Thursday, May 31, 2018

Summertime planning, including fun with yarny crafts...

Hey all! Happy End of May to all of you. I'm pretty sad to see May go, frankly, it's one of my favorite months of the entire year, certainly my favorite month of the spring/summertime. So I'm mourning it's end a bit, but I am indeed excited by what is to come this summer!

A few blog housekeeping things, and then I thought we could have some crafty time together. πŸ€—I posted last week about the Tea Time podcast, looking for ideas on where to take that project this summer. I heard from a few of you, and so far I'm still very undecided on themes for the summer! These would be super short episodes, less than 10 minutes. I was thinking that I would start up next week, but I just don't have my act together yet, :0 so I'll keep you posted! I want it to feel inspired, like all of the pieces fall into place. Otherwise, maybe the timing isn't quite right, you know? So we'll see. I shall keep you apprised!

Summer Book Club time is definitely approaching! This year we have chosen How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry. In that sense, our theme this summer is apologetics, hurray! So, I'm thinking July. That gives us plenty of time to procure the book from your local library or bookstore. I'd like your opinion on how we should section off and discuss the content. This is a fairly short book for nonfiction, at 160 pages, divided into 15 chapters. Would you rather:

(1) Take the month of July to discuss it in weekly posts, so a 4 week time period, reading 3-4 chapters per week, or

(2) Read it in a more condensed time frame, say 2-3 weeks in mid-July after the holiday, discussing 5 or more short chapters at a time?

Vote in the comments, please!

In other news, springtime crafting has hit me with an inspired vengeance. I do tend to do this as June approaches, and ultimately I go into full fledged Christmas in July mode. I plan out all my holiday gifts and other fall/winter accessories I'd like to make, and then go hog wild with the summer yarn sale at Knit Picks. Granted, I'm on a yarn fast this year. Yes, this is actually a thing. I have a LOT OF YARN. A LOT. So I'm trying to use what I have. *halo* We'll see, because occasionally a pattern will call for something that I do not already have in my yarn stash, because *sometimes miracles really do happen*, and then I am completely justified in ordering what I need. Or so I tell myself.

Right now, I'm in the baby knitting zone. My sister recently had a baby, and my good friend Allison is due in June. I finished up 2 bear cub hats, one for each little head:

Pattern is Itty Bitty Bear Cubs, and is available for free!
And now I want to make each of them a sweater. Allison lives in the Pacific Northwest, so I decided to knit her baby a cotton vest that will be a nice layering piece for the late summer and fall:

Pattern is Little Shoreline Vest, from "Swoon Maine"
Right now, it looks like a ribbed amoeba, I know, but eventually it will look like a baby vest. ;-) The pattern called for a technique that was new to me, called Sunday Short Rows, and I really enjoyed learning a new skill!

For my nephew, who lives in Maine, I will make a full fledged wool cardigan. He will need it, hee! I think I'm going to go with the Little Shore Cardigan, also from "Swoon Maine." If you couldn't already tell, I absolutely love that book! I also have my eye on the Little Lighthouse Pullover for Anne.

I now have a full queue over at Ravelry of sweaters, wraps, accessories and socks. Check out the featured patterns in "New Directions in Sock Knitting" which a friend gave me for Christmas. Those crazy zig zag ones in the upper left corner? I MUST MAKE THEM!! I just ordered a new yarn winder, and I'm all set to go for my summer project goals!

*virtual fist bump*

Are you crafting anything this summer? What is your vote for the Summer Book Club - all of July or a shorter 2-3 week span? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Tea Time brainstorm!

So I've been thinking about the Tea Time podcast. Summer is quickly approaching, and I plan to have a season during the stretch of Ordinary Time leading up to the fall. My preliminary thought is that it would start after the feast of Corpus Christi, so the week of June 4th, and would air weekly in both video and audio forms.

I've experimented with a few different things on Tea Time, and have enjoyed all of them for different reasons. As you all know, Tea Time started as a weekly vlog, and then moved to an audio podcast option as well, which I think was a crucial and necessary change to involve as many community members as possible.  Everyone has their format preference, and this accommodates all of them. I tried having different segments on the show, and I think all of them were quite pleasant. Eventually, I had to move away from it being weekly, because I simply couldn't keep up with it, and that's when I came up with the seasonal idea. Although my show will never have a large listenership as a result, that wasn't going to happen anyway, so what the heck, right? :0 So now, Tea Time airs weekly during Advent, Lent, and a portion of what I call "Summer Ordinary Time."

During Advent, the shows were longer, between 20 and 30 minutes, and I incorporated in the book club. Although that worked out fine, not everybody participates in the book club, so I switched things up for Lent. I kept the podcast to under 10 minutes, and had a theme every week. Moving forward into the summer, I think that is the format I'd like to retain. The shorter shows, and with a specific theme each week, rather than any sort of segments. It worked out very well for Lent, and all of the feedback I received was positive, for both video and audio folks.

So here's where you all come in: what sort of themes should I be focusing on? For Lent, obviously I picked Lenten themes. For the summer, the world is our oyster. :) Catholic themes? Maybe specific devotions or Marian themes? Saints? They are a great interest of mine, to be sure. Or, general life themes? Family, dance, creativity and inspiration? The nice thing is, every summer can have a different focus. So all suggested ideas will get used at some point!

Please offer your suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adventures with family prayer time...

This is a topic very near and dear to my heart, and I would love all of your input on it, whether or not you have small kids in your house at present. It takes a village, right? 😎

My kids are now 12 and 7. Translation:

"I don't want to go to church! It's SO BORINNNNNGGGGG!"

"I don't want to pray the rosary in the car, can't we listen to music instead?!"

"Prayer intentions? What do you mean?"

This is all exacerbated by the fact that I am the only adult (practicing) Catholic in my household. My husband is incredibly supportive of my raising our kids Catholic, but he does not consider himself a Catholic and comes to Mass with us only occasionally. He has my back with getting the kids off to Mass despite their whining, and he is also wonderful about assuring that they pray before eating with respect and reverence, including a full, and not hurried, sign of the cross. He attends the required parent pre-sacrament meetings, and plans the baptism and First Communion parties with gusto. I am very blessed.

When it comes to the nitty gritty, though...well, as I knew when I signed up for this job, it's up to me. And God. Whoops, this is true, I can't forget Him. :0

Henry and I have read saint stories together before bed now for years. He still very much enjoys this tradition, despite me thinking that maybe he was growing out of it. I know, though, that he is at an age wherein I need to be vigilant and do more with him to instill his faith in Christ. In our diocese, children are not confirmed until *11th grade*. So we have a ways to go until he receives the grace of that sacrament.

Anne and I have no bedtime prayer routine, we read a story (non-Biblical) together, and that is our tradition. But I really feel like we should have one. Every few weeks, she receives a school assignment to pray a specific number of decades of the rosary that evening, and we always do that together. But we rarely pray the rosary together without that impetus. Whenever I try, I am met with a chorus of groans.

It's difficult. I am not at all surprised by any of this - I too am a person that many decades ago used to complain about Mass being boring. I did not pray the rosary until I became a young adult. I did occasionally pray in general, but only if a crisis of some sort hit, and I asked God for help.

I do my best to be a good example for my kids. I very much love the liturgy, and try to talk about why I find it not only soothing but fascinating, especially on specific feast days or liturgical seasons. We attend Mass every week, and I incorporate elements of faith into our family life as much as I can. During Advent and Lent, for sure, but also during other times of the year.

But am I perfect in this way? Or in any way? :0 Of course not. So I know that I could do more to make the faith real and exciting to my kids. To be a good example of a Catholic Christian living out her faith.

One of those ways is regular prayer time. I've experimented through the years with making a set aside prayer moment special with candles, new rosary beads, and a calm and lovely setting. Those things worked, but only for the short term. I want to make a permanent addition to our routine that will nurture their fledgling faith.

My kids are getting older, and I feel like we are at a crucial juncture. Henry is well into middle school (and an altar boy), and Anne will make her First Communion in two years. It's an important time for them to associate their faith with strong memories of compassion, trust and security that will aid them for the rest of their lives.

Here's where the advice village comes into play. ;-) Thoughts? Ideas? Each child may have different faith needs given their age difference, so something separate for each kid, or more of a family effort? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Writing has picked up again, and summer reading lists...

Happy Feast of the Ascension, everybody! I'm in one of the few dioceses that does not transfer this feast to the following Sunday, so I scrambled about this morning in order to make it to 8 am Mass. *halo* I felt all rushy rushy, but I have to say, it was very worth it. I felt like a million bucks when I got back into my little Honda Fit afterwards.

And speaking of good things...I'm definitely in full-out summer mode, and this year in particular, that is ALL FANTASTIC STUFF.

Is the winter finally over? Let me just check outside again, because you never know, given the way things have gone this year. It may go from sunny and mild, to complete squalling snowstorm during the time it takes me to do a spin in a dance choreography I'm practicing on my lunch break, like it did just a few weeks ago.


After what we went through this year, I give you my word that I will not complain about being hot this summer. I may crack jokes about how large my hair expands in the humidity, but I will not complain, no sir.

And this summer will be LOVELY. Lots of fun dance events and gigs. A few short road trips with Mike and the kids. Visits with family and friends. Life is good.

I've also been hard at work on a long-term project! Remember, oh, sometime last year (actually maybe it was closer to 2 years ago 😢) I first mentioned that I was involved in writing a scripture study for women? Well, that is finally going to be a reality!

*trumpets blare!*

I wrote a full draft of my part of the series (focusing on the spiritual classics) last summer, and I know I talked about it then, but it had sat in it's draft form since August 2017. The editor (our beloved Allison Gingras!) was working on firming up a publisher, and I was so busy teaching I did not even look at it until my classes wrapped up this spring.

Things are finally in go-mode now, and there are three of us ready with the first installments in the series: Stay Connected: A Faith Sharing Journal Series. It will be published by Gracewatch Media, and we're optimistic that these first three books will be out this coming fall 2018! So much excitement!

We've been busily editing our own work, as well as going through the feedback we receive from additional sets of eyes. It's been intense, but a *tremendous* blessing. I have been filled with such a sense of peace since we picked this back up after my teaching was finished for the semester. I will keep you apprised of publication details as they become available to me!

Working on a writing project again, along with more room in my brain to *think* with no teaching for the next few months, has also brought my mind back to reading. Obviously, you know that I am a prolific reader. I tend, though, to read a lot of the same types of books: inspirational and/or cozy fiction. I love those books. However, every once in awhile, it's good to branch out and challenge ourselves. So, this summer, I made myself a list:

  • Historical Fiction
  • Contemporary secular fiction
  • Historical non-fiction
  • Memoir

These are all genres that I do not often read, but I want to read more often! Already, I have embarked on a memoir: Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger. This is about that United flight 1549 that lots both engines after takeoff from La Guardian airport back in 2009, and landed on the Hudson River, with all passengers and crew surviving.

I have to say, I'm *really* enjoying it! I'm reading it along with an online friend from a podcast community we're both a part of. It volleys back and forth in time from that fateful trip back into his childhood and training as a military pilot, and also his family life. It's absolutely fascinating, and I'm so glad that I branched out! We also have our Summer Book Club coming up, and that is also a memoir.  I'm thinking we'll tackle that in July, and I'll post about it more in a few weeks. Anticipation! :0

Historical fiction is pretty easy, I have several books meeting that criteria on my Kindle. Secular fiction, I'm certain I will find something to catch my fancy. I've been using the public library's ebook system more to borrow books, and it's been saving me a lot of money. πŸ˜‚ They have a ton of books in this category. The toughie is historical non-fiction. I do not do well with long, dry reads, hee! Does anybody have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them!

Also, do you have your own summer reading list? If so, please share!

    Thursday, May 3, 2018

    "Eh, no worries. Everyone will just think you're a crazy person!" Adventures in love and marriage...

    Life is an adventure, is it not? And we're often navigating it with our lifelong partner by our side. Even re-reading the title of the post makes me smile, because it brings back a happy and joyful memory from this past weekend. One that I shared with Mike. And that got me to thinking about larger life issues, as my mind is wont to do. :)

    So, this weekend I had a dance gig. It was a birthday party, and I was totally solo in terms of other dancers. I navigated the entire thing by myself, setting it up, getting the contract together, and finalizing details of what they were looking for. I haven't done this by myself in a couple of years; my gigs more recently have always involved having another dancer with me. And that other experience a few years ago, wherein I set it up by myself, was the only other one I've ever done. Thus, needless to say, my stomach was in butterflies over this one in the 2 weeks leading up to it. I wanted it to go smoothly, and for everyone to have a good experience. I felt like it was an important milestone in my little career as a pro dancer.

    Saturday arrives, and my stomach is doing flip flops all day long. As I was texting with the woman who had hired me (heretofore known as Nice Hiring Lady), I thought to confirm with her that the birthday party was in a banquet room in the restaurant. I don't know why, but I just had a sense of foreboding. πŸ˜‚She texted back that, nope! They were out in the main restaurant, but not to worry, we would figure it all out when I arrived. And what she meant by that is that my presence was a surprise for the two birthday honorees. So my surprise arrival was not going to be at ALL the way I planned. :0

    Not only that, but there was a live band there, and it was LOUD. And crowded. And loud, did I mention that already? I had a standard aux cable for my music, but when we got there we found out that it wasn't compatible with the band's sound system. We had to use my little iPod speakers, and let's just say that wasn't going to make a dent at ALL in that large crowd.

    When we arrived, Nice Hiring Lady came out to meet us, and said that I could clandestinely slip in without being seen, so that I could enter just from a tucked away spot within the restaurant. I have to admit, I was dubious: I was wearing a florescent pink costume coverup with a long orange sweater over top because it was so cold. Also because of the cold, I was wearing socks and boots, which *really* made the costume, as I'm sure you can imagine. ;-) My bag holding my music accoutrements and silk veil was covered with bright pink sequins. Mike was carrying my sword in it's sheath. Blending in, we were not. That's when Nice Hiring Lady made the comment from the title, and I knew how much I liked her. πŸ˜€I love people with a solid sense of humor!

    So we get inside and squeeze our way through the crowd to the dance floor area. I tuck myself into the servers' station, where staff members keep coming out to tell me that I can't be in there, but there's really no where else for me to go without giving away the surprise.  So I'm hopping around on one foot over there peeling off my socks and boots, while Mike struggles with the music on the other side of the dance floor. I was expecting the band to take a full break and vacate, and hopefully then the crowd would quiet down a bit, but also nope! Suddenly, they're announcing this surprise arrival (oh right, THAT'S ME), but my music cannot be heard over the din. I waited for a few beats, peeking out while shrouded by my veil like a freak, and saw Mike finagle up my iPod speakers to the band's microphone. Suddenly, my music could be heard. The first song was already WELL past my precise climactic entrance part, but by that point there was nothing to be done. I sailed out with Veil onto the small dance floor.

    Yes, everybody was surprised. Everybody was also still quite loud. :0 But luckily the microphone at least made the sound situation palatable.

    It was not at all what I expected. People quickly sealed around me on the small dance floor and there wasn't a lot of room to be flourishy. Therefore, Veil's debut was pretty short lived. This part of the situation was particularly dicey for Sword, but I will say, he did GREAT. Everybody loved him, like usual. Sword and I definitely have a new and happy understanding for gigs like this. ;-) Everything went fantastic, and I had an excellent experience, despite the unexpected circumstances. I could tell that Nice Hiring Lady was also quite ecstatic.

    So, at some point, I turn around, and there is my husband: balancing a microphone in one hand, and my sword in another, beaming at me while I belly dance in approximately 5 feet of space at a surprise birthday party, dragging willing women into the circle to dance with me like there was no tomorrow, and I thought to myself...I bet this isn't what he pictured when he married me. πŸ˜‚ That his bookish wife would become a professional belly dancer, and that we would have weekend adventures with me blinding people with my sheer volume of costume beads, and him brandishing a sword that I will balance on my head. Life does not always turn out the way we plan. But I have to say...I am SO GLAD for that!

    Our life is not perfect, and neither he nor I are perfect people. On paper: him a baptized Catholic that currently professes atheism, me a devout Catholic, it seems like an odd match, right? However, we are not only happily married, but more in love than ever. Again, that does not mean that we are without bad days and disagreements. ALL marriages have those, or else the couple is not being honest! But I look at my husband now, and think about how freaking adorable I find him, and that I'm so glad that he's the "party guest" I will be escorting home, and I know that he feels the same way. ;-) It's as we feared when we were all kids: old people really DO still think about and do *those things*, and not only that, but it's WAY BETTER than when we were younger! :0

    My marriage is a sweet gift that I do not feel worthy of. This year has had some tough moments in it for me, and Mike has never given up on me. He is always there to support and reassure me. I know that he will always be there for me. Our marriage means as much to him as it does to me. And that means THE WORLD to me.

    Someday, (hopefully, many, many decades from now) one of us will pass away, and our marriage will come to it's natural end. It's until death parts us. But until then, I want to enjoy every moment that I have with this wonderful man. I hope that we still have hundreds of adventures in our future, many memories still to be made.

    Apparently, this is a sappy post! Would you also like to sing the praises of your significant other? Have at it in the comments!