Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Story of the First Thanksgiving

I realize that this may be a little late, but I just ran across this story and had to share.  Check out The True Story of Thanksgiving: Squanto, the Pilgrims, and the Pope.  This is a really fascinating story.  Go check it out and then pass it along.  Thanksgiving may have been last week, but it's always a good time to be thankful!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy New Year! Happy Advent!

A new liturgical year has begun!  Happy New Year!!  And with a new year we have a new season of Advent.

What are you doing this Advent?  Do you have an Advent wreath?  A Jesse Tree?  Special devotionals for the season?  Are you waiting until closer to the actual Christmas season to put up decorations or are they all up already?  Any acts of penance?

We started our Advent by pulling out the Advent wreath from the attic and placing it on the kitchen table.  The plants that were on the kitchen table have been moved to the living room.  Luckily I had bought Advent candles a couple weeks ago, so those were ready to go and we lit our first candle tonight when we sat down for dinner.

At church this morning I picked up the Little Blue Book for Advent.  Have you heard of the Little Books?  There are several for different liturgical seasons.  We usually get the Advent/Christmas book (blue) and the Lent book (black).  Our church gets them and provides them to us for a $1 donation.  The Advent/Christmas book has reflections and readings for all 27 days of Advent and the 16 days of Christmas.  Each day has a reflection or historical info of some kind or customs and traditions or information on a particular feast day.  Then on the second page for that day it has a Gospel reading (this year it is taking it all from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew) and usually some sort of question to reflect on.  We've gotten into the habit of reading it each night after dinner.

As for Christmas decorations we decided to take things slow this year.  I don't like the Christmas stuff to overtake Advent to the point that we forget the whole purpose of Advent.  So, besides the Advent wreath hubby also put up the Christmas tree only.  No decorations or anything, just the tree.  So far that is it.  My plan is to allow hubby (yes, I said "allow"*) to put up the nativity scene (except for the wise men and the baby Jesus) next Sunday.  On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we'll put up the stockings and decorate the tree, and anything else hubby wants to do that I'm not thinking of.  On Christmas Eve, assuming we attend midnight Mass, we'll put baby Jesus in the manger when we get home.  We'll move the Wise Men in on January 2 when we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany in the Church.  I imagine we'll take everything down around the 8th or 9th when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  I love that we can coordinate our decorations to the Church's feast days so well!!

Then there is shopping.  What a way to ruin the spirit of Advent!  I know several people who were on a mission this year to finish their shopping before Advent started so that they could enjoy the Advent season without the hassle (and frustration) of shopping for Christmas gifts.  I didn't attempt this completely, but did get some of it done so that I could bring things to my family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  So now my parents and my niece and nephew are done and I got gifts for my two godchildren as well.  So all that is left now is my husband's family and, of course, hubby himself.  I expect to knock all those gifts out pretty quickly.  So my shopping this year will not be much of a hassle!  I hope!

How about you??  Lots of shopping to do?  Are you keeping things simple?  Or are you already done?

The last thing, I'm going to take my time with Christmas cards as well.  I've decided that since they are "Christmas" cards and not Advent cards, that I'm going to get them done over the next few weeks and put them in the mail the Monday following Christmas.  This way people actually receive their Christmas card from us during the Christmas season itself.  Yes, some people will think I procrastinated, but I don't care.  I know what I'm doing and I'm planning it this way.

That's about it for us this year.  The Advent wreath, Christmas decorations being put up slowly, not too much Christmas shopping to do, and getting Christmas cards out during Christmas instead of Advent.  We are not doing the Jesse Tree, it's a tradition I'm still very unfamiliar with, but have been reading about it some on other blogs.  I think I may look into it more when we have kids, looks like something good to do then.

What are your Advent traditions?  How are you marking this season in anticipation of the birth of our newborn King?  Whatever you are doing, I hope it is a holy and blessed Advent for you!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Birthday Celebration

My birthday was on Thursday of this past week, but we didn't have much of a chance to celebrate on the day of.  This was fine, because I already knew that hubby had plans for us over the weekend.

Back in October he had told me not to make plans for around my birthday and that I may even need to take some vacation time at work.  Then I went on a business trip in late-October and when I got home he told me that due to technical difficulties the plans were moved to the weekend.  Ever since then, I've been wondering what we were going to do.  I had a guess but when I asked him about what I needed to pack he told me casual clothes were fine.  So okay, I thought, nothing fancy, which blew my guess out of the water.

Turns out he was just trying to throw me off.  Saturday morning he told me that yes I would need to wear something nice Saturday evening.

And it turns out that my guess was pretty accurate, it was just the details I was missing.

So we drove north and headed into Covington, KY, which is just on the other side of the Ohio River from Cincinnati.  We had a room at a Marriott right on the river and my dear sweet hubby had even requested a room with a balcony (in November?) overlooking the river.  This picture I found was basically the view we had from our room.

What you don't see in the picture was the stadium for the Bengels, off to the left of what you see.  We had a pretty good view of it as well.

After getting settled in we headed out again for dinner.  We accidentally took the wrong bridge across the river and got lost and discovered that we had a Louisville map and about 5 Lexington maps with us but not the Cincinnati map we had bought a few months ago when we were last there.  So we turned around, found the bridge we had come across and went back over the river and then found the correct bridge from there.

We found our way to the west part of Cincinnati, up a very steep hill (I wouldn't want to be on that hill when it was snowy and icy) and found the restaurant hubby had made reservations at.  We were surprised at first to find the restaurant on the first floor of this pretty tall building.  But once we got inside we realized that the hill we took to get up here was enough of a view!!  It was pretty cool!!  We could see all of downtown Cincy, the river, and across to Covington.  We had a fabulous dinner as well: calamari for an appetizer, salad, entrees (I had penne in a vodka tomato sauce with chicken and hubby veal with prosciutto and cheese with some green beans and a polenta cake), then we finished the meal with a vanilla cappuccino for hubby and a raspberry sorbetto for me.

Once dinner was over we headed back into Cincinnati and found our way to Music Hall (pictured left).  The concert on Saturday night included a work by Salieri and three by Mozart.  Very much a Classical Era concert.  All three Mozart pieces were choral/vocal works (not my favorite) and because all four pieces were composed somewhere between 1773 and 1780, there were no clarinets.  Also, Paavo Jarvi was not conducting (actually, I don't know who the conductor was, his name was unfamiliar and he wasn't listed on the orchestra personnel page, maybe he was with the choir, I don't know).  Regardless, it is good for my musical ear to hear things I wouldn't normally choose to listen too and the concert was very good.

The Salieri Sinfonia in D major, the only orchestral work on the program, was nice, had some good solo parts for the winds and many enjoyable moments.  Next was Mozart's Solemn Vespers, the longest piece on the program.  I don't know that I had ever heard this piece before and certainly don't recall ever studying it when I was in school.  It was really interesting to see how he set the various parts of the Psalms in regard to what the choir sang and what the soloists sang.  After an intermission the soprano soloist joined the orchestra for Mozart's Exsultate jubilate.  Finally, the last piece on the program brought a good number of the orchestra members back on stage (most had played during the Salieri piece and then had left for the middle two works).  The concert ended with Mozart's Mass in C Major, and this was probably the best piece on the program (in my humble opinion).  Again, Mozart's understanding of the Mass itself as a Catholic was evident to me in how he set the parts of the Mass.  I noticed that during the Credo that the choir sat and only the soloists sang the part that normally when we recite the creed in Mass we would bow for, and the orchestration was lighter as well.  Little things like that were noticeable to me.  The settings were beautiful and I enjoyed all the music.

Why am I not a fan of vocal music?  First, I'm a clarinetist.  I spent way too may years studying and playing orchestral, band, and chamber music and thus have very little knowledge of vocal music.  It's just not in my listening repertoire.  Second, I think that because I'm an instrumentalist, I just don't hear the words.  For me, the voices just become another "instrument" amongst the orchestra.  I often forget to follow along in the words and have no idea what they are saying.  I'm much more comfortable listening to lines of instruments moving around each other and forming interesting sounds than I am trying to understand a message being conveyed through a choral work.  When I try listening to the voices, I then miss the fun of the orchestration.

Sorry for the aside.  People hear I'm a musician and they automatically assume I have a great love for all sorts of choral works I have never heard of.  Why is that?

Moving on ....

Luckily, after leaving Music Hall, we only got turned around once in Cincinnati.  For all you who are scared of driving in big cities with lots of one way streets, you have no idea how easy it is to get back on track when you get lost, the one way streets actually make it easier!!  (Go ahead and laugh, but it's true!)  I easily navigated my husband back on track within one block and we quickly found our way back to the highway.  Piece of cake!!

But the fun didn't end there!!  At 4:30am we were rudely awakened by what I thought was my alarm on my iPod.  I hadn't remembered changing the sound and soon discovered that I was correct!  There was a fire alarm in the hotel complete with an announcement telling us to make our way to the stairwell.  So my first thought was to use the bathroom!  We threw some things on, grabbed our coats, and headed out to the hallway to discover people all standing outside their rooms at the railings looking down towards the lobby of the hotel (picture a hotel with an open middle and all the rooms open out to that).  No one seemed to be willing to leave, yet the announcement kept coming on and we were told that the fire department was on its way.  We walked around to the street side of the building and looked out the windows to see if anyone had arrived or if anyone was standing out there but all seemed quiet on the street.  Hubby noticed that there were still people at the front desk, so obviously they didn't think this was much of an emergency.  By then the alarm finally stopped and we were told that we could return to our rooms.

I didn't sleep well for those last three hours I had, making it difficult to get up when it was finally time.  We found a letter form the management under our door apologizing for any inconvenience the false alarm might have caused us during the night.  I don't know how it didn't inconvenience anyone, it was way too loud to have slept through it or to have stayed in your room when it was going off.  But maybe some people weren't inconvenienced!

After breakfast we checked-out and headed up to the Covington Cathedral, St. Mary's Basilica, for Mass.  Our hotel was just down the street from it and we had been there earlier this year so pretty much knew where we were going. The one way streets and construction had us going a couple blocks past the Basilica and back again, but we easily found our way into the parking lot. This church is amazingly beautiful!! If you are ever in the area, you must check it out. "Stunning" doesn't even begin to describe it!   The picture on the right is of one of its many stained glass windows, probably the most amazing of them, but this Church is filled with many, many more!!  The Bishop of Covington presided at Mass this morning and we enjoyed his homily. It's always refreshing to have a homilist who tells it like it is (abortion is evil, no ifs, ands, or buts!).

Following Mass we headed home and back to our real lives once again. I'm so glad we got to do this and that my husband surprised me with such a fun weekend. He's such a blessing to me!! In another couple days we'll be packing again, this time to head south to visit my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the meantime, it is nice to be home.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Asking for Suggestions

As a blog reader I am often running across book reviews or discussions of books that other bloggers have read.  Bloggers like to read, no question.  Books, other blogs, online forums, news sites, etc.  So who better to ask my question to than to fellow bloggers (assuming, of course, that anyone reads this).

At work I have joined a new committee, the employee news blog.  I would link to it, but due to some technical issues, we had to create a new blog and it is currently empty.  At our first meeting, I made a suggestion and also took on the task of writing a regular column interviewing fellow library employees about what they are currently reading.  I think it'll be a fun column to do.  Who doesn't want to know what the librarians are reading?  Plus, I think what a person is reading can give a bit of insight into what kind of a person he or she is, which is one of the focuses of our employee newsletter/blog (and a much better way, in my opinion, to learn about your fellow employees than the boring employee profiles that used to be so common).

Getting to the point of this post: if you were talking to someone about what they were reading, what would you ask?  I need a nice list of questions that I can use one of two ways, either I'll be emailing the questions to people and getting their responses back or I may get a chance to actually sit with someone one-on-one to ask them the questions and have a real conversation.  So the questions should work in either situation.

Also, the type of books people may be reading could vary widely.  Fiction and non-fiction; school related (we have lots of staff and faculty working on additional degrees); professional related (reading something for research purposes, writing a book review, etc.); teaching related (many people teach classes in all sorts of areas); and who knows what else.  In other words, this won't all necessarily be reading for pleasure.  Though, we are talking about library employees, so I imagine there is plenty of pleasure reading being squeezed in whenever possible.

So what would you ask?  What are you curious about when talking to others about what they are reading?  Any suggestions?  I'm all ears, because currently I have no idea what to ask beyond just what someone is reading and why they like it.  I need some ideas to help me focus and think more broadly about this.

Overall, I am looking forward to getting started in this new assignment.  I think it'll be fun!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Progress, Maybe

Back in September I wrote a long post called Seeking Answers in which I shared some of the research and reading I had done on estrogen dominance and the effects on our bodies of estrogen in the environment.  I had meant to do an update on changes I've made sooner than this.  If you haven't read the first post, I recommend it.  It is a little long, but contains some links to some good articles I had found.  It's always worthwhile to educate ourselves.

The changes we've made so far are fairly simple things.  Here's a quick list:
  • At work, I got rid of the plastic cup I kept there and replaced it with a ceramic mug
  • I bought actual silverware to keep at work as well and got rid of the plastic-ware.  I've only accidentally thrown away one fork and one spoon so far.  Good thing I bought a four piece set.
  • I can't switch entirely to organic products, but I have switched to organic yogurt.
  • I have also added a vitamin B6 supplement to my diet.  I bought 100 mcg tablets that my husband cuts in half and I take one half with breakfast, another half at lunch, and my multivitamin at dinner.  From talking to a friend who was also taking a B6 supplement for a related issue, what I am taking is a very small dose, but it's a start.
  • We got rid of quite a bit of our plastic storage containers.  We bought several glass storage containers in different sizes.  We didn't replace everything, but quite a bit of it.  We still have some plastic storage containers, but for the most part we are using the glass.
  • We no longer heat anything up in the microwave in plastic, it all has to be in glass or on a plate or bowl.  This is easier now since we have much more glass storage anyway.
  • Finally, I have stopped buying those mini carrots.  I love the convenience of them, but have opted for regular carrots that require peeling and chopping.  Not sure if this really makes a difference and it wasn't in anything I read, just my own decision.  Based on the principle that whole and real is always better than processed.
In my original post I mentioned that I had an appointment coming up in October that I was referring to as the "Clomid appointment."  Well, I did go to that appointment, though I should have canceled (ah, well, the co-pay isn't that bad).  The nurse and my doctor both noticed that I had lost weight!  At that point I was about 14 pounds down, enough that it was noticable.  And by the time I attended that appointment my cycles were starting to look normal and I had ovulated a couple times.  Definitely an improvement over previous times when I waited months to ovulate even once.  So ultimately we decided that clomid wasn't necessary at this time.  The whole purpose of clomid is to help you ovulate which I'm obviously doing.  So we're giving it a couple more months before we discuss things further.

As for my weight loss.  I'm pretty much holding steady at the 14-15 pounds I lost.  With the holidays approaching, I think I'll be happy to hold that and start again in the New Year.  That is, unless something happens between not and then!

So that's the update and kind of where we are at the moment.  I think the changes I've made are good ones and are all very simple things to do.  There are probably more things I could do and may make some more changes over time.  For now, one thing at a time, small steps.

Friday, November 05, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday, vol. 10

I've been pretty tired this week and feeling a little crappy, so I was going to skip this week's Quick Takes.  And then I got an inspiration.  So here it is!  Hope you enjoy!


Today is my father's birthday!  Happy Birthday, Daddy!!  He has always been special to me and a real role model in my life.  Here are six reasons why.


I am the oldest child of four.  On more than one occasion I remember my mother reminiscing about when I was little, and probably barely walking, when we still lived just outside of Boston, she could look out the window and see me and my daddy taking a walk.  She said I always liked spending time with him and sometimes she would be jealous of that.  (As an aside: I love my mother too, and she got over the jealousy when my sister was born!  That's a story for another time!!)  My point, I always liked that image my mother created in my mind of the bond my father and I had early on.  Obviously I was too young to remember those moments, but I'm grateful for the image I was given of them.


Playing games with my dad!  We weren't much of a board game kind of family.  We did have plenty and did play them on occasion, but I remember playing cards more often then board games.  (Personally, board games get boring for me.)  Daddy taught us to play hearts, gin, gin rummy, cribbage, poker, and many others.  Card games are games you could play and still (generally) have a conversation (at least in my family you could, but then again, we can carry on a conversation no matter what we were doing).  Plus, I think he liked to involve math skills whenever he could (cribbage, anyone?).  And even if you're weren't playing in the game, you could still participate in the conversation or help out a younger sibling who was just learning.  I loved card games in my family!


Speaking of math, I was pretty good at most math skills, though a little slower at quick addition and such than my dad.  But he taught me a neat trick that I have never forgotten and plan on teaching my kids one day as well.  It had to due with multiplying by 11.  It's easy with the one-digit numbers, I think everyone catches on pretty quickly that 11 x 2 is 22 or 11 x 5 is 55, etc.  It was the higher numbers that he taught me about.  For example 11 x 34 is 374.  The trick?  Add the numbers together, put the result in the middle of the original number.  It gets trickier when the two numbers add up to higher than 10, but it can still be done: 11 x 76 is 836, can you see it?  I played around with higher and higher numbers and always was able to figure out the trick.  Is this a useful skill?  Maybe.  I guess it depends on what you do with it.


And speaking of games, my dad used to travel a lot.  When we lived in New York he worked in an international department in IBM (we almost moved to France when I was in first grade!) and traveled a lot.  Even when he was promoted and we moved to Atlanta he still traveled quite a bit.  Plus, when he was in town there was the commute to get to the office near the city and home again.  He would often come home from work with a scrap piece of paper that he had written some license plate message on for us to figure out.  Some are kind of tricky!  It was always fun.  I still look at license plates regularly hoping to spot one that needs some figuring out.  And then there were the games he'd bring home from a business trip, and by games I mean some puzzle or word game from the magazine in the airplane.  They were always kind of interesting things that made you think.


Anyone remember the IBM motto from the 80s (maybe earlier, but my memory doesn't go back that far).  Anyone?  I do.  My father used to tell us it every morning when we left for school.  Think!  That was it, plain and simple: Think.  I don't know why, but I will always remember that.


Finally, I have so much respect for all the service-type things my dad did.  It's something he did that taught us kids tons through nothing but example!  He was involved for several years with the Special Olympics as a volunteer (he ran the gymnastics competition, literally: he had the schedule, told other volunteers where to be, gave out awards, etc.).  He chaperoned band camp, ran the band's biggest fundraiser (a concession stand at the Braves' stadium, which later became a concession stand at the GA Dome), he helped with band and color guard equipment, he sold Christmas trees at church with my brother and the other altar servers, and he did many other things.  As a result I've always felt called to help when given an opportunity.  My heart-strings are easily pulled by those in need and I like serving others.  I've even thought about getting involved in the Special Olympics in my area.  One day, I have a good example to follow!

Happy birthday, Daddy!  I love you!!

Check out Jen Fulwiler's blog Conversion Diary which hosts these weekly Quick Takes.  She has an awesome blog.  And for this week's full round-up of Quick Takes see her post here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

All Soul's Day Mass

This evening we attended the All Soul's Day Mass at our parish.  I have always liked this Mass, it is always so moving, and my parish has always done such a nice job with it.  Tonight was no exception.

The tradition at my parish is to invite the families of all parishioners buried from the parish in the last year to light a candle in their memory.  They read about 5 names or so, the families come forward and during the pause the choir sings a verse of "Jesus, Remember Me."  Then the next 5 or so names are read and so on.  Following the candle ceremony they then offer roses to anyone in the congregation who has lost a loved one.  You can take a rose and then place it in a vase on the steps of the altar.  It makes for a very nice display of roses on the altar for the remainder of Mass.  After Mass, the families are invited to keep the candles they lit.

Last year we attended this Mass as one of those families who had lost a loved one.  Our baby Zachary had died in January 2009 at 22 weeks into my pregnancy.  For All Soul's Day we were invited to be there and to light a candle for him.  It meant so much to me to know that his life was recognized, no matter how short.

This year when we lost Brigit we decided not to do a funeral mass.  Instead we held a burial service only.  As today's feast day approached I knew I wanted to attend this service.  Since we didn't have a funeral I didn't expect that Brigit would be a part of the candle ceremony and we didn't receive an invitation as we did last year (which was no surprise, I wasn't expecting one).  I did intend to place a flower on the altar for her.

During the priest's homily at Mass today he spoke about how Jesus is with us in death and helps us to enter into Heaven.  Something about how he described this brought an imagine into my mind of seeing my babies upon coming into Heaven.  I could see being led in by Jesus Christ and being welcomed first by my three little ones.  I have always known that they would be there and I pray to be able to join with them one day.  But the imagine of being brought to them by Jesus Himself hadn't occured to me.  Such a comforting image!  It brings tears to my eyes.

Following the homily and the Prayers of the Faithful, the candle ceremony started.  The first name they called was Zachary's!  I was completely stunned and just sat there for a moment.  We weren't on the list, and why Zachary?  After a pause, the priest reading the names said, "Please come forward to light a candle when you hear your family's name called."  So we got up.  I probably looked confused walking up there and back.

I do know some of the people in the grievance ministry and happened to meet one of them on Sunday after Mass and we talked a bit about the All Soul's Day Mass.  So sometime between Sunday and today someone obviously decided to add us (without telling us) and they put in Zachary's name.  Once I had a moment to process everything I knew this was a very nice recognition.  I wish it had been Brigit's name that had been read, but that's okay.  I did go ahead and place a rose in one of the vases in her memory, she was remembered by hubby and I and that's what really mattered.  And I came home with another candle, which I will use for Brigit memory every October 15 and on other important anniversaries.

Did you go to a special All Soul's Day Mass?  Did you remember someone special today?