All posts by CadyLy

The Reading Rush 2020

July 20-26, 2020

Ariel Bissett created the “BookTubeAThon” readathon in 2013. It has grown from there and is now known as “The Reading Rush.” It is a week-long readathon with some challenges and giveaways if you participate online. I’m always up for reading and challenges!

The Reading Challenges

  1. Read a book with a cover that matches the color of your birth stone.
  2. Read a book that starts with the word “the”.
  3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.
  4. Read the first book you touch.
  5. Read a book completely outside of your house.
  6. Read a book in a genre that you’ve already wanted to read more of.
  7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

My Lineup

  1. “88 Days to Kandahar” by Robert L. Grenier
    • This one fulfills #4. I reached over to my unread bookshelf with my eyes closed and this is the book I picked.
    • One line synopsis: “The improbable true story of America’s first war in Afghanistan.”
  2. “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw
    • This one fulfills #3 and #6. I always want to read more classics, but find it hard to select them when I’m looking for my next read.
    • This book inspired the 1999 movie, “She’s All That.”
    • One line synopsis: “All of them deal with a man creating a beautiful and perfect woman out of something imperfect, and then falling in love with her.”
    • This looks to be the shortest book at 98 pages, so it’s likely the one I will use for #5. I’ll try to read this one outside vs. modifying the challenge. I may have to buy a comfy outdoor chair….
  3. “The Memory Key” by Liana Liu
    • This one fulfills #2.
    • One line synopsis: “Remember everything. Forgive nothing.”
  4. “War Girls” by Tochi Onyebuchi
    • This one fulfills #1 and #7. My birthstone is an aqua/turquoise color. This book takes place in a future Nigeria.
    • One line synopsis: “In a post-apocalyptic Nigeria plagued by violence and political unrest, two sisters dream of peace, hope, and a future together.”

Other Fun Activities

Read-In on Wednesday, July 22, at 6 pm.

Reading Rush Book Club: “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid. I’ve already read this book, but I might join the book discussion live show on July 25 at 2 pm EDT. For the book club, they will be using hashtags #rrsuchafunage and #rrbookclub on social media.

LOTR Buddy Read: Fellowship Ch. 1-7

Several of my friends mentioned that they were going to read or re-read The Lord of the Rings series this summer, so I has been on my mind to re-read them myself. I have read them, but it’s been quite some time and I’m not overly familiar with the plot or all of the characters.

However, it wasn’t until my friend, Katie, started posting as she read on Facebook that I was really motivated to read it now. I’m quite far behind her (she’s already on Return of the King, and for me, Frodo and company are just leaving Tom Bombadil’s house), so I spent some time creeping on her Facebook page to see what her comments were at each point. This will make my buddy-read a little asynchronous.

(A quick comment about formatting…. I think I’d like – for myself – to write these out on my blog, so that I can reference them later in their entirety. However, I’ll also be cross-posting to Facebook, to allow others to participate/comment as they wish. Because I love sharing stories with others. There will be spoilers and, in general, these will be my initial reactions vs. anything really well thought out.)

Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party

I’m not really sure what to think of Bilbo; he seems rather rude and condescending to other hobbits. At some point in the distant past, I’ve read these books before, but not particularly attentively. I’ve watched some of the movies (but still haven’t made it through The Hobbit) and the scene where Gandalf is trying to get Bilbo to leave the Ring felt more oppressive and ominous than in the book version. Bilbo is kind of a jerk with the presents he left – highlighting flaws in others.

(My first encounter with Bilbo was when we were assigned The Hobbit to read in the 7th grade. I didn’t want to read it and I kept calling him Biblo.)

Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past

It was a little surprising to me that Frodo got to be 50 years old before his adventure began. Also, if hobbits’ lifespans aren’t that much longer than humans’, why don’t Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin have wives and families? Gandalf seems to be far more cautious about drawing conclusions than I am. Was Sméagol always evil/selfish/murderous, or was that just the influence of the Ring? The Ring seems to corrupt more quickly and more fully the more the owner wears it and uses its powers.

Chapter 3: Three is Company

What of the morality of Frodo selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, when he knew that the Enemy was coming after the Ring and knew the name “Baggins”? The Sackville-Bagginses may have been grasping after Bag End for some time, but did they deserve death?

Frodo kind of complains a lot – his heavy pack, how much weight he will lose on the journey – before they even begin. Is he really this self-absorbed, or is he more nervous than he lets on?

Sam seems to be portrayed as a bit bumbling and naive, but he’s shouldering adversity and change remarkably well.

I do not trust these cloaked riders sniffing around. Why are they deterred by the Elves?

Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms

Sam is shown to be more thoughtful and perceptive than he was initially made out to be. I’m kind of getting a Mary vibe from him. Frodo is the focus and Sam is happy to support him however he can and ponders things within his heart.

All of their songs remind me of the cadences sung at march in the military.

Already, we can see how much Frodo needs his friends – Pippin gave good advice about the road being quicker (that fortuitously wasn’t taken) and helped immeasurably with Farmer Maggot.

Mrs. Maggot was a little funny with gifting Frodo a basket of mushrooms when he used to steal their mushrooms as a youth. Maybe Bilbo wasn’t so much of a jerk before, and hobbits just like to give snarky presents?

Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked

I low key love all of Frodo’s friends right now, when they tell him they know all about his mission and refuse to let him go into danger alone.

What is the tall, white tower that Frodo dreams of?

I’m kinda mad at Frodo for not having left earlier. I know, it increases the plot tension….

Katie

Hmmm…. I get where Katie’s coming from. As a third-party observer, we are sitting here with our popcorn, yelling at him to get going before the Enemy catches up with him. But, I think it makes a lot of sense for Frodo to drag his heels here. Hobbits are the homebodies of the fantasy creatures in this world, so leaving Hobbiton has to be hard for him – I get that he wants to stay as long as possible and drink it all in, especially if he thinks it’s likely he may never return.

Birthday celebrations and gift-giving seems to be a pretty big part of hobbit culture, so I get why he wants to have one more birthday at home.

Chapter 6: The Old Forest

“They do say the trees do actually move…” – Ents?

“But the hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and made a great bonfire in the Forest…” – now I’m a little horrified. How did the trees and the hobbits become enemies? Who was the first aggressor?

It’s funny how the forest herded them. Sam catching on that their sudden sleepiness is suspicious – he’s a smart cookie!

Tom Bombadil sings and the trees obey. The hobbits arrive at Tom’s house and are bathed in a golden light. He’s such an interesting character. I’m not sure what to make of him.

Chapter 7: In the House of Tom Bombadil

Frodo: “Who is Tom Bombadil?” Goldberry: “He is.”

Tower in the middle of a circular plain, an old man and an eagle – Frodo’s dreams seem prophetic.

Very odd were Tom’s interactions with the Ring. Frodo just gave it over (with no resistance) and Tom didn’t become invisible when he put it on. Tom seems to be able to see Frodo when Frodo has the Ring on.

I’m a little confused over the significance of this interlude at Tom’s house. What am I missing?

This is Not How You Do It

If you are part of the paper planner community, you know things are blowing up this week. Easy Reader News published the article, Mira Costa High Class of 2020 forges new tradition from pandemic on June 14, 2020. This became a planner community issue because the article features Erin Condren (a member of the parents’ graduation committee) and her twin children (graduating seniors who are student body president and senior class president, respectively). Erin is the founder of one of the most well-known planner companies, which bears her name.

It points out how the pandemic has affected this graduating class and what they have done to celebrate despite state regulations and recommendations from healthcare experts.

The initial plan from the school administration was to “present students their diplomas in the football stadium in groups of 50.” Small groups, socially distanced, and livestreamed, with no parents in attendance to further reduce the density of people at the event. This was in line with their county’s health department guidelines. This plan was ultimately rejected by the health department on June 8th.

Instead, they had the graduates arrive in individual cars by family, walk across the stage and receive their diplomas alone. The family could roll down the car windows and take photos, but could not get out of the cars. All parties were to wear masks. This was June 11th.

The week before the health department rejection, on June 2nd, people marched from Manhattan Beach to protest against systemic racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The county allowed the march in protest, but disallowed the original graduation plan, so after the school’s scheduled graduation event – which took 7.5 hours – the graduates gathered and “marched” together, while ignoring social distancing and primarily not wearing masks.

I feel for the graduates. They were not able to participate in a lot of the traditional “senior year” activities. Social distancing is difficult. Being separated from your friends is lonely. It feels like this has been an eternity.

This wasn’t something that the students did in secret, but it was reported that the parents were cheering from nearby balconies. The Vice Principal of the high school was at the beach in support of this gathering. I have more softness in my heart for the ignorance and self-focus of the graduates vs. the adults – consideration of others is something you learn and grow in as you live.

BUT…. What About Public Safety?

Restrictions were put in place for public safety reasons. Viruses do not care about traditions, celebrations, jobs, grief, or any other consideration – no matter how honorable. They just replicate. I truly believe that the actions taken by governments and agencies around the world have been done in good faith, to try and preserve life. Individual decisions may have turned out to be good or bad, but I believe they attempt to make the best possible decision with the information available at the time. We have seen lots of people die from COVID-19, and many others get very sick. We have seen our health system put under an enormous strain. We have seen record numbers of people out of work and scared about how they are going to pay rent and put food on the table. We continue to see workplaces having to make difficult decisions in order to remain open and financially viable. We haven’t yet seen the full impact of this pandemic.

So, for me, to so blatantly disregard the health officials in this area and decide to gather in a large group without any masks is not just inadvisable, but morally wrong. It is a slap in the face to the medical workers and first responders who are trying to flatten the curve, so that if you come down with this illness, they will have the capacity to treat you. It’s offensive to people who put their lives and the lives of their family members on the line because they have jobs that put them in contact with people who have COVID-19 or who may be asymptomatic carriers of the Coronavirus – by doing this, you are directly increasing the risk to them. It is an affront to the people who have lost their jobs because we stayed home and their business lost money. Is this celebration more important than their suffering?

BUT…. What About Systemic Racism Issues?

“The county could ban students from gathering but not from marching.”

I’ve seen many people talk about this event as a hallmark display of white privilege in action. And I tend to agree with them. I do not believe that if a similar event were to happen among a group of black high school graduates, that they would be lauded in a news article praising them for finding a way to beat the system.

Protests against systemic racism are necessary and the experiences of black people need to be heard. Our society needs to change. Trivializing this by using a co-opting a “march” in order to get around public safety restrictions is … irresponsible? horrible? appalling? I cannot find the right word for how I feel about that.

Protesting and marching isn’t for just any reason. It’s because the subject matter is important. In this example, it wasn’t that the students were not being allowed to celebrate their graduation. In fact, this happened an HOUR after their sanctioned graduation event. Being able to have the party you want isn’t a right that you protest about. Actual human rights and human dignity are what you protest about and march for.

BUT…. What About Disregard for the Law?

“We even talked about putting hula hoops on the beach for each student, so if the authorities said it was an illegal gathering, they could start hula hooping and say it was an exercise class.”

Erin Condren

Teaching children and young adults to lie to cover-up an illegal activity. That’s what this statement is. It’s not cute. It’s not helpful. And it’s not fair to the countless people across the world who ARE doing the right thing.

It’s also in horribly bad taste considering the current social climate regarding official authority, police brutality, and systemic racism. I don’t know how a parent can casually advise a child to lie to police for an activity they know is illegal, when other parents have to counsel their children on how to appear docile and cooperative during a routine traffic stop because there is a real concern that they could be hurt, abused, or killed because of their skin color.

What Do We Do Now?

I’m disappointed and angry, as I know many other people are. Certainly a lot of people in the planner community own her products. I don’t necessarily feel that abandoning them would do a lot of good – that money is already spent. You can choose to not advertise for her company or not to purchase from her company. You can choose to purchase from black companies or anti-racist companies. It was the individual who contributed to this event, and not the people who work for the brand that bears her name, but there is something to be said about finances being a motivator for change.

I believe that people can change and grow and I believe in the power of and need for forgiveness when an injustice or sin has been committed.

For the larger issues that this event revealed, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

  • We need to stop being selfish and think about how our actions impact others.
  • We – especially white people in a position of privilege – have to listen and learn. Then, act as allies, supporters, and encouragers.
  • Act with your wallet. Support black businesses, give to charities that help to dismantle systemic racism.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Add more cultural diversity into your life. Are you reading and watching content with diversity?
  • Do not let microaggressions slide or think that it is not your responsibility to stand up for what is right.
  • Pray.
  • Forgive.
  • Help each other heal.

Every single person has worth and dignity in the eyes of God. The holiest thing you will ever encounter in your life – outside of God Himself – is another human being.

Launch America

I’ve always been fascinated with space exploration. There’s something very awe-inspiring about it. And something very human in our curiosity to know and push the boundaries of what is possible. If you ask my brother what my favorite book is, he will likely sigh heavily before telling you that it is “The Martian.” I’ve read it over 35 times at this point. When I was stationed in Orlando, we could often see the unique corkscrew contrail patterns from a launch from Cape Canaveral.

I was excited to hear that NASA and SpaceX were going to be launching the first American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil since 2011. The launch took place today at 3:22 pm EDT, and I was able to watch online! There’s a lot more information about the mission on the NASA website.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center.
Liftoff!
Left: View of the astronauts and cockpit; Right: First-stage Falcon 9 booster headed back to Earth.
Falcon 9 rocket booster during its reentry burn.
Everyone in Mission Control is wearing a mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.
The Falcon 9 booster landed on the droneship.

There was just something about this launch that grabbed at my heart, similar to how I feel during every Olympic Games when the whole world comes together. I loved hearing the wishes of “Godspeed!” for the astronauts. During a post-launch interview with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, he was asked what his thoughts and feelings were at the moment of the launch. He replied, “I was praying!”

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 31, 2020, at 10:29 am EDT, the Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley is scheduled to dock wit the International Space Station. You can watch the docking live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.

*Images courtesy of NASA.

Ignite Conference 2020: Day 1

As I was signing up on Eventbrite for Mass on Sunday, this conference was suggested to me. Since it is Pentecost weekend, the topic of the conference is appropriately Evangelization. It is hosted by a Dominican order from Ireland, but they do have some international speakers, including Ralph Martin and Scott Hahn.

I came into the conference a little late, so there was a section with Fr. Mike Schmitz and a panel on Evangelization and Youth that I missed. But here are some of the things talked about in the other sessions along with a few of my thoughts.

Panel on Evangelization in the Family

One suggestion was to try to minimize your outward displays of anger or impatience with your spouse, particularly in front of your children. A practical way to do this could be to remind yourself frequently, “I freely chose this person and gave them my whole heart and my trust.”

It sounds simple and pretty obvious advice, right? Just don’t fight, kids! But in practice it can be very difficult. Any relationship between two flawed individuals is going to have some bumps along the way, and we are all flawed. The extent to which you are able to control your reactions can depend on a multitude of factors, including your base temperament (and your spouse’s), external stressors, and how far along you are in growing in virtue. You can help your relationship by committing every day to outdoing your spouse in honoring the other, by looking at situations from their perspective, and by praying and taking your struggles to the Lord.

One question that came up was, “In a mixed marriage, how can you evangelize without disrupting the marriage bond?” They stated that it’s very important to respect each other and love each other. Like Mother Teresa said, “Love until it hurts.” What you do have in common (regarding the faith), share as a family.

Ralph Martin

How essential is the call to holiness? It is what the Holy Spirit has been emphasizing since the second Vatican Council. It is the same holiness, the same conformation to Christ for all. This is why we need to learn to love each other more and more as brothers and sisters, and re-emphasize the power of Pentecost in evangelization.

What is a good definition of holiness? Jesus teaches us:

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 13:32-33. RSV-SCE.

It’s not about increasing acts of piety (unless you are competing with Fr. Lee for Piety Points), but to grow in love and transform your heart. Hate what God hates; what God hates is sin.

In his book, “The Fulfillment of All Desire,” Therese remarks about saying Yes to our identity: holiness isn’t a burden, it’s a blessing. God is trying to give to us so that we can experience the fullness of His love. However, we are often the ones getting in our own way. We know we are called to holiness…

BUT I’m just a lay person. Every single one of us is called to holiness. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We reflect something of God Himself just by existing. If you are baptized, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you and are called to be preacher, prophet, and king.

BUT … later. We have the illusion that there will be some better time in our life that will allow us to become more serious about our faith life. There will not be a better time than right now. Why would you postpone a greater freedom/love/apostolic fruitfulness/blossoming of your vocation?

BUT there’s no way I can do what the saints have done. The lives of the saints can inspire us, but they can also discourage us. We can think that we don’t have what it takes and decide instead to aim for Purgatory. There are two problems with this. First, nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say to aim for Purgatory. What He does say is to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And to pick up your cross every day and follow Him. Denying our disordered desires is the only way. Second, we don’t always hit the targets we are aiming for. If we aim for Heaven and miss, thanks be to God there is Purgatory, which can purify us of the sins we still clung to at the time of our death. However, if we aim for Purgatory and miss….

St. John Paul II gives us some practical wisdom. Principles that govern the spiritual journey:

  • The spiritual journey is totally dependent on the grace of God.
    • There is a secret about reliance upon God and becoming a beggar before the Lord and pleading to Him to change our stony hearts.
    • St. Therese is a great teacher. She showed us how helpful it can be to turn your perspective from seeing the Lord from the perspective of the world, to looking at the world from the arms of the Lord.
    • You can trust the Lord. He has the ability to care for you. Know of the pureness of His love for you. He will never leave you.
  • Our effort is necessary.
    • Go to the most fearful place in your soul. Say, with faith, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Think about your death and trust Jesus for all those things: for the perfect timing/method of your death, for the people you will be leaving behind, for your purification.
    • We need to give the effort of paying attention to God. The main way we do this is via prayer.
    • We have to say Yes. God will not force us to love Him against our will.
    • Today is an opportunity for you. If you’ve hardened your heart against the Lord, today is an opportunity to reconcile yourself to Him.
    • What about the sins of the Church? Despite all the weaknesses, we hold this treasure (of our faith) in earthen vessels (sometimes translated as cracked pots). Just because the container is faulty, it doesn’t follow that the treasure is any less treasure. For all the problems, the Church still contains the fullness of the faith handed down by Jesus.
  • There are some painful dimensions to the process of purification. We have a basic disorder on our soul from Original Sin, wounds from the sins of others, and our own sins.
  • Even though it takes effort and can be painful, there is nothing better that you can do but to desire every day to make progress in your spiritual life. The more you come in harmony with God’s life, the better you will be a light in the lives of others.

St. Therese used to fall asleep during prayer. And the purpose of the Carmelite life was to pray! She wasn’t discouraged because she knew that God would still love her through that. Even sleepy, distracted prayer times can be efficacious. Persevering in personal prayer is important.

Turn away from those things which are impeding your union with God. Sin never helps. The very nature of temptation is to say, “Hey! This sin will help!” However, it always wounds the soul and sets us further back from the communion and peace that we desire.

What are some serious sins that we do not talk about? Environmental concern is important, but it may not send you to Hell. There are many resources which talk about the gravity of sexual sin: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Paul’s teachings, Revelation…. Sins against the body are serious because we are one body and one spirit with Jesus. We cannot be complicit with going along with the culture’s message that these things aren’t important. St. Augustine was enslaved to sexual sin and could not free himself of his own willpower. He did what he could and eventually God provided him the grace to be delivered from this.

After we turn away from serious sin, we still need to chase after venial sins. There are inadvertent venial sins (the residue of our fallen nature) and advertent venial sins (E.g. I know I shouldn’t, but this is just a little thing.). However, it’s no little thing to knowingly offend God. Decide that you never want to freely offend the Lord, even in small matters.

St. Francis de Sales talks about affection for sin. Maybe you are not longer committing a sin, but you have a nostalgia for it, or maybe you are thinking about it, even if you do not commit the sin. Any indulgence of temptation, you need to release to the Lord.

  • The Hebrews could have made the journey to the Promised Land in 8 days, but it took 40 years because their nostalgia for sin (Egypt) delayed their spiritual progress.
  • We need to close some doors and not leave them open. We need to go through the One Door of Jesus.

There are four main ways Jesus is present to us: Eucharist, priests, the Word of God, and the indwelling presence of God. During the quarantine, we didn’t have access to the first two of these, but we still had access to the second two. We need to learn to live the Christian life within ourselves and not rely solely on external sources of grace. We need to be able to carry on the faith no matter what.

Panel on Evangelization in Media

Wendy Grace/Katie Ascough (Called to More)

Being able to access faith-filled content is great, but it’s very important to have access to faith-filled content that is local to you, where you can hear truth being proclaimed in your own language by people speaking with your accent, and providing insights and examples from your own culture.

Radio is a great medium for evangelization because it is commonly seen as a friend, as something approachable and non-threatening. Christian music in particular can be very powerful, and it is recommended that you start your children listening to it at a young age. As a parent, have you looked up the lyrics on the top 10 songs being played on secular radio? It is shocking the messages that are being consumed by our young people.

“I’m not a Catholic journalist; I’m a journalist who happens to be Catholic. It’s just part of who I am.” We need to bring our faith into all corners of our lives. Be bold in your faith! Others are likely more curious than anything.

Regarding the use of media during the pandemic, it has been fairly inline with the percentage of the faithful who attend Mass in person: we may have lost some who are not technically-inclined, but are gaining some people who are tech-savvy, but who haven’t ventured to a Mass.

It can be helpful for people who have young children. Trying to get to a holy hour may be a struggle, but having the flexibility to have access to praise and worship online and be able to attend from your home can help to share the faith with your children.

Brian O’Driscoll

Brian leads the apostolate, Paving the Way Home, that seeks to explain what the Church teaches and why. In Ireland, they have a very devotional faith, but it may lack in scholarship and deeper understanding.

He is starting two new Podcasts: Paving the Way Home Podcast and Faith and Reason Podcast.

St. John Paul II told us to go to all the marketplaces and proclaim the Gospel. All of our young people are involved in the internet in some way. Be bold and step out of your comfort zone. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life and how your sharing of your faith may affect them.

Dominic

Alpha is about the person-to-person contact and primary evangelization. How do you do evangelization when you cannot physically bring people together? Many parishes have started to run Alpha online. They’ve found that people are still finding this to work, because people may be more comfortable being in their own homes and this security allows them to talk about deep issues. Babysitting and other related barriers to participation are removed.

Post-pandemic, will these online offerings continue? This is a fascinating question. Online evangelization will not go away. Even older people in our society have internet access these days. The challenge is what do you do online? How do you make the most of it?

Sister Miriam Heidland SOLT

I didn’t catch a lot of this session, as I popped over to the NASA/SpaceX launch, but the first question addressed was, “What am I supposed to be doing with this time (COVID pandemic/quarantine) and what does it mean?” Sister Miriam relayed a word that she received from the Lord that this is a very sacred time that you won’t get again. So we are to be attentive to the workings of God in our lives. And to soften our hearts anywhere they are hard or afraid.

Tomorrow’s Agenda

Join me tomorrow for the final day of the conference: Ignite: Be a Light in the Darkness. I’ve converted the times below to Eastern Daylight Time. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of EDT.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

  • 8 am – Mass – Bishop Fintan
  • 9 am – Ralph Martin
  • 10 am – Have your say: Interactive panel on Evangelizing Culture
  • 11 am – Patrick Tacey
  • 11:30 am – Have your say: Interactive panel on Catholic Education
  • 12:15 pm – Fr. Mike Schmitz
  • 1:15 pm – Evening Prayer
  • 2 pm – Have your say: Interactive panel on Evangelization Ireland 2020
  • 3 pm – Dr. Scott Hahn

New Photography Toy!

It’s been a hot minute since the last time I got a new toy to aid my photography habit.

There have been a lot of random things which have entered my Amazon cart for consideration. Usually they sit in there for quite some time, while I decide if they are worth my money.

This one snuck in there one evening after looking at some planner photos from Instagram and looking at the lighting. I am not, in general, a studio photographer. I do have some studio lights, but I tend to prefer natural light, macro photography. However, having uneven, poor lighting for my planner photos (not that I’m at all consistent in taking them) is irksome.

So I bought a light box. It has a front opening and top view port, and two USB light bars to provide more even lighting (it gets pretty bright). It also comes with four colored inserts (blue, gray, white, and black) and folds up to be more portable.

In an ideal world, I would have purchased a slightly larger version, so that I could get a good photo of my planner laying flat without seeing the edges of the light box, but this works well enough for my purposes, and doesn’t have the price tag of some of the larger light boxes.

I think the results are pretty good!

Spaceship You

Yesterday, our senior director shared this cute video with us. It talks about caring for both our physical and mental health while we are sheltering in place, and how creating distinct functional areas within our homes (and being diligent about reserving certain tasks for only that space) can help us to be more focused on the task at hand.

Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You

The couch helped you … couch ….

My favorite line from the video!

I felt personally attacked by this video. 🙂 I have been dealing with wound healing issues for quite a while and have been largely restricted to my bed (I *wish* I had the run of the entire house!). So, creating different stations within my house for different tasks has been impossible. My bed has been my sleep/work/recreation station and exercise has not even been on the agenda. (It’s amazing how much you need your feet for!)

Blessedly, last weekend I was finally able to walk around a little bit and have been slowly increasing what I am able to do around the house. Today is the first day that I’ve attempted wearing socks and shoes! I have really missed that!

The video mentions that if both your physical and mental health are suffering, it may be easier to try to work on improving your physical health first. Which is probably why I spent a good amount of time last night researching bicycles. LOL! I’ve wanted one for a while, especially since Gabby is learning how to ride a bike now. There is a lot of stuff that you need! Bike, kickstand, helmet, storage, bike lock, carrier for your car… I think I have everything picked out, but I’ll pause that decision for just a bit.

I’m a planner girl and I love making order out of chaos (although, I’m also pretty talented about creating that chaos in the first place). So I was really motivated by the video to take a new look at my “spaceship” and see how I can make personal improvements. Also, lucky for me, I have a metric ton of planners, productivity journals, list pads, sticky notes, and pens at arms reach to assist me!

Exercise Station

This will take some thought, especially as I am still healing. I’ll keep bicycling in mind, but will likely start with short walks (and build up) and some free weights. Having contingency plans for inclement weather and other obstacles will be key to maintaining a good schedule.

Sleep Station

I generally do pretty well with falling asleep, and I typically get up at the same time every morning without an alarm. The part I need to work on is going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting up in the middle of the night. I’m fairly used to operating on little sleep, but I’m interested in finding a better balance here.

Recreation Station

This station runs amok all around the house! Usually into the Sleep and Creation stations. I have made a little headway in this area by cleaning off the kitchen table and putting my personal computer there. Even before watching this video, I had tried to make a cognitive distinction in tasks by leaving my desk after the workday is completed and moving to the kitchen if I wanted to watch YouTube, etc. Just a small change in scenery to tell myself that the workday is done (otherwise, it’s really easy to just keep working – there’s nowhere else for me to go, after all!).

I’ve tried to find recreational activities that I can use to connect with others. Since I live alone, I really miss human interaction! I bought a Nintendo Switch Lite (for entertainment when I was stuck in bed) and have jumped on the Animal Crossing bandwagon. It’s a cute game and I have been able to play with my brother (hopefully, with more friends soon!). I’m also buddy-reading a book with another friend.

Creation Station

I find this station the most interesting. What to do for personal growth during this time? I always have it in the back of my mind to blog – I miss it, but I’m horrible about completing posts. I must have a million drafts, but I try too hard to make them perfect before I publish and as more time passes, I don’t circle back. “Done is better than perfect,” is a phrase I’ll need to keep in mind.

I’ve also taken advantage of some of the language software out there and will see if I can gain more foreign language skills during my time in space. The hardest question is which one to focus on first?

I’ve joined a Bible study (Ruth) through our parish, which helps feed me spiritually as well as give me a small group to talk to and share my ideas.

Being creative with my planning is always a fun pastime for me. I’ve been doing really well with meal planning and daily to-dos, and am eager to create more structure and accountability into my days.

A friend recently sent me a card – just to say that she was thinking of me and provide some encouragement. I think this is a great idea, so I’ll make sure to spend some time writing *actual letters* to my friends.

Creation Station is probably the hardest for me to control, since I always want to do ALL THE THINGS. But, ultimately, I think I’ll feel more accomplished if I try to limit what I do and actually follow through on that. Check one thing off, *then* start the next thing.

Your Spaceship

As the video says, we are all alone …. together. How are you maintaining your Spaceship You? I’d love to hear (and see!) your ideas.

Stay happy and healthy!

CGB Book Club: Good Morning, Good Life #2

This book club is being run by my friend, Cindy Guentert-Baldo, on her Facebook group: Llamas Love Lettering. She will be doing livestreams every Saturday at 9 am PST (12 pm EST), and will send out an email the prior Tuesday, so you know what to read.

Week 2! I just received the email notice for Week 3 this Saturday, which reminded me to post for Week 2. Last Saturday, I was at an all-day planner event getting set up for the new year.

Good Morning, Good Life: 5 Simple Habits to Master Your Mornings and Upgrade Your Life

Our assignment this week is to read Chapter 1: Decide. Here are the questions that Cindy gave us to think about while we read:

  1. What is your “why”? Only share what you are comfortable sharing.
    I think I’m still working this out, but I want my life to matter, to have a positive influence on others.
  2. How did you feel when Amy shared what her “why” was? Did you feel a little judgy, or maybe relieved that her why wasn’t some Pinterest-worthy altruistic concoction?
    I guess I was a little surprised that she was so blunt about it, but it’s not a bad thing. She has a vision for her life and decided that acquiring the resources to make it happen is her motivation. Good for her. I just know for myself that acquiring wealth is *not* a motivator.
  3. What is it you truly need out of your mornings (really, out of your days)? Not what your family needs or your boss needs or your significant other needs… what is it YOU need?
    To be able to end my day with a sense of accomplishment, or to know that my day had meaning and purpose? I probably need more time to reflect upon this.

“The more you beat down your belief in your ability to know what is right for you, the more you start to think you don’t actually know.”

Pg. 28

Amy suggests removing some decision fatigue from your life, so you can concentrate on the important decisions. Some ways she suggests are to lay out your clothes for the next day at bedtime, creating a “usual order” for your morning beverage, and scheduling your exercise time.

She provides an interview with someone about his morning routine. My biggest take-away from that was when he was asked what helps him the most to get a productive start to the day. He replied that it was gratitude. “Think about the things that you are grateful for and you’ll be more motivated to do the things that you need to do.”

At the end of the chapter, Amy gives us 5 questions to help us discover our Why:

  1. What’s a moment that you remember being truly excited about something?
    I seem to be the most excited about interacting with others. It sounds silly, but I am a true extrovert at heart. Nothing makes me happier than being around others and sharing our experiences. Take this weekend for example: I went to Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village. It was super cute and there was a lot to do and see; however, it was made 1000x better because I was there with friends. I could really feel all of the joy, awe, and wonder of Christmas because I was sharing the experience. This is probably also why I blog, photograph, and post on social media: not for attention, but to be able to connect with others.
  2. Think of something that has sparked passion in you, what was it?
    My goddaughter and her sisters, photography, blogging, reading, being a part of the Planners Gone Wild community…
  3. What do you need more of in your life that you’re a little (or a lot) afraid to say out loud?
    Focus? I picked that for my “word of the year” since I allow myself to get distracted and sidelined a lot in my personal life.
  4. What’s the real reason you need more of those things in your life?
    We only have so much time. I’d rather fill my life with things that are truly important than with filler. I want to have made an impact and a difference (for the better) in other people’s lives.
  5. At the end of your life, what would you like to be able to say about how you spent your time?
    That I loved God, I loved others, and I gave 100% of myself every day.

My question to myself right now is:

If I had a lousy day and were sick and feeling miserable, what would it take for me to feel good about my day in spite of that? I think some part of that is to give myself the grace to not be on top of my game every day, but I think there is also some room to redefine what a “good day” looks like.

This reminds me of the concept of redemptive suffering. Even when you feel useless and powerless, you truly are not. See also: On Passivity vs Activity in Suffering.

See you soon for Part #3!

Candles

Look at all these vigil candles. Some are lit. Some have lived their life and now we can no longer see their flame. They all represent some some hope, some desire, some yearning. There is a peace and a comfort in their light. Yet their course is not entirely steady. In some candles, the flame dances around violently, struggling against some unknown air current. Others burn quietly and steadily. Some have char and debris littering the wax, while others are clean and pure with no blemishes. Some have burned cleanly all the way down, while others have left deposits of themselves — large gobs of wax — along the side of the candleholder. While one is beautiful, all of them assembled together is inspiring. They are like God’s people. Each individual flame was lit by the hands of someone else. Each one contains Christ’s light. There are no expectations of a candle, other than it shine that light.

CGB Book Club: Good Morning, Good Life #1

This book club is being run by my friend, Cindy Guentert-Baldo, on her Facebook group: Llamas Love Lettering. She will be doing livestreams every Saturday at 9 am PST (12 pm EST), and will send out an email the prior Tuesday, so you know what to read.

Of course, I’m coming into this a tad late. No surprise there. The first livestream went up yesterday, so I watched the first few minutes of it, then paused the video so I could read the Intro (our homework), then follow along with the replay. And, I started writing this blog. Because I love to distract myself.

Good Morning, Good Life: 5 Simple Habits to Master Your Mornings and Upgrade Your Life

Here are the three questions that Cindy provided for us to reflect upon while we read the Intro:

  1. Do you consider yourself a morning person? Why or why not?
    I do consider myself to be a morning person. This is when I am most productive and have the most energy. When on vacation, my roommates can attest that I’m generally one of the first people out of bed and out the door (and typically on my way to Starbucks…). I’m actually one of those *annoying* morning people who is super cheerful upon waking up. Unfortunately for me, I don’t generally have time to do all the things around the house before I need to go to work; and then don’t feel like doing them when I get home. #messyhouse #thankgodformymom
  2. What is it you’d like to get out of a morning routine?
    It would be nice to not have to run around stressed out in the mornings, and probably better for me if I have a routine of taking my meds, having more coffee at home ($tarbuck$), and in general, feeling more prepared for my day.
  3. Which of the five habits Amy discusses in the Introduction do you think is going to be the most difficult for you to incorporate?
    Rise. LOL! I’m notorious for setting a bunch of alarms, then justifying sleeping in longer. I even set my alarm to require me to do high-level math problems to get it to shut off. Turns out, they were too easy. *sigh* Plus, who wants to get out of bed when the house is cold??

“…To build the life I wanted, I had to do more than just show up for everyone else… I have to show up and choose myself.”

Pg. xii

Amy gives an example of jumping out of bed and immediately rushing to work, something which I do all too frequently. Mostly, because I only allot myself about 4-5 hours of sleep per night. 🙂

“What if the first task of the day was to make myself happy?”

This is an interesting question. I’m not particularly motivated by seeking out my own happiness. In “The Four Tendencies” language, I’m an Obliger and am primarily motivated by what I can do for others, and am best at keeping external vs. internal commitments.

The 5 Habits:

  1. Decide: Choose for yourself what you want your mornings to look like. A good “why” will help keep you motivated.
  2. Defy: Combat your personal obstacles.
  3. Rise: Actually get up. (LOL!)
  4. Shine: Build the morning of your dreams.
  5. Thrive: “We are here to live a life. Not just a morning.”

See you soon for Part #2!