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!