others to the Church.

We learn quickly that like Dr. Hahn, our author, Kevin Lowry, is a former Presbyterian.  Growing up in the haven of cradle, cultural, Catholicism that I did, I was very unfamiliar with Protestant denominations growing up. As a young adult, one of my fascinations with reading conversion stories was learning about the faith background of others that differed from my own. In all cases, the authors were grateful for their Protestant upbringing and had nothing but respect for the Christian values that it instilled. Which is is as it should be, and very pleasing to my empathetic heart.

As we move into the Introduction, our author emphasizes to us how unexpected his conversion was, and how conversion should, in a sense, be a daily occurrence, even for cradle Catholics.We should not become stagnant in our faith, and take it for granted. Regular conversion of heart is key to our spiritual sustenance.

I love the way that he starts chapter 1, with an overview of a crucial moment in time: his baptism at age 25. He had not previously been baptized in the Presbyterian church, so this sacrament was also his initiation into the Catholic faith. We find out that his parents are devout Presbyterians, his father a minister, but they support his decision to convert. We also find out that his wife is being received into the Church alongside him, but he was unsure as to whether or not she would decide to do this until the very last minute.

He recalls that when he first started attending Mass, the community seemed "cold" to him, and I understand what he means in that the culture in Catholic parishes is very different from what I hear others relate about their churches. Catholicism oftentimes is deeply ingrained into a community's culture, and it can become insular. It's not ill intended, but I think that for someone who is new or visiting the community, it can feel off-putting, especially if they are used to a church with greeters and tons of small group fellowship opportunities.

After this exciting whirlwind of thoughts, the author then moves into story of how he came to this crucial event. Chapter 2 begins with the author describing himself as a cocky teenager who did not take to heart the deep Christian faith of his parents. He grew up in Toronto (hey neighbor!), and as he began to explore colleges in late high school, his father suggests the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Dun dun DUN!

This is obviously where he met Dr. Hahn (who has taught theology there for many years), and heralds the beginning of his interest in Catholicism, one would think. And did his father know that the vibrant faith alive at this campus would dramatically impact his son, even if it was not within Presbyterianism? But this is also where my sample ended, so I'm on pins and needles waiting for my turn with the ebook. :0

The waiting list for the ebook at my public library now has 4 people on it, I'll have you know. I like to think that my purchase request was it's own little form of apologetics. ;-)

What were your thoughts on the very beginning of this conversion story? Has formal apologetics had an impact on your own faith journey? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences. We'll fully discuss Part 1 next Thursday on July 26th!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Self-conscious mishaps at Mass, and lots of other updates...

Happy mid-July everybody! As ever, the summer is going by very quickly. The kids are home, and we've had to develop a summer routine of sorts, which I talk about in this month's CatholicMom.com piece, if you're interested in such notions. :) I'm also in heavy dance rehearsal mode for the summer festivals coming up. We have a few new group dances that we're polishing up, and I need to pick music for a solo. I should really get on that, shouldn't I? 😬

...I'm back, I actually deviated from this post for 10 minutes to pick through music, ha ha! I have a few ideas, but I need to solidify that. For festival solos, I don't stress about music selection so much. Anything upbeat and fun will do, 3 and a half minutes or less, if you please! I'm just praying that it's not sweltering hot and miserable, because we have 2 long days coming up at the end of July, and also one in the first weekend of August.

In other July news, I am currently #1 in the waiting list queue for How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church. Assuming the person who currently possess the book only borrowed it for 1 week rather than 2 (please God), we're good to go for Summer Book Club next Thursday, July 19th!

*trumpets blare!*

Hope springs eternal. I *really* don't want to ask you guys to wait another week, so I'm hoping to have the ebook in my virtual hot little hands within the next few days.

I also promised a Great Crafting Obstacles update, and here it is!

*drum roll*


There has been progress! *online high five* I finished Anne's Little Lighthouse pullover for the fall:


I also cast on for the first of the 2 school uniform cardigans, and since it's knit with bulky weight yarn, it's going very quickly. Hopefully I'll have another update soon!

It's been a lovely summer so far. It's certainly been a year of reflection and growth for me, and the summer has only advanced that. I have an amusing anecdote to share in illustration...

This past Sunday morning, Henry was scheduled to serve at the 8 am Mass. I often ask Mike to take him when he has the early slot like this (Mike is a much earlier riser than I) and then Anne and I go to the 11 am Mass. But Henry was going to be serving alone for this particular Mass, and I wanted to be there to support him. We had all attended a local minor league baseball game the night before, and thus got to bed later than usual. Come 7 am, I blearily rolled out of bed, and decided not to wake Anne. She had another full day ahead with a birthday party to attend, and swimming at my parents' house, and I knew she needed her rest. Her regular night of sleep was curtailed the most out of all of us.

So Henry and I readied, and Anne was still not awake, so we departed just the two of us. I got Henry there nice and early to set up, and settled into a pew. I was EXHAUSTED. Like, could hardly keep my eyes open. And my seasonal allergies were not helping.

Right before Mass started, an usher hurried to the front of the church, looking expectant:

"We need some volunteers to bring up the gifts. Who would like to volunteer?"

He looked around, super eager, all dapper in his suit and tweed bow tie. Given that I was by myself, I did not volunteer. When Anne and I have attended the 8 am Mass in the past, we always volunteer together. Well, not a single other soul volunteered. And the usher looked crushed. So I volunteered, and he looked relieved.

Mass started. We had a visiting priest that day, from an African mission. The deacon was also in attendance. When the collection started, I was on alert, awaiting my duty. I was tired, and wanted to be sure not to miss my cue.

Well. πŸ˜‚

I see the ushers deposit the collection money into the sealable bags in the back, and then head up the aisle. This is the time that they approach the small table with the gifts, and then we all proceed together up to the altar. I hustle over, carefully pick up both the chalice and the dish with the not-yet-consecrated hosts, and walk solemnly up to the altar. Do you want to know what happened then, good and gentle reader?

Right. I was up there alone with the priest, deacon and Henry, still seated, all looking at me quizzically. I got a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There was a second collection, and the ushers were going about that, nowhere near ready for the gifts to be brought up.

😳😳😳

See, we don't often have a second collection at my parish. It's not a regular occurrence, and thus my brain just did not register this as a possibility. Granted, the lector had made an announcement that there would be a second collection that day for the visiting priest's mission, but I had simply forgotten. An honest mistake, but all the same, I was now in a very uncomfortable pickle right up in front of the entire congregation.

I was mortified. I'm a self-conscious person in the best of circumstances, and now I have the entire, somewhat stoic, populace of the 8 am Mass wondering if I've lost my mind:

"These young people and their newfangled ideas!"

I didn't really have a lot of options at that point. I had to stand, as gracefully as possible, to the side of the altar and wait for the ushers.

Luckily, the deacon caught my eye and came to my rescue. He prompted the priest to proceed up to retrieve the chalice and hosts from me ahead of the offering basket, and just go about their business preparing for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I obviously need to bake him something, or buy him a drink.

After the Mass, the adorable usher came up to thank me for bringing up the gifts, and I was still in a mental frenzy of horror and beating myself up:

"Gosh, I'm so sorry, I completely forgot about the second collection and jumped the gun!"

Bless him, my Hero Usher looked shocked and offended that I had even mentioned this alleged "offense.":

"Oh heavens, you did your job! No worries. You volunteer and pitch in. So many people here cannot be bothered to ever help out at all." With this, he straightened his bow tie and cast a narrowed eye at his fellow senior citizens.

He made me feel better, to be sure. And it caused me to reflect on something much deeper within myself.

I'm a people pleaser. I want to make everybody happy, and do everything right in my quest of this goal. I am far from perfect, and I need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly as a result. But one quality about myself that I relish is kindness. I always endeavor to be kind, I have tremendous empathy for others, and I want them to feel at ease. I will throw myself under the bus to make other people comfortable and feel accepted. Always, always, always, I have been this way, even as a young child.

This all sounds warm and fuzzy, right? Well, as you all probably know (because you have these qualities too), it gets you into trouble sometimes. Despite your good intentions, sometimes you do not do everything right. You make mistakes. You misread a situation. Your timing is off. To take it to a deeper, but related, level: You trust people and ignore red flags when you should be more discerning. You get taken advantage of. You get hurt.

This is all pretty philosophical for bringing up the gifts at Mass too early, right? πŸ˜‚But it was an important conversation to have with myself. Just because sometimes I make mistakes, does that mean that I should no longer volunteer to help out, no longer trust in, and be kind to, people? Of course not. Can I endeavor, though, to be wiser in my decisions and in my reading of situations so as to avoid these types of painful situations in the future? Absolutely, yes.

After all of that exhausting physical and emotional activity, I collected Henry, went home, and drank coffee on the couch in my comfy clothes for a full hour. I also knit and watched Christmas in July movies on the Hallmark Channel because I have no shame in such matters.

#victoryismine

All right, friends, your turn. Have you ever had a Moment of Mortification at Mass? How do you deal with feelings of self-consciousness, with recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses? Age has helped me to be more discerning, but MAN, do I still have a lot to learn in such matters! I would love to hear your experiences as well. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer heat waves, and book club conspiracy theories...

Happy long holiday weekend (?!) to my fellow American readers! Independence Day falls oddly this year, does it not? It fell on a Wednesday, and can we agree that this is the absolute worst possible day for July 4th to land on? You either have a day off right in the middle of the week, making your work week all choppy and awkward, or you use up more vacation days than you really wanted to just to make your week not completely ridiculous:

Monday - work. Next day - ugh, work. Should I just take this day off? Next day - holiday, woo hoo! Next day -  I should take a vacation day, right? Right! Staying home, woo hoo! Next day - wait. I have to go into work? What the heck day of the week is it anyway?!

Mike and I both went for option (2), and so here we are, sweating our booties off at home with both kids during a heat wave in our un-airconditioned house.

yyyaaaayyyyyyy.

Togetherness. And lots of it. ;-)

You'll also be happy to know that I have continued misting our bedroom with anti-mosquito oils at night, AND I have an order in for Avon Skin So Soft. :-0 Thus, I have not had any new mosquito bites since last week, and my old ones are healing.

*trumpet blare!*

Despite the heat, I have been knitting, and making progress on my Great Crafting Obstacles List, and I will post an update to that towards the end of July. *halo*

So, next week we are scheduled for our first Summer Book Club discussion on How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church. Apologetics, I love it. I have to be honest and admit that I find the title of this book incredibly awkward, but I suppose they were going for the dramatic impact. ;-)

At any rate, I did not find this book in any of the library collections I have access to, so I requested that it be purchased as an ebook via my local public library. I've been trying to be a good girl and not spend so much money on Kindle books. I have a bit of a habit, and it's become addicting. ;-) The library wrote back to me later that day saying that they were purchasing the ebook, and that it would appear in the catalog within 48 hours. Grand.

Granted, ebooks usually appear way sooner than they say, and I should have headed over the very next morning to investigate and check it out. This was mistake #1. :0 I didn't, and 2 days later, I innocently logged into my account at the public library to check on the ebook. It was checked out. To somebody else.

d'oh!

I will admit, I figured: how big of a market IS there for Catholic conversion stories? No need to be rushy, right?! I was banking on the niche market theory, to be sure. It was still mid-June, so I didn't panic. I figured, closer to the book club, I'll come back, it'll be available, and I'll check it out then. This was mistake #2.

😱

Last week, I logged back in, and it WAS STILL CHECKED OUT. Not only that, but now there was also a person on the waiting list. What is this blasphemy?!

The only reason the library even HAS the book is because of me, and now there's all of these other apologetics fans swarming. I did finally place myself on the waiting list, but that was last week, and I'm still quite impatiently in the queue awaiting my turn.

All of this is to say the following: do you mind bumping the first discussion post for the book another week? That would make it July 19th and 26th, instead of starting on the 12th. I mean, I could just buy the book. Is God telling me to just buy the book? He obviously had me request this book from the library so that other people could read it and become Catholic, so maybe I'm supposed to be grateful to be part of God's plan for the universe and fork over the $10 to support the author?

It's a quandary, to be sure.

If you all don't mind, it would be fabulous to wait/read for an additional week, and chat slightly later in the month. Now that I've requested the book and it was purchased, I feel stubborn that I want to read that particular copy. πŸ˜‚ Thoughts?

In the meantime, I carry on with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I will update you all next week! What are you plans for this summer weekend? :)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer routines, and adventures with odious insects...

Summer means a few things for me, though really, for everybody. Thing #1 is that routines change. The mornings with the kids bear no resemblance to what they do during the school year, and weekends often get packed with family parties and other celebrations. And this particular summer, for me personally, it means that a nefarious family of insects are eating me alive IN THE PRIVACY OF MY OWN HOME.

😑

See, this is one of the reasons I like living in a climate that is frozen over for part of the year. Horrible little creatures who bite and sting cannot survive in the tundra. :0

The past 5-6 mornings, I have woken up with red bumps on my arms that quickly escalate to puffy, itchy things of misery. Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately Googled:

"bed bug images."

Good and gentle reader, unless it is a true apocalyptic emergency, NEVER DO THIS. You're welcome.

Their bite marks are innocuous enough to look like so many other insect bites (this is part of their powerful evil empire, to be sure) however, the other signs of bed bugs in one's house were lacking in ours (thank you Jesus), so I felt fairly confident that my bites were not from them. But I was puzzled, because I haven't been outdoors very much, I'm discovering the new bites in the mornings even when I wear long sleeved nightgowns, and I have not seen nary an infiltrating insect, winged or otherwise, in our house.

I was dropping the kids off at my in-laws' on my way to work yesterday morning, and I showed them to my mother-in-law, a former nurse. She gently told me that they were mosquito bites.

Well, that was anti-climactic. I was lodging a full fledged conspiracy theory of the insect kingdom.

I don't often get mosquito bites, so that's why I didn't immediately jump to that logical conclusion. I'm not much of an outdoors gal, truth be told. I have hyper sensitive skin that reacts if a dandelion looks at me sideways, and the sun and I have a decidedly love/hate relationship. And I live in western New York, where no living insect can dwell for 5ish months out of the year. In other words, I'm not often exposed to mosquitoes. But that is what has been biting me.

Given the fact that I scour my arms each morning upon waking up, and find 1-2 new bites, I know for a fact the following:

(1) he or she has taken up residence in my house;

(2) he or she is going hog wild overnight and biting me as I sleep;

(3) he or she is clandestinely hiding during the day, as I glimpse no flying objects nor hear any buzzing during waking hours; and

(4) he or she MUST BE ERADICATED WITH RUTHLESS EFFICIENCY.

I'm not normally speaking such virulent hatred towards other living beings, but this one (and it's family too, I have no shame) have got to go. My arms are a mess. The previous bites are healing only very slowly, and my poor arms have these unattractive red puffy bumps all over them. I'm itching and rubbing lavender oil on them like crazy.

Last night, I did have a victory. I diffused lemon and peppermint (I don't have any Citronella oil, though some is currently on order; fly little Citronella oil, fly!) which I read that mosquitoes hate (*snort* did they poll the mosquitoes?) and I did not have any new bites this morning. Just an escalating one from the morning before that is at peak itch form and growing redder.

😠

And you know what unfair thing is? My husband, sleeping contentedly *right beside me* in our double bed, has nary a bite on him. Apparently, MOSQUITOES DO NOT LIKE HIM. What is this nonsensical crazy talk? Mosquitoes have *preferences* as to which people they bite? Whenever I've mentioned this little problem I've been having to others, this has been bandied about *multiple times*:

"Oh yes. Mosquitoes love certain people and never bite others."

Well, how do I get to be one of these vaulted OTHER people? Is this like that second group on the island on "Lost?" I mean, what the heck?

I'll be on mosquito patrol for the short term foreseeable future. My diffuser will be misting off anti-mosquito propaganda each night, and Mike is spraying something my mother-in-law claims will work around the doors and windows. We'll see.

But I got off track, didn't I? :0 I was going to talk about summer routines, because ours is all loosey goosey, like I imagine yours are too. I'm taking way longer than I should to get me and the kids out of the house in the mornings because there isn't the rushy impetus that there is during the fall and spring semesters, and Mike is teaching summer classes with his hours kind of wonky as well. I suppose that's the way summer is supposed to be though, yes?

The kids LOVE being off from school, though to me, the lack of structure is problematic for them. Sure, they can amuse themselves, but they need to be encouraged to move off the couch and away from video games. And by "encouraged," I mean "directly told that their game time is up and that they are duty bound to play outside for the rest of the afternoon." I'm not the best at coming up with crafts and summer activity ideas (because those usually involve going outside) but I do what I can. So my summer routine means coming up with ideas for my kids' summer routine.

I wish all summer days were like this past Sunday, wherein a gentle rain fell outside as I knitted and drank tea in my leggings and comfy top. What is this that you say? That I am delusional? Indeed. πŸ˜‚

What does your summer routine look like? I need ideas, people! :0