Monthly Archives: May, 2015

What I Wore Sunday: It’s Close Enough to Summer

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I was blessed not to suffer any negative effects from the terrible weather we experienced in Austin and the surrounding cities last Monday. All that rain has been balanced by some blindingly sunny days. Seriously: I had to take off my sunglasses in the car when I got to church because I had some things to carry in, so I squinted the whole way across the parking lot. The pleasant weather today meant that I felt bold enough to break out one of my summer dresses.

What I Wore Sunday, May 31

Dress: Old Navy
Undershirt: Mossimo for Target (it has a cool striped pattern that I forgot to photograph for you)
Shoes: Payless
Flower: random accessory shop at the Round Rock Premium Outlets

I thought about belting this dress, but the empire waist rises and falls a little strangely in front, so I passed on that. The flower is in celebration of the sunny weather and having my hair done yesterday. It’s gonna be a good hair week.

We had the same visiting priest today from a few weeks ago. We’ve been seeing more of Fr. Pastor recently, but I still get the feeling that he prefers not to celebrate Mass in the evening. Sad times. Fr. Visiting Pastor started with a homily joke, and I actually liked it! Take note.

An old archbishop was visiting a parish for Confirmation. He asked the candidates, “What does it mean that God is a trinity?”

A shy girl in the back said, in a very small voice, “It means that we believe in one god who exists in three persons.”

The archbishop, who had lost most of his hearing, said, “I don’t understand you.”

The young pastor replied, “Well, you aren’t really supposed to!”

People laughed and everything! See, I can enjoy homily jokes when they are (a) good because they are (b) funny and still (c) theologically sound.

The rest of his homily explained that the Holy Trinity is a mystery. We’re not really supposed to understand it, because if we could, we would understand God. A god we can understand is inferior to us, so that would be kind of a useless god. Instead, we should focus on the reality that God exists in relationship unto himself. Thus, when God creates us, Jesus redeems us, and the Spirit renews us and teaches us how to pray, we should be in awe that such a great being would stoop to be in relationship with us. That’s the real gift of the Trinity.


For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

7 Steps to Falling in Love with YNAB: Part Four

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series YNAB Love Story.

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Almost a full six months after the last installment, my series about how I fell in love with YNAB has finally come to an end. It was a year ago that I finally downloaded the 34-day free trial version and took all the live classes I could. It was a year ago that I finally got control of my money. I sit here now, with literal thousands of dollars more to my name and with a positive net worth in sight. I couldn’t have done it without YNAB, but there’s one more step to my journey.

Step Seven: Following All the Rules

YNAB has four rules. The final rule was the most difficult for me and took the most time for me to be able to follow: live on last month’s income. There is such wisdom in that rule. If I suddenly lost my income or faced a gigantic bill, I would have a whole month to make a new plan, find the money, and avoid going into debt (or at least not borrow one more penny than necessary). It makes sense.

I couldn’t do that right away, though. YNAB taught me to look ahead for rainy days. I go home to visit my family every Christmas, and since YNAB requires me to account for all my spending as I do it, that meant saving up enough cash to purchase my plane ticket. I saved aggressively in September and October, and I actually found the cash. I can’t quite explain my surprise after years of putting on my credit cards and bracing myself for bill payment in January. I saved for YNAB (which I got for $6 off using a referral link), and I budgeted for my CrashPlan subscription, but I never thought I would be able to save cash for Christmas.

Yet I did. I bought my plane ticket in the middle of November, and although I paid for it using my credit card, I had the cash to cover it sitting in the bank that same day. I saved so aggressively that I even had enough cash left for all my gifts and Christmas cards. (I wound up sending Epiphany cards, but that’s not the point.)

Two years ago, I had to skip sending Christmas cards because I was so broke. This past Christmas, I had hundreds of dollars available just for gifts and cards. In the meantime, I socked away the extra money I found by saving aggressively toward my Rule Four Buffer.

It was hard to watch that Buffer grow when I really wanted new clothes, play tickets, and more dinners out, but I held onto my lifelong sense of discipline. In January 2015, I got Buffered. My annual bonus from work was the tipping point, and since then, I have been living on last month’s income. It feels glorious.

Conclusion

My lowest daily balance in my checking account for the month of November was 5 times greater than the lowest in May.

I paid off my car loan and saved enough cash to put 4 new tires on my car without blinking.

I budgeted the entire month of June in under 30 minutes on Friday night.

My only regret is that I didn’t start budgeting sooner, the very first time I heard of YNAB. Please don’t make my mistake. At least give it a try. Read the four rules. Ask me questions in the comments or via my contact form. There is freedom in having a budget!

Additional Resources

Holly Johnson at Get Rich Slowly describes how to build a zero-sum budget without YNAB. I’m not just in it for the referrals, I promise. It is entirely possible to build and maintain a YNAB-style budget without YNAB. But are you actually going to do it? Why not let YNAB do it for you?

In addition to writing for Get Rich Slowly, Kristin Wong also curates the Two Cents sub-blog at Lifehacker. Like the rest of Lifehacker, Two Cents curates other articles online, but it focuses specifically on personal finance advice from experts and readers. I’ve found it indispensable for following PF topics without needing to follow each source separately.

Booking Through Thursday: Books Into Film

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What book would you love to see turned into a movie (with the understanding that it would be everything you hoped it could be, doing justice to the story, the characters, the writer’s vision, and so on; not a hatchet-job horror)?

But what if the original story is full of hatchets and horror?

Seriously, I usually enjoy movie versions of books. (Movie novelizations are always, always terrible. Always.) I read The Children of Men mostly because I thought the movie was fantastic… and I prefer the movie. The book had some very different plot lines, and I found the movie’s changes to be less offensive and less troubling. That’s the first time that has happened, though.

As far as movies that have yet to be made, I cracked open my copy of UnSouled a few days ago and discovered that the entire Unwind series’ movie rights have already been sold. I’m not sure how the series is going to end (I’ve heard that books 3 and 4 were supposed to be one volume, but it got too long), but I’m really excited about seeing it as a film.

The first book is excellent on its own. maybe the first movie will cover just that one book. I picked it up randomly in a real, brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble, not knowing that the sequel was already out. There were five years between the first two. We complained about fewer than that back in my Harry Potter fandom days! I thought the ending was strong enough for it to be a standalone novel, so it would be fine as a standalone movie. I hope they don’t try to combine anything.

I can tell that Unwind will be a great movie because the book is already action-packed. Seeing some of those sequences visualized will be incredible. Even if it turns out like A Series of Unfortunate Events and never goes past one film, I think I’ll be pleased. (I like that movie, too. I own it.)

And if you haven’t read Unwind, please do! It’s a thick book, but it’s perfectly paced. It’s got mostly male characters. It’s YA written by a man. It has politics and romance and ethics and angst. What’s not to love?


For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

Not Alone Series: The Holy Spirit

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I missed last week, but the topic was recommendations for encouraging books, blogs, and so on. I wrote about that a while ago, and all those recommendations still stand. I’m behind on my blog reading, but I’m not ready to pull the trigger on feed bankruptcy quite yet.

On to this week! The prompt is the Holy Spirit. He and I are basically besties. Thus, my first draft of this post launched into a huge defense (rant) about how it’s not actually still Pentecost. That’s not the point of this one, though, so I gave that its own post.

Pet peeve aside, I am always willing to talk about the Holy Spirit. I have been reading Augustine Day by Day courtesy of the Villanova University Center for Worship & Spirituality since the summer. I have a patched-together tech solution that sends each day’s reading and prayer to me by email. I think the Holy Spirit sent me this one especially for today:

“That the soul is to the human body the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, the Church. The Holy Spirit is active in the whole Church in the same way that the soul animates all the members of the human body.”
—St. Augustine

When I was in undergrad, I was part of the student team staffing a retreat focused on the Holy Spirit. We celebrated a Mass of the Holy Spirit, performed a great Lost parody skit starring the Holy Spirit (because no retreat is complete without a skit), and gave witness talks connecting the Spirit to each of the sacraments. I volunteered to give one on the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist, not acknowledging until I returned to my apartment after the planning meeting that I had absolutely no idea what to talk about or why I’d volunteered.

It was not until I took it to prayer that I realized I knew exactly what to say. I’d had an experience of the Eucharist that I’d never shared with anyone, and I understood immediately that I had been given the gift of that vision specifically to share it with my fellow students on that specific retreat. It was so well suited for that time and place that, when I tried to describe the same experience with my roommates during grad school in Birmingham, the moment was all wrong. I didn’t feel the same peace, the same courage, the same wisdom, and the same holy fear I had when I’d shared it the first time.

You’re probably dying to know what it is now! I’ve written it down, so it will be part of my spiritual writings if I come up for sainthood after I die. Until then, I’m content to wait for the call to share it again, if ever, on this side of heaven.

Since then, the Holy Spirit and I have been best friends. We have quality time during the Pentecost novena (I pray a version I found via EWTN), and it is a beautiful relationship. Anytime is a good time for a novena, so I encourage you to try that one if you’d like to get to know the Spirit better. For reference, the italicized verses for each day can be sung to the tune of the Stabat Mater.

Don’t be put off by the idea of having a relationship with a dove. He only did that once. The fire and wind manifestations are much cooler anyway.


Thanks to Jen and Morgan for hosting! Check out other responses on their blogs.

In Defense of Octaves

This year, I am discovering a new pet peeve into which the Holy Spirit has been roped. The Holy Spirit and I are basically besties, so that has me particularly miffed.

I’m annoyed at any holiday (church or secular) being dragged out longer than one day. Except, that is, for the ones that are already multiple days. It is not “still Pentecost.” It’s not even still Easter. We need to let it go.

Keep Calm and Let It Go

Time for a liturgical calendar lesson, and with less bitterness and confusion than the last one! (At least I think so.)

Seasons

The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar contains several seasons:

  1. Advent, beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, which is the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30)
  2. Christmas, beginning on the Nativity of the Lord (the day most people just call “Christmas”)
  3. Ordinary Time, beginning on the day after the Baptism of the Lord (which is the first Sunday after Epiphany, whenever Epiphany is celebrated)
  4. Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday
  5. The Triduum, beginning with the evening celebration of the Solemnity of the Lord’s Supper (a.k.a. Holy Thursday)
  6. Easter, beginning with the Easter Vigil
  7. Ordinary Time, beginning on the day after Pentecost and resuming (not restarting) the numbering from January

The year begins with Advent, so Christmas is before Easter in time (although not in importance). Kendra and I had a fun chat about that a few years ago.

Note that the Triduum and Easter seasons begin when those particular Masses start. Earlier in the calendar day, the previous season is still in effect. At noon on Holy Thursday, it’s totally still Lent. At the moment the liturgy begins in the evening, it’s not technically Lent anymore.

Solemnities

The highest celebrations on the calendar are called “solemnities” (“solemn” as in “extra fancy,” not as in “sad.”) That means:

  1. The solemnity is celebrated on the evening before the day as well as on the day of the feast. Christmas Eve is probably the most well-known of these evening-before celebrations, properly called “vigils.” (You may also have heard of Halloween, a.k.a. All Hallows/Saints Eve.)
  2. Any feasts or memorials that would usually fall on either day get knocked out of the way and ignored from about 4 p.m. the day before to 11:59 p.m. the day of. (The technical term is “suppressed.”)
  3. If the solemnity is also a holy day of obligation, you satisfy your obligation to attend Mass by attending any Mass in any Catholic rite at any time during those 32 or so hours.

Some solemnities also begin liturgical seasons. Not every season begins with a solemnity (e.g. Ash Wednesday begins Lent but is not a solemnity). Not every solemnity starts a season (e.g. the Ascension of the Lord always falls during Easter, but there’s no Ascension season).

Octaves

Two solemnities during the year are celebrated as “octaves.” They are the Christmas octave and the Easter octave. That means:

  1. They have all 3 characteristics of solemnities listed above. You know the evenings-before as Christmas Eve and Easter Vigil (curiously, not “Easter Eve”).
  2. The vigil Masses have special readings and prayers that are only used during the vigils. The day-of Masses have different readings and prayers, although they are similar.
  3. The 7 days after Christmas Day and Easter Sunday are all also solemnities.
  4. For the remaining 7 days of the octave, Mass is celebrated as though it is still Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. The prayers all say “today,” Easter octave Masses end with “Go in peace, alleluia, alleluia,” and so on. That makes 8 days total, a.k.a. an octave (like an octagon).
  5. After the octave ends, the season continues, but with less solemnity/fanciness. The remaining days of the season are not automatically solemnities.

If you pray any part of the Liturgy of the Hours daily, it’s hard to miss an octave. You literally pray the exact same psalms from Christmas Day and Easter Sunday every single day for eight days. It feels a little monotonous, but boy, does it stick!

My Pet Peeve

Pentecost has a special vigil. I’ve never heard of it actually being celebrated anywhere, but parishes have the option of using all of the vigil-specific readings and extending the liturgy with additional songs and periods of quiet reflection. It would be like the bookend to the Easter Vigil. And it would probably be awesome. But it is not an octave.

Let the octaves be octaves, and let other holidays just end. I am not a fan of saying that you’re celebrating a holiday after the holiday (unless it’s an octave, which means it’s not “after”). You don’t have a Halloween party on November 2. (I did go to one on November 1 a few years ago; I dressed as St. Michael and considered it an All Saints Day party.) You don’t get ashes on the Thursday or Friday after Ash Wednesday. Nobody was still celebrating Memorial Day yesterday.

This all came up because I’ve heard more than one well-meaning Catholic suggest that it’s still Pentecost. It’s not still Pentecost. Pentecost only gets one day. It’s Ordinary Time now, and that’s kind of a bummer after the glory of Easter, but we didn’t receive the Holy Spirit to just sit around. We’re supposed to go!

So go! Celebrate living with the Spirit of God inside you! If you’re really itching for something special to celebrate, it will be Trinity Sunday in a few days, and then Corpus Christi, and then the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts…. Wow. That is a good plan for curing your post-Easter blues. It’s like the Church knows what she’s doing or something.

What I Wore Sunday: The Other Reason for Red

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Even with an extra day in the weekend, this was never going to be posted on Sunday. I am, however, satisfied with the weekend’s accomplishments. Among them include my first intentionally re-worn outfit of the year (I think):

What I Wore Sunday, May 24

Look at that twilight through the window! This is the only acceptable kind of twilight.

Blouse: Target
Dress (worn as a skirt): Express
Shoes: Old Navy
Earrings: high school graduation present

This is the same outfit I wore for Good Friday. The black was intentional then, but it was only incidental for Pentecost. This happens to be the only blouse I have that will work for this dress-as-skirt combo, and I love the way it falls knotted at the waist. Suffice it to say that I was very excited to re-wear this outfit for a liturgical occasion.

My parish did not attempt to read any of the readings in multiple languages, for which I am thankful. Note that the text of the first reading says that all the people heard the apostles speaking in their own individual languages; that is, everyone was speaking Egyptian, or everyone was speaking Arabic, and so on. We don’t have any evidence that any one person heard them speaking in more than one language at the same time. “It would be nice” is not a good reason to do anything (especially when it will not be nice).

Our second reading was the one about spiritual gifts (not the Gifts of the Spirit, sadly), and our gospel reading was “Peace be with you.” I can’t remember the homily at all, sadly, because I let myself get distracted by the baccalaureate recognition immediately after the homily. At least we did not have a Jesus-free second homily like last year. Improvements all around!

Pentecost is bittersweet for me. The Holy Spirit and I are pretty tight, and I was pleasantly blessed during my Pentecost novena. It was sad to see the Easter candle lit for the last time (I don’t have many baptisms or funerals) and sing the Regina Caeli. I worked hard to memorize the closing prayer in English this year. It was a good Easter. I even have a few Reese’s eggs left to soothe my post-Easter pain.


For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

A Response to “Should Children Make Up Their Own Minds About Religion?”

I did not grow up in church. That surprises people who have only known me as an involved Catholic, but it’s true. My mom’s side is the Catholic side of the family, and they’re only occasional churchgoers. My dad’s side is mostly non-churchgoing, and they’re not Catholic. When I go home for Christmas, I go to church alone.

I received my Sacraments of Initiation on the typical schedule, for which I am grateful. Even though my parents didn’t go to church, they made me go to CCD. When they had more children and we got older, we went to Mass, too. The years preceding Confirmation (when we were going to Mass every week) kick-started my faith into the life I live now. I got to experience what being a Catholic was actually like, and that turned out to be something I wanted.

I say all this to make a point: even when you don’t force children to follow any particular religious path, they have to make up their minds eventually, and they’re going to need a foundation to start from. I lived it. I saw it multiple times when I was teaching RCIA. And I read it, supported by argumentation, in the First Things essay by Jason Stubblefield, “Should Children Make Up Their Own Minds About Religion?”

Should Children Make Up Their Own Minds About Religion? A Reponse at AustinCNM.com

Photo by Olaf Meyer.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

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