Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Blessed is She Blessed Conversations Study Guides







I'm so excited to share with you a project I worked on a few months ago with the lovely Blessed is She team - the Blessed Conversations study guides. These guides are short, but deep dives into the Catechism on various topics of the Faith that are meant to bring you and your small group, large group, couple of girlfriends closer together in great discussion.

I contributed the reflections for the guide on the Ten Commandments and boy, did it challenge me as a writer and a daughter of God to explore what the Ten Commandments mean for us on a daily basis. The Catechism offers so much wisdom into what the Ten Commandments mean for us as Christians and I was surprised to learn how many aspects of our life the Catechism explores through the lens of the Commandments. I really hope that this guide helps you to understand that the Ten Commandments are foundational to our lives and part of God's direct word to us in how to live.

The guides are downloadable so the price point stays low and you can print them off at your convenience, and you can also choose between the different guides as to what best appeals to your group of ladies. I think these guides will give so much to groups that are already formed, but also a great way to start a group if you aren't in one already.

Hope you can jump over to Blessed is She and grab a guide for yourself and your small group today!





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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (or six months ago)







I desperately need to get to my quick book reviews because I'm about 30 books behind! But on the other hand...blog post material! Have you read any of these? Am I nuts? Let me know all your bookish thoughts.




Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

This book didn't land for me, and I'm still trying to pinpoint why exactly. It's written in the same quick, witty style as Semple's first novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which I enjoyed so much. It tells the story of one day in the life of a Seattle woman, her family quirks are delved into, a funny child comes along for the ride, and a marital mystery is solved. But for some reason this story didn't feel as emotionally poignant or compelling as Bernadette. I didn't love the anti-Catholic jibes on every other page, and I'm just not sure how I should feel about the ending. I just feel conflicted about the entire book and I'm not sure why!









84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This is a slim book compiled of the letters between a book buyer and a book seller separated by the Atlantic. It's perfectly charming and the fact it's the real letters between two people make it even more enjoyable. I just love books of letters, I love the by-gone culture of letter writing, and I definitely love buying books so I loved this book. If you're not a lover of any of those things though, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't love it as much.













The Warden by Anthony Trollope

My Trollope book of 2016, it was a often times hilarious introduction to the Barcetshire chronicles, Trollope's masterpiece series. Trollope is an acquired taste. Or maybe not so much acquired, but a practiced taste. He's so rich in societal commentary, character studies, and witticisms that reading his books is worth it. But it does take time to get used to the Victorian prose, the lengthy development of plot, and being transported to another world. Now I want to go read more Trollope.











Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

The third instalment of the Neapolitan Novels, this book was intense. I still don't know if I should be making judgements on the characters yet, but I found this novel to be so packed with emotion and conflict on so many levels it really held my attention. I totally get why these novels aren't some readers cup of tea, but to me they are just un-put-down-able. I'm even putting off reading the last book because I don't want them to end somehow, maybe for fear of being disappointed that all this complex story telling will have an unsatisfying ending. I'll let you know!











Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

The sixth book in the series and I think the novel that I enjoyed the most. The setting of Quebec City was so perfectly set that I loved each scene. I also thought that structurally this is Penny's finest work in the series yet. The only negative comment I would add is that I feel Penny's Canadian history is pretty biased and it stuck out to me like a sore thumb within the story. But the pacing was perfectly done, an almost-perfect mystery!










This was quick. I'm going to post more soon! Until then I'm linking this up with Modern Mrs Darcy and Quick Lit!



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Friday, June 16, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 159


After a long absence, I'm hitting the SQT's hard with Kelly.

{one}



Been painting my front door!

Well, two months really goes quickly doesn't it guys?
It's been over two months since I've blogged and it feel like a blur because things have been so busy. 

Here's a quick catch up for you though: April was a big, fat mess of weather. So much snow over Easter, it never left, I was such a complaining basket case I wouldn't let myself blog at all because I was so negative. 
May: We did a million things, birthdays, travelled, sucked up the finally snow-less weather.
June: Soccer practices, extra games, fun things on every weekend, it's half over and I could cry!


{two}


But what really impacted my very limited time to scribble and type up some bloggity blog business was an extra writing project I was working on. It still shocks me how little spare time I have until I try to take on even one more extra, not that big, project. I really enjoyed the writing though once I got into the swing of writing more often and under a deadline. 

In further shocking news I was asked to speak at an NFP fundraiser dinner last week in Calgary! I'm not a speaker but it is a topic that I have a lot to say about, so after I finished the writing project it was straight to working on a talk. I think it turned out alright and although I'll never be a professional speaker I'm proud of myself for doing it.  I didn't faint from fear so I've gotta be proud. If the talk is ever put online I'll try to share it with you if you're interested.



{three}

We've done so much in the last two months it's hard to know what to share! 







We did go on a quick family road trip to Calgary and Drumheller at the beginning of May and we all had a really great time. The kids saw the dinosaur museum for the first time, enjoyed the luxuries of a waterslide and the endless fruit loops of a chain hotel's continental breakfast, we enjoyed no crowds and nice weather. 

It's still shocking to me how we have to schedule even short trips away a ways in advance or they will never happen with things coming up every weekend. But we had a really nice time!



{four}



The kids have been in swimming and soccer during April, May, and June so it has made my week's feel packed even though it's just me driving them places. The life of a mother, amiright? They've all had a great time, and the time's of the practices have made my life a little less exhausting than past years, but I'm driving a lot. Because everything's at least half an hour away - if I'm lucky! 


{five}

Rhonda.

May and June have been so lovely! Especially after the world's worst April! It's been so nice to have things growing and green and kids outside. We planted our garden the week after May long weekend, and it's coming up sporadically which is always a pisser-offer, but fingers crossed we get some produce before September. I still have to hold myself back from buying an entire greenhouse worth of flowers every spring and all the funky planters I see. I did however, buy the best planter in the world; Rhonda. A Greek bust that's been turned into a planter. Best HomeSense buy I've ever had and it still makes me ridiculously happy. 



{six}



We officially finished all school this week and it could not come any slower. Math has been sucking the life out of me while simultaneously making me an angry gargoyle. I'm basically done for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, next school year I'm going to have 4 kids needing instruction so we are shaking up the curriculum for sure. The rest of the school year was pretty successful actually. The kids are going to still be doing workbooks and Latin over the summer, and hopefully some more nature journalling. But really, I could go for a nanny this summer. I know regular moms are freaking out because they've got their kids home all day everyday since school's out, but it's even more bitterly disappointing when your a homeschool mom and basically nothing changes as you go into summer! I'm feeling a bit burnt out and exhausted, but I think that could be the culmination of the last couple busy months. My solution is a nanny. It's not going to happen but I'm going to try for at least a morning a week off, if I can make it happen somehow! Pray for me and a miraculous nanny to fall from the sky!



{seven}



The podcast is still up and kicking and we're planning on new episodes into July! Because we're organized?? I know, I can't believe it either. We've had so many excellent episodes the past couple months because of the great guests who have been gracious enough to come on and chat with us. I've really enjoyed talking to each and every one of them and I hope they've been as awesome to listen to.

It's off for another busy weekend this weekend with a First Holy Communion for Dom and Father's Day, but I'm going to be getting back in some kind of blogging groove next week...probably because that magical nanny is going to drop by any time Mary Poppins style. Dare to dream! 






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Friday, April 7, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 158



Joining Kelly for a couple quick ones...


{one}





The snow has melted, guys! I figure you deserve to be informed after all my complaining. It's now a quite unimpressive brown everywhere and will be at least a month until we see leaves on trees, but the mud and dirt are worth it. It will probably snow at least one more time, but having all the existing snow gone feels like a giant improvement. And you should see my entryway - covered in mud, a million muddy boots, and more mud. Spring has arrived. 




{two}


Just a regular, grocery shopping with small children expression.

This week we've been busy with swimming lessons starting up again and my husband working lots of long hours. He's working through the weekend too, so I've basically resigned myself to some survival standards around here. I think we'll watch a lot of movies this weekend. And I've decided next week is going to be spring break around here! I like the idea of Holy Week being slower and focused on Holy Week, and we've just reached a point where a lot of curriculum is finished up and we're ready to switch things up, which will be fine after a break. I also figure if my husband's working a ton it's the perfect time for a break.



{three}

They've grown in two years. Weird.

Although Lent has felt like it's been happening forever, it seems like Easter has come upon us quickly. I'm not doing too much for original Easter baskets, it's the usual mix of a Easter book, garden tool or outside toy, and chocolate eggs. But all of our big kids need new bikes this year so I feel like we missed a good opportunity to give those as Easter gifts since only Gemma has a spring birthday. But we probably won't be able to get new bikes at the same time for everyone so it probably worked out for the best. I can't believe that I'm continually surprised at my kids needing newer and bigger things, but I always am. I can't believe the boys have grown out of the bikes they got two years ago...but TWO YEARS and kids grow like crazy! 




{four}

I didn't do 40 Bags in 40 Days this year, but I've tried to use Lent to intentionally clean and declutter my house. Mostly because I find cleaning and decluttering a good thing to offer up because I have no desire to do it most of the time. And I feel pretty good with what I've accomplished even though it's mostly normal cleaning for most people. I only have a couple big ticket items left on my list and one of them is my closet! It's been a while since I intentionally capsule-ed and paid attention to what I have in my closet, so it'll be good, if I get that done.



{five}

The Collector.

Do you have any kids who are "collectors"? Max is my little hoarder and will collect all kinds of things and stash them in all sorts of places. This week he found a hair clip that had been run over by a car at least once in the parking lot at the pool, gleefully picked it up, and said "For my collection!" It was gross and dirty, but I just didn't have the heart to take it away because he's so sweet and enthusiastic about it. He also found two random rocks while we were out for a walk yesterday, brought them home, washed them, and I think they're now in his under the bed storage container. I don't even want to know what's in that container. But I assume once it's completely full I'm going to have to go through it with him. A scary thought!



{six}



This week on the podcast we had the amazing Laura Fanucci sharing her inspiring story of the lives of her twin girls. It's heartbreaking, inspiring, and miraculous. I was overwhelmed hearing her speak and add nothing to the conversation, but I really encourage you to listen because I can't imagine you listening and not coming away inspired. 



{seven}


I hope you all are looking forward to Holy Week. It's such a sacred time and there's really nothing like it. I'm so grateful for it each year. 

I'm off to cut strawberries into certain approved shapes so a certain four year old will eat them...so this weekend is off to a roaring start!





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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Is Rural Catholic Life Possible?





There's a lot of talk surrounding the Benedict Option these days. At its most general, the idea of the Benedict Option promotes a concerted effort on the part of Catholics and Christians to form like-minded communities to support each other and keep the faith alive. As the idea of forming intentional and authentic Catholic communities that strive for orthodoxy gains a foothold in Catholic parlance, I've been thinking about how I feel that this has already happened to some degree organically when it comes to where Catholics live.

As someone who has lived the majority of her life in rural areas I want to sometimes shout from the rooftops that the Benedict Option of sorts has already happened; because most of Catholic community is found in enclaves of urban cities.  

We all know the reasons why; the increasing urbanization of our populations in general, the lack of priests to serve rural communities and small towns, the shrinking of cultural Catholicism, the complete absence of Generation X and younger at Mass.

If you think you feel the reverberations of these problems in the Church in your city that has a population of more than 10,000 people, imagine how keenly felt this must be in small communities?

Let me give you a peek at what Catholic life in a small town looks like. It looks like sharing one priest with 3 other parishes spread over 100 miles. It looks like no daily Mass or standing confession times. There is ONE option for Mass each weekend. There are no ministries. There is no religious education for children or adults alike. There is no other family with young children who attend weekly at our parish. There is a Catholic school the next town over.

There are no plethoras of religious orders of which to affiliate. There are no small groups for men or women. There are no ministries to moms, divorced people, those struggling with addiction or same sex attraction, or grief. There are no dinners or fundraisers. There are no options when it comes to finding a liturgy you prefer. There are no other Catholics your age in which to build local community.

In other words, I want you to imagine a Catholic life where there is only the Sacraments, a parish that is barely scraping by, and the constant threat that your parish may be shut down by the diocese due to lack of attendance, financial support, or both.

I think most of us believe that in order to live a fully Catholic life we've got to have some form of Catholic community. We all are striving for authentic local connections. We know how difficult it is to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church in our culture when we are without any support from real people in our lives. We've seen on a parish level how hard it is to evangelize and bring people in when there are hardly any faithful in the pews to begin with. All these difficulties come to a head in a small community where there are hardly any Catholics to begin with, with even fewer attending weekly Mass, and where there are in turn little to no outreach and ministries to the community.

Vibrant, vital, and orthodox parishes are out there but finding them in a small town is the exception to the rule, and doesn’t even approach a fraction of the parishes that serve rural areas. Parishes with resources, both in parishioners and cold hard cash, are found in cities. If you're looking for good, life-giving ministries you may have to search your city to find one, you may have to drive across town, but they will exist. There are no ministry options in small towns. As we see orthodox parishes with a focus on beautiful liturgy grow, it is within a city that offers options when it comes to liturgy and the few who know it's value to support it.

We know our families are the domestic church, and that the beauty of family life is a great gift as we lead and guide our children in faith. But it is increasingly difficult in today's world to bring up children in a religious vacuum so to speak, where there is so little evidence of faith in their hometown and home parish. Small towns are not just drained of Catholics, they’re drained of believers of all denominations as increasingly our society of “nones” erodes cultural faith. As it seems to be increasingly difficult to even become friends with our neighbours, it's even more challenging to find friends who share the faith at a local level.

I don't think there are easy answers to the problem of rural Catholic life just as the Benedict Option isn't an easy answer to our troubled Church as a whole. As Catholics we value the land, the connection with the land that we live on, the ability to provide for ourselves, to nurture that connection with creation, but as more and more people move to cities, rural towns are emptied of faith. How can we preserve a connection to the land, agriculture, self-sufficiency, and still be part of authentic Catholic community? Is the answer that the Ben-opters start communes in small rural towns? Are there economic opportunities enough for them? Does everyone become farmers?

I can't help but feel that many rural Catholics are faced with the difficult call to live an almost heroic level of faith based on their isolation from vital Catholic community. Unfortunately in many cases people are in the position between choosing the land and lifestyle they know and love or moving to a more urban environment that provides even a slightly better opportunity for Catholic community.

Whether the Benedict Option takes off or not, there’s no denying that the light of orthodoxy in the North American Church shines from urban enclaves and that rural Catholics are going it alone.







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Friday, March 24, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 157



Don't give Kelly up for Lent.


I know, I should be blogging about Lenten things, but how many complaining posts about all the things can you really read?? I thought I'd just do a quick rundown of stuff I've been watching. It's Fluff Friday, if you will.



{one}

Trapped



This is a dark Icelandic detective series that was completely atmospheric and moody and everything I needed to watch in February/March. If you need to make yourself feel better about your endless winter and craptastic weather, you should watch a television show that takes place in weather that is WORSE than yours! I didn't believe it was possible, but this show had the worst weather, and we relished that it was worse than ours. Which is sort of proof that bad weather really warps your mind in dark ways...hence the popularity of the Scandinavian crime series these days.

But the actual series, Christy! An unidentified torso turns up in the waters outside a small town in Iceland. The extremely tiny police force consisting of three people and their giant, teddy bear-like chief with a complicated family, must try and solve the murder without any outside help because of the ensuing horrific weather. It's very well crafted, with great performances from most of the actors (some are poor and stick out like sore thumbs), and does a great job of making you feel like you're part of this small town. You know me and small town mysteries - a total sucker! But if you don't mind subtitles and like being riveted by the Icelandic language this is worth your time.




{two}

Jane the Virgin



Finally on Canadian Netflix, Jane the Virgin offers the perfect mix of soap opera dramatics and tongue in cheek humour that makes for compelling binge watching. I had pretty low expectations but the characters are really great. The humour and way it pokes fun at the telenovela genre are spot on. The second season was so good that it will inevitably go downhill. I'm only beginning the third season and it's more than evident it's on the downswing. I'm not endorsing any of the lack of various morality in the show, and if you have no sense of humour about soap operas this isn't for you, (I, of course, have NO experience with soap operas - she said sarcastically) but if you want some easy entertainment give it a shot. 

And Rogelio for life!





{three}

Hell of High Water



We do not watch a lot of movies. There seems to be nothing that appeals to both me and my husband when we are gifted with enough time to actually watch a movie together. But because Julie so wholeheartedly recommend this Oscar-nominated movie we gave it a shot. An almost modern day western, Hell or High Water tells the story of two bank robbing brothers in Western Texas. It's well written, well acted (Hello, Jeff Bridges!), and has a lot going on that makes you understand the characters much more than you thought. 





{four}

Life in Pieces



Sometimes you just feel like a funny sitcom and there's nothing wrong with that! This series is pretty hilarious and well written. It doesn't smack of disingenuousness like Modern Family but retains many characteristics of people you know. The writing is really well done as it combines four different short stories in each episode, that's like writing four different episodes each episode when you think of how much time and dialogue is usually wasted in sitcoms. The second season is airing now, but the first season is on Netflix (up here anyways!)




{five}

The Bridge



Since we got roped into Scandinavian crime series with Trapped we thought we'd try an older series called The Bridge which was really popular a few years ago. It's almost the exact opposite of Trapped in that it takes place in an urban setting, involves a complete psychopathic serial killer, and has a very unique detective at the centre of the investigation. It's a mystery that begins with a body found on the border of a huge bridge joining Denmark and Sweden and a detective from each country must work together to solve the increasingly bizarre crimes. It was well-paced and well done, but I just didn't like it as much as Trapped. And I didn't become conversational in Swedish. 




{six}

Arrival




Such a good movie! I still don't understand how an alien movie can so deftly rip out my mother's heart, cut it into a million pieces, then put it back together. I don't want to give any of it away really. But go watch it and try not to cry, I dare you!
And Jeremy Renner. The only problem I had with this movie is that Jeremy Renner would never do anything wrong!! Never!



{seven}

Moana



We also finally watched Moana. And I watched the entire thing and didn't want that hour and a half of my life back, so basically it was an animated movie win. I'm not saying it's life changing or a classic, and the demigod stuff I didn't even begin to hash out with my kids, but the music and characters were perfectly entertaining. 

As usual, I will be eternally grateful for your recommendations dear readers with better taste than I! 

Happy Weekend!






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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately





I've got a good mix of books this week! Some great fiction, nonfiction, even parenting! I love hearing if you've read them too and what you thought.




Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This beautiful novel tells the stories of the descendants of two sisters in Africa, some of whom are taken as slaves to America, and those that remain on the continent. They are such varied stories told with such an honesty through beautiful prose that I can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend this book to. It was one of the best books I read last year, even if it is oftentimes difficult to read, it's beauty stays with you and the characters remain very much alive in your mind.






Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

This book was great in that it basically reaffirms my parenting style/philsophy. I felt supported in the different reasons simplicity is so important and foundational to our kids, but I mostly skimmed it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good parenting book, and even if you too end up skimming it, it really can't hurt and you might pick up some more good ideas!





Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It's a book about dysfunctional families growing up and living their lives, but Ann Patchett's eye for story and ability to create such believable worlds and characters even when you're not sure if you should be believing them, makes for an interesting read. I wonder how much is autobiographical, and I truly hope some of the traumatic moments aren't, but I felt this book had the honesty about family life and how the choices of parents impact their children that wasn't in The Nest. If not my favourite Ann Patchett novel, I still felt that Commonwealth had a lot to say.





On the Other Side of Fear: How I Found Peace by Hallie Lord

Hallie's honest writing brings to life so vividly the fears and anxieties we all experience and how God speaks to those fears in our lives in a concrete way. It really is foundational to our experience of faith no matter where you are in your relationship with God; life involves these fears in one way or another and it's really the place where faith makes a tangible difference to our lives. Hallie shares her personal stories in a way that is so accessible to the reader that this book can really speak to anyone no matter where they are spiritually. There is so much richness to understanding God's love in our lives when it comes to peace and fear that we all need to be reminded to see and experience God in our lives. A great book to read yourself, or to give as a gift!





The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

The fifth Armand Gamache book in the series involves the murder of a virtual hermit in the town of Three Pines. The regular cast of townspeople continues to be entertaining, and the twists of this one are at times a bit far fetched but still engrossing. I thought the ending left the reader hanging, but it does make a lot more sense once you read the sixth instalment!



Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit




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