Friday, August 29, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 51} Onset of evil allergies edition...

-1- *sneezes*

Happy Friday everyone. *weak smile* This may be a shorter than usual edition of 7 Quick Takes, because I'm not feeling my absolute best. I have seasonal allergies that always savagely creep up on me this time of year, and they have indeed struck with a vengeance. I'm super sneezey, and have a pinprick headache right above my left eyeball that will not fully go away, even with ibuprofen. I'm resisting heaving a long suffering sigh, and feel that I am very courageous for doing so. ;-) I'm dying to go home and rest, so it's actually good that...

-2- Dancing shoes firmly tucked away this week

...I don't have dance tonight. Claire is happily in Miami at this giant belly dance convention (doesn't that sound absolutely sublime? An entire weekend of belly dancing and costume shopping) so we're off both tonight and next Friday. And if I had to feel lousy, I'm glad it's on a night when I wouldn't have to miss my class, because I'm very Type A about that. Three years ago, my birthday fell on a Friday night, AND I was fairly heavily pregnant with Anne, and this is what happened:

Mike: "Sweetie, why don't we go out to the Melting Pot on your birthday?"

The Melting Pot is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, giant vats of melted cheese and chocolate to dip crap in. It isn't Mike's favorite restaurant (he thinks it's overpriced, and he's absolutely right :0) but he knows that I love it. Isn't he sweet?

Me: "But...I have dance. We can go on Saturday!"

I'm nuts, you see. And belly dancing at 6 months pregnant. I consider this totally normal. :0

But we do have a performance lined up for September 16th, shortly after Claire gets back. So more performance fun to report in on soon!

-3- My little guy is starting 4th grade. *feels old*

Henry goes back to school on Tuesday, and it's hard for me to believe that he is starting 4th grade when it feels like he's still a mere babe. :( I do love his Catholic school though, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll be doing this year. Last year, his class worked throughout the fall on a big project spotlighting Christmas celebrations around the world in preparation for December. Don't you love that?

-4- My honey is such a cute teacher :)

Mike began teaching this week at one of the Catholic colleges he teaches at, but his full load doesn't all kick in until next week. He's teaching Philosophy of Human Rights, three sections of Introduction to Philosophy, and two introductory math courses at a local community college. That math gig is a new one, and we're hoping he'll like it. That's quite a large load for the semester, but I'm so happy that he has found a good groove with teaching.

-5- There is no possible rosary accessory that I do not own...

And so amidst all of this autumn change, I'll be doing lots of praying for everyone. :) I love and collect rosaries, as I'm sure you've ascertained if you have spent any amount of time on this blog, and earlier in the week I asked the lovely Allison of Rosaries by Allison if she would make me a one decade pocket rosary. I wanted something that I could just tuck in my pocket and have with me all the time. So she did, and so I love it. :0

That's Pope Francis in the center, with a Good Shepherd crucifix. She had the beads and supplies to make two exactly the same, and I bought both of them so that Cristina and I could have the exact same pocket rosary, because we are Catholic nerds like that. ;-)

-6- Currently on my Kindle...

I was in the mood for an Amish book this week, and selected this one from my to-be-read Amish folder:

http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Angel-Heaven-Earth-Novel-ebook/dp/B004Z8J216/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409321328&sr=1-1&keywords=the+promise+of+an+angel
I absolutely love these Amish romances. The settings are always so tranquil and the stories so sweet. I'm about 10% of the way in, and this book appears to be no exception. Our main character, Judith, sees a man helping her brother after he has a nasty accident, and this mystery man assures Judith that the little boy will be all right. No one else, however, saw this man. A vision of some kind? Her prospective beau doesn't believe her story and thinks she is making it up for attention, a result of her nagging jealousy towards her somewhat more outgoing and flirtatious younger sister. I'm thinking she can do better than this guy, and I have my eye on another, better suited beau for her. :)

-7- Catholic Book Club!

 We had a very fun installment of the Catholic Book Club this week, with Erin McCole Cupp's Don't You Forget About Me, a Catholic mystery novel. We've been reading a lot of Catholic fiction lately, so for September and October I'm switching it up to go back to non-fiction for a spell, before we read fiction again around the holidays. September's book is Dominican Life, by Fr. Walter Wagner, OP.

This is a series of retreat talks reflecting on the rule of St. Augustine, which is what is followed by members of the Dominican order, and applying it to our 21st century lives. As a Third Order Dominican, I'm really looking forward to delving into this one. I have this on my Kindle to read along with the fiction title I have going. We'll be discussing on Sept. 24th if you'd like to read along!

All right, glad I haven't crawled under my desk yet for a nap. It's going to be a long day. :0 I hope that you all have a marvelous Labor Day weekend, and I will be back with you again on Tuesday. Until then! Check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Church Triumphant: St. Maximilian Kolbe

Happy Thursday everyone, and today I have another installment in The Church Triumphant series, co-hosted with Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet. For August, I wanted to feature St. Maximilian Kolbe, a favorite of my Henry's, and whose feast we just celebrated on August 14th. Since St. Maximilian died in Auschwitz during World War II, we thought it was fitting to pair him with Edith Stein/St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, another concentration camp victim. Two courageous martyrs this month, to be sure. So head over to Cristina's for information on that beautiful saint, a powerful inspiration for all women.

As for St. Maximilian, he is very dear to my heart. I knew that he had given his life for the sake of another, which of course in and of itself recommends that person as one of great integrity and virtue. But he is also a favorite of Henry's, and Henry's enthusiasm made me want to look to St. Maximilian more closely. I downloaded a book for Henry to his Kindle, Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz by Elaine Murray Stone, which is a biography written for children his age, and we've been reading it together before bedtime each night. Henry has been entranced, and I have learned quite a bit about our Maximilian. :)

...like the fact that his given name was Raymond, and that he came from a family of brothers, born in Poland during the late nineteenth century. His parents were both very devout Catholics, and raised their three sons firmly in the faith. In fact, as a widow later in her life, his mother became a Benedictine nun, and his brother Alphonse also became a priest. Apparently, in his younger years, Maximilian (the name he chose when he became a Franciscan novice and received the habit) was a bit precocious and gave his parents some gray hair. After he made his First Communion, however, he had to grow up in a hurry. He had a vision of Our Blessed Mother, during which time she held out two crowns, one white (for purity) and one red (for martyrdom). Our Lady asked Maximilian which he would accept, and he replied that he would accept both. A weighty endeavor, indeed.

After he joined the Franciscans as a young man, Maximilian started the Immaculata Movement, a group devoted to Our Lady and the spirit of evangelization. He was full of zeal for spreading the message of the love of Christ and Our Lady. Part of this ministry was a newspaper that he developed called The Knight of the Immaculate. This newspaper was very successful, with a daily run, and the monastery where he lived even acquired a printing press to aid in this important part of their work.

Throughout the early part of his adulthood, Maximilian struggled with his health. He contracted tuberculosis and his physical strength never fully recovered. He didn't let that stop him from traveling to Japan to spread his missionary efforts there, including a Japanese language edition of The Knight.

He ended up back in Poland on account of his health, and following the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was arrested with other priests for publishing material speaking out against Nazi atrocities. He and his group of friars were briefly released, but two years later, the Nazis came again for Fr. Maximilian, and this time they were angry enough that release wasn't an option. He was taken to a prison in Warsaw, and then on to Auschwitz. The friars at his monastery were devastated.

In the camp, he ministered to others as discreetly as he could, staying awake at night to pray with other prisoners and hear confessions, to the detriment of his own health. The hard labor and meager rations the prisoners received certainly also contributed.

Two months later, a man from their cell block escaped and was not re-located. The punishment for this was the death of ten men from within this same group, via starvation. Ten were chosen, and one of them, a husband and father of young children, asked that his life be spared for their sake. Fr. Maximilian offered to take his place, and his request was granted.

At this point of the story, I will pause to say that Henry and I got to this part last night in our reading of the book I mentioned above. I tried to mentally prepare myself, so that I wouldn't get emotional. But needless to say, if a lack of Ziploc bags can make me cry, I had zero chance of keeping it together last night. I struggled a bit as I read about how the men were shoved into this small cell and began to suffer. For *two weeks*. Fr. Kolbe did his best to keep their spirits up by praying with them and singing. When I got to the part where one man was so desperate from thirst that he drank urine, I lost it and started crying. Henry was watching me, very wide eyed, but I couldn't help it. For children oftentimes, human suffering and death, while sad, is very abstract. Not so for adults.

The men began to die, bodies being carried out daily. Fr. Kolbe lingered until the end. When the cell was needed for other condemned prisoners, Fr. Kolbe was given a lethal injection to end his life.

We're certainly ending on a sad note. But St. Maximilian's story is an inspiring one of faith and courage. I'm so glad that Henry has taken a shine to him, and hopefully will ask for his intercession throughout his life.

Henry's rosary, with St. Maximilian Kolbe medal near crucifix
Do you or someone you know have a devotion to St. Maximilian Kolbe? Leave a comment. :) And head over to Cristina's to learn about St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Don't You Forget About Me

Happy Wednesday everyone! It's another book club day, and today we have a Catholic fiction selection, Don't You Forget About Me, paired up with an author interview with Erin McCole Cupp, and a tag team with Cristina from Filling My Prayer Closet - she has additional interview material from Erin, and a giveaway for both an autographed print copy and an ebook copy! We'll circle back to that in a moment. :0 Let's start with some information about the book, and my thoughts and questions for Erin, then you can head on over to Cristina's place for the rest of the scoop. Away we go!

I read a lot of fiction, but fiction written from a Catholic perspective is not so easy to come by. When I learned about Don't You Forget About Me, I couldn't *wait* to download and get started reading it. As a bonus, this is a mystery, a genre that I adore.

This story centers around our heroine, Cate, a successful author who is traveling back to her hometown in suburban Philadelphia for a funeral at her Catholic school alma mater. The deceased is old Sister Thomas Marie, an unforgettable staple in her high school years. Cate is feeling trepidatious about returning to visit her old life (partly because she has fallen away from her faith, and partly because...well, keep reading :)), and her best friend, Staz, is counseling Cate via phone calls and text messages to support her through what she is expecting to be an emotional weekend. As soon as Cate gets back into the area, she is bombarded with memories and associated emotions, especially concerning a particular traumatic incident that occurred during her years at Our Lady of the Seven Dolors. And then there is her old crush, and former childhood friend, Gene, who is now a medical doctor suspecting that something is not quite right at their old school. Was Sister Thomas Marie's death *really* just from natural causes? Gene also has suspicions about the environmental situation near the school (the author includes a mention of the Love Canal, with which I am intimately familiar,) and has a theory involving the birth control pill...

Fascinating fodder in there, no?! This story moves FAST, I read it quickly because I could hardly put it down once I got going. I also related very much to the main characters. Cate is reflecting back on her childhood during the 1980's, and although I was younger than her at that time, I too recall and grew up during that time period. Fabulous references. :) And the moral theology woven into this fast-paced, well-written story...well, that is just priceless. A great read. I definitely suggest that you enter to try and win a copy over at Cristina's blog, or download this to your Kindle/Kindle app. At just $3.99, it's a steal!

Ok, on to Erin herself. I gave a lot of thought to what I would like to ask her about her book, and let's see what she has to say. :)
____________________________________________

1. What drew you to craft a mystery story rather than another type of fiction? Are you a mystery fan yourself?

Hmm… well, to answer the second part of this question, I thought I wasn’t a mystery fan, but it turns out I am!  When the story for Don’t You Forget About Me showed up in my brain as a murder mystery, I kind of turned to God and said, “This isn’t the kind of thing I read.  Are You quite sure You want me on this one?” I mean, I’ve read a couple of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, but otherwise I’m more of a science fiction, YA, classics and literary reader.  So when it came time to hammer out the plot structure for DYFAM, I sat down and did a Theatre 101 analysis of one of my favorite X-Files episodes, “Darkness Falls.” I’m not embarrassed to say that I cut my writing chops in the school of fanfiction. I think Cate may have showed up ginger in a subconscious homage to Agent Scully, even though the two are so completely different in terms of internal character.  That and Cate’s tall.  Her feet reach the pedals. I digress.

2.  The setting for this book in and around a Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia felt quite vivid and personal. What of your own background is reflected in this aspect, or others, of the story?

Ergh… this is a tough question to answer because the prideful writer in me wants to say that everything I’ve ever written is completely outside of myself… but who am I kidding?  It’s not.  Even in my science fiction novel, there’s still something of the familiar (to me, at least) even in that (not literally) alien of a setting.  Anyway. Yes, I went to Catholic schools in the Philly suburbs, and yes, the town where I grew up is home to a couple of Superfund sites.  That was just a jumping-off point, though. Walkerville is not the town where I grew up. Our Lady of the Seven Dolors does not exist.  And so on.

3.  The friendship between Cate and Staz is pivotal to the story. Do you have a similar friendship in your own life, and if so how did this influence the way you wrote these characters?

I do!  I totally do!  Nada, my BFF from college, was completely the inspiration for Staz, though I tend to think of myself as her Staz, since I’m the married sidekick and she’s the single adventurer.  The funny thing is that Nada and I became friends at our Christopher House, the campus Catholic community center. Yes, she’s a convert but not from Judaism, so I’m still not quite sure how or why Staz showed up Jewish.  All I know is that when I said her first name out loud for the first time, I just sort of said, “Oh.  Okay.  She’s Jewish.” I have a number of Jewish friends and family members, however, so maybe that part of my roots showed through in Staz.

4.  How easy (or difficult) was this book to maintain is Catholicity without losing a secular audience? In my opinion, you carried this off flawlessly.

Oh, my goodness, thank you!  That’s, like, the best compliment. I think that, since I considered myself a writer before I had my reversion experience in college, I’ve thought in terms of story for longer than I’ve thought in terms of evangelism. As a writer, I’ve always just wanted to tell the Truth, even when I didn’t recognize that that had been my aim. On one hand, I think that makes my work less “message-centric” and more about the story, which I hope would be appealing across faith lines.  On the other hand, that mindset can take the whole apostolate thing out of writing novels, so I have to be careful not to cower behind the fiction fa├žade. Does that make any sense?

5.  Who is Cate? Is she you, or a composite of you and some other heroines you’ve undoubtedly met!
That is a really, really hard question to answer. I think Cate is my opposite in that she and I faced some of the same choices and took completely different paths. Why would a Catholic writer write a character who is so… not?  I think it comes down to my adoring bafflement with people in my life who have Truth staring them in the face, shouting at them and waving its arms, and they just kind of glide on by as if nothing happened. What is going on with them, and why is it so different from what is going on with me?  They’re certainly bright enough. They’re loveable. Why do they think so differently, then? Cerebrally, I know it all boils down to the fact that faith is a gift. I'm still baffled. Cate was the hardest character to write.
______________________________________________

There is more great fodder over at Filling My Prayer Closet, along with the aforementioned giveaway, so what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Has anyone else read Don't You Forget About Me? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Frenetic first day of classes...

Happy Tuesday everybody! Tuesday of the 21st week of Ordinary Time, to be exact. No saint on the liturgical calendar today (bummer), but today is the conclusion to the St. Monica novena, as her feast day is tomorrow! If you have any loved ones who have strayed from the faith, St. Monica is your go-to gal. Ask for her intercession. I have really enjoyed this novena, and currently have materials in my Fusion Beads cart to make her chaplet.

*beams*

But yesterday was the first day of classes here, so I thought I'd report in on that. It's pretty warm here this week, so the weather isn't exactly screaming FALL! But that's ok. There's always a wonderful sense of expectant energy on the first day of classes for the fall semester. In the life of this state university librarian, there are also parking snafus and panicked students at the reference desk.

I'll start with the parking, since I'm still feeling feisty about it. :0 I don't know why this has to be so complicated, but it is. We have a large student population here, nearly 30,000 (across 2 campuses, but still). There are also a lot of employees, as you might imagine. And yet, there are not enough parking spaces.

A few years ago, they did *a study*. A study about parking, because this is a university, and studies apparently make people feel productive. And the result, they tell us, is that there ARE enough parking spaces. Aforementioned parking spaces simply aren't where WE WANT THEM TO BE.

Now, ok. The Powers That Be *clearly* want us to now see the "error" of our ways, and agree with them that we shouldn't complain about parking anymore.

I don't *think so* MISTER SMARTY PANTS. Nobody wants to park several miles away and hike through the excessive wind that is omnipresent on this poorly constructed campus to get to work. Nor are we wild about the idea of parking far away and awaiting a shuttle in the winter time. In Buffalo. There is plenty of space on this ugly suburban sprawl of a college campus, and it seems to me that we could come up with a better solution much closer to the buildings that everyone wants to get to.

I'm just SAYING. But nobody has come and surveyed me, so there you have it.

So, yesterday I arrived on campus bright eyed and bushy tailed, only to get behind a truck that puttered along very slowly, perusing the full parking lots. There was lots of signage and parking people standing guard at each lot, trying to direct everyone. Said truck marooned me out in the road as he partially turned, blocking everyone, to talk to one of the parking people. I felt annoyed, but I know that my first day here I didn't know where to go either, so we'll give him a pass. When I finally got by him and up to the staff portion of that particular lot, there were about 6 spaces left. I nabbed one.

This morning, I arrived at the exact same time, feeling angelic at 8:30 am, and zoomed easily up to the staff lot, bypassing the anxious-looking parking people with ease. Except, *dun dun dunnnnnnnnn*. There were no parking spots.

:0

*long suffering sigh*

I parked in one of the student lots that was still close by and walked just a few minutes further, no big deal. But come 9-9:30 am, WATCH OUT! Misery will ensue. And swear words. Which reminds me, I'm leaving a tad early today to make it to confession.

;-)

So, parking behind me, we now have the entity that is the library reference desk during the first week of classes. My first shift of the week actually isn't until tomorrow (just can't wait) but I got a foretaste of things last Friday afternoon. The campus was already bustling from orientations and move-in day. After fielding several students who approached me with their syllabi, hoping that the library carried all of their textbooks for them to check out for the duration of the semester, and somehow ahead of the 249 classmates in their giant lecture courses (sigh), I hear a BOOP! on my chat reference interface.

"Hello. How can I help you?"

*halo*

"Hi! I'm working on a thesis project. I need to find stuff on 5 different deities from ancient Greek mythology, as well as..."

You get the idea. Not exactly a simple question answered easily via IM.

"Do you need find both books and articles? Have you found anything that you are using already?"

"Um, I do need both books and articles. In fact, a graduate school friend of mine gave me an article to use. But I'm not familiar with this Odyssey tool."

This happens a lot in chat reference. He has started speaking in some unfamiliar language with no explanation. :0 I don't know what on earth he's talking about, and elaboration isn't exactly forthcoming. I take a stab at it.

"Do you mean, "The Odyssey"? By Homer?"

That seemed plausible, given the subject matter.

"No."

*long pause as I await further details*

*none comes*

"Should I look at the library website?"

"Well, yes, we have... [insert explanation of our discovery service here]. But where do you see 'Odyssey' in reference to this article you have?"

"Oh. It says 'Odyssey' along the side. The person who gave it to me is from another college."

"Ah. I bet that is an interlibrary loan/delivery service of some kind, from another institution."

"Oh. That makes sense, I guess."

:0

[insert efficient and helpful completion of reference interaction by your resident Catholic Librarian]

:)

Good times. Anybody else have a first day of school for you or your little one yesterday? Leave me a comment!

Monday, August 25, 2014

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Reflections on gratitude and community...

There are my cute little minions at left, posing in front of the candle they lit for the intentions of my St. Monica novena. Henry looks thrilled, doesn't he? :0 Really doesn't like photographs, that child. Anne told me she didn't want to be in the picture and pouted dramatically off to the side, but when she realized that I was then taking a picture in which Henry was the star, she hustled right over. They were both very well behaved for Mass once again, and I'm very proud of them. They really are sweethearts.

As we got situated in the pew, I thought to myself how I'd like to pay more attention to the readings this week. It's not totally my fault that I can't completely follow this part of the liturgy - the first reading is inevitably when Anne asks me to take her back to the restroom. But I started trying out a podcast that is new to me, Monday Morning Catholic (that's a link to their videos, but you can also subscribe to the audio right through iTunes), and in each episode the panel discusses the readings and homilies from their parish, and the liturgy for that week. I love nitty-gritty stuff like this when it comes to my obsessions (of which, Catholicism is one of them ;-)) so I've listened the past few weeks and felt inspired. If I had to give a summary of what our pastor discussed in the homily, could I do so in an intelligible manner? Usually not, I'll just come clean. The liturgy I could discuss with some semblance of coherency, but during the readings and homily my mind is usually quite divided and distracted. 

So I did my best this weekend, and the children mostly obliged me, aside from the requisite bathroom visit. Anne and I are wearing a path in the marble from our pew to the sacristy bathroom, let me tell you. But I was able to pay *more* attention this week. My Magnificat subscription helps, since I can read everything back over in a spare moment after Anne and I return to the pew. :0 The Gospel was the well-known: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" passage from Matthew.

Reflecting on both Monday Morning Catholic as well as my experience at Mass yesterday, I was thinking about how wonderful it is that we have a standard lectionary/schedule of readings worldwide. No matter where you go to Mass, you will hear the same readings that relate to the liturgical season, and in three years you will hear a good portion of the Bible. Catholics get a bad reputation for not "being immersed in Scripture," but if one truly makes an effort to attend Mass and listen to the Word, you will be immersed in a great deal of Scripture.

I love being a part of this global Church. It makes me feel a part of something so much larger than myself, and something important. Sitting in my small parish in Western New York, I feel connected with those who are sitting around me, but I also feel connected to Catholics everywhere. It's a wonderful thing, and I'm so grateful for that. *You all* are also part of my global community, and I thank you for sticking around to read what I write each week.

*blows kiss* :)

I love my little parish too. The pastor and deacon who baptized Anne recognize us and greet us by name. We know the ushers and parishoners who usually sit near us by sight and exchange happy smiles during the Sign of Peace. I'm excited for the fall events and ministries to get started back up again in a few weeks. It's all just lovely.

Continuing our theme of "community" for the week, I have a few fun things in store. Wednesday is Catholic Book Club day, and Cristina and I will both be posting on Erin McCole Cupp's Don't You Forget About Me, including an interview with Erin! Thursday is the August installment of The Church Triumphant, so check back then to see the featured saints for the month. *squeals!* I love this stuff. :0

How was your weekend, dear reader? Leave me a comment!

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 50} Back to school! edition...

-1- I missed you all!

Happy Friday everyone. :) In the summers, I tend to take off a number of Fridays so that I can secure long weekends with my family, and thus I miss out on 7 Quick Takes. Which is fine, of course, but I do miss it when I'm not able to blog! And so, what is new with me? Let's see...

-2- School starts on Monday. How on earth did *that* happen?!

Grades K-12 doesn't start in this area until after Labor Day, but classes at the university I work at begin Monday. The campus is already hopping with students moving in and orientation sessions ongoing. It seems like this summer absolutely *flew* by. I do enjoy the fresh feeling of a new fall semester, it's one reason that I'm glad I stayed in academia for my career. There are, however, things about it that I do not like. My schedule gets more hectic, for one thing. It's nice to not to be sitting in meetings that feel like they last for all eternity each day, kwim? And here at this particular university? For the love of all that is holy, THE PARKING. Good God. During the main semesters, if you arrive after 9 am, or God forbid have an appointment in the middle of the day and need to *come back,* you might as well just stay at home. Doing the driving around, swearing, and stalking people to their cars that is necessary to secure a spot is just sin-inducing. I'm not looking forward to that again.

-3- Henry seems to be growing *daily*...

Also school related, is that we have been making preparations for Henry to go back to school on September 2nd. I love that the children in this area don't go back to school until after Labor Day, it just has such a fall feeling to it on the first day of school. It's been like this my whole life, since I grew up about only 20 miles north of where I live right now. So, we've been procuring school supplies and new uniform clothes for Henry. In going through his closet, we discovered that he needs new *everything*: pants, polo shirts (both short sleeved and long), belt, socks, shoes. Oy. That kid certainly does know how to grow. And he's *always* been at the top of the growth chart, even from when he was a tiny infant. It seems like he's destined to be tall, despite the moderate height of both Mike and I. We just seem to produce these giant children. :0 And so I spent a slice of yesterday making a massive school uniform order. I should have done it sooner, I'm hoping everything gets here in time, since otherwise he'll look like he's expecting a flood on the first day of school, but it can't be helped. ;-)

-4- An end-of-summer dance vacation

*sniffle* My dance teacher is attending a workshop and dance convention this weekend, and so we're officially on summer holiday at the studio after tonight's class for 2 whole weeks. She's using the opportunity (since the convention is in Miami) to vacation and generally rest up for the busy fall and winter. Although I'm happy for her and know how important it is to have time for inspiration and retreat, I will seriously miss dancing and laughing with those ladies for 2 weeks. :-\ Who else can I get new and crazy balancing ideas from?! She does always comes back from workshops with wonderful new fodder for us, so I'm looking forward to that. And our fall hafla has been scheduled for November 22nd, so I can use the break to clean up my Middle Eastern playlists and maybe select some music to dance to for that. I will do my best to keep my spirits up about this. ;-)

-5- A working document for rosary design. Because that is how much of a nerd I am.

One of my other fall projects is making a rosary for my good friend Irena, to give her for Christmas. We've been convo'ing about colors and themes and such, and I broke down and created a Word document with photos of beads and rosary centerpieces, because seriously. I am a librarian, I like organization, and also I just flat out LOVE THIS STUFF. Catholic stuff. I get excited just thinking about it. I just saved the working document to my flash drive so that when I go out on the reference desk, I can continue to work on the design ideas in the quiet moments. Because...fun. :0

-6- Currently on my Kindle...

It wouldn't be a 7 Quick takes over here at Life of a Catholic Librarian without letting you know what I'm currently reading. I'm in the mood for some light romance these days, and so I'm reading an installment in the Cardwell Ranch series, this one being Cardwell Ranch Trespasser:

B.J. Daniels is one of my favorite Harlequin authors, and she always writes stories set in Montana, a place dear to her heart. She loves that land, and it shows in her writing. She is a wonderful writer, and really knows how to keep the reader in suspense!

-7- Next Book Club installment on Wednesday!

It's time for the Catholic Book Club once again, and next week it will be Don't You Forget About Me, by Erin McCole Cupp:

This is adult Catholic fiction/mystery, and a fantastic read! Come back on Wednesday to read more about the book, my thoughts on it, and an interview with the author! Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet is also participating this month, and I will link over to her review as well as a continuation of the interview with Erin that will be hosted on her blog. Exciting, no?! If you'd like to read along with us, the book is a mere $3.99 for download at Amazon right now!

All right everyone, my reference shift is coming up, so I'm off! I hope that you all have a fabulous weekend, check back in with me on Monday. Until then, head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A quick pondering on the daily rosary...

Afternoon everyone. :) I had a presentation first thing this morning as part of a new student orientation, and I am TIRED. I feel like a limp noodle sitting here at my desk. I did make tea, so that helps, but there's not enough tea in *the world* to banish this glassy eyed stare. :0 But we do what we can.

I had mentioned that I wanted to write about the rosary today, and thus I wanted to follow through despite my lack of energy. And I think this is even a good point to start off with on this topic, which is to say:

(1) Daily Prayer.

(2) Life & all it's responsibilities.

How do those two things mesh together for each one of us?

I'm certain that it's different for every person, and I thought it would be nice to come together and get ideas from each other. I love to pray the rosary in the car. I'm not completely certain why, but I do and I have for many years. I suppose part of it is that I am a person whose mind is constantly awhirl, and when I'm in the car alone I allow myself to relax a bit. A whirly worrywart? That seems pretty accurate. ;-) As an introvert, I always have a lot going on inside my own head, because I don't necessarily talk to *other* people all that often. :) I mean, certainly I do with people whose company I am comfortable with and genuinely enjoy. But otherwise? I keep it to myself.

But in the car I just need to concentrate on getting from one place to another. I don't really need to think about anything else, and so praying at that time just works for me. I keep a rosary (ok, THREE if you must know :0 I like to have my options open based upon mood and liturgical season #NERD) tucked into the holder in the driver's side door so that I can pull it out seamlessly and start praying whenever I have a long enough span to at least get a decade or two in. I don't necessarily aim to complete an entire rosary in one sitting. I'll pray however many decades I can get in and then pick back up whenever I get back into the car.

It doesn't work if I have other people in the car with me ("Mommy, I want the Happy Song!" "No Mommy, tell her no! I'm SO SICK of the Happy Song!!") but on my way to and from work it's a gem.

So how about you, dear reader? If you pray a rosary (or the Liturgy of the Hours, or some other devotion) how do you work that into your daily routine? Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fall is in the air, in a number of fun & crafty ways...

Happy Wednesday everyone! I had a few ideas marinating this morning for what I wanted to write about today, and decided how to sort them out while on the reference desk. I like to use my morning routine and commute for this, when I listen to podcasts and read my Magnificat, both of which often provide fodder. As I was driving in this morning and listening to Catholic Vitamins, I was thinking about how things have very subtly changed this month. My crafting projects are all geared toward the weather cooling off and holiday gift giving, people are beginning to talk about events coming up in September and October, and as I pulled onto campus it was very evident that fall is already here at this university. Early move-in is happening now, and a giant tent is erected in the middle of campus to welcome new students and pass out needed materials. So, how is the life of your Catholic Librarian reflecting our transition over to (in my opinion) the most beautiful season of the year?

For one, shoes. :0 Well, shopping generally, I suppose, because I also need some new cold weather additions to my wardrobe generally. I'm not really what you would call a "shoe person," shoes are purely functional to me, and I own very few pairs. However, vanity does provide the impetus for me to seek out shoes that flatter my somewhat large feet. I do like *cute shoes*, I just pick some and then hope that they last several years so that I don't have to buy new ones again for awhile. I'd rather spend extra money on things like yarn and rosaries. ;-)

But my fall work pumps from last season, which I *love*, are showing clear signs of wear. They certainly got a lot of use, so I knew I should procure a new pair for when the weather turns. I found a pair I liked, and headed to the store after work yesterday, armed with a coupon:

Cute, right? But even more devastating was their sister, also available in my size:

I mean, did you ever?! The gray checked pattern?! LOVE. Despite the somewhat warm conditions in my un-air conditioned car yesterday, fall was certainly in the air as I motored home with my new shoes. Because yes, I bought both pairs. :0

Fall is also certainly present in my current knitting projects, both those in-progress as well as those that have recently come off the needles. I cast on for a fall cardigan for Anne, I make her one every year:

I'm going to repeat those same 4 colors throughout, and border it in a slightly darker green. It's coming out really cute, and Anne keeps absconding with and cuddling the yarn, which I'm taking as a very good sign. :)

My twin nephews' birthdays are coming up in October, and I'm going to be knitting them winter hats with ear flaps and ties:

Yep, haven't cast on yet :) but soon this yarn will be transformed into adorable blue hats. Recently off my needles (and a year in the making) is an autumn tweed sweater for myself:

It's blocking currently, which of course will enhance it's shape since it's wool, but it's designed to be a boyfriend sweater, a roomy pullover. When I soaked it, it lengthened quite a bit, which is very pleasing, and I was able to shape the neckline as well. I will photograph again when it is dry and I can try it on. Excited!

So, the above, along with Henry's confetti socks, which are coming along nicely:
We have a heel and part of a foot!
...are what I've been working on of late during my lunch and evenings. Lovely things to keep us warm when the nights turn cool, which they likely will start doing even before the end of August.

I've also been plotting some rosaries that I want to make as gifts, which led me to think about praying the rosary generally. I almost wrote about that today. So how about tomorrow? Prepare to discuss how you work a rosary into your prayer life please! I'd love to hear from you. :) Talk to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Catholic Nook: Chaplet of St. Monica

Good day all! In case you were wondering ;-) we did have a better night with Anne, thank you for your prayers. :0 I'm hoping that that "sticks," we'll see. It seems that having Mike bring her up to bed is the better way to go nowadays, she knows that Mommy is a softer touch (read: can be manipulated easily), for sure.

Since I am so well rested, downright bright eyed and bushy tailed even, I thought today would make a nice day to indulge in an installment of the Catholic Nook. I'm currently praying the novena to St. Monica, leading up to her feast day of August 27th. Since she was on my mind, I wondered to myself whether or not there is a special chaplet devoted just to her intercession. I am a chaplet fiend, as you well know, and so away I Googled. And TA DA! Yes, there is in fact a chaplet to St. Monica, and I simply must have one now that I know this! I already started building my cart over at Fusion Beads to procure supplies to make one. :)

I have a deep fondness for St. Monica given that she was a wife and mother who worried and prayed over her children for her whole life. A fellow worrywart? Instant bond! I'm certain we all know the story of her son Augustine, who gave his poor mother heart palpitations for many years before settling down to become one of the greatest saints in Church history. No small feat, that. Whenever I see a wayward child, I think to myself: "does he/she know how this affects his MOTHER?!" I mean, after all we go through for these children, the least they can do is toe the line to show their appreciation. Now I sound like my *own* mother, which is a humbling thing indeed, dear reader. But St. Monica was vindicated in her decades of prayer given the results with St. Augustine. Victory is hers. :0

This chaplet consists of 32 beads (6 large and 26 small) and a St. Monica medal. Apparently, the 32 beads represent the number of years poor St. Monica labored away praying for that ingrate St. Augustine. ;-) There is a special prayer to St. Monica that we begin with at her medal:

"O holy Monica, by your burning tears and unceasing prayers, you did save your son from eternal damnation. Obtain for us the grace ever to comprehend what is most conducive to the salvation of our children, so that we may effectively restrain them from the way of sin and lead them by that of virtue and piety to heaven!"

There follow 2 beads on the "drop" of the chaplet, on which we pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary. The loop consists of 6 segments of 5 beads each. On the large beads, we pray an invocation:

"I join my tears to yours -[fill in intention in order set forth below] - St. Monica, pray for us in the Holy Name of Jesus!

(1) - against the spirit of Despair, toward the spirit of Hope -

(2) - against the spirit of Anger, toward the spirit of Love -

(3) - against the spirit of Blame, toward the spirit of Forgiveness -

(4) - against the spirit of Suspicion, toward the spirit of Trust -

(5) - against the spirit of Doubt, toward the spirit of Faith -

(6) - against the spirit of Fear, toward the spirit of Peace -

On the smaller beads, we pray 4 Hail Marys for each of the 6 segments.

In conclusion, we pray:

"Saint Monica, Exemplary mother of the great Augustine, you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven. Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray."  

I absolutely love the idea of this chaplet to pray for our children. One of my daily intentions is that my children always, throughout their lives, remain close to Christ and His Church, and St. Monica is certainly a perfect intercessor to aid me in this endeavor. When I place my next bead order, I think that I'm definitely going to order the supplies to make this chaplet. Has anybody ever prayed this chaplet before, or otherwise have a devotion to St. Monica? Leave me a comment!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reflections on the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time with small children in tow...

Oy. :) This was a bit of a long weekend. Why, you reasonably ask? Well, there's a lot going on right now between work getting busier for me with classes starting next week, prep work heating up for Mike since he will start teaching (a record 6 classes) again next week, and a minor health crisis with my father-in-law. And the children. Well, let me correct that. Henry really isn't the problem. :0 It's *our daughter*, but we'll come back to that in a moment.

Friday and Saturday were just really long days, chock full of summer activities. While fun, I was feeling a bit drained by Sunday. So, let's talk about Sunday. I feel like we're at a bit of a crucial point in this long stretch of Ordinary Time. We just passed the Feast of the Assumption, always a high point of late summer for me. Once September begins, tons of good saint feast days come upon us, and it seems like Advent is right around the corner. Right now, we're at this point wherein most of the church musicians are off rotation until after Labor Day and parish activities are still in slow mode with Vacation Bible School wrapped up, but transition back to the hectic nature of the fall is in the air. We should enjoy these last quiet moments.

And so I brought the children to Mass on Sunday longing for that spiritual respite. For the most part, I received it. It's hard to hear the readings when every week I'm inevitably in the bathroom assisting Anne on the potty (I know all you parents of toddlers feel my pain :0) but my kids really are pretty good during Mass and I get to hear and enjoy a lot of it. Anne started to throw a fit when we arrived because I denied her permission to abscond with free, blessed plastic rosary #3,587 in the side vestibule, but a stern talking to before entering the sanctuary seemed to do the trick. Henry whined a bit on the ride over about "having to go to church AGAIN!! Weren't we just here?!" but he piped down and was well-behaved, especially with the promise that he could light a candle after Mass. Poor Henry also was low on clean laundry when we left the house and was horrified by the pants I made him wear - which is to say a pant-item made of something other than denim. These were DRESSY PANTS, dredged from the back of his closet in desperation, and he wasn't happy.

"Mommy. These pants...don't fit me real good."

I turn with a squirming Anne tucked under my arm to survey Henry walking rather oddly.

"What do you mean, Honey?"

"Well. They kind of...hurt. I think they're, ouch! Too tight."

"Oh. Well, it's too late to turn back, Honey. We're already running late. Can you just unbutton them?"

*Henry looks scandalized*

"I can't *unbutton* them!"

"Your shirt will cover it up, Honey, and at least that way you'll be more comfortable."

He wasn't happy, but he acquiesced. And Anne was pretty good, although she has started trying to hoard the collection envelope and requires intervention at that time to make sure the envelope actually gets into the basket. She always seems just on the very edge of a tantrum when I do this, but so far no meltdowns, for which we should all kneel down and thank God.

All went well, and the kids did team up to light a candle at the conclusion of Mass ("I want to hold the candle!" "Anne, give it to me." "NO!" "Well, I'll put the money in, but you have to give it to me when we get out by the altar." "NO!" "Anne! Mommy, make her give me the candle!"), and after praying by the side of the altar near the candle stand, I felt at peace. That lasted well into the day, through my afternoon of working on re-wrapping my nephew Andrew's birthday rosary (pictured above) since the wire wraps in my first attempt weren't lookin' so good, cooking a big dinner for us and my parents, and readying the kids for bed while Mike went to visit his dad at the hospital (aforementioned minor health crisis).

Until it ended. *INSERT LARGE SIGH HERE* We had:

(1) Anne refusing to fall asleep. This required 3 hours of tag team intervention by Mike and I.

(2) An alarm blaring at midnight from the vicinity of the downstairs. Some little fingers had obviously turned it on in the guest room during the day at some point. Any guess as to who that could have been?! I was in a stupor and incorporated the noise into my dream, so Mike fielded this one.

(3) 1:30 am: *Anne is crying* Given that Mike handled the alarm, I stumble into Anne's room to see what the what is. Sometimes she just needs an extra cuddle or a diaper change. Not that time, my friends.

"Anne, what's wrong, Honey?"

*Anne looks mutinous*

"Mommy. I AM NOT SLEEPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Heretofore began a battle which entailed a full out temper tantrum (mostly by Anne :0) with lots of sobbing and throwing of body on the floor. Mike came in to try and relieve me, which went as predictably poorly as any reasonable measure could have at that point ("NO DADDY! NO DADDY!"). Eventually, I just left her in there and went back to bed, feeling like a terrible mother. I don't think a person ever feels like a good mother when they are exhausted, it's 3 am, and your toddler appears possessed, you know?  When Mike went in a second time, she was too exhausted to put up much of a fight, and things were fine after that. But by that point it was nearly 4 am and we were wide awake. When it was time to get up for work near 7 am, I felt like death warmed over. So, so not fun, gentle reader.

When I finally managed to drag myself into work, I cracked open my Magnificat at my desk in an effort to perk myself up. I just renewed my subscription by the way, love this thing. :) And the reflection for yesterday's Gospel included this:

"...We are now beginning in very earnest to experience the contemplation which consists in suffering with Christ, and the way to sanctify it is not so much to suffer with him as to ask him to let us realize that he it is who suffers in us. For, this understood, we cannot help abandoning our will to his completely, and letting him suffer in us in his way, and his way is the way of love. Complete though it is, in his grief there is no bitterness; and what seems to be frustration and waste is not, it is fruitful; this is because every moment of his Passion is informed by love."

And yep, made me feel so much better. Sublime. I feel strengthened for the evening and have hope that things will get a little easier. I know it's a small thing, this Terrible Two's universe I'm living in right now, but emotionally it can take it's toll over a long stretch, especially when combined with a bunch of other anxieties.

But, with faith, I'm getting there, and I hope to have an amusing and non-sleep deprived anecdote to share tomorrow. Hope springs eternal. :)

How was your weekend?