Advent Books

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Yes, Advent starts on Sunday!

Yay!

So, if you’re looking for Advent reading, here are the books I recommend. I know this is sort of late in the Advent prep game, but with Amazon or your local Catholic bookstore at hand (or even Barnes and Noble, for the Ann Voskamp), you can find these this weekend!

Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting, by Mother Mary Francis, PCC: This is my favorite Advent book. I love reading it every year and always find something new to ponder. Truly fantastic. The readings are originally chapter conferences Mother Mary Francis gave the Poor Clares in Roswell, NM (she was their Abbess until her death a few years ago), so there’s lots of spiritual wisdom and nuggets to ponder.

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from (Saint) John Paul II: This is a compilation of Scripture, quotes from the Pope, and reflections for every day in the Advent and Christmas season. There are many others in this series, but this one is my favorite. I also have the Lent/Easter version.

The Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp: The author of One Thousand Gifts came out with this Advent offering last year. Part devotional, part journal, I found it a worthwhile addition to my Advent reading.

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Catholics on TV: “The Sisterhood” episode 1

When a friend told me there was going to be a reality TV series about women discerning a call to religious life, I was sort of floored, really interested, and skeptical. All at once. “The Sisterhood” , on Lifetime, debuted tonight, and I thought I’d share my “real-time” thoughts with y’all:

  • “No divas here today, all right?” Yup, that about sums it up.
  • WHAT are those nails, Eseni?
  • Eseni is from the Bronx.
  • Sisters don’t have drama?!?!?! Oh, ha hahaha. Hahahaha. That’s funny.
  • If a guy I was dating told me he wasn’t cool with me exploring a vocation, he’d be kicked to the curb, real fast. REAL fast. That being said, I can totally understand Eseni’s boyfriend’s feelings about losing her. And I agree with him that she should’ve let him know this was something she was considering. That’s not cool to just throw it out there when someone’s already in love with you. Not cool.
  • Sr. Cyril: “Women don’t enter with halos.” Amen.
  • Christie is from California. I like the way she thinks about being a Bride of Christ. “Sometimes you yell at him!” Preach it, lady.
  • Claire is 26 and is a music teacher and a church musician. Her parents seem very supportive of her potential vocation. She’s from IL.
  • Eseni looks like she’ll have a problem with the dress code–those high heels and those nails!
  • Sr. Marie Therese: “How is this going to work?…But then I started to see her vulnerability.” Yup, we’ve all got that.
  • The girls are starting with the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm (we have some of these in Central Ohio so they’re the only ones I’m even marginally familiar with), in Germantown, NY. The other two places they’ll visit are Chicago and Kentucky.
  • “Dedicated single life.” Well, I think Claire is on to something. Christie is…I don’t know. She’s older than Claire but she seem younger in a lot of ways.
  • Her roommate says her natural tendency is to be “flirtatious.” She also says she struggles with giving up the idea of family and marriage and children. That’s normal, because those are good things.
  • Her mom said a good thing: “Is God calling you to the convent, or are you calling you to the convent?” That’s important. Her mother also seems supportive and very open and straightforward, which is nice.
  • Christie is also really chatty about her spiritual experiences. That sort of turns me off. I don’t like sharing the big deep things…Claire also looks sort of afraid while Christie is talking.
  • Claire is so far my favorite. I’m liking her a lot.
  • Sr. Peter’s talking about “conservative” and “traditional” Catholics and I’m like, um…….OK….As a “conservative” (I guess) Catholic, I don’t have a problem praying and working with people who aren’t Catholic. I think that’s sort of prejudicial idea here, Sister.
  • Stacey is 26, from New York. She’s an actress and a singer who’s done several national Broadway tours. She’s also makes dolls…that are sort of sculpture-ish?  I don’t know if I’d call them dolls. But that’s what she calls them, so, there you go.
  • Just because you’re a nun doesn’t mean you give up all your gifts–Mother Dolores, whom she so admires–is a GREAT example of that! You use your gifts in a different way.
  • Yeah dinner prayer. 🙂
  • The last girl to arrive is Francesca, who is 21. She’s from NJ. She’s arriving with her dad, and it looks like she’s been crying in the car.
  • Vocab, here: A nun is a religious woman who lives in a  monastery and very rarely leaves.Mother Dolores Hart is a nun (She’s a Benedictine at the Abbey of Regina Laudis). The Dominicans in Summit, NJ, are cloistered nuns. Sisters live in convents, and that have apostolate outside the convent. So these girls are looking to be sisters, not nuns.
  • Yes, Francesca, you’ll have to leave your family….she’s definitely acting like the youngest in this group. She’s having a big crying jag in the car and keeps saying she’s “freaking out.” Her poor Dad.
  • Hon, it’s six weeks. It’s not forever! (yet)
  • What’s with the sponge in the holy water? That’s super weird. I’ve never seen that before.
  • I like Mother Mark. I like her no-nonsense attitude. She’s compassionate but also firm.
  • Also, WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MUCH LUGGAGE? I Mean, come on! One small bag would’ve been fine! You don’t need all these things.
  • The rooms are, yes, very small. That’s sort of the point. They’re “cells”. That’s what it’s about. A small space, nothing elaborate.
  • And yes, there’s a uniform. This order wears habits. So, you’re going to need to wear their approved clothes. Some orders have outfits for women who are in aspirancy, and some don’t. Postulancy, you definitely are told to wear something.
  • A Louis Vuitton bag? Really????
  • “Maybe we could do something about the nails.” Um, yes.
  • And we’re taking the phones. PREACH IT, Mother Mark!
  • (Have any of these girls been on retreat? I’m thinking not. They all need a good silent retreat, except for Claire, who seems very grounded. Hey, and here’s Claire saying she’s done this on silent retreat! Yes!
  • Francesca is freaking out because the sisters asked them to take off their makeup. Um, nuns and sisters do not wear make-up. For the love of all that is holy! Geez!!!! And again, it’s only for six weeks. She really doesn’t seem to have an idea of what being a sister is about, or what is required of her. Mother Mark is totally right. You can’t be worried about how you look. You need to be focused on the bigger things.
  • Francesca has clearly not heard of the “obedience” thing…..geez. This girl needs to get over it. Like, really get over it. She’s talking about acne. I really just want to smack her. This is the worst thing in your life? Wow.
  • “Handsome surfer dude Jesus.” Wow. I don’t even know what to do with that.
  • WHY are they not using the holy water?!?!?!?! Girls!!!!!!!
  • Community is vital to every religious order in the Church. Even the Carthusians realize that!

Coming up: Eseni talks about feeling broken, and what she’s going to be giving up; “Jesus is the best boyfriend, ever!”; Claire and Eseni seem to be not getting along; “Twerking?” ; Francesca is confronted with poverty.

Daybook No. 80

Daybook No. 80

Outside my window::

Well, no snow. 🙂 In fact it’s really sunny and windy. Yesterday we had crazy winds–I was expecting Dorothy’s house to come flying by any second–but they appear to have calmed down now.

Wearing::

jeans and a v-neck t-shirt.

Reading::

I’m re-reading my Dear America books, because sometimes I like me some kid lit. I have a bunch of “adult” novels I should be reading, but I’m not, because they haven’t really hooked me yet. I’m going to give them another go today.

I will have a post on Advent books up either today or tomorrow!

In the CD player::

Christmas music. Well, Christmas/Advent music. I have a CD of Advent hymns (it’s this one), and I consider Messiah to be Advent music, so there’s that. But the CD that’s in now is a Christmas compilation CD of classical musicians singing Christmas songs. I have a lot of Christmas CDs lined up in the car.

Fitness::

Back in the gym habit. Yay! I’ve been feeling really good, too, when I’ve been working out. Yesterday I hit the free weights for the first time in like a month, and my arms complained, but too bad. 🙂

Creativity::

Well, my NaNo novel stalled. I’m not terribly surprised. The subject requires a lot of research, I’m coming to find, and it’s not the sort of thing that can be rushed out. I need to develop some characters more carefully before I write them. This is probably the hardest novel I’ve attempted so far. I’m not saying I’ll forget it forever, because I won’t–but it’s not going to be done by the end of this month. (By “done”, I mean first draft done. Not done done.) That’s OK.

Around the house/Holiday prep::

Just the usual. Thanksgiving is at my parents’ house, as usual, so I don’t have to do any crazy holiday cleaning. 🙂 My creche is up, and I’ll probably bring the Advent wreath up today, and possibly a box of ornaments. My tree preparations are elaborate. I have a ton of ornaments and other decorations, and if it’s just me, it can be a real slog to go up and down the stairs bringing up boxes, so this year I’ve decided to do it in pieces. I usually put my tree up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I wish I could put up outdoor lights, but my house doesn’t have an outdoor outlet, so I don’t/can’t. My neighbors do, but they run an extension cord up through an open second floor window, which stays propped open a bit all season, which would be cold. So I don’t go that route.

From the kitchen::

I’m sort of “Off” cooking at the moment. Not sure why. But I’m planning a winter minestrone for dinner tonight. I think because it’s Thanksgiving week and I know there’s a big meal coming, I’m anticipating it. 🙂

Pondering::

Gratitude. This year has been big for that. I’ve counted more than 1000 gifts. I’ve learned–or just started to learn, really–how to  really trust God and to depend on Him for everything. This year has been crazy. There’s been  lot of ups and downs. But I’m grateful because they taught me how to trust God and to take everything to Him. I sort of knew that before, but I really know it now. Counting 1000+ gifts makes you see everything is gift. It really is. There’s so much of it, all around us, that we can remember and give thanks for everyday, not just on Thanksgiving.

Being Joyful Grateful

Seven Quick Takes No. 60

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I.

So we have to start with the big thing: I’m going to Edel!

I am so excited to meet Jen and Hallie and all the other lovely ladies, and I’m also excited to see the City of Charleston. I’ve never been to South Carolina, and my mom has always wanted to go to Charleston. So, we’re going!

II.

The best part about the gathering? Well, OK, the other best part?

My 10th transplant anniversary is that Saturday.

Really, people, how much better can it be to celebrate a DECADE of life post-transplant than with amazing ladies, great food, maybe a spa treat (there’s one in the hotel!)

This is the sort of thing I never imagined before transplant–getting to travel all over the country and have these amazing experiences.

III.

The plan right now is to get to Charleston on Thursday and stay until the following Wednesday, so we can see all we want to see and really enjoy the city, as opposed to “we have a weekend we must CRAM IT ALL IN NOW.” We shall take our time.

Dad is excited because they will be shrimp and grits and there’s a Starbucks in the hotel lobby. He’s pretty set for life, right there.

IV.

When I told my transplant doc that we were going to Charleston, he immediately said, “You must eat at Hominy Grill.” He’s not the only one who has said this, but he sure waxed poetic about it. If you have other suggestions for places to eat, pop them in the com box. 🙂

V.

I was basically a prisoner in the house Monday and Tuesday, because of cold and snow. NOTHING like Buffalo, but it was cold, for sure–unseasonably so. I cannot imagine living in Buffalo. How do you even begin to clear five plus feet of snow?!

VI.

I’m excited to see Mockingjay soon–either this weekend or next week. And also, of course, The Theory of Everything, which opens here next week! Yay good movies! I also need to see Big Hero 6.

VII.

What are your plans for Turkey Day? Ours involve getting Bob Evans’ “Farmhouse Feast” and eating it at home. We’re not huge Thanksgiving Let’s Go All Out People (we sort of were, back in the day). Now we just like it nice and quiet, with maybe a movie or two that day or the day after. We’re low-key peeps. And we do not do Black Friday shopping–unless it’s Black Friday at Barnes and Noble. Because, why not.

Daybook No. 79

Outside my window::

Well, this

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Yeah, it snowed yesterday. Heavy, wet snow, about 2-3″, depending on where you were in the city. This is the sort of snow that looks pretty, because it sticks to the tree branches and makes them look all magical, but it also causes power outages (because it’s so heavy, weighing on the lines), and is a real pain to get off the car.

I know. I’m a grump. Sorry. I mean, I didn’t have to go anywhere yesterday, so I didn’t mind it, and it is pretty. I just remembered days of having to scrape this stuff off my car, in the morning, when it’s really cold. Shiver. (This morning, the low was seven, without the windchill. Yeah.)

Anyway, moving on!

Wearing::

Jeans, a sweatshirt, gray socks. Nothing exciting. Today’s going to be a lot of around the house stuff (see, really cold temperatures, above) so I want utilitarian clothes.

From the kitchen::

On a day like today, a lot. I’m thinking a vegetable soup for lunch or dinner, depending, and then chicken and rice for the other meal. So it might be chicken and rice for dinner, since the meat has to thaw (an adventure, today…). I might also try this chili recipe, which is super good and fast. (and warming!)

The snow threw me quickly into “winter provision” mindset–meaning making sure the freezer is stocked and I have a list of things I can make if I get snowed in. I mean, it’s not The Long Winter, here, but Columbus can get very, very cold, and we do get big snow storms, as last winter attested. So it’s better to be prepared. Part of my “around the house” stuff today includes making a list of recipes I can make from mostly shelf and freezer stable items.

Reading::

I just finished Traveling to Infinity, by Jane Hawking, ex-wife of Stephen Hawking. She wrote this book awhile ago, but it was re-released to coincide with the release of The Theory of Everything, the biopic about the two of them, which stars Eddie Redmayne (sigh) and Felicity Jones.

The book is very, very good. She does a wonderful job talking about the good and bad parts of their marriage–it’s not all about the ALS. It’s about his work, her work, their children, their travels…it’s well-written and she isn’t writing it heavy on the pity, like some memoirs are. It’s factual, but you can also feel Jane’s emotions as she tries to balance everything. The movie’s already opened in New York and LA, but it gets wide distribution next weekend. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

Pondering::

How much money is enough money?

Recently, I’ve become a baseball fan. My parents are from Pittsburgh, so they grew up with a full complement of professional sports at hand, and us children were raised to love them. This included the Pirates. But for most of my (conscious) life, they weren’t very good. Rooting for them was sort of like rooting for the Bad News Bears. They sure tried hard. It just didn’t go anywhere.

Because of that, my experiences with pro baseball were pretty limited, and what I did know, I didn’t like: the designated hitter rule, the strike, and the fact that there wasn’t any salary cap. I thought it was ridiculous that someone was getting paid a nine figure deal to hit a ball.

So anyway, I started putting all this aside and realized that baseball could be exciting and a fun sport when the Pirates started winning. Not when they went to the playoffs for the first time two years ago, but a few years before that. I started to follow them and I liked what was happening.

Yesterday we lost one of our best players to another team, who are going to pay him eighty million dollars over 5 years.

Eighty freaking million dollars.

Now, that works out to about $16M a year (Canadian–it’s a Canadian team). $16M is more money than I would really know what to do with.

When is enough, enough? I don’t know if he left just because of the money (he’s Canadian, he wanted to end his career in Canada, etc.). But really? A team that treated you well, a city that adored you….lost because of money? (Or at least that’s what it seems like.)

When is enough money enough money? I know how capitalism works. I know it’s “what the market will bear”, yada yada yada. But all the other pro leagues have salary caps. Why doesn’t baseball? Why is money such a huge part of the baseball makeup? There’s no parity, that’s for sure. Teams like the Pirates will never make as much as the Yankees in TV deals and all that stuff. They don’t have $80M to throw on one player.

So the system does need fixed. But also—guys? When is enough money enough money? How long would it take to spend $80 million? Think about it for a second.

I just don’t get it.

(Back to regularly scheduled programming!)

Around the house::

Dishes need washed, the first floor needs vacuumed and dusted, I think I’m going to bring the creche up today, sheets need changed on my bed and the furniture in my bedroom needs dusted.

Creativity::

My NaNo novel has sort of stalled. I don’t know why. Is it because it’s not the right time for me to write this? Because I’m dry on ideas? Or something else? Or maybe this story just won’t bear out. I’ve tried writing it in two different formats, now, and each time it hasn’t been enough to sustain my writing juices. Something to think about.

Still working on my scarf/cowl. I’ll have photos tomorrow for the yarn along.

Seven Quick Take Friday No. 59

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I.

Well, I guess it’s Officially Winter in Ohio. We had the first snow of the season yesterday. Nothing stuck (unlike near Cleveland, where they got inches of lake effect), so it was the snow I like. The kind that doesn’t stick. 😛 But it is definitely heavy coat season and “find my gloves” season now.

II.

We’ve had radio silence over here (except for my Interstellar review), mostly because of NaNoWriMo. I’m about halfway to the 50K word goal. This novel has been hard, pacing wise–there’s a big, seminal event that sets off the big things in my novel and I’m not sure when to make that event happen. I’m trying to time it right. This is a novel that would HAVE to be more than 50,000 words, because there’s a lot I have planned in my head. It’s just a question of getting it down in the document. (NaNo novels can be over 50K–50K is the minimum word count to “win”.)

III.

I’ve started Christmas shopping–I’m actually almost done for my parents–but now I have to wrap the gifts. Yeah, I’m not so great at wrapping….but at least I have pretty paper! And then there’s people who haven’t told me what they want yet. Sometimes I try to get something on my own, and some people I like to be told what to get them. I also have to start writing out the Christmas cards. They’re bought, but I haven’t started writing them out at all.

IV.

I have, however, done my Advent prep. 🙂 I bought new Advent candles for the wreath yesterday and I’ve got my Advent books all prepared. That’s going to be a post next week, I promise, because I love my Advent books and I try to share them with lots of people. 🙂

V.

I am SO EXCITED about the Edel Gathering! I’ve already booked the room in Charleston, and tickets go on sale next week. Will I see you there?

VI.

When do you put your tree up? I generally put mine up the Day of the OSU/Michigan game, because that’s usually the week before Thanksgiving. I know some people who have it up NOW, and my mom usually puts it up after Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, we put it up the first weekend in December, the same weekend as the parish bazaar. Now it’s sort of whenever mom and dad want to, since none of us live at home anymore. 🙂

VII.

Reading: Traveling to Infinity by Jane Hawking, which is the basis for the new movie The Theory of Everything, which I cannot WAIIIIITTTT to see!!!! Between this book and Interstellar I’ve been thinking a lot about space this week!

Movie Review: Interstellar

I’ve always liked space movies. Maybe because my Dad was (is) a Trekkie, so I grew up watching those movies. But bad Star Wars dialogue aside, space movies are some of my favorites, including ContactPrometheus, and the new Star Treks. So Interstellar really excited me because it’s space AND it’s Christopher Nolan AND it’s Matthew McConaughey, who was already in one of my favorite space movies (the aforementioned Contact). 

I’m very glad this movie didn’t disappoint me.

Obviously, I can’t say too much, because, you know, Spoilers (you can find those other places on the web). But, suffice to say: McConaughey’s character, Cooper, is a former NASA pilot-turned-farmer, because the world’s crops are dying due to some unexplained blight, and corn is the only thing that will grow. Humanity’s time on Earth is probably running out. Unwittingly, Cooper and his daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy, best known as Reneesmee Cullen from Twilight: Breaking Dawn) stumble on NASA’s underground headquarters, where he finds an old professor of his, Dr. Brand, (Michael Caine), the professor’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and other scientists, who have a mission to find new worlds for humanity to inhabit. Dr. Brand wants Cooper to pilot the spacecraft and lead the crew into an exploration of possibly inhabitable planets–and find them before humanity dies out on Earth.

Cooper leaves Murphy and his son, Tom, in the care of his father-in-law (John Lithgow–Cooper’s wife died before the movie began). Murphy, who is especially close to her father, pleads with him to stay, and doesn’t forgive her father for leaving her.

So, into the Galaxy Cooper, Brand, and crew (including two robots) go. There’s a wormhole near Saturn that will allow them to travel to new galaxies and investigate these new worlds.

So that’s the basic plot. This being a Nolan movie, there’s a lot more to it. But this is what you need to know.

loved it. I thought the acting was superb–I really hope Matthew McConaughey gets another Oscar nomination for it–and I found the plot perfectly feasible. I don’t have an extremely high working knowledge of physics; it’s slightly above Penny’s in Big Bang Theory. 

That being said, I’ve seen and read enough space material to understand the basic concepts of wormholes, black holes, “event horizons”, and things like that. I don’t really care if there were science mistakes. It’s called science fiction for a reason, y’all.

I read a piece that compared Interstellar to Gravity, and that Gravity was the better film. I completely disagree. I’ve seen Gravity, and it didn’t touch me nearly as much as Interstellar did, nor do I remember anything terribly specific about it.

A problem with Nolan films is pacing; they have a tendency to drag. There are parts in Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises where I’ve sat in the theater wondering what, precisely, this scene/character/plot line had to do with the overall scope of the film. I never felt that with Interstellar, and the movie is almost three hours long. In fact, when the movie ended, I wanted more. I would have gladly sat through another hour to see how things continued. For me, that seals Interstellar as my favorite Nolan film.

Is some of the dialogue hokey? OK, maybe. I didn’t think it was too bad. The movie discusses big, lofty concepts, and sometimes when we talk about those things, we sound hokey. That’s OK with me.

I’m hoping it gets the attention it deserves come Oscar time. It’s looking like a banner awards season, with this, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, and other films that have either been released, or will be shortly. This film deserves nods not just for its score and cinematography (which are truly, truly breathtaking–this is truly a movie to see on the big screen, if there ever was one), but for its writing, acting, and directing as well.