Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Accountability needed. Please Advise...UPDATED

Yesterday, I posted some thoughts regarding the new editor at Catholic Digest and some comments/posts on the blogosphere that were related. My intentions and words were seriously misunderstood by some and although I thought I was clear, I obviously was not.

The dilemma is whether or not to remove the post. That particular action won't remove it from the internet (Google Reader apparently lives forever) and it won't clear up any harm that has been done. What I've decided to do for today is to leave it up (with the relevant comments) and ask for input from any readers who might be able to advise. This is also important because many have already read the post. Addressing it (as opposed to erasing it) is the only way to clear up any confusion.

To sum up: I wrote a post commenting on one woman's critical view of Danielle Bean's busy lifestyle. I wrote that I think it is between Danielle and God and her family... but that I can understand how a mother in a similar position would find it difficult to handle such a lifestyle. Specifically, I wrote that I would find it a problem for my specific situation. That was not a judgement on Danielle, only an observation about my own limitations.

At any rate, I have offended some good people in the process. I clearly need an editor. One of the primary things that I write about on my blog is my vocation. Many of you who read what I write know that my writings reflect a work in process as I try to figure out my role. This was one of those posts. Perhaps I should have kept it to myself.

I have consulted one individual I highly respect and was told that there was no lack of charity in what I wrote. But when someone writes to defend their wife... I have to think I missed the mark.

As with all written things, perhaps my tone was misunderstood. I would appreciate the input of all of you who help keep me accountable. I would specifically like to know if the post is too confusing and leads people to the wrong conclusion. Please feel free to leave a comment or to contact me personally via email.

My most sincere apologies for the misunderstanding and any offense. Lord, have mercy.

UPDATE:

I want to express my gratitude to all of you who took the time to offer your encouragement, wisdom and insights both publicly and privately. God has, once again, taken a challenging moment and made it one of  grace. Positive or critical comments alike... you took the time at my request and I thank you.

Also, just for the record...
I don't think it's objectively wrong for a homeschooling mother to hold a professional position. God can call us to whatever He likes. That's not what I wrote or why I wrote.

Thanks again to all. I am grateful for every word and prayer. Every single one.


More pretty aprons... on sale

These aprons from Target are on sale again. I found them for even less than this a couple months ago but the sale price today ($13 shipped) is still nice. I purchased a couple of these for the girls to use in the kitchen and they are so darling. Love the ruffle and the feminine paisley. I told Cookie that she could choose one to take with her to her own home someday. She says she hasn't decided but I've noticed that she wears the pink one the least... leading me to believe that she is saving it for the future. :)

A Memory of Regnum Christi

I was once seriously discerning the possibility of becoming a member of Regnum Christi. The mission and passion and love of our Lord were contagious. I wanted what they had. My husband and I had worked closely with several of their apostolates over the years and had numerous invitations to join. We were simultaneously attracted and repulsed each time. Drawn by the charism. Repulsed by... something... something we couldn't always put our finger on but ultimately labeled "deception."

Our paths continued to cross as we travelled side by side and our missions within the Universal Church blended. Several years ago, I found myself at a Regnum Christi weekend retreat (one of the most spiritually fruitful weekends of my life) discerning my future with the apostolate. This was a people I wanted to spend my time with, be inspired by, be challenged by. I wanted to know: How do I get it in? What do I have to do?

The retreat was a 3-day silent retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius but at least two of the talks by Father centered around the identity of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. An hour of the weekend was spent learning about the history of the group and primarily about the person of the founder (whose name I don't even care to write). Another hour was "the pitch." There was no secret about it and I welcomed it. What do I have to do? Tell me, please. Pitch it!

I learned the basics about what was expected of a member of Regnum Christi. I don't recall what they were exactly but they were not too difficult; primarily spiritual, some commitment to meetings, heavy on apostolic work, definitely inspiring. One of my biggest concerns was the requirement to be regularly engaged in some kind of apostolic work which is so much a part of their charism and mission. I knew that my primary work had to center around my children and home and that I had very little to give apart from that at the time. All the Regnum Christi women I knew were visible movers and shakers within the Church and their communities. My husband and I had always agreed that any such commitment could only be added if it did not take away from our domestic church. There is an ebb and flow to such involvement within the context of family life... outside commitments are subject to ongoing discernment.

I took my concerns to a member of the lay leadership team on the retreat. She heard me and was sympathetic and encouraging. No, I didn't have to start a group or lead a project or write a book to become a member (although those things were encouraged). Just do what I could do. Prayer is most important.

Okay, good. Prayer is the primary apostolic work of Regnum Christi. And if I can do more, I do it in my own time according to God's will. I was heavily encouraged and supported and told by multiple people how my presence in the organization would be a blessing... my talents a sure gift to the Church.

I continued to pray and was struck by a strong thought that this is the kind of organization that would greatly benefit my disabled sister-in-law. Her disabilities isolate her from many opportunities for such fellowship. I envisioned a community that would support her and draw her further in to true community in Christ. Maybe not as frequently as those with greater abilities, but at least add to her sense of belonging in a faith community and give her concrete direction and positive support in her prayer life and knowledge of the faith. I prayed about it before the Blessed Sacrament and spent time writing it out clearly so that I could talk to her and her parents about it once I returned home.

I again sought out one of the lay leaders of the retreat. She had been involved in the local Catholic scene for many, many years and had offered me the strongest encouragement I had received on the weekend. I wanted to talk about my sister... what kind of place there could be for her.

After I briefly outlined my thoughts, the woman sat silently looking strangely uncomfortable. She began to speak haltingly, struggling with her words. I think I saw her blush. She told me quickly that there was no place in Regnum Christi for a woman with disabilities. "Regnum Christi is a community of leaders. She just has nothing to offer to us." I was a rather taken aback. You mean she has nothing to offer to Christ? I thought that an apostolate of prayer is the most important work. More uncomfortable silence. She explained that it wasn't strictly true... and again, that my sister's handicap precluded her from membership. She then went on to heavily encourage me and my husband to lend our talents to the organization. "You have so much to offer! You are leaders! People like you are the ones who belong in Regnum Christi." This was not a woman who didn't know what the organization was about, but a leader. She knew what she was saying and I suspect that is why she was uncomfortable.

I felt like I'd had a punch to the stomach but was still so emotionally charged from my overall positive experience that I rushed forward in discernment of my desire to take the vows of a Regnum Christi member. The confusion resulting from the rejection of my sister-in-law nagged at me. I regret to say that I was a bit of an emotional basket case about all of it. My husband was patient. He recounted clearly for me all of our previous experiences and how and why we had ultimately declined each time. He reminded me that our family should be united in such an important matter and that he was not interested in having such a thing cause division in our daily lives. They have lied to us many times, Melody. Intentionally. Remember?

He reminded me that what I was really seeking was Christ Himself... and that we could serve Christ without the help of this group that made us so alternately excited and uncomfortable. Time after time we were put off by the small and big deceptions. He asked me to turn to reason and set aside my emotion. I did it. Slowly. Reluctantly. Not very maturely.

Several years later, the scandal broke and I thanked God that we had not committed ourselves. I don't think the people I have known are bad. Quite the opposite. There is a very good reason that what they do and who they are is so attractive; anyone truly serving Christ is going to be attractive in that way. I do not fault the love of the people (many of whom are my friends) but only the method of outreach that involves deception and exclusion in various forms. And since that time, we have all learned that this deception is not isolated but part of a fundamentally decayed system.

This post is not a condemnation of anyone in Regnum Christi or the Legion of Christ. It is a reflection on a memory... written in gratitude for the wisdom of my husband and in sorrow for the deception that has hurt so many in small and horrific ways in the name of Christ. It is a reflection on the tendency that I have to want to be a busy "do-er" in the larger Church when Christ calls me first to my home, my domestic church, where I will cultivate little apostles. We are the weak, the strong, the talented, the hidden, the popular, the rejected, the wealthy, the poor, the disabled, the athletic, the struggling, beautiful Body of Christ. And He is always calling us to Truth... to Himself. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Apron


I've become a big fan of aprons. It's about time. My laundry pile has significantly decreased. I think this one is sweet for this holy season.

Homeschooling Mom of 8 New Editor for Catholic Digest

I was stunned and thrilled to read that Danielle Bean has been named editor of Catholic Digest. Talk about a positive change! I can't wait to see what she is able to accomplish.

I admit that my very first thought after "Hooray!" was "How on earth does a mother of 8 manage such a thing?" But I dropped it there because I assume she takes her vocation very seriously and that she's not going to abandon her children for a magazine. I gave no more brain power to the thought... until I read this post from Elizabeth Foss in which she responds to this comment:

Do you really think you should be congratulating Danielle on taking on yet another job? She has a TV show, too. And she's homeschooling 8 kids? That's ridiculous and you know it. Shouldn't we be praying she stays home with her family?


Elizabeth was somewhat annoyed with the comment. She knows Danielle Bean and knows she takes her motherhood and the will of God seriously. She knows she wouldn't take this position if it were detrimental to her family. Her response is worth reading and I agree with most of what she says. But the comment got me thinking again...


The commenter says "That's ridiculous and you know it." Yes, I know it. I would never be able to do what Danielle Bean is doing and be able to properly serve my family. In fact, I can't think of any homeschooling mother of many (who I personally know) who could without extreme stress on self and family and loss of sleep (unless multiple children have grown up and moved out). I see women perpetually struggling in these areas. I see them looking perfect and successful and energetic on the outside.... and then I catch a glimpse of the cracks that begin to form under the pressure. And it ain't pretty. Nobody can do it "all."


So, yes, Danielle's life seems unreasonably overcommitted for someone like me. I am losing sleep over a one-day craft show for crying out loud! Even a little blogging is a bit much to be totally honest. I don't know how she does it. I don't know how she can find the time. But she does it. And I can't speak to her life, her energy level, and God's will for her life.


That's the key. What God wants for her. And there's no way for me to know. 


I'm going to assume that she is highly organized (much more than I). That she needs less sleep than I. That she is naturally more energetic than I. That she has a home that runs more efficiently than mine. That she has at least some children who can take care of their own physical needs and assist younger ones. That her husband is more available than the average. Or that they very much need the income... or have a much greater income than most and can afford help.


If she's like me in any of those categories, I do think she's doing the wrong thing. Because the Catholic Church will not fall to pieces without the Catholic Digest, but we know for sure that God has called her to take care of her family. The woman who made the comment sounds more like me. In fact, I am guessing that most women are more like I am than they are like Danielle Bean. Because I've seen their tears and heard their words of anxiety and desperation and depression. The more people I meet, the more I realize that very few people and families are equipped in that way; to do all those things well enough, all at one time. 


I will join Elizabeth Foss in praying for Danielle Bean. And in assuming that this is exactly where God has called her to be right now. I will also look forward to actually buying a subscription to Catholic Digest which, I assume, will be going through some awesome changes in the near future. :)




Monday, November 28, 2011

Sweet Pattern Sale

Here's a head's up for those of you who love to sew... 25% off sale at Sense and Sensibility Patterns. Sale only runs until midnight so move if you want something. I have used these patterns and am smitten. I have made a Regency Era gown for myself and also in a couple different sizes for little girls. On my current wish list is this Girls' 1780's Portrait Dress Pattern.


I used the Recency pattern many years ago when I was a beginning sewer and had absolutely no problems with it. What I really like about these patterns is the ability to alter fabrics and embellishments to create a modern piece with a classic feel to it. NOT just for costumes. So lovely. Check out their show and tell section to see what people are doing with the patterns.


The Problem of the Advent Wreath: Solved

Toddlers are the darling little monkey wrenches in holiday decorating plans. And in a large family there always seems to be one around. Thanks be to God! Now go get the ornament out of his mouth. Have you ever decorated only the top half of your Christmas tree? Then you've had a toddler and you know what I'm talking about. So the Christmas tree/ornament dilemma is solved (for the most part) but there remains the challenge of the Advent wreath. There never seems to be a safe place for it.

I've mulled over the idea of a toddler friendly fabric wreath with detachable velcro flames. But, I don't know... I just couldn't really get into it. We did flameless LED pillar candles last year. They were pretty but we couldn't find them (affordably) in purple and pink. And the little ones liked to walk off with them. And there still was no good place to set them up without curious paws wrecking the whole lovely set-up. I've considered a paper wreath on the wall but I ran into the same feelings that I had about fabric wreaths.

So... I've taken a linear approach to the problem. I finally have a fireplace and mantle and although the Professor is greatly troubled that my design is not technically a wreath and is giving me endless grief about it... we're good. I even tested the "toddler view" to make sure that the set up was partially visible to Cub. Here's the view. Not perfect but better than nothing, broken or burning.


Here is a closer view. I originally made sweet purple and pink bows for the candles, decided it was far too girly a thing to foist upon the Chief, and turned them around to the back. The crucifix in the middle will hopefully be replaced on Christmas morning by a larger one for the wall. I talked to St. Nicholas about it... he agrees that the Chief should prioritize this item on my wish list. I'm sure they'll chat.



Lovin' Change

I absolutely love the new changes at Mass. I wasn't entirely confident about my part when I walked into the church but I was no worse off than anyone else. I really don't know why any lay person would fuss about it. The changes are all printed in bold for us to see and are actually rather minor from a technical standpoint (as in, there's really not much we have to actually change). I found it really exciting to have my attention called back to the Mass in this way. How easy it is to become complacent with the familiar! And now we have this opportunity to really look at the prayers and have our minds and hearts called to attention. Wonderful!

The Professor was talking to Father before Mass about the changes and Father admitted he had been mighty nervous before the first one in the morning. "Like saying my first Mass!" he said. I appreciated his energy and positive demeanor throughout in spite of his jitters. :)

We generally sit in the front of the church. I couldn't see what anyone else was doing because I had my nose in my book but I definitely heard participation. The back and middle of the church were a different story. Little Cub and I do a lot of traveling around the church these days and I get to see a lot. What I saw was that a disturbingly large number of people didn't even bother to pick up a book. They just stood there with mouths clamped shut... same old, same old.

I've been thinking about the predicament for the poor Christmas and Easter Catholics. Some are suggesting that these twice-a-year visitors are going to be completely surprised or unhappy. Based on what I saw from the back of the church I'd be surprised if most of the twicers even notice. Perhaps they'll just think the Mass is fancified for the holy day, no?

I'm very grateful today for this breath of beautiful fresh air. God is so good. Always calling us closer... and higher.

Fr. V.'s comment on his first Sunday with the changes, complete with his wonderful cartoons...
Monday Diary: Launch Successful!


Giveaway winner...

The winner of the copy of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is.... 
BRENDA

I need some way to contact you, Brenda... I looked but couldn't find a way to get to you. Please email me as soon as possible. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

7 Quick Take Friday - Black Friday Edition

Joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday...

~1~
Internet shopping was invented for people like me. I fail to share the interest that some others have in being physically present at a Black Friday brick and mortar store shopping event. Perhaps it is the cowardly, introverted, lazy person in me... but it sounds far nicer to sit at home eating leftover turkey. Did you read about the woman who pepper sprayed a bunch of other shoppers (including children) while attempting to get her hands on a video game system? I rest my case. Pass the gravy, please.

~2~
Please don't forget to enter my giveaway for A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. The deadline is tonight at 11:59pm. It would make an outstanding gift for any Catholic woman you know. Come on, fellas... the wifey would love this!

~3~
I have to give a plug here for some Catholic bloggy mamas with businesses...

Allison at A Broken Fortress sells the most darling baby lovies, custom designs, girly things at her Etsy shop...

Custom name pillow
Cam at A Woman's Place sells headcoverings, rosaries, jewelry and dress-up clothes for girls in her Etsy shops... 25% off this weekend with the coupon code GiveThanks25...

Holy Baby Dress-Up outfit
Terry at Deusprovidebit sells the sweetest crochet stuff ever in her shop...


Heather at Happy Mom Online sells great stuff for kiddos and moms in her shop...

Play sling for kids
~4~
The Chief spends time in the Fall of each year developing a computer spread sheet for our birthday and holiday shopping. It can get incredibly confusing and expensive if we're not careful so I greatly appreciate his efforts in this area. Items are color-coded to indicate when they are just in the idea stage (blue), purchased (green), arrived and ready to give (red). He also has a color for items that we have purchased on behalf of other people and for which they owe us money (purple). Once they pay us back, the color is changed to red. And oh, how nice it is when everything on that page is red!

~5~
For the crafty types among us, this weekend seems like the perfect time to catch up on our handmade gift to-do list. I am not doing so well this year with these plans. The primary obstacle is that I am committed to doing a craft fair in one week and I'm not even close to ready. So most of my crafty energy has been consumed by the obligatory... and the experienced among you know how that kills crafty enjoyment. I was determined to be ready this year and avoid this stress... alas, it is not to be. Someone please remind me not to do this again, eh?

~6~
If you need some items to add to your Christmas wish list, it's a very good time to get a jump start on your New Year's resolutions...
I just did the video this morning. What a great feeling to have completed a workout and a Rosary.

~7~
I know the world is occupied with shopping this weekend, but I am going to be super busy tomorrow cramming for the changes in the liturgy. In spite of all the great videos and explanations and resources out there, I have not been a very good student. Don't get me wrong, I am super excited about the revisions. And I figure I'll get the hang of it eventually. But since we do tend to sit up front, I was hoping to look a little cooler than I likely will. Of course, most people won't be looking at me... they'll be staring at their own books. Honestly, this is not only a lovely and good change, but it's just fun! A great little shake-up for the comfortable Catholic. It will be interesting to see if there will be fewer people sitting in the front of the church than usual. :)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making Time for Prayer: Guest Post by Lisa Hendey

I'm thrilled to be hosting Lisa Hendey today as she makes the rounds on her blog tour. She's written a guest post on the super important topic of prayer time for moms. (I'll be honest and admit that I'm struggling with this right now and asked specifically for these words of wisdom.) And don't forget to enter the giveaway for her new book, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms... deadline is Friday.


Prayer Time for Moms
by Lisa Hendey

I thank Melody for inviting me to post here today at her blog on the topic of quiet prayer times for moms. The truth of the matter for most Catholic moms is that regardless of our good intentions, all too often our prayer lives take a back seat to the busyness of caring for our families. We may ensure that our families say grace before meals, that our children have prayed before their bedtimes, and even that they are receiving religious education in school, in the parish and at home. And yet, many of us feel a nagging dissatisfaction with the amount of time we ourselves are able to spend in prayer.

I wish I had a perfect “one stop shopping” solution for this age-old quandary. The truth is, I too often struggle with my prayer life. For this reason, I’ve learned to cling to some precious routines in my own daily schedule that keep me in an ongoing conversation with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the communion of saints, and the God who loves me so greatly. I thought I’d share just a few of the ways I prioritize prayer in my life in the hopes that they might be of support and encouragement to you in your daily adventures.

For as long as I can remember, it’s been part of my spiritual discipline to rise at least fifteen minutes before the rest of my family for morning prayer. For me this time includes reading the daily scriptures (available online at http://www.usccb.org), reading about the life of a saint (typically the saint who is being celebrated on that day of the liturgical calendar (check http://saints.sqpn.com) for great resources, and working my way (very slowly) through a stack of devotional books a page at a time.

Our family ritual of “car prayer” time used to happen in the car on the way to school. Once my boys hit the driving age, it began to happen in the garage before they left. Along with my prayers recited with the boys are silent prayers for their protection and the care of my wonderful husband. Honestly, almost every time I find myself in the car alone, the quiet time will prompt me to take a few quiet moments in prayer. This may include praying the Rosary, reciting Novena prayers or simply taking time in precious silence – an all too limited commodity in my life.

Another favorite aspect of my prayer life is seeking the intercession of the communion of saints through formal novena prayers (nine day series of prayers for a particular intention) or simply “conversation” with these holy men and women who have gone before us. When a particular issue arises in my life or in the life of a loved one, I often do research and beseech the intercession of a saint or blessed for that intention.

So many of the canonized saints who have gone before us lived lives every bit as full and busy as those we face today. In them, we find role models of sanctity who show us that our busy days, our work, and our time spent in the service of others can indeed become our prayer. I love the words of one of my favorite saints, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who said, “What must we do to become saints? Nothing extraordinary – only that which we do every day – only do it for the love of God.” For moms, we have ample opportunity each day to offer our work, our service to our loved ones, and even our unexpected trials as a sign of our love for God. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Fabric Covered Notebooks



I just finished a pretty pile of fabric covered composition notebooks for Christmas. These are easy and relatively quick, not too expensive and simple to customize.

Supplies Needed:

*Fabric 
- Cottons or other lightweight fabrics that can be ironed... preferably dark since the pattern on the notebook tends to show through lighter fabrics
- Main fabric will be approximately 12" x 18"
- Scraps for optional appliques

*Heat 'n' Bond Ultrahold
- Fabric stores carry this and it can be found online but I've found that Walmart has the best price per yard.
- I have seen people use spray adhesive instead but that just seems too messy for my tastes.

*Composition Notebooks
- You can really use any notebook but for bulk projects, these are nice; inexpensive, smooth binding, stiff covers


*Ribbon for bookmarks (optional)

*Scissors

*Rotary cutting tool 
- If you don't have one of these and you craft with some frequency, you will not regret the purchase. I don't think I would make these if I didn't have this tool!

Directions:

There are two ways to do this: You can make wrapped corners which are durable and lovely or just cut along the edge which is still nice but a whole lot faster. The instructions that I am posting are for the second option.

1. Measure main fabric for your cover. This only needs to be a little bigger than your notebook.

2. If you are going to use an applique: design, cut out and iron these onto the right side of your main fabric using Heat 'n' Bond or some other kind of fusible web. *note* if you want to add stitching to these pieces, you'd better use something other than Heat 'n' Bond since it is not intended to be sewn through. Bloody, aching fingers... trust me.

3. Attach optional ribbon to the outside of the book spine (about 1 - 2" from the top). You will be applying the main fabric over this and it will stay just fine. The ribbons will act as bookmarks once the project is complete. I did not do this because... well... I just totally forgot... but you can find a nice pic in this tutorial.

4. Follow the directions on the Heat 'n' Bond and apply it to the wrong side of your main fabric piece.



5. Remove the paper and line up the outside of the composition book with the wrong side of the fabric. Straighten, smooth, tuck and then iron the top side first. Make sure you get the edges. Flip the book and iron the back and spine. After a couple of books, you'll be a wiz.

Lining the book up to before ironing.
Fabric is completely affixed to the book.
You can see here what happens when you use a lighter colored fabric. It's still cute but the book does show through.
This photo shows a completed book that is just waiting to be trimmed.
6. Trim the edges with the rotary cutter (on a self-healing mat, of course). I take little sharp scissors to the top and bottom edge of the spine to get it clean and pretty.


That's it... Finished! 
I do like to use a warm iron and check the edges just to make sure everything is sealed tight but it's not strictly necessary.

There's really a lot of fun that could be had with these. I love the idea of adding an applique initial and ribbon book marks. But the simplified version is definitely faster and still a thoughtful gift for anyone who uses notebooks. Lovely teacher gift. Even if you don't add any embellishments, a bit of pretty packaging can go a long way...


If you have time and want to make a thoughtful gift of a covered notebook or binder, I've collected a few nice links. Spend a bit more time with Google and you'll find about a hundred more...

Fabric binder cover
No-Sew version
With pockets  
Reusable fabric notebook cover
With closure and pen holder


Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: Review and Giveaway


My relationship with the saints has been a bit of a tumultuous one over the years. It has taken me many years to see them as more than just plastic statues with picture book lives. I wanted desperately to be like them but was not able to see myself in their shoes... or visa versa.

Fast forward a dozen years or so... I have finally discovered a real treasure in my heavenly family; and now believe that I, too, can walk where they have walked. With my failures and struggles and bad hair days and even worse mama days... right into the arms of God.

Lisa Hendey just did a beautiful thing for moms like me. She wrote a book specifically designed to help us grow closer to the saints of God as we walk the path of our vocation. The  book is called A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and it does provide a wonderful opportunity for busy moms who are always looking for ways to grow in holiness through their vocational call. Think you've got enough books about the saints around your Catholic home? Maybe. But I think you might discover that this is the one you didn't even realize you were missing.

Definitely buy the book for yourself or someone you know. And don't forget to enter my giveaway for an extra copy to keep or give. (More info on that below.)

Before I go on, I just want you to watch a brief trailer (2 minutes and 15 seconds) for the book. Lisa Hendey is a wonderful and faithful Catholic mama. She is the founder of CatholicMom.com and author of  the popular Handbook for Catholic Moms. She is also a world-class sweetheart and I would love for you to hear from her own mouth why she wrote this book for us...



The book is arranged in 52 chapters with one saint for each week. Each chapter includes stories, traditions, quotes, Scripture, prayer for the individual and for the family, reflection and action steps for bringing the spirit of the saint into our motherhood. Long enough to provide plenty for the searching soul. Short enough not to unduly burden the busy daily schedule.

In addition to offering a free copy of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms to one of my readers, Lisa will also be writing a guest post here on Wednesday (11/23) on the importance of carving out quiet, prayerful time in our domestic day.

On to the giveaway... you have TWO chances... I'll make this super easy...

~ Entry #1: Leave a comment telling which of your domestic duties you most need a patron saint for. For example: I am currently searching for the patron saint of toilet scrubbing. I need an attitude adjustment in this area... and a whole lot of grace! 


~ Entry #2: Leave a separate comment telling which of your duties brings you the most satisfaction. For example: I am so grateful for the blessing of nursing my babies. In those moments, I feel like a very, very good mother. As close to perfect as it gets.


~ Deadline for entry is Friday, November 25th at 11:59pm.

~ Winner will be notified on Saturday, November 26th.

Thanks so much to Lisa for this super opportunity and for blessing the lives of Catholic moms everywhere. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes - "Firsts" Edition

Joining in with Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.....

"FIRSTS"

~1~

This month marked the first time that I have ever made a birthday cake to resemble a pumpkin. And the first time that I thought it would be a good idea to put a cake on the floor "just for a moment" while a busy toddler was about. Fortunately, his finger was only attracted to the middle of the number one.

~2~

First encounter with a birthday candle. He didn't quite know what to do with it (we forgot to practice). The good news is that he now blows at everything including lightbulbs and gas stoves. He also sings a remarkably accurate version of "Happy Birthday." Ha mmm ma mmm ha mmmm maaa mmm... Pure musical genius.

~3~

The first time in years that I've felt energetic enough to make two birthday cakes in short succession. And the first time I've made a blue frosted cake (per the birthday girl's request).

~4~

The first time she received life experience for her birthday instead of stuff.
No complaints heard.

~5~

The first time he received a birthday gift several months early. The timing was perfect. In his words, "This was the most fun I have ever had in my life."

~6~

The first time he ever faced a foot high pile of dung without complaining... much.

~7~

First time playing in the leaves. And yesterday we had snow. Does Autumn really have to end so soon? I do love the changing seasons. I just wish we had a little more time with the three that are not Winter.

And giving thanks to God for all of these things. For all the blessings, challenges, grief and joy. It's all God's. It's all grace. Blessed be God!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Postpartum Fitness: One Year Mark

I have just recently reached the one-year postpartum mark and, all things considered, I'm fairly satisfied with my level of fitness. I have reached some of my goals and tanked on others. It's time for some accountability. Time for a regroup and a renewal...

Goals reached:

~ I have reached my target weight and have maintained for about two months without significant difficulty. BMI is solidly happy.

~ I am fitting in my "normal" wardrobe again, including jeans and pretty dresses.

~ I was able to play beach volleyball with my husband. Not in the Summer sun (thanks to a delay from a broken toe) but 40 degrees and rainy is better than nothing (or so I was repeatedly telling myself on the near frozen court). My play was rusty but it was good to be outdoors, moving and laughing with the Chief (before he broke his toe, too, of course).

~ My energy level is higher than it was. Not as much as I'd hoped but I'll take a little over none.

Needs improvement:

~ In spite of being at a healthy weight I am weak, weak, weak. Watching caloric intake is not nearly as challenging as living an active lifestyle. The first is simply not eating too much... the second is hard work.

~ I have barely exercised since I broke my toe. Yes, I was derailed. It has been hard to get back on track.

~ My food choices have been lousy. I know how to keep my calories in a good range; however, replacing a meal with cheesecake and leftover All Saints' candy is not ideal. And cereal. I eat a lot of cereal. I would eat cereal for every meal if I could.

~ Low energy. This is obviously affected by my lack of exercise and my terrible diet.

Beginning Again:


Getting back on track used to scare me a bit. Can I do this? I'm no longer intimidated. I've done it before and I know what to do. The body is a little older but it'll work out. Sickness, injury, fatigue... all probable. Keep the game plan flexible.

My plan is to heavily incorporate The Catholic Workout into my routine. It's a great program and keeps my focus on Christ, which is just where it needs to be.

I'd like to come up with some measurable goals and mark my progress here. In the meantime, the thing is just to begin.





Monday, November 14, 2011

Free Gooseberry Patch Cookbook (Kindle Edition)

Yummy...

The price is currently marked at zero... not sure how long it will stay there. If you love gingerbread, now's the time.

And for all of you who love the classics AND your kindle... free, free, free...

Jane Eyre
Little Women
The Count of Monte Cristo

Incidentally, I do not own any kind of eReader but it is on my long-term wishlist.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is Real? The Velveteen Catholic meets the Saints


I have always been a Catholic but did not fully practice, understand or embrace the faith until adulthood. I married at age 19 and had my first child at 21; so when I say "adulthood" I do not mean mature adulthood. I knew I needed to grow and figured that the best place to start was with the saints, my brothers and sisters in heaven, who had been where I stood and had "made it."

In our first home we had two shelves full of saints books that my husband had purchased for our infant son. It would be a few years before he would read them but I dug in and spent hours rocking my baby and getting to know my heavenly siblings. Wonderful! Inspiring! If only I could be like that! But there's a significant problem with many saints books written for children, and that is that they are subject to some serious literary airbrushing. The saints are too often depicted like fictional beings who seem too fantastical to be true and distant to a growing sinner. I became discouraged. That is not for me, I thought. I can't possibly become a saint. Heck, I can't even keep the kitchen sink clean.


I wanted desperately to be like those lovely sanitized holy men and women but I knew that I could not. I tucked my failure deep into a corner of my heart and pressed on with a shaky faith; walking forward, seeking God's will, growing slowly in love and commitment to my vocation.

What is real?

As my family grew and the challenges of life increased, I repeatedly turned to the example of the saints and then turned away. They appeared in my mind like cartoons and the pastel pictures in my son's books; unblemished statues with flawless stories. Those images had spread into my faith life to a degree that my entire vision of church and faith would occasionally falter... so that everything that was once real and beautiful to me appeared as a smooth blond airbrushed plaster statue of Mary. With blue eyes, of course. And the smooth hands so unlike mine with my nails roughly bitten down to the quick.

Like the Velveteen Rabbit I began to wonder what was real. I was real. And I could not be a saint. I knew this because I knew the lives of the saints were an impossibility. I couldn't make it through the morning without messing something up let alone live such an untarnished life until the end. Unless God directly intervened, it was hopeless for me. And He didn't seem to be taking any significant action in spite of my pleas.

The Saints were Crazy

Over the years, my understanding increased a little and my reading level also rose. I began to read biographies of the saints that were written for adults; accounts that revealed the real humanity and weaknesses of these men and women who became such great friends of God. I remember reading a book about St. Francis of Assisi during my lunch breaks at work. As I made my way through the volume, a very disturbing thought kept recurring to me: This man was crazy! I had attended a Franciscan high school and everyone there knew all about St. Francis. We were experts. He was something of a religious mascot to us. He loved animals, right? What more do we need to know? He was gentle and little birdies and wolves listened to him. The real story is much more intense and cool and... totally crazy. This man loved God so passionately that he did extreme things for that love. I became increasingly convinced through my reading that many people who knew St. Francis during his lifetime did not think of him primarily the nice animal guy. And that a lot of people probably thought he really was off his rocker.

As my education increased, I learned that all of the saints had a similar quality; this intensely real marriage of tremendous love and messy humanity. They were all willing to be considered odd or extreme or reviled or misunderstood... if it meant glorifying and serving the Lord.

The Saints Suffered

I continued to read and met with the suffering saints. Boy, did they suffer. The kids books gloss over those points (and maybe they should, I don't know) and consequently, I imagined that real suffering for Christ would be easier (humanly speaking) than suffering without Him. But it seemed that I had the wrong idea. A suffering Christian is not spared actual pain, but they are given hope. There is nothing about the crucifixion that modeled a tolerable type of suffering. And the saints suffered like Jesus in ways that seemed too hard for me.

I prayed for a miracle. I knew that I did not want to be considered strange and reviled by others. And I did not want to suffer like that. I did not really want to be a saint. Not a real saint. Maybe just a nice saint... with blonde hair, blue eyes and immaculate hands. I took my secret and tucked it back into that corner in my heart.

I continued to pray and to go through the motions... but I always stopped short of giving God everything. After all, I had been learning a lot about what happened to His closest friends. Most of the time I tried to ignore my lack of trust. But occasionally, I would pray more deeply and He would draw me closer... and I would face my fear. And stop short.

I have had a very good life and love my family and vocation; but there is no question that life is just plain hard sometimes. And sometimes, we all suffer... with a capital S. During one of those very human moments in my life, I found myself awash in tears and desperate prayers and faced with that uncomfortable moment again; the one at which I had always stopped before. But this time, I crossed that threshold and finished my prayer.

Lord, change my life forever. Take me anywhere. Just don't let me go. Because I am afraid.  Please lead me wherever it is You want me to go. I will go. I want to be a saint. 

I'd love to tell you that I changed significantly immediately. The reality, however, is that I hardly changed at all exteriorly. If anything, I am a worse housekeeper, more forgetful, make more mistakes  and am lacking in discipline more than I ever have been before. My vocation requires a bit more of me than I seem to be able to give. Sometimes I open my eyes in the morning and groan, wondering what the good Lord was thinking when He gave me this job. You know I can't do it, Lord... I guess You knew that from the beginning. All right. Here we go. You better not drop me.

What has changed is that I feel free to approach God and to love Him freely in spite of my ugliness and sinfulness. Human perfection is not required to be a friend of God. He wants me even if I can't keep my sink clean. Want to know how badly He wants my friendship and yours? Take a long look at the crucifix. He didn't do that for perfect people.

The Saints were Real

Some notes about the saints:

* They were clumsy
* They were forgetful
* They had tempers
* They upset people
* They had allergies
* They had disfigurements
* They had chronic illnesses (sometimes brought on by their imprudence)
* They had serious disagreements with people (sometimes other saints)
* They made errors in judgement

In short, God calls us to perfection; but this does not mean that we shall never drop a dish or have a disagreement or lose our tempers or spend a week with the flu.

Sainthood is About Love

A priest at our parish once reminded us that "You can be the greatest saint." For the first time in my life, I believed him. I won't ever be canonized (since my life would just scandalize the faithful) but I can be a near and dear friend to Jesus. And as long as He holds my hand, I am no longer afraid.

My heart is free from my secret now. I no longer see the saints as separate from my reality. And my life has dramatically changed. As I said, I seem to be  getting no better humanly speaking, but I have God to open the door for the work of grace in my life. Sometimes that simply means having the courage to get through a very difficult day and falling asleep with the name of Jesus on my lips.

Now I can look at a beautiful blonde statue of Mary and take delight in it. I get it. Saints are beautiful because God is beautiful. Their disfigured humanity was beautiful because it was for Him. They spent themselves in His service. Gave up their beauty sleep and took lashes from their enemies for Him. Their perfect pastel images are beautiful because they symbolize something greater. I'm still wary of books about saints for children... but I recognize the need for them to become familiar with simple beauty... and I'm careful to keep it real.




Monday, November 7, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday - Music, Sports, DIY

Joining Jen over at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday...

~1~
Something strange has happened to my teenager. The Professor (who will be 14 very soon) has become passionately interested in music. Classical music. Sacred music. And... opera. No kidding. He says to me yesterday: "I used to hate opera but now I see that it is one of the highest form of musical expression." *my jaw hits the floor* He is also completely captivated by the Dies Irae and is intent on memorizing it.

Full disclosure: When he talks about music, I usually have only the vaguest idea of what he's talking about. I have a great appreciation for these types of music but I am not very knowledgeable about the topic. He has discovered this interest on his own and is pursuing it on his own. We just support him.

~2~
Speaking of music and particularly the Dies Irae... I saw this post at A Reluctant Sinner and had to share. The author was privileged to participate in an All Souls' Mass set to Mozart's Requiem and said, "This evening witnessed one of the most profound moments of my entire life. I beheld, in an immediate and very real way, the height of human civilization." I can't wait to show the Professor.
Read more HERE.

~3~

People steal stuff. People cheat. I know these things. It is why I write names and memos on everything from clothing to volleyballs. But it is still surprising somewhat when it happens. Perhaps because I am accustomed to hanging around honest people.

Yesterday, the Chief and I played in our beach volleyball playoffs. I watched the referee cheat. He pretended to turn the score on a number of occasions; ruffled the floppy plastic a bit before leaving it just as it was. He intentionally made bad calls to move the games along. It was just a little thing. It's just a game after all. But it was still disturbing. It stuck in my mind and I regretted that so many adult activities are full of cheating and profanity and excessive use of alcohol. People behave poorly and disrespect themselves and others... and leave me happy, happy, happy to be returning home. Kind of like life on the whole I suppose; and as much as I love my life, I will be happy, happy, happy to go home when it is my time.

~4~
Have you seen the latest rage among crafty folks? T-shirt yarn. I admit being a bit captivated myself. As soon as I get a free moment (so it might be a while) I'm going to dig out some t-shirts to cut up. Don't even ask me what I'm planning to do with it yet. One step at a time, you know?


~5~
Anyone with a fireplace or wood stove knows the value of fire-starters. Instead of purchasing expensive starters or fat wood sticks, we're going to be making our own using items we already have around the house.  There are a few versions out there but they generally all involve wax, lint or dust, and some sort of cardboard. I haven't decided which we are going to try this season (maybe multiples) but like this video tutorial... Green Fire-Starters

~6~
Club volleyball try-outs have now concluded and one thing is very clear: there is nothing easy about youth sports. Gone are the days when talented kids can play just for the enjoyment of it. We have talented children who can play on the teams of their choice, but even choosing a team becomes a complex game as parents wait to find out who signed a contract with which team. Coaches wait to find out if their team this year will be nationally competitive or if it will be a developmental "growing year". The phone rings frequently and texts fly. Talent starts to gravitate in one direction or another and suddenly - again - we are looking at our talented young daughter and wondering at what price success aught to be purchased.

"Take your time," the coach says. "Even if we fill up our roster, we will make space for your daughter to play on this team." Actually, we have only three days left to decide.

Practice on Sundays? Well, it's no worse than CYO. An out-of-state tournament over Easter break? Outrageous. What will we do? She wants to play. And she is talented. I do believe these questions will only get more challenging over time. And it isn't just this sport. We had a swimmer ranked in the top 5 in the nation in multiple events. We quit cold turkey, determined that sport would not destroy faith and family. And our family healed, thanks be to God! St. Sebastian, pray for us!

~7~

To my kids:

I pray you always remember the final goal. Don't forget that there will always be someone faster than you. Always someone stronger. Always someone who can jump higher. There will be times when you lose because someone cheats; when you lose because someone on your team gives up; when you lose because you just didn't give your best; or because of injury. There will be times when people hate you for your success and times when they will attempt to hurt you because of it... you have felt that sting. You know. There will be times when you give everything you have and it will not be enough. And times when people give you too much credit, too much attention and praise... and you will be tempted to forget to Whom proper gratitude is due.

Remember the lessons of the pool: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" ~ Mark 8:36

Do not forget the final goal. Pursue goodness. Pursue truth. Pursue beauty. There are millions of other people pursuing success in your sport. If fighting for success costs you permanent things, then let those people have success. And let it go. It is fleeting... and you will never regret the prize you have gained in its place.








Thursday, November 3, 2011

Must See Video in Defense of Life

I never get tired of watching the beautiful Gianna Jessen speak in defense of life. She is a survivor of a saline abortion: "born during a saline abortion." The doctor signed her birth certificate. She was born with cerebral palsy as a result of the attempt on her life... but she calls her disability "a gift" and it certainly does not prevent her from speaking powerfully and eloquently. This is a must see video.



 I discovered this particular video at Creative Minority Report.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Saints' Day 2011

All Saints' Day was a wonderful treat for the whole family this year. Sometimes we're all sick in bed... and last year I was too pregnant to plan much... but this year was action-packed and costume-ready. A party with the cousins, evening Mass in costume, and a festive dinner. A few pics of the party...

St. Agatha's costume was a hand-me-down from St. Elizabeth of Hungary... but a few new accessories and a different beautiful face made it like new.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal helps St. Helena talk about her life.

St. Camillus 

St.??? We couldn't decide which saintly king he should be so he was all of them and we had everyone think of as many saintly kings as they could. Constantine, Louis, Stephen and Edward were all suggestions.

I wasn't able to be in costume this year like I wanted to be but I did manage to help my sister-in-law doll up as her favorite Little Flower. 

St. Therese, St. Elizabeth of Purtugal and St. Raymond Nonnatus

Pin the Halo on Saint Francis. A little bit higher there, Cub!

Bobbing for Apples... the water looks like much more fun to play with than the apples.




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