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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy feast of St. Kateri!

Today is a big feast day, y'all. :0 St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the "Lily of the Mohawks," patron of the environment, first Native American consecrated virgin, and whose cause for canonization was championed by St. John Paul II as a source of inspiration for all Catholics of indigenous heritage. You can read her story many places on the web, including the link I provided above, but what I take most from it is the difficult life that she led, losing her parents at a young age and being physically scarred from her battle with smallpox. Also, how strong her young faith was when she encountered resistance from her people with regard to her conversion. I am so enamored with saints who were devoted to the Eucharist, and St. Kateri is well known for falling into this category. I love that she started a community for like-minded women before her death, and her influence spread far beyond the small areas of modern New York State and Quebec, Canada in which she lived.

From Magnificat for July 2014
St. Kateri has much personal meaning to me, as I noted in the post I wrote about my family's faith story. My paternal grandfather was Mohawk, and that angle of my family's genealogy has always been of great interest to me and my sisters. When my dad came into the Church back in the early 90's, I remember the Mass in which he was confirmed very well. My dad is a very reserved person, quiet and unassuming, and he didn't want to take part in a large Easter Vigil Mass. At the time, we were members of a small parish on the nearby Tuscarora reservation, and there was no Easter Vigil Mass scheduled there anyway, we would have to go to the large nearby Marian shrine whose religious order, the Barnabites, donated the time of one of their priests to say Mass on the reservation. So this would mean a *very* large Easter Vigil. Instead, the priest offered to say a private Mass during Easter season for us, during which my dad would be received into the Church. And that's what we did.

I remember being at the shrine and thinking how different it felt from when I was usually there, because the church was devoid of all people aside from us, and usually it is bustling with visitors. When we got to the Rite of the Sacraments of Initiation, the priest paused to say a few words about how he had come to know my dad, and how he had enjoyed the instruction classes they had journeyed through together. Then he said that he loved the saint my dad had chosen as his confirmation patron, and in my mind I thought: "Oh yes, he chose St. Andrew," because that was my great-grandfather's name, and I knew that my dad had been planning to use it in honor of him.

But then Father said: "He chose [at that time] Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha..."

And I remember being surprised that he had changed his mind, but then thinking "Oh, of course. That makes perfect sense."

And it does. If you read my link to our faith story, you'll see why. ;-)

St. Kateri is so special to me. I have a saint peg doll bearing her likeness on my desk at work, on a key chain for my house key, and on multiple rosary centerpieces. I use the images to call to mind her life and faith while recollecting in prayer or going about my daily tasks, so that I can better try to emulate her strong faith and courage.


St. Kateri, pray for us!

Friday, July 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 46} Mid-summer edition...

-1- Mid-summer revelry...

Happy Friday everyone, and glad to be back with you today! I'm calling this my mid-summer edition of 7 Quick Takes, because somehow it's already nearing the middle of July. This "time flies when you get old!" business is really kind of stinky, let me tell you. ;) This is generally the hottest part of the summer for us, now through mid-August, so usually it's my least favorite time of the year. This year, however, I've been enjoying the summer more and plus the weather has been beautiful and sublime. Now that I've said this, we will likely get a heat wave that will melt my car or something, but I'm throwing caution to the wind! So, what does this part of July look like in my summer?

-2- Dancing in the Streets

It's festival season I have class and rehearsal tonight, and we have a big multi-day festival coming up in about 2 weeks, yikes! We have added cane to one of our choreographies, so I need to remember the new arm movements, that might be a problem. We also have a new drum piece, which I love, but it's very dependent upon having trios of dancers. We have Girl 1, Girl 2 and Girl 3 roles within 2-3 groupings (depending upon how many dancers can perform on a given night). Sooo, this can be dicey, because I'm Girl 2 and may have to be Girl 1 or 3 if someone is missing and we need to switch the configuration around. I'm generally very good at remembering dance choreographies (it's the one thing I *can* remember anymore) but I still worry about my poor brain and it's ability to hold things in. We'll see how this goes and hope for the best. :0

-3- Christmas knitting!

Yep, the Christmas in July fever continues over here. I have my list. It has expanded a bit, but I'm not panicking. I still have nearly 6 months to get everything done. I have yarn assigned, and what I still need is about to be ordered. Henry loves super bright socks, and this is an item on The Official List,  so I bought this crazy sock yarn yesterday at my local yarn shop to make him new socks:

"I will make your eyeballs hurt if you stare at me too long..."
The color sequences are very short, meaning that the colors don't stripe, and have the potential to pool oddly. I'm hoping for a more staccato look, especially since the colorway is called "Confetti," but regardless, if they're bright and searing, Henry will love them.

-4- Baby knitting!

There are usually fall or winter babies upcoming when summer rolls around, and this year I am pleased to be knitting for Baby Gift Universe!

This will be for Sheila's new baby, due at the end of August. It will be a Baby Surprise Jacket, which is just a classic and fantastical knitting pattern. You knit what looks like a baby blob, but when you fold it just so and seam it...WHAM! It's a baby jacket. :) It's quite an experience, you should definitely check out the photos on the site I linked to. As you can see from my photograph above, I'm using a yarn with long color repeats, so they will stripe, unlike Henry's socks. This jacket will be a combination of soft blue with milk, mocha and dark chocolate brown, perfect for either a little girl or little boy. :) I can't wait to get more of this knit and post update photos.

-5- Summer Reading!

I am SO EXCITED about the book reviews that I have coming up on the blog. We have the official Catholic Book Club on July 23rd, with Cari Donaldson's Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and if the planets align, I'm hoping to have a Q & A with Cari about key moments in the book to post as well! The book is currently only $4.99 for Kindle, and there is still plenty of time to download and ready along!


-6- Young Adult fiction bonanza!

In an extremely pleasing development, I have been asked to review several Young Adult titles written by Catholic authors, and I am terribly excited to share my thoughts with all of you. Young Adult fiction is an increasingly popular genre for young adults and adults alike, but from Catholic authors? Slim pickings! So it's *wonderful* to see this genre growing within Catholic publishers. I am just delighted about this, and will tag these reviews with the Catholic Book Club so that they can be easily found with all of my other reviews. I am hoping to post the first of three upcoming reviews next week, which will be of Nancy Belanger's The Gate:


-7- But did I mention that summertime sleeping bites?
 
There had to be one downer, right? :) Every summer the kids go to bed later, which is normal for a school-aged child Henry's age. He has to be up early during the school year, so an 8 pm bedtime. But in the summer it's much more free form, and the older he gets, the later he is permitted to stay up. Although we're still pretty strict on this, he's always up in bed before 9. But our daughter?

*long suffering sigh*

She still needs plenty of sleep, but with how light it still is at 7 pm (her usual bedtime) here in the summertime, it just seems cruel to send her up to bed then. So I let her stay up a bit later, but Holy Moses does she take advantage. Last night I put her down at 7:30, and when I went upstairs following a shower, I could hear her calling to me from inside her bedroom. I go to check, and she informs me that she isn't sleepy.

Are there any more terrifying words to a parent who is looking to unwind in the evenings?

I read her another story and got her a sip of water. Put her back to bed. Within 10 minutes, I hear crying.

Rinse and repeat about *3 more times*.

Close to 9 pm, I'm getting Henry upstairs for our nightly saint story ritual, and ANNE IS STILL AWAKE. For the first time in the history of this tradition, Anne was included in the saint story ritual. Henry wasn't crazy about this development at first, but sweetly invited Anne to lay in his bed while I read the stories and offered her one of his stuffed animals to sleep with so that she wouldn't be scared back in her room.

It's moments like these that make me forget how miserably they fight in the car and how many times  I have to separate them during the day. :0

On to another summer weekend! What do you all have planned?

Head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes, and see you all on Monday!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Mommy, what's wrong with your pants?!" A tale of why the Catholic Librarian doesn't love pools...

I used to love the pool, I really did. When I was a kid, I loved swimming, and going underwater especially. I swam as frequently as I was able.

As an adult? Not so much. As someone who camouflages gray hair with dye, I worry about what the chemicals will do to that whole situation. I do enjoy sitting in a jacuzzi. And if I pin my hair up, I *can* enjoy lounging in a pool for a short spell on a very hot day. But it's not really something I aspire to.

As a parent? Pools are exhausting. There's the dressing and the undressing, the application of sunscreen to wiggly bodies, keeping a very careful eye on everyone while in or near the water, inevitably dragging a kicking and screaming body *out* of the pool once swim time is over, the drying off, the difficult re-dressing of damp, unhappy bodies. The kids love pools, I think they are genetically predisposed for this to be the case. And so of course I let them swim when the opportunity presents itself, but I don't exactly seek pools out.

And so yesterday, when my mom (who owns a home with an in-ground pool) invited us over to visit with some out-of-town relatives and enjoy pizza by the pool, I got tired even having that conversation. It was a week night, so I'd be coming after work, and my parents live about 25 minutes away from me. So packing pool and pizza time into that short evening slot wasn't exactly appealing, although I certainly wanted to visit with my cousins whom I don't get to see that often. But the kids were all excited, so I sucked it up.

We arrive. Before we can even get our shoes off there are demands to get into the water. I get Anne changed into her swimsuit (so adorable you can hardly stand it, by the way) while Henry changes and I contemplate my options. I *really* don't feel like going in the pool. I haven't bought a new swim suit in something like 20 years. I make do with the ancient tankinis of my early 20's. They still fit, but you know...things aren't exactly the SAME as when I was in my early 20's. ;) Every time I put one on I wonder why in tarnation I haven't just gone to Target and bought a new one, but these are age old questions, are they not? At this point in our journey, it was 5:30 pm, and I was pretty tired. Putting on a tankini with elastic that isn't as stretchy as it used to be in the backside region and going into a pool with splash happy children wasn't really on my list of Fun Things To Do.

So I improvised. And let's just say that sometimes improvisation works out really well, and sometimes it doesn't. :) I got Anne all ready and headed out to the pool with her. I settled her in the pool stair area with some water toys and sat on the ground right beside her. She could play and I was right there but I didn't have to get wet. Great, right?

My cousin arrived, and her kids got into the pool too. They are 6 and 4, so close in age to my kids. This is how gender appears to be summed up in pool situations:

Boys: Every millimeter of our bodies is saturated with water. But I still think that...WE CAN GET *WETTER*! And to do that, why stay IN the pool, when we can get OUT and jump BACK IN!!

I'm surprised there was any water left in the pool by the time we departed.

Girls: Don't mind getting wet, but please don't splash my face. If you do, I will squirt you relentlessly with a water gun the instant you're not looking and/or hide something that you really want.

Anne was super thrilled to have another little girl to play with, and naturally she soon didn't want to stay solely on the stairs. I stayed right by her as she crept along the edge of the pool, but of course, if she went underwater, what would happen? I would go in after her, that's what, because the boys certainly weren't going to be of much help, lost in their water-filled delirium of happiness.  I tried to coax everyone out of the pool so that I could relax and eat, since I was starving:

"Kids, do you want pizza?" *beams*

"NO!"

Well, that was predictable. Pretty soon, Anne left my side to venture out into the shallow end, and I immediately called her back.

"Anne! Come back honey, you don't know how to swim."

"No."

"Anne! Henry, could you..."

But the inevitable happened. Anne started to head back to me, but changed her mind and decided to be bold. In an instant, she was underwater, and I was in the pool. In my clothes.

Can I just tell you, dear reader, in case you were wondering, going into a pool in *corduroy pants* is not a pleasant experience, not at all. I walked down 2 or 3 steps and was able to grab her, soaking my pant legs to about mid-calf. As I soothed Anne back at poolside, my pants feeling like they were now weighed down with concrete, I thought to myself how much I hate pools. :0

Granted, this was sort of my own fault. I should have just put my bathing suit on and went in. Apparently I have a very hard head.

I got Anne inside and changed back into her regular clothes, sniffling. I brought her back outside to get set up with a slice of pizza and finally settled in to eat myself, moving uncomfortably the whole way. As I sat down, I noticed that the wetness on my pants appeared to be spreading upward, like some sort of evil flesh-eating fungus that is featured in a horror movie. My pants were now soaked all the way up to mid-thigh.

*long suffering sigh*

I looked up to realize that the entire backyard was staring at my pants in concern.

"Do you want a pair of my pants to wear?"

My mother, who is a good 6 inches shorter than I am, looks dubious, but wants to be helpful. She comes back with a pair of casual cotton pants. So this is how I found myself in my parents' basement on a Wednesday night in my underwear tossing my pants into the dryer.

Glamour. All glamour.

I came upstairs donned in polka dotted pajama pants, but at least I was dry. Henry was still in the pool and had to dry off and eat. As he did that, Anne tried to sneak into the jacuzzi with her cousin and got HER clothes wet, necessitating another trip to the basement and the clothes dryer. Soon, Anne was in her underwear, but she can get away with just wearing those in public.

By the time all of the clothes were dry, I was dying to go home. I did have fun visiting with my cousin, but my exhaustion meter was letting me know that it was getting impatient. Meanwhile, Mike had texted me to see how things were going, and I filled him in. His horror assured me that he would be taking care of bedtime duties and that I could relax upon my return home. Score. :)

As is always the case with small children, the extraction process from the backyard was painful and took 20 minutes longer than it should have. By the time we got home, I had a headache and Anne could hardly walk straight, she was so tired.

Pools. I do not love you. I'm glad to have survived this one and to have an evening of knitting and wine to look forward to tonight instead of swimming.

Glory.