Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Catholic Book Club: I Am Margaret

Happy Wednesday everyone! This week I am pleased to have another book review, the second of three Catholic Young Adult fiction titles I have been asked to review. Wednesday is really becoming our book review day, no? :) I may be ready for the third one by next Wednesday, we'll have to see. The kids really cut into my reading time. ;-) But I digress. Today I will be discussing I Am Margaret, by Corinna Turner, and you're going to want to settle in for this one, dear reader.

*procures tea*


This book is written in the dystopian style that I'm certain we've all become familiar with lately via titles such as The Hunger Games trilogy, and Veronica Roth's Divergent series. This is a very exciting style and setting for fiction, and I Am Margaret is absolutely no exception to that. Plus, this is a *Catholic* book. There are Catholic characters. Exciting dystopian fiction with Catholics characters = not very common, my friends! I was so thrilled to start reading this book.

And so I did. Wham! Right from the outset, we are transported to another world, and I read this book very quickly, because I didn't want to put it down! I actually TOOK IT WITH ME TO READ AT LUNCH. People, I *never* do that. Why use up brain cells to remember to bring my Kindle to work when I could just waste time on Twitter while I eat instead? But this book grabbed me so much I simply HAD to find out what happened next.

This story is set in a futuristic part of the world controlled by an evil and anti-religion government that has convinced the majority of the population that only certain people should be permitted to survive into adulthood. Such people would be without physical ailments of any kind and can pass various academic examinations. The process to determine whether or not you are one of the lucky ones is called Sorting and takes place in young adulthood. Those that fail their Sorting are recycled. Yes, you read that correctly. :) They are taken to a prison to work themselves into prime physical condition, then they are murdered and their body dismembered, the parts used to service those who were permitted to live into adulthood. The population is repeatedly told that this is an admirable sacrifice for the good of society as a whole.

There is a resistance force, as you might imagine, as well as an underground Church. Catholics, of course, value the dignity of all human life, and the punishment for being what the government terms a Believer is severe: Conscious Dismantlement. I'll leave that to your imagination, as I'm sure it's running wild as I type. :) Our heroine is Margo, and she fails her Sorting due to her poor abilities in mathematics. Her and her family are part of the underground Church, even hiding Believers and priests, a very dangerous activity. She's in love with Bane, who passes his Sorting. From his position on the outside of Margo's prison, he plots for her escape.

Our main activity occurs in the prison amongst Margo, Bane's friend Jonathan (a fellow Believer) and the other teenagers sentenced to this fate.We get to see how Margo and Jonathan live out their faith in secret, and this aspect of the book made me appreciate the Eucharist anew. Only when contemplating trying to live ones faith without ever having access to the Mass and the Eucharist do I recognize how very lucky I am. The interactions between Margo and the other teenagers, and their interactions with the guards and others who are helping to keep them imprisoned, also raises tons of interesting fodder about Christian charity, love, and sacrifice.

Margo concocts a plan to try and escape plus save the others, and...wow, you have to read this book. :) By the time I got towards the end, I resembled a rabid dog with my obsession to get back to my Kindle and continue reading. When I finished, I realized that this book is the first part in a four book series and I just about died. I emailed Corrina immediately:

"I *NEED* BOOK 2 WHEN IS IT COMING OUT I DEMAND AN ANSWER."

:0

It's coming out hopefully before the end of the year, and believe you me, the instant it has a page up on Amazon it will be pre-ordered. Immediately. I.must.have.it. This is a highly recommended read, everyone. Excellent, for both young adults and adults alike. I can't wait for Henry and Anne to read this when they are teenagers. We can all learn to appreciate and cherish our faith more by reading stories such as these. And in the increasingly secular world we live in, that is a very good thing.

You can procure your very own copy of I Am Margaret via Amazon for less than $4 on Kindle (such a steal!) or $10.79 in paperback (eligible for Prime! :)). Via Corinna's web site, you can read the first chapter for free,*definitely* check this out.

Has anyone else read this book? Dude. Leave a comment, I would love to know your thoughts!

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life in the Terrible Twos...

Such a precious face, it is true...
Yes, I know that my daughter is *3*, but all of us parents know the truth, right? The Terrible Twos are actually not encapsulated during a child's second year of life. In my experience, this is the way that it goes:

*your child turns 2*

"Is some terrible switch flipped on their second birthday, because so far he seems fine? Maybe I just got really lucky."

*INSERT REALLY LOUD SNORT RIGHT HERE*

*child grows from 2 to 2.5 years of age*

"Wow! This is awesome! I mean, sure, he's a handful, but he's SO sweet! I must just have an extremely sweet child. No Terrible Twos over here!"

*Sometime before the 3rd birthday...WHAM!*

"Wait, what?! What on earth...?!"

Yep, there it is. Your sweet, adorable child suddenly turns two faced and regularly morphs into a snarling, feral creature who wants to eat garbage and drink their own bath water. They seem bent on making your waking moments (and there are many of them, since your creature suddenly also stops sleeping) as filled with misery as humanly possible. They scream in an eardrum piercing fashion and throw themselves on the floor. They break things for spite. They loudly refuse to cooperate with any request that comes from your lips. They embarrass you in public. You are reduced to occasionally curling into a fetal position and wondering why God hates you so much.

THAT is the Terrible Twos. And it usually happens when the child is, or nearly is, 3, and lasts until they are 4. Then other stuff happens, but let's not worry about that now. :0

Our precious Anne is following the protocol for her species right according to plan. A week or so ago she starting showing the Terrible Two symptoms, and now we are right in the throes of it. Here we have a Exhibit A, from yesterday evening:

*cute green Honda Civic pulls into our garage*

*Anne comes running outside*

"Mommy! So nice to meet you!" (translation: I'm very happy to see you! Cute, right?)

"Hi Sweetheart, I think we've met before." ;-) "How was your day?"

"Mommy, I missed you SO MUCH!" *enthusiastic kiss* *takes my hand*

Now see? This is where the lulling into a false sense of security comes into play. Subsequently, we have:

(1) Refusal to eat dinner, complete with crying heap on the floor. "Mommy, I DON'T LIKE THIS!! I am NEVER going to eat this!!!!!"

(2) Tantrum thrown about permission not being granted to use blue sidewalk chalk *in the house* following her bath. This involved 20 minutes of sobbing on the staircase landing and a clawing of her wet hair into something straight out of "The Exorcist."

(3) Final insult: A refusal to go to sleep complete with climbing out of crib. "Mommy, I am NOT sleepy. I am NEVER going to sleep!!!" Notice the theme?

*Mommy drinks wine*

Ugh.

The evenings have been a bit of a challenge lately over at the home of the Catholic Librarian. Suggestions for making it through this? Besides more wine? Anybody, anybody?

;-)

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Remember, ACT LIKE YOU'RE HAVING FUN!!" Dancing with rashes and high wind warnings...

...and so we begin another installment of Belly Dance Monday. I had a jam packed weekend of dancing, so are you all settled in and ready?

*gets tea*

Ok! This weekend I was privileged to perform with my Middle Eastern Dance troupe at an arts festival as part of a local World Dance Association. Besides us representing Egyptian dance, we had performers in Spanish, Colombian and Indian dance. As a group, we put on four 30-40 minute sets over the course of the 2 days and included an array of costumes and even some live music. Super fun. I LOVE being a part of the local dance community, it's one of the most enjoyable parts of my personal life.

But it's not without it's challenges, to be sure. :) Anytime you perform, a number of things can go wrong and, you know, publicly humiliate you. So I take my job of preparing for every possible dance scenario very seriously. :0

We'll start on Friday evening, our final rehearsal. We had to do some major restructuring of the choreographies since only 5 of us (out of a group of 9) could perform at the festival. As we readied, one of my troupemates looked in the direction of my neck, frowning:

"Are you ok?!"

Uh oh. Anytime I get sick, my extremely fair and sensitive skin deems it a duty to produce a bright red rash as my elevated body temperature dissipates. I hadn't really been "sick sick" during the week, but I did note that I may have had a touch of a minor bug. No biggie, right?

Not according to my body. By Friday evening, my neck was showing signs of rashiness. And the second day is always the worst. Which would make it the first day of the festival. Lovely.

But the only thing to do is to wait it out, so I tried not to worry, since I had zero control over the situation. Instead, I chose to worry about how my hands cramped up and turned into claws while attempting my part of the veil fan number. One wouldn't think that a wood fan with a piece of silk attached to it would make your hands ache and your arms feel as though they may seize up and fall off. One wouldn't *think*. But it was not to be, dear reader. Instead, I had to ACT LIKE I WAS HAVING FUN when I clearly was not. Heh.

By the time I got home from rehearsal, I was texting Cristina hourly with rash updates, as the situation was growing dire. Just before I went to bed, the rash looked ANGRY and THREE DIMENSIONAL. This was *not good*. I was hardly going to look lovely in my costume if it appeared that I was fighting some sort of fleshing eating bacteria.

Ugh.

I rushed to the mirror the instant I awoke Saturday morning. The rash was still there. Not exactly a big surprise, but damn. It didn't look *quite* as red and raised, but it still wasn't pretty, gentle reader. But what can a girl do? I put on my costume top. It covered a bit of the rash = good. Unfortunately, the strap also appeared to chafe my skin further, making it appear redder = bad.

Oh sigh.

Self portrait with rash.
I met up with my troupmates and arrived at the stage, them looking at my neck with concern. I was just hoping that the fact that we would be up on a stage plus my long hair would obscure the rash a bit.

Our first set involved our wings and tray balancing number, and wind is definitely a factor with such props, my friends.

Oy.
 On Saturday that wasn't really an issue, although on Sunday the wind was so bad it seemed we might take flight at any moment. On Saturday, I went to grab my wing and lift it up gracefully and found a handful of gossamer fabric, but no stick that will lead to aforementioned graceful lifting. So a fistful of clutched fabric would have to do, no?

The veil fans were next, and although still painful, they didn't go nearly as horribly awry as I feared. Although...there *was* that clump of dead leaves that I discovered *on stage* making my veils stick together, that was a bit of a discreet adventure, I hope nobody had a crunchy leaf bit fly into her mouth. I just kept careful count in my head so that I would know exactly when the torture would be over and I could lower my arms again.

Then I waited a bit while the other groups danced. And sweated. Did I mention that it was hot out? Well, it was. So there was a lot of sweating involved here. And if you were wondering whether heat makes my rash worse, ding ding ding! You would be correct. :)

Cute anecdote to insert and distract us from my rash: When the Colombian dancer was performing, she was swishing her absolutely gorgeous full skirt around with her hands as she moved. Suddenly, a little girl in the 3 year old age range moved right in front of the stage. She started dancing, mimicking the dancer on stage, grabbing her little dress and swishing it to and fro with abandon, underwear blazing to the world. :0 It was SO PRECIOUS, you could hardly stand it. I think everybody was watching only her for a time, lol. That would have been my daughter had she been there, by the way. Showing her underwear to everyone seems to be an enjoyable pastime to her.

Ok, so back to our chronicle. At the end of the set, we danced two more choreographies, including our new drum solo, which is pretty kicky. I think my belt moved 360 full degrees around my body on that one, but it went well.

We had some time on our hands between sets, so we amused ourselves by taking ridiculous photos:

I love these girls. So much. :)
Those veil fans had to be good for *something*
After the break, we had a Saidi cane piece, which also involved balancing, and thankfully went well. I found this weekend that I really don't love belly dance props (veils, fans, canes, swords, trays) unless I'm balancing it on my head, ha! I'm a huge fan of balancing.

A tray of flowers makes everything better.
Sometime during the second set, I saw a woman who works down in cataloging in the crowd as I was mid-undulation. This seemed a bit awkward to me at first, but then I figured: she works in cataloging, it's not like I see her all that often. :0 She seemed bemused.

Sunday, my rash was looking decidedly better:

I even *look* happier...
But the humidity was *worse*. So much sweating. SO MUCH. So gross. We repeated the whole shebang, this time with wind added. The Flamenco dancers had a live guitar player on Sunday, which was extremely cool. But despite the wind, the canes and trays stayed on our heads. There was just the wing issue, but hey, you can't win 'em all. :)

Also, for the first time ever, I had a stranger come up to me as our group was leaving the stage who asked if she could take a photo with me. And a little girl told me that I looked like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Apparently, the sparkly costumes attract both elderly ladies and little girls. :) My 15 seconds of fame...right there, my friends. ;-)

I had a great time, and I love, love, LOVE my dance community. I can't think of a better way to spend some free time than dancing with women who are so fun and talented. I'm already looking forward to our next performance, which is in two weeks.

How was your weekend?!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Church Triumphant: Spotlight on St. Anne

Happy Thursday, all! Today is our July installment in the Church Triumphant series, co-hosted with the fabulous Cristina over at Filling My Prayer Closet. This month we're spotlighting Sts. Anne and Joachim, whose feast is this Saturday, July 26th. I have St. Anne (for obvious reasons) but head over to Cristina to learn more about St. Joachim. Let us embark!

I'll start with a few facts about St. Anne's life, and move into some personal stories about my relationship with St. Anne, since she actually features quite prominently. :) We don't know a lot about her life, but St. Anne is the mother of Our Lady, grandmother to Jesus. Traditionally. St. Anne was thought to be much older than usual childbearing age when she conceived and delivered Mary. So, God used this as an opportunity to show His providence and how special Mary would be in his larger plan. Since St. Anne was older from the time Mary was a child, Mary wouldn't have had the benefit of her mother's guidance as long as other girls her own age. And Mary certainly would have needed her mother's support for the major events about to transpire in her life! Good thing she had St. Anne to intercede for her in heaven. :) Devotion to St. Anne was well established in the East in the early Church, and gained popularity in the West in the 16th century.

Ok, so how do *I* know St. Anne? Well, settle in, dear reader. :) It all goes back to, let's see...2002.

*feels old*

*that's because I AM old*

*ugh*

Around that time, I was going through a lot of upheaval in my life. I had made the decision to leave my legal career and go to library school full time, but I hadn't told everyone yet. My admission was lined up, but I hadn't given my notice at work yet. This decision obviously had far-reaching financial and emotional consequences attached to it. Additionally, earlier that year, a promising relationship that I had been in with a Catholic man ended. And at this point, I'm in my late 20's, that age when people are really wondering if you're going to meet someone and get married. Combine this with already being a shy person, and you know...it gets you down. :) As well, our beloved family dog died after a long and painful battle with epilepsy. Things were challenging, to be sure.

In December of 2002, I drove up to Montreal and Quebec City with some girl friends for a Catholic getaway. I think of this trip as a quarter-life crisis for Catholic nerds. We journeyed to shrines. We went to daily Mass even though none of us spoke French. We found Catholic gift stores and monastaries to stalk. We had a fabulous time.

One of the places that we visited was the shrine of St. Anne, north of Quebec City. It was Advent, and everything looked lovely, with the nativity scene just awaiting the Babe come Christmas Eve. I remember praying over by that nativity, and the church was very quiet. Apparently, journeying northward in the month of December isn't high on the vacation priority list of most people. :0 I prayed, asking for the intercession of St. Anne, for my vocational discernment. If God wished for me to marry, I needed to know WHO he wanted me to marry. And so I asked St. Anne to pray for me to find the man I should marry. For the first time in my young adult life, I felt peaceful about my vocation. Maybe I would meet someone, and maybe I wouldn't. But either way, it was ok. I had prayed about it. I could have confidence that I was doing God's will.

Less than a month later, I get a phone call from Mike, Future Husband of the Catholic Librarian. :) We had gone out on a date the previous November, and while it went really terrific, we hadn't ended going out a second time. My affection regarding our date remained though, and apparently it had for him as well. He wanted to know if I would have dinner with him again. I said yes, and the rest is history. :) I came to find out much later that at that time, Mike's mom was attending a parish named after St. Anne. While she was a parishoner there, she regularly prayed for Mike to meet someone and get happily married.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010. Mike and I have been married for 5 years, and we have 4 year old Henry with us now as well. We are hoping that another child will enter our family as well. That summer, Mike and I watch the Showtime series "The Tudors" in the evenings after Henry is sleeping. I am in no way recommending this show :0 (the violence alone is stomach churning, and the episode wherein St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were executed reduced me to a puddle of tears), but it got me to thinking about the name Anne.

"I really love that name," I said to Mike.

"So do I!" he replied.

Soon thereafter, we were expecting a baby. :0 Anne struck us both as a favorite, and we never wavered throughout my pregnancy. Although we got the inspiration from Anne Boleyn, Anne is also my mom's middle name, and *she* is named after St. Anne. So there we go, perfect.

*angels sing*

Thus, St. Anne has had quite a large influence on my life and family. I am praying the novena to her currently, as I do each year. St. Anne, please pray for us!

Do you have a devotion to St. Anne? Leave me a comment! And don't forget to head over to Filling my Prayer Closet to learn about her husband, St. Joachim!

*Image from Saints.Sqpn.com

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Pope Awesome

Morning everyone! Today is official Catholic Book Club day, and July's installment is extra special. Our selection for this month is Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson, and I was able to speak with Cari via email, during which time she graciously answered a handful of questions that I submitted to her about the book. I mean, exciting, right?!

I'll start with my thoughts on the book, and then we'll move quick like bunnies over to my conversation with Cari. You all know that I love spiritual memoirs. And I *especially* love spiritual memoirs that contain a lot of personal reflection over the small things in life that lead to a conversion of heart. One would think this should be present in all spiritual memoirs, but in my experience that is not always the case. Rushy rushy glossing over personal details in favor of theological analysis is just not my cup of tea in this genre.

And Cari's memoir provides *exactly* the sort of memoir that I adore, and she's funny to boot, BONUS! We journey with Cari through her young adulthood in Michigan as she meets her future husband and shows no interest in anything religious. Raised Presbyterian, going to church wasn't something she thought about often, although she and her husband married in a Presbyterian church. At first, they planned on having no children, but that changed prior to her heart beginning to think about God anew. She and her husband moved to Mississippi for his job, and it was there that those "God twinges" began in earnest. By this time, she had a child, and suddenly living in the deep South everyone was asking her if they had found a church home. From there, we learn about her spiritual search, how she started looking at the Catholic Church (a shock even to her in the beginning), how she navigated her growing family and homeschooling, and finally her and her husband's conversion. However, the story doesn't end there, and I LOVE that. Conversion is just the beginning! We learn more about her early years as a Catholic, how she managed moving again, with a larger family in tow this time to Connecticut, and the other trials and tribulations of a young mom and a young Catholic in both the Southeast and New England.

I absolutely loved Cari's story. It contained all kinds of interesting fodder, especially for wives and mothers. As a cradle Catholic, I also find it fascinating to read conversion stories from other Christian traditions. My favorite spiritual memoirs make you feel like you're a friend of the author, and she's telling you her story over wine and cheese one evening. This book absolutely has that feel. As I was reading, the pieces of the story that stuck with me are below, which I posed to Cari. Here we go!

_________________________________________

(1) For one thing, I love your humorous writing style. The description at the beginning of the book of your early years living in Michigan and meeting your future husband really had me snorting in laughter as I read it. :) Taffeta and black velvet Jessica McClintock dress? Girl, I think we had the same prom gown!! When you approached writing this memoir, was this type of relatable tone that resonated with you, and that you were aiming for?

Actually, when I was first approached about writing a book, it wasn't a memoir at all.  It was a collection of stories, centered around specific areas of the house.  Since the home has been called "the Domestic Church", it was sort of a way to show how the domestic church can be funny and messy and not at all what you expected.  So, yes, from the very beginning, anything that I was going to write was going to be relatable in tone.  I think people respond to authenticity in writing, and I am not authentically philosophical or political or theological.  I'm  just a regular person, who fumbles her way closer to God, and needs a heavy dose of humor to make it through.

(I think I may still have that Jessica McClintock dress up in my attic!)

(2) In contrast to your journey, I am a cradle Catholic, yet I really related to your descriptions of complacent teenaged and young adult years in your faith life. What was it like for you to relive that time given where you are now in your life as a wife, mother and author?

It was terrible.  I think that's where the stereotype of "tortured artist" comes from - it's exhausting to dredge up vivid enough recollections of troubled times in order to write about them.  I know some people find it a very healing process, to write through traumatic memories, but I'm not one of them.  Honestly, I was pretty much a beast during the weeks I wrote those sections.  It was almost like the psychic residue was clinging to me, and I kept telling Jesus over and over again, "I hate writing this.  I don't want to do it.  If you want it done, you're going to have to give me the words."

He gave me the words.  But in retrospect, I think I should have asked for the patience, too, because it couldn't have been fun dealing with me then.

(3) The details you provided about your change of heart in welcoming children into your marriage were so touching. And by the way, the fact that you were watching "Bachelorettes in Alaska" when you went into labor with your daughter - priceless!! I remember that show very well. :0 But I digress. Do you see your children and role as a mother as playing a pivotal part in your spiritual journey?

Oh man.  "Bachelorettes in Alaska".  Back when reality TV was quality stuff.

I think there's a part on everyone's spiritual journey where they will keep running in circles until something strips them of their self-centeredness, and puts them outside themselves.  After all, you're not going to find God inside your own head.  And for me, motherhood was that stripping away of the self that I needed to jolt me out of the rut I'd been in.  I remember looking at my daughter for the first time, and being struck, physically struck, by the realization of how much my own mother loved me.  It wasn't until I realized the depth of my love for my child that I could grasp the love of a parent.  And I think maybe, for a lot of people, it's that failure to see the depth of a parent's love that keeps them from entering into a closer relationship with God.  Without a firm grasp of God as Father, loving Father, he's just a scary white dude, with a long flowing beard, smiting sinners from on high.  That image doesn't exactly foster intimate relationships.

(4) I was quite fascinated that you ultimately came into the Church while living in the deep South, since there aren't nearly as many Catholics there as where you formerly lived in the Midwest. It seemed to me though, that the deep-seated and lovely Christian faith that is so prevalent in that area of the country turned your heart toward hungering for God. (I loved that everybody asked you if you had found a church home as part of their welcoming process :0). Do you think that attending your in-laws' Presbyterian church created a bit of a "God spark" that sped your journey along?

Because religion, and almost exclusively Christianity, is so prevalent, so boisterously out in the open in the South, I was forced to confront the issue.  It's hard to pretend like you're searching for God when every time someone offers to talk about Him with you, you go hide in a corner.  So the constant exposure to other people's faith really kick started mine.  It really dared me to dig deep and see why I had such issues with Christianity, and to explore my misunderstandings about it, and then ultimately follow it to its source, which is the Catholic Church.

And that's what puzzles me about the small Catholic demographic down South.  These are people who are on fire for Jesus, who truly love Him.  Yet, I constantly met people who were more concerned about the quality of the "praise and worship music" portion of their services than who was responsible for assembling the books of the Bible.  I ran into more people who chose a church based on the quality of the sermon series, or the number of activities offered, then the dogma the denomination subscribed to.  There was this curious lack of curiosity that I can't explain.  Obviously, I'm biased in favor of my own experiences, but I really feel that when people start learning all they can about the early Church, and why do we believe what we believe, where did it come from? Then they come right up to the edge of the Tiber.

(5) Another thing that you detailed in your story to which I strongly relate is the evening research quest you undertook to learn everything you could about God and faith once your heart was inclined in that direction. I am a research nerd myself :) and when I get a bug in my brain about something I am insatiable about learning more. This quest led you straight to Mary, our Blessed Mother, and the Miraculous Medal. Do you still have a strong devotion to Our Lady?

I do.  I've always sort of been hounded by Our Lady.  Even years and years before Christianity, let alone Catholicism, was on my mental horizons, she was always in my field of view.  I love seeing her in ethnically diverse apparitions.  I love seeing her show up in pop culture.  I love feeling my Miraculous Medal around my neck, and remembering that she is my Good Mother, and is constantly praying for me.  I think that's why a certain type of person is almost compelled to mock her in art or literature: she is the magnet that pulls people toward Christ, and she is so completely human, and she is a woman - all those things make her a huge target for ridicule and scorn.

(side note: "Catholic tchotchke" - LOVE THIS! HAHA!)
I have a good friend whose whole house is done up in Catholic tchotchke.  It's beyond ridiculous.  I love it so much.

 (6) You mention happening upon an anti-Catholic Chick tract in a library when you lived in Mississippi. I myself have come across these, and it always leaves me feeling rotten. Have you encountered any negative or anti-Catholic reaction to your conversion other than what you detail in the book?

You know, I think "rotten" is the perfect word.  The tree that bears Chick tracts is a foul, angry, divisive one, and so the fruits could be nothing but rotten.

There's always the low- to mid-level anti-Catholicism that you see in secular interactions.  The offhand comments about family size or the priestly sex scandals or whatever.  The sort of comments that are prompted by more ignorance than malice, and so they're easy to brush off with a shrug.
But every once in a while I come across something that takes my breath away with its venom.  Usually it comes from a relative, so the situation is even harder to handle.  At that point, I try to remember this great prayer I saw once, "Dear Lord, bless Person X, and have mercy on me."  Then I dump the whole ugly thing on Mary's lap because I am a big baby and need my Mom.

(7) I love that your book doesn't end with your conversion - we learn about your post-conversion life and all of the challenges you faced in the years leading up to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI - Homeschooling and the wonderful community you found therein, but then having to leave them to move to Connecticut, and raising your family as it grew and people (rudely!) not understanding why someone would have 6 children. How have those pieces of your story continued to evolve since you finished the book?

You know the saying, "Every story has a happy ending, if you just know where to stop telling it?"  That was sort of why I wanted to make sure I wrote past the conversion, past the move, past the culture shock of New England.  I wanted to show that life keeps going, and there will be happiness and sadness and boredom and fear and anxiety and joy during all of it.  You just need to remember that the bad parts won't last, and not to be scared to fully embrace the good parts.

We still haven't found that magical homeschool fit yet.  The neighbors no longer bat their eyes about our family size.  I feel less like a traveling freak show, but certainly not a native.  There's good parts and bad parts.  Just like everything.

_________________________________________

And so there you have it! Are you intrigued? You can purchase Pope Awesome in print or for Kindle (a bargain at $4.99) on Amazon, or get an autographed copy via Cari's website, Clan Donaldson.  Also, please do leave a comment if you have read this book to post your thoughts!

Next month we are moving to fiction, my friends, so something a little different! I'll be reading Erin McCole Cupp's Don't You Forget About Me, and Cristina over at Filling My Prayer Closet is also participating. We'll both have reviews up and include pieces of a larger interview with Erin.

*excitement simmers*

:)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Catholic Librarian evening of theology with a 3 year old and swearing at my knitting...

Yesterday evening found me, well, sweating, given that we don't have central a/c and the humidity was up. As I put Anne to bed, we were sitting in her rocking chair, reading a book. 11 books, to be exact. Anne has a 12 book collection of mini stories from "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." I did try to protest that it is decidedly not Christmas time (although I am working on Christmas knitting already, so go figure) but such seasonal subtleties are lost on my daughter. She wanted Rudolph, and as much as I love her, I wanted her to go to sleep so that Mommy could have a glass of wine. Thus, I obliged her.

Me being me, I carefully rearranged the tiny books so that they were in order (I mean, it's bad enough that we're reading them out of season :0) and discovered that we had books 1-11, but were missing book #12. This immediately bugs the snot out of me. I am:

(1) Type A,

(2) A librarian,

(3) An annoying perfectionist.

I want ALL.OF.THE.BOOKS.TOGETHER. We have to be organized here, people!! We don't want one tiny board board going astray when it's part of a larger set. We need Rudolph flying off into the storm with his nose aglow! That book can't be *missing*!

So we did what we always do in such situations, which is to say a St. Anthony prayer:

"Dear St. Anthony, please come around. Anne's Rudolph book is lost and can't be found. Please help us find it."

My children have always loved the St. Anthony prayer. They even say it on their own when I'm not there, Mike has reported back to me. Adorable.

"St. Anthony helped me find my cookies, Mommy." (her wooden toy cookies)

Aw!

"Yes sweetheart! He did. You said the St. Anthony prayer when you were looking for them."

"Mommy...where IS St. Anthony?"

Well. That's a pretty deep question from a 3 year old, no? We're asking someone to help us find something. So...why isn't St. Anthony waltzing into the room, brown habit flying, going through her bookcase to find Rudolph?

"St. Anthony is in heaven, sweetie, he's with Jesus. When we say that prayer, we're asking St. Anthony to *pray* for us to find the book."

"But. Can't St. Anthony come here? To our house?"

"No, he can't, honey."

She seems disappointed, but accepts my answer. :)

Rudolph is still on the loose, but we have confidence that he'll turn up. In the meantime, I go downstairs to pour a glass of wine and knit while Mike and I watch television. Can I just say, dear reader, that your Catholic Librarian just doesn't learn some lessons in an expedient fashion? One of which is:

YOU SHOULD NOT DRINK AND KNIT.

Drinking makes me relaxed and chatty. When I'm relaxed and chatty I lose focus on what I'm doing, which is to say knitting. When I lose focus on my knitting, I make mistakes. When I make mistakes, I get porky. When I get porky, I backsass my knitting project and do things to it that I will inevitably later regret. And when *that* happens... yeah, I regret it. Suddenly it seems like a good idea to rip a 247 stitch sweater off the needles and "just pull back a few rows!" to eliminate the error without having to painstakingly unknit all of the stitches. Or maybe it seems like a good idea to improvise some crucial characteristic of the garment because "this designer is clearly UNHINGED if she thinks I'm going to knit the sleeves like THAT!" Next thing you know, you have sleeves that are two different lengths and attach at your waist. Little things like that.

So last night, I was working on a baby garment. One that I have been super careful to follow the pattern with and count my stitches. Suddenly, my neat increase/decrease line isn't lining up.

"Wait. What? Let me count... Ok, got the total, let me check the pattern. I have... 4 more than I need. How the---- *censored dialogue here*!*#$!"

This is resulted in a plaintive, albeit humorous, text message conversation between me and my knitting friends, which brightened my mood a bit. Mike sweetly suggested that I put the sweater down for the evening and approach again in the morning, which earned him an undeserved glare. See "porky," supra.

I found a way to discreetly bind off more stitches than called for at the neck opening and am hoping that fixes the problem. It had better.

And how was your evening, kind reader? :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wait, what was I supposed to be writing about?!

The summer is quiet on the reference desk, and so I thought to myself as I was preparing to go down for a shift:

"What do I need to bring with me? It's just an hour, maybe I'll have time to get a blog post started if I don't get interrupted too much."

Our office walls around here are pretty thin, so I try to have these conversations with myself as quietly as possible. :0

"Right. I need my glasses. Should I bring my phone? It's fun to keep up on Twitter and texts when I'm down there, but...nah, shouldn't bring it, too much of a distraction. Do I need a pen? I'm not going to bring my planner, so I don't need the pen. MY TEA! Yes, bring the tea cup, check."

I sort of move things around on my desk as I decide what to bring and not bring.

"Good God, my keys. If I lock myself out again I'm going to have to take our facilities manager out to dinner. Keys in pocket, ok whew!!! What else did I need?!"

I see my tea mug. I grab it. I check my pocket again to assure that the keys are in there, and I leave my office and shut the door. It's only halfway down the stairs that I remember: my glasses.

For the love of all that is holy, WHERE HAVE ALL MY BRAIN CELLS GONE?! That sensation of something having been in your mind one moment, and gone the next, is not a comfortable one, my friends. #sendhelp

So, I got down to the reference desk and then gabbed with the other librarian whom I was relieving, then gabbed a bit with Cristina on gmail chat, then actually answered a patron chat question (international court cases, I certainly earned my keep on that one), and only THEN opened up a new blog post. And do I even need to mention that I couldn't remember what I was going to write about?

It's just one of those days. :0 However, there are a couple fun posts planned for this week, which are Catholic Book Club on Wednesday, and the Church Triumphant on Thursday, so stay tuned for those. It's major festival season this weekend, so a week from today you will be treated (snort!) to a Belly Dance Monday post which will feature me attempting to dance while balancing stuff on my head and hopefully not battling high winds. Here's hoping!

Ah, but before I go, I finished a rosary this weekend, this time for Anne:

Guardian Angel centerpiece, blue bead mix for the Aves, lavender pearls for the Paters
This will go in her Christmas stocking, and Henry will receive this:

This is a St. Dominic Savio chaplet, and I will devote a whole post in the Catholic Nook to it, maybe next week. So I've been busy! I've also been knitting like a very busy bee, working on my fall/winter/Christmas list, because I'm Type A like that.

#BigSurprise

How was everyone's weekend? If you're so inclined, leave me a comment! I always love to read them. :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 47} A summer week of screaming toddlers, painful dance props, and laughing uncontrollably in restaurants...

Happy Friday everybody! I am absolutely exhausted after a long week, and I'm pretty sure it's because my daughter is sapping my strength regularly by stomping around the house demanding things, bossing everyone around, and throwing herself on the floor when she doesn't get her way. But such is the way of things with a 3 year old, no? Soooooo, what else is happening with me this week?

-1- Lunch with the Captain

Yesterday I had lunch with the wonderful host of Catholic Weekend, Capt. Jeff, who was on a layover in my city. I met Jeff and many of the other Catholic Weekend panelists when I was at the Catholic New Media Conference last October. I *love* Catholic podcasts, and over the course of the past 5 years or so, the SQPN podcasts have come to mean a great deal to me. It's so special to be part of a Catholic community that spans the world and I treasure the friendships that I have made as a result. Capt. Jeff and I chatted about podcasts, flying, and Catholic "stuff" over onion rings and beer. It was sublime. I meant to take a charming photo for posterity (aka fabulous blog-worthy selfie), but guess what happened? I FORGOT, like I do daily with so many things it's too depressing to think about. ;-)

-2- When in doubt, just scream

This is Anne's philosophy at least, for dealing with life. Henry walks into the room, so she screams. Because, you know, he might do something to annoy her. And why wait to find out when you can just scream preemptively?

*nostrils flare*

As you can imagine, life at home is very LOUD right now. And sometimes I just want to lock myself in the bathroom so that I can put my head in my hands and repeat that this stage won't last forever. But then sometimes Anne wants to go in there with me, and that defeats the purpose, no?

:0

-3- Burning pain, but hey! A great arm workout...

Our dance troupe choreographies are coming together for the festival next weekend. We have some cane balancing and swinging, always an adventure, to be sure. Also, our Wings of Isis and flower trays are making another appearance. Hoping there won't be gusty winds next weekend for obvious reasons. :0 I'm also going to be in a short number involving veil fans, and please, next time someone remind me that I HATE VEIL FANS. So, these are quite literally fans with a long piece of silk attached, and they look lovely when you dance with them, sure. But at what cost?

"So, 8 counts swirling above your head, then 8 counts with them at shoulder level. Make sure you really wave them back and forth quickly to get optimal air underneath the silk..."

Meanwhile, my biceps are ON FIRE. By the end of 2 and a half minutes, I'm thinking that it's very difficult to swirl a veil fan when your arms have the consistency of spaghetti noodles. More of that to look forward to tonight. :-\

-4- Dance Costume PTSD

Whenever my troupe has a big performance coming up, my anxiety level about dance costuming rises. It seems to me that dance costumes (of any kind) are never made to accommodate the body of an actual woman. That is to say they don't always allow for much fluctuation in shape and movement. Every time I put on my costumes, they fit me differently. Sometimes I'm pregnant. Sometimes I have gained or lost 5 pounds. And that means that the costume is either too tight and I worry about the clasps failing, or too loose and I worry about this epic nightmare happening again. (you may read the link, but promise me, gentle reader, never to speak of it again :0). So I need to drag out the costumes this weekend and see what the situation is, needle and thread may need to be involved. This is probably the thing about dancing that I like the least. I'll go ahead and heave a long suffering sigh and see if that helps. Although it may do damage to one of those clasps, see above.

Ugh.

-5- But that's what best friends are for. To send you memes that make you laugh so hard, you cry in public

Yesterday evening, I was out having dinner with some friends from college. I was having a great time, but I had a few things on my mind. Towards the end of our time together, everyone got out their phone to input the date that we were going to get together in August. I saw that I had a next text. It was from Cristina. Since everyone was otherwise occupied, I opened it. It contained a meme.

It is moments like these that make me so grateful to God for knowing exactly who I need in my life, and what I need to lift my spirits at any given moment. I started laughing so hard I could feel my eyes start to water and my nose stuff up. Cristina didn't even know that I had anything on my mind. She just sent me that meme because she thought I'd find it funny. And I did. It was perfect. It was one of those things that struck me right in the funny spot wherein you will uncontrollably snort in a most unladylike fashion with reckless abandon. My friends all started looking at me with their heads tipped to the side, like "What happened to Tiffany?! She's usually so quiet."

Thank you Lord for friends like Cristina who can reduce me to a sniffling puddle of laughter at a Mexican restaurant, even when I have consumed no Margaritas. Life would be so much less full without her.

-6- Book Club coming up!

The official Catholic Book Club post for July will go up this Wednesday, 7/23, and this month will include a fun Q & A with author Cari Donaldson!


Pope Awesome, y'all. There is still time to download and read before Wednesday! A mere $4.99 for Kindle, this is a hilarious read, you will love it!

-7- More YA fun to come...

I am currently in the midst of a trio of Catholic YA books, and the one that is in process on my Kindle right now is I Am Margaret, by Corinna Turner:

This is another great deal for Kindle, and is written in the dystopian style that is very intense and exciting. I'm about 30% of the way through, and anticipate finishing and posting my review the week after next. If you'd like to join me in reading and posting your thoughts as comments to the review, I would love that!

All right everyone, time for me to sign off. I need to get some work done and mentally prepare my poor arm muscles for dance rehearsal tonight. :) Have a great weekend, and talk to you Monday! Head to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Mommy, I am NOT GOING TO SLEEP"

Good heavens.

Lately, it seems like it takes an act of Congress to convince Anne that it's bedtime.

"Would you read me Franklin and the Thunderstorm Mommy?"

"We just read it, Honey."

"Would you read another book?"

"We just read 3, Sweetheart, Mommy's voice is tired."

"Can I have some water, Mommy?"

"You have a little in your sippy cup right there, Honey."

"Can I have a book in my crib, Mommy?"

"Yes, sure."

"Can I have Tennis Baby, Mommy?" I have no notion of how this poor baby doll got named "Tennis Baby" but there you have it.

"Yes Honey, here she is. And Muffin is there too, you're all set. Let me cover you."

"No."

"Why not Honey? You'll be all cozy."

"Because I am NOT going to sleep, Mommy."

Is this a summer thing? Because it stays light so much longer? I don't know, but I've been beside myself all week. It'll be 9 pm and I'll still hear here awake. Last night, she busted out "Ba Ba Black Sheep" *after 10 pm*. I think she had dozed and re-woke, but still. It has not been like this for the rest of the year. And as a result of not getting enough sleep, she's sassy and miserable during the day.

Sassy.

Bossy.

Demanding.

Willful.

This benefits nobody, my friends. She's 3 years and 2 months. Maybe we should adjust her nap? Will it just magically get better in the fall? I need some advice here, people. :0

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Catholic Book Club: The Gate

Morning everyone, and welcome to a new installment in the Catholic Book club! The book I'll be discussing today, The Gate by Nancy Carabio Belanger, is the first in a slew of Young Adult novels that I have been asked to review, and I am thrilled to include this genre on the blog!

Young Adult fiction is certainly popular right now, amongst young adults and adults alike, and there is definite representation for YA books with religious themes. Overtly *Catholic* characters though, dealing with specific moral issues and learning lessons via the lives of the saints? Not so common, as you might imagine. And so when I received Nancy's book, and learned that it was the winner for Best Catholic Novel in the 2014 Catholic Press Association Book Awards, let's just say I was extremely intrigued. :-)

I was expecting a shorter book for some reason, and this book is substantial in size at over 300 pages, but let me tell you, the space is filled flawlessly. I mean..I was blown away. This book is EXCELLENT. When the Catholic Librarian is effusive, she really means it. :0

Our story centers around a 13 year old character, Josh, who is struggling emotionally and behaviorally since the death of his father several years prior. Both he and his mom have abandoned the Catholic faith that had been so meaningful to them during his dad's life, and Josh, now in public school rather than their former parish school, is acting out regularly, getting poor grades and not nurturing his preexisting friendships. His mom is burying her grief in her work, leaving Josh at home to fend for himself a lot, and he is beginning to get into more trouble, playing video games and reading books with darker elements to them, and sometimes stealing small items.

As part of a school project that he is immediately disdainful of, Josh is assigned to become a pen pal to a patient at a local nursing home. His pen pal is a older man named Pietro, nicknamed "Pie," recovering from hip replacement surgery, and Josh wants nothing to do with actually getting to know him. He wants to fulfill the assignment so that he won't fail his class, which he is on the brink of doing. His first letter goes unanswered, which rubs him the wrong way from the outset. When the class goes to visit their pen pals, Josh is prepared to gather the facts he needs to write his paper and be done with it.

Instead, he finds that the feisty Pie, who talks a lot about his love of the Yankees and his Catholic faith, captures something in his imagination that he can't quite put his finger on. He and Pie never end up exchanging letters, but instead Josh finds himself at the nursing home quite a bit, visiting Pie. Pie also lost his father as a child, and the two have that in common, forging a bit of a bond over that painful wound. There are also things about Pie that Josh wonders about, little mysterious pieces of his story that keep him interested enough to keep visiting.

One day, Pie makes a deal with Josh: every day, he'll leave one of his prized, collectible-quality baseball cards plus a slip of paper with a scripture verse on it, beneath a loose landscaping stone near the nursing home's beautiful garden gate. If Josh is so inclined, he can look up the verse in his Bible, dwell on it and ask Pie any questions he has about it and how it relates to his life's journey. But regardless of whether he looks up the scripture or not, he can keep the baseball card and do whatever he likes with it. Given that Josh is trying to save for a new video game, one that he knows his mother would never buy for him due to the violence and dark spirituality it espouses, he is eager to acquire the baseball cards and sell them. He agrees, intending to pay no mind to the scripture verses.

And...things don't turn out the way Josh plans. :) Not with Pie, not with the scripture verses, not with the video game he is so obsessed with, not with his friends, and not with his dormant faith. To find out what happens, you need to read the book. And please, READ THIS BOOK. I *loved* it. Every night, I couldn't wait to get home to read what happened next. I plan to actually RE-READ this book at a future point, and that is the ultimate stamp of endorsement from your Catholic Librarian. I also plan to lend this book to Henry in a few years so that he can read it when he is closer to Josh's age. It is inspiring, it is lovely, it is thought-provoking, it has an ending that made me cry. Multiple times. This is an absolutely worthwhile book for middle school aged children and adults alike.

Nancy has two other books available via Harvey House Publishing, Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift. If you order via the publisher, you can have them inscribed by the author and shipped for free. I am planning to order *both*. For me. And I suppose Henry and Anne will enjoy them too. :0 I am seriously impressed over here.

Do check these books out, dear reader. Catholic authors providing such quality writing need our support, and our children need this type of faithful inspiration.

Has anyone else read any of Nancy's books? Please leave me a comment!

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.