Thursday, March 14, 2019

Lenten Book Club 2019 Week 2 - Family dinners and the importance of beauty

Happy first full week of Lent, everybody, and welcome back to this year's installment of the Lenten Book Club! This year we are reading The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart, and I hope you're enjoying the book as much as I am. :-)

Our 3 chapters this week focused on:


  1. Beauty
  2. Making home a priority
  3. Family dinners


I'm loving the gentle storytelling involved in this book. I feel so connected to the experiences Haley shares with us, and I'm so happy to feel a part of their journey. One of the topics she addresses this week is the importance of beauty in our life, and as someone who thrives in the performing arts, this is so special to me. I'm a very practical-minded person, but there is a very real need for all of us to have a measure of beautiful things to enrich our lives. On difficult and/or chaotic days, we can choose to focus on those things to bring our spirits back to peace. At times, prevailing opinion may cause us to feel guilty for seeking out beauty in our world, because these things "do not have a monetary value" to some. But the Church has never seen it this way, and neither should we. Beauty helps our minds to transcend the everyday routines and contemplate the divine. This adds to the strength of our faith and our relationships.

The latter two chapters are related, in my mind. And in a sense, it's related to beauty as well. We shouldn't be afraid to "waste time" with our kids, just hanging around the house and enjoying time together. This is crucial to the emotional and mental well-being of our children. We don't need to be productive in the monetary or task/cleaning-focused sense all of the time. There is value to down time, especially when it is spent with our family, developing and reinforcing the importance of those relationships. Meal times, of course, are a crucial part of this. Mike and I have always insisted on the four of us eating together, at the dinner table, with few exceptions. Occasionally, there is an evening where one person has another commitment out of the house, or we as a family decide to do something different and eat our pizza in the living room while watching the end of an important football game. The kids know that this is not the normal course of things, and so they see it as an adventure when we do this. It's not always easy, especially when your kids are often picky and don't want to eat very much of what we cook. This causes me more frustration than I'd like to admit. But we keep trying.  I dislike it when the dinner table becomes a battle zone: "you don't like this food EITHER?" But we haven't given up on family dinners, and we're certainly not going to do so now. That time to connect each day, and share with each other, is vital to staying attuned to each other as a family.

What did you think of these 3 chapters? Next week we're reading chapters 7-9, and we'll be looking at hospitality (introverts, gird your loins!), the importance of community, and the role of the internet in both of these things. Great fodder!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Lenten Book Club 2019 Week 1 - Simplicity & turning away from the throwaway culture...

Happy beginning of Lent, everybody, and welcome to this year's installment of the Lenten Book Club! This year we are reading The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart. Let's dive in!

I was very excited to start this book this past weekend, and had a feeling that despite being nonfiction, it would flow very quickly. I was right! I devoured the Introduction and first three chapters in just a few days, which for me and my limited reading time these days, is very, very fast!

As we begin the book, we have the following themes:

An Introduction to the modern "everything is disposable" throwaway culture;

Chapter 1 on this family's dramatic back story, and how they left behind the security of being near extended family and a dependable desk job to chase their dream of farming, and have more family time together;

Chapter 2 on simplicity and winnowing down your physical possessions. What do you actually *need* rather than storing things that you think you want;

Chapter 3 on love of the land and ethical treatment of animals.

I was so captured by this story. I absolutely love memoirs and life stories that involve courageous choices from the norm of everyday routine. Routine is great, don't get me wrong, but every once in awhile you need to make bold choices when the timing is right, and it's just plain the right thing to do. And so I was completely taken in by Haley's story of her young marriage, and her being at home with 3 small children, homeschooling, and her husband trundling off each day to work long hours in front of a screen. None of them were satisfied with their lack of family time, or with their overall suburban situation, but they felt stuck financially. Then came the inspiration to live in Texas for a year, near their old college alma mater, and live/work on a sustainable farm for a year via an internship program. They made the decision to sell their house in Florida, move to Texas, and pack the 5 of them into a small apartment for a year with no flushing toilets.

Bold. Yes, very bold. :0

Love, love, love this story. Despite the obvious challenges, this had the benefit of them all being able to be together during the day and evenings, and fitting in with homeschooling perfectly. Haley and her husband had satisfying work that they had always wanted to do, and the kids were able to play outdoors and experience real opportunities to learn and grow in nature.

One of the things Haley mentioned that I really related to was reducing clutter and overall looking at your possessions and releasing things that you no longer need or use. Sometimes we have emotional attachments to things, and granted, things with strong sentimental value can still be quite important to hold on to. But ALL of the things that we are reluctant to part with because of guilt or some other such emotion? It can be so freeing to give that stuff away or have a big garage sale. Not having so much stuff means less to clean, less to store, but more free space to live in. We try to go through our basement and storage room regularly, but sometimes we let it go far too long, and lately that has been the case. Release the guilt!

Haley makes a point of saying that not everyone is called to do what her family did. There is nothing wrong with living in the suburbs, sending your kids to a brick and mortar school, and working at an office job. The key is: where do you need to be, and what do you need to be doing, to fully live out what God is asking of you? At your job and at home, are you able to live out your faith, and spend quality time with your family? That's all that is important. You may be called to share your faith in unexpected ways in your workplace, and for your kids to do the same at their school. You may be able to happily weave together faith and family life in satisfying ways right where you're at now. But reading inspiring stories such as this one helps us to stay vigilant, to be always searching and aware of what God is asking us to do on any given day. He may be asking us to reduce clutter to create a more freeing prayer and study space for ourselves and our kids, to take walks outside with our family when the weather is right, to treasure those special moments. The implementation will be different for each of us, but the message is the same. GOOD STUFF.

What did you all think of the introduction and first 3 chapters?! We'll cover Chapters 4, 5 and 6 next Thursday!

Monday, March 4, 2019

"So. Your new Fitbit. Didn't you hear it last night?!" A story of false accusation :0

Several nights ago in the home of the Catholic Librarian:

*happily sports new Fitbit Alta HR to bed to track my sleep*

"You love that new Fitbit, don't you?"

"Yes. Her name is Francine."

😇

That night I had a dream that Mike was trying to wake me up, telling me that my Fitbit was beeping incessantly.

Next morning...

"Sweetie, didn't you hear your Fitbit last night?! It was beeping nonstop, it must have an alarm set or something. It was right around midnight."

Oops. I guess that wasn't a dream. 😬

"No, sorry, darling. You know what a deep sleeper I am."

😬😬😬

I spend the next day Googling "phantom Fitbit alarm" and mentally sending sympathy vibes to people in the Fitbit forums reporting that they are in tears over their devices waking them up every single night (and it's ALWAYS overnight, right?! Just like the low battery indicator in your smoke detector?!) despite there being no alarms set. Several odd solutions are offered, all of which I employ. I reset the device, I change the timezone, sync, and change it back. I set an alarm, sync, then cancel the alarm and re-sync. The next night, I am sweating it out a bit that any of these shenanigans actually worked, and hide Francine in the linen closet under a stack of towels.

😀

As would be expected, we hear nothing. The next night, I was too tired to make the trek to the linen closet after getting into bed, so I shove Francine under our mattress. That night at midnight:

I sit bolt upright.

"Why am I awake?"

Mike is snoozing happily beside me as I hear a faint beeping coming from my side of the room.

Well, crap. I lay back down and pray that it doesn't wake Mike. It doesn't, and eventually I drift back to sleep. The next morning, Mike seems to delight in the fact that it woke ME up this time, and not him.

*glares*

At this point, I am mad. I've had kids and suffered through YEARS of sleep deprivation. Now that I am past that, I do not want a freaking rogue fitness tracker waking me up at midnight every night.

I do more online research, and reset Francine yet again. I resolve to keep the Fitbit out in plain sight over the weekend, when the disturbed sleep isn't as catastrophic, so that we know for sure exactly what is going on before calling Fitbit customer support. Otherwise, Francine is going to meet an untimely end.

Snort.

Saturday night, we are at a party until about 11 pm, thus when 11:55 rolls around, we're just getting into bed. Perfect. Midnight strikes.

I look expectantly at my arm. Nothing is happening.

"Look honey! It's midnight, and the Fitbit is quiet. I must have fixed it!"

Then I notice something. There is muffled beeping, but it is clearly NOT coming from Francine. Mike still tries to blame her. 😑I leap out of bed, determined to find the nefarious source of our nighttime trauma.

It seems to be on my side of the room, and I follow it all the way to our door. As I open our bedroom door, the beeping is clearly much louder, and originating on the main floor of our house. I descend the stairs in a run, determined that I will ferret this little *&@!'er out before it stops and we are left in mystery for yet another night. As I get downstairs, the noise becomes downright ear splitting.

I first check the alarm clock in the guest room, because our children seem to delight in setting alarms on that thing for no discernible reason. Nope. I go out into the living room and snap on the light. Could it somehow be the landline phone? Henry's Nintendo Switch? Is one of the remote controls losing it's mind?! I cannot figure out the source of the noise that is now imprinting itself permanently on my brain when I notice something flashing on our fireplace mantle. You know what it was?

Mike's weather station.

!!!

I felt a deep sense of satisfaction as I ripped the batteries out of the weather station and placed it in a heap back onto the mantle. I went upstairs and reported the news to Mike, who was just about to fall asleep in our bed.

😇

"It's your weather station, my love."

He looked dutifully both confused and horrified, as we've had that weather station for years, and never even known that it had an alarm function. I'm certain one of the children was involved in this plot to destroy our lives, but we'll never know for sure.

I've been sleeping like a rock ever since.

*righteous sniff*

Are you reading your Lenten Book Club book?! First post coming on Thursday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Lenten Book Club 2019 - official schedule!

Hi all! We're exactly a week out from Ash Wednesday, and as usual, the Catholic Nerd is all excited! :-0 I have a prayer plan in place, devotionals are all ordered, and so it's time to solidify our Lenten Book Club for 2019. This year we're going to be reading The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture, by Haley Stewart.

I'm *very* excited about embarking on this reading journey along with all of you! This book was recommended to me by my sister, who loved it, and told me that she devoured it quite quickly because she was so into it. Therefore, what I'm thinking is that we will start reading this weekend, have our first post next week just as Lent is beginning, and wrap up prior to the season finishing, I figure that we might as well ride the wave of a quick and interesting read, and give ourselves a few weeks at the end of Lent to focus on Holy Week and preparation for that. And there are only 12 chapters, 192 total print pages, so this definitely shouldn't take us long to get through.

Thus, my proposed schedule would essentially just commit us for the month of March, and looks like this:

Thurs. 3/7 - Introduction and Chapters 1-3
Thurs. 3/14 - Chapters 4-6
Thurs. 3/21 - Chapters 7-9
Thurs. 3/28 - Chapters 10-12 and Conclusion

This would leave us with a week afterward to prepare for Holy Week, and then Holy Week itself. I'll plan special posts for those weeks after the book club wraps up. 🤗

What do you all think? Are you all as excited as I am?! Let's get our copies secured (mine is already on my Kindle!) and get reading this weekend! We'll chat on the Thursday following Ash Wednesday. If you're going to be participating, please let us know in the comments!


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Conference blessings, and a spiritual reading list for 2019...

Hello all, and happy late February to you! I had just such an inspiring time this past weekend at the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference, and couldn't wait to share it all with you!

🤗


It's hard to full articulate what the weekend meant to me, but it meant a LOT. The fellowship, the palpable sense of faith and hope surrounding me, the presence of the Lord at the Masses, the adventure of manning a vendor booth for the very first time selling my own book (I even got to sign some for people :-0)... it was just balm to my soul. It was so, so needed, and it was such a blessing!

Here I am at my post :-0
I loved it. I loved being near the spiritual books and helping others to select just the right ones. Check out this ADORABLE Stations of the Cross book for kids, perfect for Lent! I eyed that one up right away. :-)

I was so inspired that I decided to create a spiritual reading list for the rest of the year. Interested in joining me? Here are the titles I selected, some of which are new, some of which were lurking on my Kindle, and I placed them all into their own special folder on my ereader!

Spiritual Reading List 2019


Do you ever feel caught in an endless cycle of working harder and longer to get more while enjoying life less? The Stewart family did—and they decided to make a radical change. Popular Catholic blogger and podcaster Haley Stewart explains how a year-long internship on a sustainable farm changed her family’s life for the better, allowing them to live gospel values more intentionally. 
When Haley Stewart married her bee-keeping sweetheart, Daniel, they dreamed of a life centered on home and family. But as the children arrived and Daniel was forced to work longer hours at a job he liked less and less, they dared to break free from the unending cycle of getting more yet feeling unfufilled. They sold their Florida home and retreated to Texas to live on a farm with a compost toilet and 650 square feet of space for a family of five. Surprisingly, they found that they had never been happier.
In The Grace of Enough, Stewart shares essential elements of intentional Christian living that her family discovered during that extraordinary year on the farm and that they continue to practice today. You, too, will be inspired to: 
  • live simply
  • offer hospitality
  • revive food culture and the family table
  • reconnect with the land
  • nurture community
  • prioritize beauty
  • develop a sense of wonder
  • be intentional about technology
  • seek authentic intimacy
  • center life around home, family, and relationships
Drawing from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, Stewart identifies elements of Catholic social teaching that will enhance your life and create a ripple effect of grace to help you overcome the effects of today’s “throwaway” culture and experience a deeper satisfaction and stronger faith.

This book is our Lenten Book Club for this year,  and I hope that you join in with us! I hear that this is an engaging and quick read, on a fascinating topic within our spirituality! I'll be posting our reading schedule for this book next week, so look for that post next Wednesday or Thursday, as we'll be just one week out from Lent at that point!

From Fire, by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith, by Sohrab Ahmari

Sohrab Ahmari was a teenager living under the Iranian ayatollahs when he decided that there is no God. Nearly two decades later, he would be received into the Roman Catholic Church.In From Fire, by Water, he recounts this unlikely passage, from the strident Marxism and atheism of a youth misspent on both sides of the Atlantic to a moral and spiritual awakening prompted by the Mass. At once a young intellectual's finely crafted self-portrait and a life story at the intersection of the great ideas and events of our time, the book marks the debut of a compelling new Catholic voice.
I heard about this book at the conference, and you all know that I am very drawn to conversion stories and memoirs! I pounced on this one right away; it's new, just came out last month!


Holy Days: Meditations on the Feasts, Fasts, and Other Solemnities of the Church, by Pope Benedict XVI


According to Pope Benedict XVI, "the liturgical year is a great voyage of faith on which the Church sets us out." The feast days in the Church's liturgical calendar follow the major events of Jesus' life as recounted in the Gospels. This cycle gives a rhythm to the life of the Church and helps Christians better understand the divine mystery. Especially in our secularized society, liturgical practices guide and deepen our path, centering our focus on Christ and teaching us how to live.

Beginning with Advent and concluding with the feast of Christ the King, Pope Benedict's Holy Days presents excerpts from selected homilies that he has given over the course of the liturgical year in Rome. The book is organized by season and feast days, with brief introductions. This short devotional volume will be a welcome resource for priests and parishioners seeking to focus their minds in preparation for worship.

I received this book as a gift from Sam last year, and have been meaning to get to it. I also adore the liturgical year, and can't wait to dive into this one!



Eight hundred years ago, Albert of Jerusalem gave the hermit-penitents of Mount Carmel a way of life to follow. Since then, this rule has inspired and formed mystics and scholars, men and women, lay and ordained to seek the living God. In The Carmelite Tradition Steven Payne, OCD, brings together representative voices to demonstrate the richness and depth of Carmelite spirituality. As he writes, Carmelite spirituality seeks nothing more nor less than to 'stand before the face of the living God' and prophesy with Elijah, to 'hear the word of God and keep it' with Mary, to grow in friendship with God through unceasing prayer with Teresa, to 'become by participation what Christ is by nature' as John of the Cross puts it, and thereby to be made, like Therase of Lisieux, into instruments of God's transforming merciful love in the church and society."
The lives and writings in The Carmelite Tradition invite readers to stand with these holy men and women and seek God in the hermitage of the heart.
I've been feeling a definitely Carmelite vibe these days, and this one somehow jumped onto my Kindle. ;-) I'm thinking it will be fantastic fodder for meditation and quiet contemplation, especially this summer near the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

A Prairie Girl's Faith: The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Stephanie Hines

A Prairie Girl's Faith provides the first extended, in depth discussion of the Christian faith of one of America's most beloved pioneer women--Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although the faith of the Ingalls' family pervades books in the Little House series, the more specific details of Laura's faith have never been fully explored. It took extraordinary pluck for anyone to survive the harshness of frontier life--from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelenting loneliness. This book reveals how in surviving, the brave Laura drew not just on her character, but found encouragement, strength, and hope in her relationship with God.
Although not Catholic based, I'm fascinated by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and have read the Little House series several times. I thought this looked like a great title about faith and spirituality during tough times. A nice American literature crossover title, if you will. :-)

Thoughts? Do you have a spiritual reading list for this year? I would absolutely LOVE to hear about it if you do! Or have you done this in the past? Ditto! Look for the Lenten Book Club schedule to be out mid to late next week!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A little Lenten planning, because the weather is so frightful, there aren't a lot of other options... :-0

My February piece over at CatholicMom.com is devoted to OL Lourdes! 
Hello all! It's a busy week over here in my little corner of Western New York. We've had some pretty intense winter weather every single week lately, and it's made commutes and such difficult, but we're hanging in there. Speaking of traveling by car, I'm going to the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference on Friday! It's looking like the weather will be OK for me to drive, it's about 5 hours away. I'm a little nervous about it, BUT I will get to see my beloved Allison Gingras for the first time since 2015, and I'm ever so excited about that! I'm sure I'll be tweeting and posting in our Facebook group for those who partake in those communities. I'll keep you all in the know! I think it'll be a lovely way for me to prepare for Lent.

And speaking of Lent! I'm all excited. :-0 #CatholicNerd My goal this Lent is to keep up with my new subscription to Living Faith, and my first print issue should arrive anytime now. As well, I'm planning to download the Blessed Is She Lent Devotional for 2019, which is called To The End. I absolutely love their devotional journals, and although the digital download makes it harder to fill in the questions, I find that I am more apt to use it in digital form.

As well, I'm contemplating a Lenten Book Club for the blog with this book:


Thoughts?! My sister Shauna'h mentioned this book to me, so I popped over to Amazon to check out the description, and got all excited.
Do you ever feel caught in an endless cycle of working harder and longer to get more while enjoying life less? The Stewart family did—and they decided to make a radical change. Popular Catholic blogger and podcaster Haley Stewart explains how a year-long internship on a sustainable farm changed her family’s life for the better, allowing them to live gospel values more intentionally. 
When Haley Stewart married her bee-keeping sweetheart, Daniel, they dreamed of a life centered on home and family. But as the children arrived and Daniel was forced to work longer hours at a job he liked less and less, they dared to break free from the unending cycle of getting more yet feeling unfufilled. They sold their Florida home and retreated to Texas to live on a farm with a compost toilet and 650 square feet of space for a family of five. Surprisingly, they found that they had never been happier. 
In The Grace of Enough, Stewart shares essential elements of intentional Christian living that her family discovered during that extraordinary year on the farm and that they continue to practice today.  
You, too, will be inspired to:

  • live simply
  • offer hospitality
  • revive food culture and the family table
  • reconnect with the land
  • nurture community
  • prioritize beauty
  • develop a sense of wonder
  • be intentional about technology
  • seek authentic intimacy
  • center life around home, family, and relationships

Drawing from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, Stewart identifies elements of Catholic social teaching that will enhance your life and create a ripple effect of grace to help you overcome the effects of today’s “throwaway” culture and experience a deeper satisfaction and stronger faith.

*squeals*

What do you think? Shauna'h said that it is a *really* fast read, and that she just devoured it. I would download for Kindle, but it's available in print too, and your library may have it! I would love to hear your vote in the comments. :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A cute saint story podcast...

Yes, I really wish I had come up with this idea myself. :-0 You all know how much I enjoy podcasts, and how much my kids and I also enjoy stories of the saints. This would have been a marketing goldmine, let me tell you you. ;-) At any rate, Shining Light Saint Dolls thought of it first, and I listened the newest episode as well as one of the earlier ones this morning while I was getting ready for work. Let me tell you: SO CUTE. These are not just for kids!



This is a weekly podcast featuring a saint whose feast is celebrated that week. They are short episodes, 4 to 5 minutes each, and begin with a quick description of the saint, followed by a narrated story highlighting something this saint is particularly known for. The stories have sound effects and everything, it's so endearing. :) At the end, the narrator draws a lesson that we can all learn from this saint. The newest episode features St. Scholastica!

I really enjoyed these, and officially subscribed to the feed so that I'll receive new episodes automatically in my podcast app. If you go to the Shining Light Dolls website, scroll down just a tad and you'll see "Saint Stories for Kids", followed by the option to listen to the latest episode, or subscribe via a number of different feed options. They would be perfect to play for your kids, but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to listening to the new episodes as well. They are a breath of fresh air for my morning commute!

In other faith news, I have some ideas for Lent, including a read-along/book club idea that I'm *really* excited about. Look for a post on that next week! 😀

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

An assortment of winter thoughts and prayers...

That's currently my house, pictured left. ;-) We're in for a heck of a storm here in the Northeast, and apparently a Polar Vortex is coming to suck us all into another dimension, or some such thing. :0 The kids have school cancelled both tomorrow and Thursday, and we'll all be indoors for 2 straight days with lots of family togetherness.

😳

I'm joking. It's good, it really is! But if my kids can't go outside to romp in the snow (which they won't be able to - wind chill will be well below zero, and I'm talking Fahrenheit) they get bored and miserable. We'll make do as best we can! For my part, I'm planning to knit and crochet non-stop, and perhaps I'll have enough time to make a full size afghan! 😃

I do have a blanket in progress, matter of fact:


The theme of the colorway is sweet pea flowers, and I'm so pleased with how this is coming out!

At any rate, the biggest thing on my mind right now are my kids. I mentioned Henry in my post a few weeks ago, and indeed, he was accepted into his first choice Catholic high school. The only thing is, you know...$$$$. We received financial aid, but I'm still losing sleep over how we will make this happen. I think it would be a wonderful environment for him, and I'm really praying that this works out. Your prayers, as well, are very much coveted and appreciated!

Sort of along this same line of thought, the age difference between Henry and Anne has finally, to me at least, become very obvious. My kids are 5 years apart in age, and that has never been a big deal to me. It still isn't, it's just that Henry is becoming a young man, while Anne is still very much in little kid mode. And she should be, she's 7. It's a changing time of our lives, and it's both wonderful and painful at the same time.

So I've been praying a lot. It's been hard for me to pray the rosary in my car since I got a stick shift, but now that I've become more experienced with that at this point, I've adapted to a model whereby I use a one decade rosary with big round beads in my left hand that doesn't interfere with my shifting. At the very least, I can pray a single decade, or the 3 Hail Mary's devotion. I did also sign up for a print subscription to Living Faith, like we talked about last week.

It'll be ok. But it's hard sometimes with the not knowing how things are exactly going to work out. That's where the faith thing comes in, I suppose. ;-)

Are you feeling extra contemplative this winter? What types of devotions do you add into your prayer routine when this happens? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Daily devotionals, analysis #547 ;-)

Indeed, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. :) I have quite a love affair with daily and seasonal devotionals. I know that I've written about it quite a few times in the history of this blog, especially during Lent and Advent! But here we are in winter Ordinary Time, all fresh into the new year, and this is also a time that I think about dedicating myself to a daily routine with my faith. Especially lately, my kids have been on my mind quite a bit. Both are growing so quickly and going through many changes. A daily prayer ritual is exactly what I need right now to best pray and discern for them, and it always helps to hash things out with friends.

*hug*

Below are two of my favorites. Are you familiar with these? Your thoughts are most welcome!



Living Faith is just the cutest little booklet ever. I first discovered it when I was in North Carolina visiting my sister, and her parish had the current issue available to try out. They are published in 3 month segments, and always have seasonal photography on the front, which I LOVE. Each day lists the daily mass readings (but does not include them in the text, you'd need to look them in your own Bible, fyi), and includes a short reflection on the theme from the readings for that day. You could read these reflections in well under a minute, if you weren't also looking up the scripture readings. I used to have a print subscription, and I have to say that I miss it. I bought the digital copy of the January/February/March issue, and it just isn't the same. Perhaps I should resubscribe? It's a great purse tucker.



Sacred Reading is a much larger book than Living Faith, but it is also available as an ebook. I do have this one in print form, but it doesn't carry around as easily as the other. You need to keep it at your desk. ;-) But I enjoy the format a lot more. It includes the text of the daily Gospel, and several other prompts to lead you in prayer and contemplation on the theme of the text. I like it a lot. It *does* require more concentration to read the entry, which is either a great thing or a difficult thing, depending on your state in life. Once I start teaching, I'm not at my desk nearly as much.

Thoughts? Sacred Reading seems idea for Lent, and indeed, they do have a separate volume just for that season. In fact, that volume is small enough to likely fit in my purse. I'm really thinking I'll use Living Faith every day if I just resubscribe in print. I really do want a daily commitment to something. What would you choose, or do you have another suggestion? 😃 I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Catholic parenting thing doesn't get any easier...

Happy mid-January, everybody! How is the winter treating you so far?



Things are great over here. We're still in winter term at the university for which I work, so the campus is blissfully quiet and peaceful. Classes don't begin again until January 28th, and I don't start teaching my library lab again until 2 weeks after *that*, owing to the drop/add period.

*praise hands*

This quiet winter Ordinary Time has had other benefits. January tends to be a performance lull for dancing, which is fine with me. One needs time to recharge and hone their craft, and I have a bunch of classes and workshops coming up. In faith stuff, I've been thinking a lot about the kids. For the first time, I have a teenager in my house, and I'm finding it a new challenge to think of ways to continue to share the faith with him aside from weekly Mass attendance. I touch upon sharing my faith with my maturing brood of youngsters, as well as this general post-Epiphany winter theme, in my piece over at CatholicMom.com for January:


This time of year definitely lends itself to contemplation for me. Ironically, it's *after* Advent, and yet still before Lent, but there you have it. This year, a big impetus is Henry's 8th grade retreat.

Somehow, my first baby is going to high school next year. 😭 And he'll also be leaving the school that he has attended for 8 years, and has shared with Anne for the past 3. I'm pretty emotional about the whole thing, as you can imagine. The 8th graders have a special retreat just prior to Catholic Schools week in late January, and just prior to when the Catholic high schools mail out their acceptance letters and financial aid packages. Parents were invited to write letters to their kids that they would read, privately, during the retreat. I wrote mine yesterday. Well.

😭😭😭

Let's just say that I cried. A lot. There was so much that I wanted to say, but I also didn't want to overwhelm my 13 year old with the emotional baggage of a woman in her 40's. So it wasn't easy. But I wanted him to know how proud we are of him, how much we love him. How he reminds me so much of myself, and that it's more than OK to be introverted and reserved - he will only continue to blossom into the kind, sweet and empathetic young man that God has so clearly created him to be. How the most important things in life aren't grades or what high school or college you attend, but discerning and making good choices, seeking God's will, helping others, nourishing healthy relationships, and making an impact with the causes and people that you love.

It was a heavy task, both emotionally and spiritually. But one that I am privileged to have. Henry, in particular, challenges me to be a better person because he is my first and oldest child. Inevitably, when something new comes up with regard to his life and development, I have no idea what I'm doing. 😂I feel like I'm winging it a lot. And that's one thing with dance, and quite another when it's your kid, a precious, eternal soul given into your protective care!

This whole parenting thing is a journey, an adventure, and as my mom always said (and aren't moms ALWAYS right about these sorts of things?): "babies don't come with instruction manuals." You just have to figure it out as you go along, and you're going to make mistakes along the way.

I hope that we're doing a good job for Henry. I know that we're doing a good job *with* him since he's always been such a kind and good soul. But maybe that's not really our doing anyway, but God's alone. Deep thoughts for a Thursday morning. ;-)

This year for Lent, I want to single him out for some more mature spiritual time with me. Exactly what this will entail, I do not know. I will wing it. :0 But I'll figure something out!

Any words of wisdom to share for Adventures in Catholic Parenting? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

New Year's Dancing amusements, 2019 edition...

A continued Happy New Year to you all! 🤗I'm really riding this New Year's wave to it's maximum, so just know this going forward. ;-) I miss the lovely visiting time of the holidays, but I'm really treasuring the freshness of January this year.

I promised last week a synopsis of my always entertaining New Year's Eve performance exploits, and I always keep my promises. You have your beverage with you to sip?


Rather than the sub-arctic temperatures of last Near Year's Eve, this year the temperatures were mild, and thus the chosen precipitation of the day was pouring rain. And it being the very beginning of the winter, it was pitch black outside when Claire arrived to fetch me, my big rolling suitcase and my sword at 5:30 pm. We hustled down to the restaurant, managed city parking like champs, and wrangled our wet stuff inside. It was about 6 pm.

The restaurant owner and staff were very gracious and happy to see us. They escorted us to our dressing room, otherwise known as the supply room. ;-) To be sure, we are very grateful to have a place other than the public restroom in which to change, so no complaints here. But it's always a comical game of Twister with 2 of us and our poufy costumes smashed into a small space, also occupied by various and sundry restaurant supplies: stacks of tablecloths, cases of takeout containers, and various candles. We wedged in there, and as we began to change, I quickly lost track of a shoe. I decided not to worry about that until we had to leave, and stashed Sword atop an open box of sugar packets.

Once changed and in our coverups, we scouted the Music Situation. No matter what, the music is always a Situation in these encounters. :0 They had a sound system, but it was up at the front of the restaurant behind the greeting/checkout counter, the opposite end of the building from our home base. We quickly conferred about aux cables and using each other's devices, and hurried back to our safe space. It wasn't yet 6:30, and they had wanted us to wait, but suddenly an employee appeared with the request that people were asking for us, and could we begin RIGHT THEN?

😳

Claire hurried to the front to start my music, and I concentrated on sweating profusely and straining my ears to hear the music switch over to my entrance piece. I heard the first strains of the overture, thankfully, and burst out from the back room with my veil aloft. Well.

My music supports a grand and beautiful veil entrance, and let's just say that a crowded, small space does not support a grand veil entrance. :0 I had never danced at this restaurant before, but I've danced in restaurants with small eating areas. I've always been able to enter with a veil and find a spot at the front where you can do some veil work before discarding it. This restaurant is set up differently, and the 2 more open areas leading into the 2 seating spaces were crowded with servers moving back and forth with food and drinks, and with people waiting to be seated or to gather food from the buffet.

I swirled out and immediately was swallowed up into a sea of humanity. There was no room to do anything with the veil, or even lower it very easily. Every time I turned around, there was a server backing away from me carefully, balancing a tray of water glasses. I got up to where Claire was holding vigil with the music, and unceremoniously discarded Veil in her general direction. Things got a wee bit easier after that, but I have to say that this was the tightest space I've ever dealt with in restaurant dancing. The place was hopping, and the New Year's Eve menu was only buffet. So there were people up and about constantly, not just the servers. Me moving from place to place caused a ripple effect of gentle scattering of other bodies. The section with the buffet in it was almost completely inaccessible, and I had to give up trying to shimmy between tables over there and only dance at the small entrance spots. Even there, I risked accidentally slapping servers left and right.

In a nutshell, Set 1 featured:


  • Incredibly tight spaces and range of movement. Near disaster with Veil.
  • A baby who loved me and did a back bend in his highchair to watch me.
  • Lots of people moving around me, wide eyed and clutching plates, as I made my way around.
  • Music glitching in and out a bit in the sound system, but the general noise of the place was so loud I doubt anybody noticed but me.


When my drum solo finished up, I was relieved to have that set behind me and swirled to the dressing room. Claire and I conferred, and she confessed nervousness about the giant fan veils she planned for her set. 😬 The owner asked her to wait to start her set, because he was hoping some of the tables would clear out and turn over to new guests. So we waited. And waited. And eventually he came back to say that nobody was leaving. 😂 We took that as a sign that everybody loved us and wanted to see more dancing. 😇

Eventually, he asked Claire to start, and I hustled over in my coverup to set up her music behind the host counter. Immediately, people began asking me about their reservations and how long the wait was. I suppose hostesses in Indian restaurants often wear hot pink dance coverups? ;-)

I got Claire's music going, and the place was now even MORE crowded than it was for my set. People were up trying to pay their bill as new people were coming in and waiting. Her music was doing the glitchy thing too, and I kept trying to assure that the aux cable was attached as firmly as it could be.

After she finished, we changed for our second, and final, sets. We waited again for the tables to fully turn over at the owner's request. Our dressing room, formerly quite toasty warm with all of our necessary shenanigans to get into full costume, and then coming back sweaty from performing, had grown a tad chilly, and cold sweat was now my constant companion. I had decided not to enter with Veil this time, but Sword is featured in song 2 of the second set. He always brings a measure of anxiety in his wake. ;-)

The request for us to start anew came quickly again, and as Claire moved to the front to start my music, I readied and assured my costume was all smoothed. I heard my entrance overture, and got ready to burst out, only then noticing that I had an empty straw wrapper stuck to my bare foot. Glamour, glamour ALL THE TIME.

I danced out, and this time the restaurant was at a much more normal capacity, rather than bursting at the seams, which was a welcome relief. It was still tight over by the buffet, but not as claustrophobic as before. And the audience, because they were seated and eating for the most part, rather than standing in line, were very engaged and responsive. As well, Sword had his big moment, which is always a crowd pleaser.

Set 2 highlights:


  • A little brother and sister excitedly followed me around the restaurant.
  • Their mom stopped me several times to take pictures with them.
  • Their toddler littlest sister came over and burst into tears, I hope it wasn't me. :0
  • Their grandfather stopped me to take a picture right in the middle of my baladi song, that was a first.
  • Same baby still loved me.
  • Several women conversed with me *while I was dancing 😂* to tell me how much they were enjoying the show.
  • Sword behaved and I actually kept him with me for the entire second song. Early discard of Sword means that Tiffany is not having a Good Sword Day. ;-) 


It was great, I really enjoyed that set. Claire was able to start her second set soon after mine ended, and we both breathed a sigh of relief that all went well. The owner was very happy and wants to have us back next year. A win/win.

As I packed Sword up and looked for my shoe, spilling the sugar packets all through the open wire shelving unit, :0 I reflected on how much I enjoy my eclectic set of interests. Egyptian dance is much more to me than a hobby, truth be told - it's my passion, it's my (granted, secondary) profession, it is the creative inspiration for everything else that I do, and it gives me a significant sense of creative purpose and meaning. The dancing life is good, truly it is.

I'm signed up for two Egyptian folkloric dance workshops this winter, as well as a Turkish dance intensive in March. Turkish - I'm branching out. ;-) I am very blessed to be able to do what I love. This New Year is going to be a good one, I just feel it. 🤗 In terms of dancing, I want to work on studying and learning as much as I can, and challenging myself in new ways.

How is your January shaping up? Any New Year's resolutions that you're working on? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year's gratitude

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

🎉

I'm all aglow from my wonderful holiday season, and I hope yours was just as special. *hug*

This particular New Year's Eve was very meaningful to me. I was performing again (which I'll circle back to) and that makes the day both nerve-wracking and exciting, as I've experienced the past couple years. But it was more then that this year.

2018 started out pretty rough for me. Although I share a lot here on this blog, I don't share everything, and this is one of those times, as I'm sure you can understand. So forgive the vagueness, if you please, but last winter and early spring were very, very emotionally difficult. And although it got better and emotional healing took place, I carried the wound with me throughout the year. In that way, I was glad to see 2018 come to an end, and a fresh start with 2019 come to fruition.

HOWEVER. I realized something very significant as New Year's Eve crept up on me. I was allowing that one very difficult situation to remain at the forefront of my mind and in my assessment of the year, when in fact, many, MANY joyful developments actually crowded that single painful one out, but I was ignoring that bit of reality. In 2018:


  • My kids have both grown tremendously, with Henry becoming a teenager and Anne solidifying herself in second grade as a fully entrenched school aged kid. Henry made the basketball team and Anne started Girl Scouts, which she LOVES.
  • My husband wrote a novel that is going to be published by a traditional press! I am SO PROUD of him! This is a lifelong dream of his, and it is finally becoming a reality for him. 🤗
  • My own Bible study for women, which had been in the works for a year, finally became a reality, and working with dear Allison Gingras is a total joy. *heart*
  • A new and adorable nephew was born into my family!
  • I found a lovely Zumba community near my house that I attend on as many Saturday mornings as I'm able. The women there are warm, kind and absolutely WONDERFUL. The teacher is a woman named Sue who is am absolute treasure. I am so grateful to have found her and this community!
  • My dance career has taken a gentle turn to more opportunities to both perform and study. I am so excited to continue to see where this journey takes me, and I'm enjoying every single moment. I have workshop plans in 2019 that I cannot wait to dive into!
  • Last, but certainly not least, I had some cherished friendships deepen and strengthen this past year. Some were newer, others were established several years back, and in all cases they grew by leaps and bounds in 2018. I cannot possibly express how much these ladies mean to me.


And this January, on the 8th, Mike and I celebrate 14 years of marriage. Not quite a milestone, but it's an even numbered year, which I love! And we've been together fully for 16 years. That's a long time! :0 We're going away this weekend, just the two of us, to celebrate, and I am SO looking forward to it.

Life is GOOD, it truly is. And I learned an important lesson about not taking things for granted, and seeing them (and people) for what they are. Sometimes they're not good, but oftentimes they're *fantastic*, and seeing them in an honest light is so, so important. I should never again allow the negative to overshadow the abundance of positive.

And speaking of good (and never forget HUMOROUS!) I have fun dance stories from New Year's Eve! They're self-deprecating, they're somewhat ridiculous, and above all, I hope they make you laugh out loud! AND...

*drum roll*

...you will hear all about them next week!

👼

Hey! I need to preserve good blogging fodder when I can. ;-) Eagerly anticipate this with me my friends, where else do you get such a strange eclectic mix of topics?! 😀

I'll chat with you then! In the mean time, how was your Christmas? What did you do for New Year's Eve/day? Did you choose a saint for the year? Mine is St. Francis of Assisi! I'd love to hear all about it in the comments!