Monthly Archives: August, 2015

Booking Through Thursday: Intriguing

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What’s the most intriguing book you’ve ever read? Something that made you think, explore new ideas, or just be really impressed and awed and amazed at the sheer wonder of the creativity of the thing?

“Intriguing” is one of my favorite words (yet not the favorite; that’s “juxtapose”). I don’t think I’ve ever applied it to an entire book, but I’ve read several that had intriguing premises.

Witch Week was the first book I ever read about young witches at a British boarding school. I read another one several years later; you might have heard of it. I was so enchanted (pun intended) by Witch Week that I made my very first attempt at fanfiction after reading it. I even typed up my stories on my electric typewriter (the best technology my family had then, back when the Internet was still viewed using Netscape and AOL) and bound them in construction paper covers. Good times.

Unwind still has one of the best premises I’ve ever heard of. It manages to be contemporary yet just futuristic enough. It takes place all over the country. The cast of characters is well-balanced between male and female, although two of the main three protagonists are boys. (I read a lot of books about girls.) The pace is fast, but not too fast. Although I struggled with the third, ramp-up novel, I’m still hooked enough to read the conclusion when it’s in paperback.

Bumped was fantastic, too. People say the pro-life/pro-choice debate is “too controversial” or a “dead issue” because people have already drawn their lines in the sand, but this book and Unwind show that there’s plenty to still think about. We unfortunately have the horrifying videos from Planned Parenthood to show that there’s plenty most of us never even thought about. I like Megan McCafferty in general, but I especially loved that she managed to raise and toss around so many important social issues in what remains YA fiction.


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

What I Wore Sunday: Beautifully Chill

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This week was a very chill Mass experience. In previous seasons, I might have called today boring or unfulfilling, but it was nice to have some spiritual quiet for a change. It started with my outfit, which I actually picked out last week.

What I Wore Sunday, August 9

Top: Target
Skirt: Old Navy
Shoes: Payless
Necklace and earrings: Charming Charlie

I meant to wear this skirt last week, but my almost wardrobe malfunction meant I had to change. I planned better for this week and pulled it off, although I liked it better with that lavender wrap top. The only lace items I own are white skirts because lace generally makes me itch, so summertime becomes a season of white lace skirts. Our extended spring has made summer that much more unbearable (Jen Fulwiler’s comment about a 102-degree cold front is pretty accurate), so I’m glad to have lightweight items to wear. I like to pretend this top is more green than olive, and I love the olive–blue combination with my Charming Charlie necklaces (also seen in this outfit from January).

The shoes were an adventure. My new, improved pre-Mass schedule meant that I had time to touch up my toes. I forgot how high those cork wedges are, though! I’m pretty sure they’re my highest heels. I took a photo to demonstrate, but it didn’t turn out; they’re between 2 and 3 inches. I can’t drive in more ordinary 2-inch heels, so I definitely have to drive in flip-flops and stick these in the footwell until after I’ve parked. They’re just so cute, though. Having big feet means my shoes are not generally cute. I am also glad in retrospect that I replaced these with a much more reasonable wedge for the wedding I initially bought them to wear in. That would have been a disaster. “Bridesmaid down! Bridesmaid down!”

I had some solid prayer time before Mass. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t start doing that sooner. It helps that I go to Mass totally alone now; my last remaining pew buddies moved to the DC area, so I have plenty of relative quiet time before pre-Mass announcements begin. Fr. Associate Pastor’s homily started with a quotation from a pope, which is way better than joke, even if it’s a good one. He focused heavily on the first reading, which I appreciated. When we are weak, we get discouraged and just want to die, just as Elijah prayed for his own death in the desert. We can’t go on without nourishment. The Eucharist nourishes us and makes us more like Christ, and he can do anything.

Other than the awkwardness of singing an uptempo “I Am the Bread of Life” for the recessional (illustrating how hard the choir will work to cram in their favorites), it was a nondescript Mass, and I liked it that way. I felt much more prayerful and contemplative than usual. High-strung is no way to feel while worshipping God.


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

7 Quick Takes on Dance, Doable Minimalism, and the Transfiguration

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— 1 —

With some hard work and a positive recommendation from my teacher, this will be my last month on Level 2 in my West Coast Swing class! I’m optimistic that I will pass, especially after this week’s class. We had a huge influx of new faces (common for the first class of each month-long session), so I felt like a veteran. Everything physically felt much easier than it did three months ago when I was fresh out of the beginner level and had been doing this dance for four weeks total in my whole life.

— 2 —

I gave in and bought dance shoes. July was a bit of a splurge-filled month. The investment was worth it, though. If I had taken up running, I would have had to buy running shoes. If I’d started playing softball, I’d have needed a glove. For dancing, I need dance shoes.

The difference between my dance shoes and the (surprising slippery) ballet flat-style street shoes I was wearing is not quite like night and day. It’s like first thing in the morning on a workday and after I get some caffeine in my system. I do okay at first, but once I get that jolt from my English breakfast tea, I am much more pleasant. Turns and spins were manageable in regular shoes, but they’re like butter in my dance shoes. (“Like butter” is good.)

— 3 —

I sent an email to a friend this week to set up dinner. As I looked at my calendar, I realized in shock that (at the time) my next available Saturday night was at the end of September! I swear I’m not usually that popular. It is a good problem to have, though.

— 4 —

Another gem from this month’s CMOS newsletter:

— 5 —

Have I mentioned how much I’m loving No Sidebar? It’s a minimalism blog with a totally realistic and approachable POV. Last week, I read this spectacular post by Allison Vesterfelt.

We are giving up busyness as a badge of honor and learning how important it is to choose how we spend our time.

I had to reach the nadir to finally get my financial life in order. I’m hoping I don’t have to do the life version of that before I get my time in order.

— 6 —

That No Sidebar post linked to another, more traditional productivity post by Willem Van Zyl.

Don’t multitask, period. Many of us think we’re good at it, but studies show that none of us are—when we multitask we tend to forget things and lose track of what we’re doing.

Multitasking is a myth. Also, learn Inbox Zero and commit to it. I’ve been doing that at work all along. Applying it to my personal life was astoundingly helpful. Email is not the boss of me!

— 7 —

Those takes were much shorter than usual, so here is a much longer than usual take. It’s from my Daily Gospel email from the Feast of the Transfiguration, by St. Ephrem, Doctor of the Church (although I read it in Spanish):

At the time of the Transfiguration, the witness given to the Son was confirmed by both the voice of the Father and by Moses and Elijah, who appeared beside Jesus as his servants. The prophets are looking at Peter, James and John the apostles; the apostles behold the prophets. In one and the same place, the princes of the old covenant come together with those of the new. Holy Moses saw Peter the holy one; the shepherd chosen by the Father saw the shepherd chosen by the Son. The former had rebuked the sea in days of old that God’s people might pass through the midst of its waves; the latter suggested setting up a tent to shelter the Church. The chaste man of the Old Testament saw the chaste man of the New: Elijah could see John. He who was lifted up in a chariot of fire saw him who rested on the breast of the Fire (Jn 13:23). And then the mountain became the symbol of the Church: at its summit, Jesus unifies the two Testaments that this Church gathers up. He made it known that he is Lord of the one as of the other, of the Old which received his mysteries, of the New which revealed the glory of his actions.

I love Old Testament–New Testament typology. This was like a shot in the arm until my favorite day for that, Holy Saturday.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

tl;dr August 2015

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Jenna hasn’t hosted a link-up for tl;dr in a long time, but I still like the concept. It seems more efficient than a regular monthly wrap-up, and it encourages me to include things I didn’t necessarily blog about. On to it!

  • I went to the lake (well, next to the lake).
  • Some friends and I saw Hairspray at Zilker. The tradition continues!
  • Dance class is still going well. I went to my studio’s no-cover social on Friday night to really break in my new dance shoes. It was ridiculous amount of fun. One more month and I’ll move on to Level 3!
  • I’ve mostly just been taking care of business, I guess. Not much to report.

What have you been up to? If you’re behind on your blogging, giving the tl;dr is a great way to catch up. Thanks to this link-up, I am never apologizing for an unplanned blogging break again. (I will hopefully never have one again, but let’s be real.)


Check out other lightning-fast recaps at Call Her Happy.

From Old Adam to New in 7 Easy Sketches (Review: “Bible Basics for Catholics”)

A "walking" globe toy on the story of Noah.

You can learn the story of the Bible in seven easy stick figures. Several summers ago, I took a weekly crash course on salvation history. It absolutely changed the way I see the Bible. Have you ever heard the prophets or psalms talking about Israel and Judah as though they’re separate places and been very confused? That was me. A little Bible study changed that. For me, it took some long drives to Lakeway and Jeff Cavins. You can learn the same Bible storyline using the easy-to-read, info-packed Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History, by John Bergsma. You won’t regret it.

I’ve written many times about how Catholics don’t read the Bible and how the lack of Catholic biblical literacy is terrible. My standard suggestion is to start by reading through the lectionary, even just on Sundays. Once you have that under your belt, though, it helps to know what the Bible is all about.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

What I Wore Sunday: Missed a Wardrobe Malfunction

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Today was the first Sunday in 3 weeks that I have not lectored, but I got so used to my earlier schedule (since lectors can’t be late) that I was ready for church extra early. This was an excellent thing because I avoided a wardrobe malfunction! Details below.

What I Wore Sunday, August 2

Blouse: Target
Shell: Funky Frum, no longer available
Skirt: Old Navy
Shoes: Mossimo for Target
Earrings: old, old, old
Necklace: Charming Charlie

For the sake of modesty, I will just say that I am very glad I checked out my outfit in the mirror before Mass. When I’m running late, I never stop to check. Being early helps on so many levels. As it stands, I was pleased with this outfit.

Since I was so early for Mass despite needing to change, I had some dedicated time to pray before Mass. I haven’t had as much time to just sit and be still with God since I joined the leadership team for Spirit & Truth. I enjoy that leadership role, but it means that I have more on my mind during holy hour than just going with the flow. It feels more like when I used to work in ministry. When you have a master key, you’re kind of always “on duty.” This evening, though I was able to just level with God and articulate what’s really on my heart. I’ve been trying to organize my life to be able to resume the early-morning holy hour I used to do every week. Today was a good indication that I need to work harder on that project.

Fr. Associate Pastor began his homily tonight by giving examples of various symbols we use to represent meaning. We serve meals to friends and family as a gesture of community and care. We give flowers as a sign of love and affection. The Eucharist is more than a sign, but its existence as the new bread from heaven, the True Presence of Christ, remains with us as a sign that Christ himself is still with us. That’s not even the general, “God is everywhere” kind of “with us.” It’s a specific, tangible, edible “with us” that you can really feel on your tongue. And unlike a meal that is consumed or flowers that die, the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, is with us forever.

Two solid weeks of great homilies on John 6! Dare I hope for a third?


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

7 Quick Takes on Faith, Writing, and Hairspray

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— 1 —

I got another referral for YNAB! I don’t know who it’s from, but whoever you are, thank you. I’m so glad that you’re embarking on your journey toward real budget management.

If you haven’t read my YNAB love story, please go check it out. My referral link will get you a 10% discount—and if your situation is anything like mine when I started, you will need that discount.

— 2 —

I subscribe to the USCCB People of Life Newsletter, which is the once-a-month version of 9 Days for Life. It includes suggestions for acts of reparation, so I always choose one. (That’s a really great concept, by the way: to make reparation instead of just wringing our hands.)

The act of reparation I chose for July was, “Read a few passages from a papal encyclical you have never read before, and meditate on the words that move you.” I chose Lumen Fidei because, despite my general affinity for encyclicals and my having read the hope and love encyclicals (Spe Salvi and Deus Caritas Est, respectively), I’d never gotten around to that one.

Wow! I only read the first 3 paragraphs, and I’m already convinced of its beauty. It’s so realistic and honest, especially considering the world’s opinion of the subject matter.

— 3 —

As case in point, here is paragraph 3:

There were those who tried to save faith by making room for it alongside the light of reason. Such room would open up wherever the light of reason could not penetrate, wherever certainty was no longer possible. Faith was thus understood either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be proposed to others as an objective and shared light which points the way. Slowly but surely, however, it would become evident that the light of autonomous reason is not enough to illumine the future; ultimately the future remains shadowy and fraught with fear of the unknown. As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself, in order to be content with smaller lights which illumine the fleeting moment yet prove incapable of showing the way. Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.

Yep. Sounds about right to me. I’m excited to keep reading and learning!

— 4 —

A dear friend of mine from college just received word that the manuscript he wrote this summer is going to be published! It will be from Ave Maria Press, a publisher I have a great relationship with through my writing for Austin CNM. I’m so excited for him!

Now, he managed to write this entire book (and it’s a long one) while on break from teaching high school theology full-time, yet while teaching in a summer program and raising baby #3. So now I, who have nothing holding me back except student loans and my one job, have to figure out where my book is going to come from. #challengeaccepted

— 5 —

Sometimes I read blog posts that just speak to me. Morgan posted one this week that almost spoke for me—in a good way, I promise! She shared her thoughts on how to respond when jealousy threatens joy. Specifically, we both struggle to watch our friends enter the happiness of married life one by one as we remain single and patient (and sometimes impatient, frustrated, and upset). It’s so difficult to balance the genuine joy we feel for others who have found their vocations with the discontentedness of waiting for our own. Go read what she has to say. Maybe it will speak to your heart, too.

— 6 —

I went to see Hairspray at Zilker Park with a few friends on Saturday. It was ridiculously hot, and two hours wasn’t quite early enough(!) to arrive for a good spot. We had an okay spot, though, and I wore one of my new sweat-wicking tops to help with the heat. One little tank top made a world of difference as we waited. It stays hot well into the night, but I was grossness-free right through the 11 p.m. curtain call.

The actual show was delightful. I had only seen the musical movie before (not the stage musical or the original, non-musical movie), so there were plenty of surprises left. “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” is a super catchy song. I still have it stuck in my head! It must have been really tough to leave that out of the musical movie. On the other hand, I loved the “New Girl in Town” sequence from the movie. The acting/singing was lovely, as always. I especially enjoyed the costumes. The all-gray outfits during the black-and-white TV show scenes were fun, and I could only wish to pull off wearing a petticoat.

— 7 —

I don’t write much fiction anymore, but I do still read it. I had to stop participating in Top Ten Tuesday after a while because I realized I just listed the same few titles every week. Booking Through Thursday has a much broader prompt base. It was through my personal “visit the post before mine and try to comment” link-up rule that I came across a brilliant post by writer PekoeBlaze about the role of inspiration in creative writing.

[Writing an annotated bibliography of reasonable length for every short story meant] that you couldn’t just be “heavily inspired” by one or two things (which would just lead to derivative and unoriginal writing, which might even border on plagiarism), but that you had to be inspired by a lot of different things.
In other words, you had to find a way to turn lots of different things into something entirely new and original. The more influences you had and the more different they were, the better your coursework would be and the higher marks you would get.

Ultimately, that means that although there’s no such thing as a completely original story, your combination of inspiration and experiences can create an original product. Beautiful. Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled so much with fiction. Maybe I just need a broader inspiration base.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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