Thursday, November 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This is so strange."

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

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



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

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

*bites nails*

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

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


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

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

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

*nerding out!*

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

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

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