Monday, February 29, 2016

Never Quite Perfect







It's never quite perfect around here.  There's always stuff on the kitchen table.  There's always something I haven't found a home for on the counters.  There's always something waiting to be put away on the steps and the mantle is never pristine.  The house is never immaculate or trendy and there are a lot of scuffed edges and projects waiting to be tackled.

I struggle with this - the desire for a beautiful home, for a little more taste and style and a little more care about it all in general.  I'd love to have that shining, beautiful, welcoming home.  I'd also like to be that shining, beautiful, welcoming person.

I get sucked into blogs and pictures of those homes and those people - you know the ones.  The ones who have the taste and the budget.  The ones who have the time and maybe quite a few more years of experience (usually, when I stop to think of it - none of them work day jobs or are in the baby/preschooler years of their families anymore).  I think what a beautiful way for my inner life to shine thru to my outer life.  If people want to emulate the outer side of my life, they can be drawn to what's deep down.

One of my books for Lent is a little work called "Life and Holiness" by Thomas Merton and I think I've read his chapter called "An Imperfect Ideal" half a dozen times already.

"It is unfortunately quite possible that a superficial religiosity, without deep roots and without fruitful relation to the needs of men and of society, may turn out in the end to be an evasion of imperative religious obligations.

Our time needs more than devout, Chruch-going people who avoid serious wrongs ... but who seldom do anything constructive or positively good.

It is not enough to be outwardly respectable.

On the contrary mere external respectability, without deeper or more positive moral values, brings discredit upon the Christian faith."

I wonder if Mr. Merton was foreseeing this age of mommy bloggers and lifestyle bloggers and religions trying to sell people on faith, morals or anything else by selling them just the trappings of a lifestyle.  It's nice to have a reminder that pretty pictures, nice blogs and immaculate houses and great style are not what makes me good at this faith-stuff and it's not what should be drawing people to my faith either.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Little Ray of Sunshine.










Hello, sweetheart...

We're pleased to announce that Henry is getting his wish.
A little sister.

To say we're excited is an understatement.  So much to take in, so much I've given myself permission to enjoy this time around.  Letting myself go crazy with the crafts and the new diapers and the little details, because I think we've earned it.  And of course, everyone else is having fun too - from sweet little gifts to boxes of hand-me-downs have started to arrive.

It's such a blessing to be able to experience again.  It's such a blessing to be able to experience one pregnancy without depression and fear sapping every moment from you.  It's something I don't take for granted for a single moment.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Failing in February

It snowed again.... yay....
Can we all just agree that February might just be the worst month?  Around here it's the final hump in the long slog of winter - the fun has all worn off, we're tired of cold and snow, there are no good holidays left to celebrate (and we're burnt out on the decorations, the food, the effort even if there were), we're tired of the weather dictating what we can do every.single.day.  The combination of all of that is just the perfect recipe for having too much time on our hands to hyper-analyze everything in our lives.

It's always the time of year I feel worst about our situation - whatever that situation is.  It's the time of year I have way too much time to play the comparison game and feel inadequate about our jobs, our finances, our adventures (or lack there of), our plans for the future.  It's the time of year when I'm once again in shock by how much junk there is in my house, in my kitchen, in my body, and in my mind.

Let's pretend this is some installation art depicting February and not the current state of my kitchen table.
I'm so tired of the Februaries.

I think this year is hitting me particularly hard because I'm just wading out of the early pregnancy upheaval - the last couple of months have just been about getting to the next day and our routines, our food and all those little things have taken a serious hit.  At the same time, we're in a tentative spot waiting for *everything* to change soon - the new baby this summer, the new adventure of school this fall.  I like to make plans and I don't feel like I can; it's a horrible sense of limbo.

This is February
I'm so ready for February to be over.  I'm ready to see if any of the bulbs I planted last year survived for the spring.  I'm ready for the grass to start growing again.  I'm ready for open windows and stringing up the clothes line (and I'm oh so ready for baby clothes and cloth diapers on that line again!).  I'm ready to be able to make some plans or, at least, do something.  Who's with me?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

One More Thing Before You Go

I know Lent calls many people to be offline so before you go I wanted to remind you of the "Finding Your Fiat Conference" this summer.

We now have most, if not all, of our speakers lined up and confirmed and it's going to be a wonderful event.

Our headliners include:

Jenna from Blessed is She Ministries



Meg, a self-proclaimed "hobo missionary"



Our Emcee will be Nell, blogger from Whole Parenting.



Our Musical Guest and Breakout Speaker will be, Marie Miller.



Our additional breakout speakers will be:

Annie Tillberg, from Annery at Home.



Nancy Piccione, from The Catholic Post.



Colleen Mitchell, from Blessed Are The Feet and the St. Francis Emmaus Center.



It's a great line up full of women of all ages and interests.  We look forward to having something to interest the young, single woman and the older mother with growing children.  We look forward to welcoming women whose families are all shapes and sizes.  We look forward to welcoming the career gal, the stay at home, the homeschooler and the PTA mom.  We look forward to having a place just for you whether you're an introvert or extrovert, local or traveling.  We look forward to you!

We're about half way to our ticket sales goals, so we wanted to encourage you to reserve your place before you go offline for the season!  It's a smaller gathering and we're filling up fast.

Just a reminder - tickets for both Friday and Saturday are $70.  We also offer a Friday Only option for $35 and a Saturday Only option for $45 to help fit your budget and schedule.

Go here to reserve your spot today!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Last Minute Lent: A Guide to Devotionals to Fit Your Plans

Oh Lent is almost here and except for a little bit of musing and thinking I'm not completely prepared.  Of course, that might be appropriate - even Jesus didn't quite seem to see things coming when he prepared for his ministry.  He didn't have a road map telling him to do x, y and z and these days.  He probably had to wing it a lot too.  Thank goodness for that guiding Holy Spirit.

I've had the good fortune this year to be positively surrounded by excellent resources.  So any amazing ministries and woman putting their heads together to offer resources and guidance.  Of course, decision fatigue and fear can be a real thing.  Where do I start?  Should I do them all?  What if I miss out?  So many good choices sometimes makes me freeze up so I wanted to break it down a little bit more for my fellow mama's who might be doing things a bit last minute and don't know where to start.

Step One:  Ask yourself this - "Am I devotional person?".  Seriously, sometimes we get so caught with it being there that we don't ask ourselves if it fits our personality or time constraints.  If you are a devotional person excellent.  Hold tight there's more to come.  If you're not a devotional person it's okay; maybe exactly what you need is just a good spiritual book or a little more quiet prayer.  Listen to that little voice, it's probably the Holy Spirit.

Step Two:  If you are a devotional gal here's your next question - "Do I need to get offline for Lent?"  This is a big one because signing up for something that will require online interaction or daily emails while you're trying to step away from social media is going to throw a lot of temptation in your path.  Jesus didn't go seeking out the Devil in the desert and neither should you.

Step Three:  No matter your answer to Step Two ask yourself what you need to get from your devotional.  Is it time to put your thoughts in order?  The chance to do more heavy scripture reading?  Do you need inspiration from fellow women?  Do you need something you can really sink some time into or something you can do during nap time or on the bus?

So now that you've answered those questions I'm going to introduce you to some resources.  Remember your answers!  Each of these resources is amazing and beautiful.  Each of these resources is worth supporting, but what's important here is that you make the best decision for you this year.

Blessed is She Lenten Devotional:


Blessed is She is an online devotional site for women.  It offers daily thoughts and meditations on scripture readings as well as being a way to connect like-minded women across the country, even the world.

What their devotional offers:
  • goal setting every single week of Lent
  • reflections to help you pray through the week
  • journeying with and learning about Saints
  • Gospel readings every day of Lent
  • journal space for prayer and tracking your personal Lenten sacrifices and goals
Who it's right for:
The Blessed is She devotional is perfect for someone who wants do to a lot of soul searching on their own.  Even though the digital download is the only option still available, you could have it printed at a copy store and take it with you in your bag for Lent; pulling it out whenever you find a free moment.  It's goal setting feature would be great for people who need an extra incentive or challenge to keep up the momentum.  It's journaling space is perfect for jotting down ideas big or small and it's journey with the Saints is great for anyone searching for inspiration or examples in the Catholic community.  Even though BIS is offering online interactions thru Lent, this is PERFECT for someone going offline for the season.

($15 for the digital download)


Waiting in the Word Devotional


Waiting in the Word was devotional created by three great bloggers and is specifically geared towards supporting a mother's journey through Lent.  In their words: 

"Join us this Lent as we dive into scripture and deal with some of the struggles we all share as mothers: selfishness, frustrations, judgment, envy, failure, and anxiety.  This study is based on lectio divina, an ancient practice of slowly and deliberately reading scripture, a practice that can be so fruitful!  Together let's work to leave these sins behind and instead embrace sacrifice, forgiveness, love, gratitude, humility and surrender."

What their devotional offers:
  • An online newsletter
  • Weekly instead of daily scripture meditation
  • Journaling space with daily scripture meditation
  • Facebook community for interact, support and inspiration throughout Lent.
  • Options for personal and group study; comes with an optional "Leader's Guide".
  • Download format is good for Ereaders or to be printed in a physical copy.
Who it's right for:
The busy mom who doesn't need one more daily thing to fall behind on.  The weekly format is a bit more approachable when you're staring down a calendar that doesn't always allow for five minutes peace when seeing to the needs of home, work and family.  It's also great if one of your goals is to build up your local community; it could easily be used in private study or group discussion with the handy "Leader's Guide".  The newsletter is great for gals who will still be online and could use an extra nudge each morning when there's time - yet it's not the bulk of the devotional.  The reflections on motherhood might just be what you need to inspire your Lenten journey this year.

You can find the Waiting in the Word devotional Here: ($11)


Restore Workshop

Restore is the work of Elizabeth Foss and her crew of bloggers and it's not just a devotional, it's full Lent experience.



What the workshop offers:
  • Exclusive access to the daily workshop community to guide you through every day of Lent and access to the author for encouragement, allowing you ample opportunity to discuss the content of the essays in a private space with other participants and Elizabeth. Each day is a retreat-like experience.
  • The beautiful full-color 180 page ebook Talking Together About Restoration: A full-length guidebook for wholehearted healing of mind, body and soul.
  • Another beautiful ebook, Quiet Time for Lent: One-page daily devotions from Ash Wednesday through Easter Saturday to incline your days towards Him who restore. 
  • Downloadable podcasts with: Sarah Mackenzie, Danielle Bean, Colleen Mitchell, Ginny Sheller, Aimee Kollmansberger, Anne Bogel, and Ann Voskamp and printable transcripts of all the podcasts
  • Full color tutorials for these ways to connect your heart with your hands: Healing Salve and Bath Salts, Flannel Cozies,
  • Sweatproof headbands to sew (and a no sew version), Knitted washcloths and crocheted washcloths, Beautiful (really!) reusable kitchen cloths, Embellished hand towels (and a quick version for mamas with babies), Pretty vases for your Easter table (and beyond) and Fabric-covered prayer journals
  • Printables with quotes and prayers, organizing templates for your home and your life, and lockscreen reminders for your phone.
  • Continuing community after the workshop ends in a private Facebook group. 
Who it's right for:
Restore is perfect for the woman up for a challenge this Lent: there is a lot to do here and would be great for those of us looking at long commutes or needing something productive to do during the waits for sports and lesson or someone with regular alone time, perhaps like regular adoration.  It's also perfect for the busy woman or mother whose demands means she can't get away for a weekend alone to physical retreat or conference.  This is like a conference that arrive in your mailbox.  Restore is great for woman who can also pick and choose when offered so many options - it's not necessary to do or use everything these amazing women have put together, but within it is something for everyone.  I, for instance, am looking forward to the podcasts that I can listen to on my bus rides or when I'm alone at work.  The two ebooks offered work so well together on their own.  The Restoration eBook focuses on chapters and reflections this years theme of "Restoration".  The Morning Quiet Time ebook is short and succinct with short reflections to Think, Pray and Act on; perfect for those five minutes of peace before everyone else wakes up.  Restore is a perfect choice for a busy women who needs options to fit a great Lenten experience into whatever her life throws her way each day.

You can find the Restore Workshop here: $49

I hope this helps you find just what you're looking for as we look towards Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

But It Wasn't A Love Story

::this post contains spoilers about the books "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes::

The other night I saw a cute movie preview flash across my screen.  It was for the upcoming film version of "Me Before You"; the movie preview looked adorable and I was in need of a lighthearted read as I get into my heavier Lenten reading so I picked it up on a trip to the bookstore.  I had an inkling of how the book would end; I had read a little too far in some reviews, but wanted to give it a shot anyways.

It was a cute boy meets girl kind of story.  The main girl Louisa doesn't really have a lot of plans or ambitions in her life until she meets Will, a classic all or nothing, good at everything - rich, handsome, talented, athletic - who was the victim of a car accident that left him with severe spinal cord injury.  Will can no longer move any of his limbs and is reliant on others for all of his care.  Louisa comes into be one of his aides and of course, he changes her life for the better.

Now Ms. Moyes could have taken an extremely lighthearted and probably unrealistic take on this scenario.  She could have had Will miraculously healed or other miraculous version of recovering or mental healing and while Will does "get better", it's not the ending most might expect.  You see he spends the entirity of his budding relationship with Louisa with a firm plan to be taken to Switzerland at the end of 6 months and commit suicide (euthanasia).  Louisa has been hired to be a guard on suicide watch and later as Will's parent last attempt to change his mind.

Oh, how I've heard other rave about this "love story" and yes, there are aspects of a traditional romance novel there; they hate each other at first, slowly come to mutual respect and friendships which develops into something like love, but I don't think this book should be called a love story.

I read in one review that a reader was confused by the title "Me Before You" and how that related to the storyline at all.  When I had finished the book it was clear to me; the title was not about Louisa and who she was before Will changed her life, the title was about Will choosing himself above everyone else.

Now, that may sound a bit callous.  I do not know what it's like to be in a medically fragile state, dependent on the care of others and I won't pretend to and I'm quite hesitant to voice my opinion on the subject because I realize I'm looking at it from a complete outsiders vantage. I've done a little extra reading and seen that Ms. Moyes received some good feedback from the quadriplegic community in describing their daily struggles both inward and outward.  These parts were so helpful to read - she made me stop and think about my own reactions and interactions, my own expectations and assumptions.  But in the end, whether you feel strongly about the subject of euthanasia or not, I would think that it's clear that Will chooses himself.  There is love there, of course, he does wonderful things for the last bit of happiness in his life; he leaves a pleasant final legacy in this woman who is more fearless and inspired in the world, but it's still not enough for me to consider it a love story.

I almost wish the rest of the book hadn't been so lighthearted and fun.  The subject matter is serious and could have gone much further.  At the end of the book, even though yes I was crying a bit, my first thought was "That was a bit romantic, but it was not love."  In the end, our poor character Will couldn't give himself to love as he was unable to pull himself out of the memories of a perfect past.  He was too haunted, too broken of a spirit as he chooses in the end to go through with his plans painfully aware of what his choice is doing to his friends and family.  It's not an ending that I can rally behind (though I wouldn't necessarily want it to have a falsely optimistic, miraculous healing ending either) - though don't confuse that with a lack of empathy for people and families who've faced this outcome after a life altering event - and because of that I can't see it as a true love story.  That's not how love works in my book.  I'm not saying it would be easy to choose love as I understand it in this context, but when I strip it all down it doesn't qualify when in the end you do choose yourself.  But if anything, his gift was giving Louisa a love of herself; a desire to go out and demand better for her life, but let's not call it a love story.  Let's not romanticize the struggles the book introduces us to under its chipper writing and hopeful attitude.

I still want to see the movie.  It looks adorable and charming for the most part, but I can't help wonder if I'll be the only one in the theatre, with tears in her eyes at the end, still thinking "... but it wasn't a love story."

Has anyone else read this?  What was your take on it?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Verbing Lent

I think I can say, for once, I'm glad Lent is here.  Between the baby, the holidays, life in general and winter I've been in a bit of a slump and sometimes slumps are hard to work out of.

A big part of the slump is that I'm new to a lot of this.  I don't know how Catholic families raise their kids faithwise and kind of making it up as I go.  That's fine and dandy, but thanks to Pinterest and a wealthy of sites, books and other things it's hard to find something and go with it because there are so many other options, and maybe that ones better or should I be doing more crafts or reading more books or...or... or...

I got to the point where I felt like I was drowning in options and kind of froze up.  Plus I got to the point where I wasn't sure why I was trying to do some of these things and the answer I came up for a lot of it was that it looked really cool or I really respected that blogger who did them, but that in the end it wasn't a good fit for me.  Baking lots of goodies we never ate?  Not our thing.  Crafts we just rushed through?  Not worth it.  Books just sitting on our shelves?  Waste.

The thing is, I grew up Methodist.  Methodists are a liturgical church, but what makes them Methodist, in part, is that Methodists do things.  They're big on action and that's what I'm used to and without that I feel a little empty, but when I couple action to our family plans I feel much more fulfilled.

Sometimes that action is big - like gathering up items for the shelter with my family and sometimes it's small, like our Thank You window or even filling up our bean jar - it's not just making a thing or reading a book, I think I need a way to verb our experience a bit more and I think that's good for me because I can be quite anti-action in my day to day life, preferring to be a bit more sedentary and complacent.

So that's all well and good, but what are you DOING for Lent?!  Well, let's keep thinking in terms of verbs here.  This Lent I feel like I need to focus on these verbs for me and my family:

PRAY, ATTEND, LEARN

Prayer has really took a hit in my life recently, and I can't really say why past what I've already talked about.  There's so many ways and places and prayers to learn!  I used to get by with the Lord's Prayer, that was easy.  It's become a little overwhelming and I need to simplify that again.  At the same time I need to be exposing my kid to more prayer in his day to day life.  I grew up with prayer being very private and very quiet; I developed quite a skill in mental prayer, but that's not the best teaching tool.

Plans for Lent:
  • Learn a new prayer with Henry
  • Exposure to the Rosary

Attendance is a rough one for me on two accounts - once again I grew up without super mandatory church attendance.  If you had a reason to miss, that was fine - see you again next week.  It didn't develop the best habit formation in me and while we've been doing much better over the last year or two, the first tri of this pregnancy just blew that record away.  I'm also an introvert!  I don't wanna go to functions and events because everyone will see my ackward and I'd much rather stay at home and read.  Once again, good spiritual reading is fine, but like my habit of mental prayer not so great with the teaching.

Plans for Lent:
  • Go.To.Church.Molly. 
    • and you should probably hit up confession
  • Get to a Church event - we've got a lot of them Ash Wednesday soup suppers, 40 days of Life events, Stations of the Cross.  We need to show up and do at least one of these.  That community building isn't going to do it on it's own.
Learning is a tricky one because so often I get wrapped up in the doing and the making, but don't focus as much on the retention of why we did a thing.  Henry's old enough that I want him to start learning a bit more - not just knowing that we make a craft or eat a food on a certain day.  Of course he's five so the bar isn't too high up there, but still - we need to focus more on the why we do things that the what we're doing.  That's not saying I'm banning crafts and activities, I think it's more of a challenge to me to step it up a notch.

Plans for Lent:
  • Regular Bible Stories
  • ???  Not quite sure how this one is going to pan out yet....


Other things for Lent:
  • Lent Countdown Calendar
  • Lent Bean Jar
  • Work with Henry to give something up this year
  • Focus on limit excess in our family
  • Almsgiving box
Hopefully this Lent will see us doing a bit more, how about you?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Rains: Pours

Well, that was a fun couple of days.  Saturday kicked off with a pre-birthday trip to let H. pick out his birthday presents and on the car ride up the husband and I got to talking about the pre-baby reorganization our house desperately needs; namely starting off with officially deeming our downstairs "big kid" land where all the big kid toys (with the thousand little parts) will live once the baby gets here.  Little did we know that when we got home we'd have a surprise that would kick it all into high gear.

Mold.

I walked into the basement to find, out of nowhere, a black mold about the size of a dinner plate climbing up the wall from between the wall and the baseboard.   What. the. eff.

Well when you have a small child, an asthmatic and a pregnant lady all living in the same house you don't mess around.  My industrial hygienist of a father was over shortly and we unofficially decided that it wasn't the super dangerous stuff, but that we weren't going to just shoot it with bleach and call it good.... so they tore out the entire section of the drywall.  The moldy part was only a few inches high along about 3ft of the bottom (plus the insulation and a little framing), but it was easier to just rip it all out.  By Sunday morning my wall looked like this.




And the rest of the basement looked like this.





By the weekend, we'll be able to texturize and paint and be done, but boy wasn't that exciting?!?  Don't worry, I had little to do with the demo or cleaning process.  This prego lady manned a few Walmart runs for supplies and then excused herself out to dinner to be safe.

On a more pleasant note of flurry like activity.  This little man has discovered art, thank you preschool.  He's been drawing and painting up a storm over the last few days and I'm so proud of him.  Really goes to show that sometimes what they need is for you not to push them.  He's never been too interested in art or drawing and over the last month he's been asking for paper and doing little stick figures all leading up to yesterday, which just blew me away.  Follow the child indeed.




And it all can't be rainbows and unicorn.  This is the little guy all tuckered out from being traumatized by his mother when he asked about dying and heaven.  Both of which he is tearfully insistent he doesn't want to happen or go to.... ever.  5 year old religious education.... nailed it.



Hopefully that's all the excitement in our house for at least another week.
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