Sunday, December 30, 2012

What I Wore Sunday

by Shannon

"So may the peace of Christ, the very condition of your calling as members of a single body, reign in your hearts. Learn, too, to be grateful."
– Colossians 3:15

Merry Christmas and happy Feast of the Holy Family! Unfortunately, I attended Mass alone this morning. Since Boxing Day, the three of us have been rotating a 24-hour stomach bug, and yesterday was Cruncher's turn. We decided Ryan would stay home with the little guy while I went to Mass this morning. I love going to Mass alone but would have preferred it be under different circumstances. Father had a lovely message today, and here's a snippet: The family is so important that God saw fit to entrust one with His only Son. Pray to recognize the important role parents have in their children's lives, and don't sell yourself short. 

Today, I dressed comfortably. I was rushed this morning, following an exhausting night holding a bucket under a sick boy's chin. BTW, his appetite is back today, so maybe we'll all be healthy again for a few weeks.

Earrings: Target
Sweater: Old Navy
Jacket: Meijer
Watch: Fossil
Skirt: LOFT
Tights: TJ Maxx?
Boots: Sears

I rolled up the sweater's sleeves under the jacket. It looked sloppy with them sticking out. The jacket was a great clearance find on Christmas Eve. It's actually part of a two-piece set, which I will never wear at the same time. I would feel too much like my mother (no offense, Mama!). The skirt is ankle-length, of the same pattern, and I wore it to Midnight Mass with a belted purple sweater and the same boots. P.S. Time to get my ears lowered. Looking poofy.

Mmm ... sweater tights. And super-old boots I bought to wear with my interview suit eons ago.

Two unusual things about this outfit for me: No necklace, and no vintage items. If it weren't for this pleather-lined, gold zipper, I wouldn't have bought this jacket. I liked the contrast between the soft, watercolor fabric and the edgy zipper. Brooches and necklaces would compete too much with the fabric and zipper, so I just stuck with earrings and my usual watch.

Bee or beetle? I think the stripes throw off people, but there's no stinger. They more remind me of the gold scarab beetle that opens the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin (yeah, I had to Google that). Which then makes me think of the scarabs in The Mummy. *Shivers.* Glad I don't have to look at them when they're on my ears. Nightmares. Anyway, I thought bug earrings would look cute with the flowered jacket. 

No lecture this week. Class is adjourned. Oh, and your homework: Visit the other ladies over at Fine Linen and Purple for more femininity and fashion. And a few dudes too. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Sorrowful Christmas

by Ryan

One of the litany of stereotypes against Catholics is that we are joyless and even that we make a funeral out of our religion. Ironically, I just deleted a post trying to defend against these ideas, but it never felt like it came together. Maybe there's a reason for that ... perhaps a topic for another time.

What may strike the (practicing) Catholic as interesting is that tomorrow, the beginning of the Christmas season for us, also coincides with the Sorrowful Mysteries as prayed in the Rosary. These include: The Agony in The Garden, The Scourging at The Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of The Cross, and The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus Christ. These are probably among the last things the average person observing Christmas wants to think about on what has came to be known as a joyous day. Even the likes of Penn Jillette recently chimed in on why Christmas is for everyone, even the non-religious:

"And I don't care if you're talking about Walgreens, if you're talking about sending out Christmas cards or your setting up something on a town square. Why do you want to leave people out? ... Why do that? What's your motive? And trying to turn around a 'we want to leave you out' into 'why are you forcing us to not have our joy' is insanity. It's backwards"
Personally, I agree quite a bit with Jillette, though there are plenty of other non-believers that are not friendly to the season in any capacity. And, sure, there are some believers that would like to draw a line in the snow (what snow?) between their observance and the observance of the non-religious. This observer often thinks that how the average Christian and the average Atheist celebrate Christmas are just about one and the same, in terms of their real reason for celebrating at all — to get some really cool gifts and to spend time with loved ones, with just the slightest reference to religion.

In getting back to the matter at hand: Why would one want to make a season like Christmas the least bit sorrowful? I have no answer for the non-believer in this regard — they have liberty to celebrate the season as they will. But for the Christian, we cannot forget the very serious reason why Jesus "was made flesh, and came to dwell among us" (Jn. 1:14) — to save us from our sins.

The text of the Exsultet, found in the Church's readings for the Easter Vigil, contains a text that sums up the joyful and sorrowful aspects of Christmas perfectly:

"O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!" or "O happy fault, that merited such and so great a redeemer!"
This "happy fault," resulted in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ at conception, continued at His Nativity, or birth, and was fulfilled with His death and resurrection. The Nativity is just one in a chain of events that led to the redemption of mankind. And, indeed it is a happy fault — a paradox, as is true with many things in the Christian religion. The Venerable Fulton Sheen illustrates this beautifully in his Life of Christ, which is worth obtaining a copy to read this passage in it's entirety:
"In the filthiest place in the world, a stable, purity was born ... He, who would call Himself 'the living bread descended from Heaven,' was laid in a manger, literally, a place to eat ... the stable would be the last place in the world where one would have looked for him. ... No worldly mind would ever have suspected that He Who could make the sun warm the earth would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath ... that He, from Whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that were not long enough to touch the huge heads of the cattle ... for God to be homeless at home- that could only mean one thing to the worldly mind: the Babe could not have been God at all. And that is just why it (the world) missed Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it." (pp. 13-14)
My Christian friends, take time to meditate on the paradox of the Christmas season. Find the quietest place, and the quietest time, at the least important hour for your meditation. Take a moment to be cold, hungry and forgotten, even if only in your mind. In short — reflect on the first Christmas, reflect on your Christmas, and discover the meaning of meekness from your God at his most helpless moment in life.

Albrecht Altdorfer- Nativity (1513)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What I Wore Sunday

by Shannon

Prepare yourself for a loooong blog post. If you stick through it, I'm giving a fashion lecture at the close of this post — YAY!

What a busy time of year. I took photos for last week's link-up, but blogging wasn't even close to happening. My busiest weeks of the year are the last week before Christmas and Holy Week. Now that the family Christmas gathering (both sides at my house at one time!) has passed, you'll get a double-dose of WIWS here this week.

For Gaudete Sunday, I did not partake in rose/pink. I have zero rose in my wardrobe, for serious. There are a couple hot pink accessories and a pale pink sweater with moth holes, so I went with black and brown. Why not.

This is my first LBD. Ever. I don't know how I made it nearly 30 years without one. It goes with everything. Everything! 

Dress: Old Navy
Scarf: Vintage
Earrings: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Necklace: gift (Fashion Bug?)
Belt: Kohls, Simply Vera
Watch: Fossil

Without fail, I always get a comment on these earrings when I wear them. That Sunday was no exception.

Huh. There's the TEENY TINEST BIT of rose in that bead near the conjunction of those chains. That's all I've got, people.

I used to fear combining black and brown together, but recently I've gotten over that. Rather, I am very picky about finding the right color tights for these boots. This color is juuuust about right.

These boots are beat. They are not supposed to be slouchy, if that tells you anything. I'm in the market for some new ones after the season starts to close. I've had these for three years, and I've gotten my money out of them. I even wear them one or two times a week in the summer. Stank boot, I know, but they look cute with summer dresses. I want something different this time. I really like these, but they're awfully trendy. Plus, Ryan says they look like shoes a kid with polio braces wore back in the '20s. I'll keep looking.

Tights: Target

Boots: Born, Zappos

This was our visitor last weekend, my kindred spirit Amy! She attended Mass with us. I have to give her a shout-out for being such a fantastic role model for Cruncher. Back story: We were college roommates. We ran in the same circle in high school and ended up at college together (much by my doing). On many Sundays, we'd go to both Mass and the service at the Methodist church. Her father is a minister. Today, she's an educator and often works at the Catholic schools back home. When she attends Mass with us, she follows right along, which really helps cut down on Cruncher's distractions. She's an amazing friend.

You'll notice the pictures of me are better than mine of hers. She's a fantastic photographer. And I'm guessing on her outfit's rundown. She's visiting family for the holidays right now or I'd factcheck.

Dress: Jessica Simpson
Earrings: 1928
Necklace: Vintage
Shirt: Heck if I know
Watch: Fossil
Other wrist: hairband?
Tights: TJ Maxx
Boots: Unsure, but FABULOUS

This was a gift from me. I knew she'd love it because I loved it. And because it's also a brooch.

We loooove 1928 jewelry.

BAM! How fabulous are those?

Here's Cruncher's picture of us together. One day, he'll grow. Or point the lens up.

Well, that concludes last week. I'll try to keep this week short, then onto the lecture.

Now that is some Fashion with a capital F! Mama brought this down yesterday (my family lives two hours away). She found it at Goodwill for $8. She swore to me it was a wool dress, but the back has a slit up to THERE, so it's definitely a coat. Probably a springtime coat, as it is not very heavy. Appears vintage, but the tag looks newer (Beaubois?). I kept it on the entirety of Mass (who wouldn't?), and was very comfortable.

Underneath I wore...

...something no one saw. The purple wool skirt, again. Last Sunday of Advent, so why not.

Earrings: gift

Sweater: hand-me-down (Style&Co, Macy's)
Skirt: Consigned, H&M
Brooch: my grandmother's
Tights: Target
Shoes: Calvin Klein, TJ Maxx

Next week, the WIWS photos will no longer feature our lovely Advent Jesse Tree. The rest of the Christmas decorations go up tomorrow! Sorry about the mess of opened gifts in the background. Tradition is to leave them out on display with the tree through Epiphany. We'll need to make room for Christmas morning's gifts but — ahem — someone needs to wrap them first.

The earrings were a Christmas gift from my parents my first year out of college. I didn't wear them for the longest time, because they're diamonds, but I've worn them a ton since I got my hair cut. I decided it's best to enjoy something lovely than to just let it sit and get dusty.

Last Christmas, my sister gave me a bunch of my grandmother's old jewelry. I usually wear gold jewelry, but I felt like this one gave a Christmasy sparkle to my sweater. I always pin this sweater with a brooch, for modesty and fashion's sake.

Holla if the toes of your nicest shoes are busted from kneeling at Mass?

I bought these shoes for a friend's wedding last winter. I feel like they look a little bit ... witchy. But they're classic and go with a lot of my church outfits.

And here's the lecture. My baby sister was among those visiting this weekend. As we were getting ready for Mass this morning, she asked me how I came to find my personal style. She's been struggling with her style since a.) she had a baby, and b.) she matured. In high school and partly into college, she was kinda punky. She's changed (as many of us do), but she's a wife and a mom and a library assistant at a middle school. These things don't often push you to up your fashion game.

I told her (more reminded her) of a few things. I think a woman often needs to have a style revelation before discovering (or searching for) her personal style. Mine came when Cruncher was about 2. I had stopped breast feeding him probably six months prior, and I was at my biggest dress size ever. I had a sick day, home all by myself (give it up for sick days for moms!). So what I did I do? I was a bum in front of the TV, watching a marathon of What Not to Wear. It was then I realized I needed to throw out most of my clothes. For serious. I realized I was too intimidated by being trendy, so I had given up.

Watching What Not to Wear that day made me realize they had been dressing women the same way for years. It's the same clothes over and over and over again. But what they also were consistently doing was dressing the BODY FIRST, and then the personality second. I started looking at clothes for cut and silhouette, not fabric and color. I'm drawn mostly to paisley, plaid and stripes, but not every paisley, plaid or striped piece of clothing is going to look good on me.

I very (VERY) slowly started to build up my wardrobe, trying on tons of items I never would have looked at twice before. Finally, my clothes fit my body shape and height, and then I added in accessories. For accessories, I buy quality (usually vintage) pieces I love and trendy pieces on deep clearance.

I hope the What I Wore Sunday link-up is helping women to see that confidence and femininity are crucial for contentment.

Rant over. I might talk on this some more another week.

Please visit the other ladies over at Fine Linen and Purple

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I Wore Sunday

by Shannon

I had to get in on the liturgical-color action this week. Actually, wearing purple was completely unintentional. After I was dressed and picking out accessories, I looked in the mirror and thought, "Oh! Perfect." 

What was completely intentional, however, was wearing tights. I. Love. Tights. They're like a security blanket for me. I know a lot of women can't stand to wear hose or tights. I guess it comes from years of ballet lessons. I would change into tights and a leotard after school to wear under my clothes until I got to dance class. It just feels ... familiar. Plus, in case you haven't noticed, my skin is pink. I prefer to cover my legs, if at all possible. I would wear tights year-round if I could. I love dark, textured tights like this pair. This is probably my third pair of cable-knit gray tights. Despite lots of practice with tights, I still get runs in them more than I would like.

I also wore boots again this week, due to the nasty rain. This pair is pretty busted and could use a shining. I'm horrible at walking in heels unless the shoes are securely strapped to my feet, so heeled boots fit the bill. I love how these boots have a mod feel with tights and this skirt.

I remembered detail shots of the accessories this week. I used to have long, hugely curly hair. I gradually started cutting it off last year. I don't think people knew I had ears until I cut off all that hair. Now that my ears are clearly visible, I always wear earrings. I prefer studs to dangles when my hair is short, and I have lots of novelty earrings like these butterflies. No story for the necklace except that it's chunky, and I like it.

I forgot my vintage blazer and brooch, which I took off when I came in the door. 

Paisley top: Target
Wool skirt: Consigned, H&M
Gray tights: Target
Black boots: Sears
Butterfly earrings: Target
Chunky necklace: Target
Watch: Fossil

Please visit the ladies over at Fine Linen and Purple to check out everyone's Sabbath attire!

I forgot my husband this week! This is his "What I Wore Sunday While Watching Football After Mass" part of the post, displaying the sword portion of Sword and Stein. He's totally stoked for The Hobbit this weekend. He is also displaying the Cincinnati Bengals on the front of that sweatshirt, which you can't see. Good thing. I hear (though I try to close my ears to it) that they're 7-7. It's a tight one this year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Wore Sunday

by Shannon

Actually, it's what we wore on Sunday. Ryan and Cruncher wanted in on the action, as today was the first Sunday of Advent, and they both wore purple (yes, on purpose). Here are the gentlemen:

We didn't take the picture fast enough for Cruncher, who put on his slippers as soon as we walked in the door.

Suit: Macys (Actually two different ones. The vest and pants are from last year's Christmas suit, and the shirt and tie are from this Easter's suit. Cruncher put it together this morning. I didn't know a 5-year-old boy could care so much about how he looks.)
Slippers: Target

Shirt: Macys
Tie: Macys
Pants: Gap
Shoes: Target

I usually only allow myself to wear pants to Mass if I have a "good" reason (i.e. feeling icky, status of the laundry, etc.). Today's excuse: I shopped for Advent and Christmas supplies and gifts from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. yesterday, and boy are my dogs tired! Any of the shoes I thought I could wear without pain this morning were the ugly kind that needed pants to cover them up. So, I wore this:

Earrings: Victoria Townsend, Macys
Gold sweater: Old Navy
Wool houndstooth sweater: vintage
Bow brooch: vintage
Watch: Fossil
Pants: Old Navy
Boots: Target

It's my first week, so I forgot to take detail shots. I'll get closer crops on accessories next time.

Funny thing is, I found myself less comfortable in these pants than I am in a skirt and tights. I shoulda just worn the clunky boots with a skirt and called it a day. Wouldn't be the first time.

Oh, and here's a picture Cruncher took of us together. Looks like we need to let him practice before the family get-togethers this month.

Please join the lovely ladies at Fine Linen and Purple to check out what other people wore today!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Death in Judgment

by Ryan

"Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends..." 
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

These words, among my favorite in the Lord of the Rings series, stand as a lesson on mercy and grace for the Christian. We should have mercy for the creature Gollum, who may deserve death, but we must also trust in grace. Grace can produce fruit out of the most hopeless of situations; this story provides a perfect example. Unfortunately, for every Abby Johnson there seems also to be a George Tiller — some human being who performs acts that are, in the understatement of understatements, utterly disgusting. Surely, if anyone is in Hell, it is men like Tiller the Killer (as he was often called) who is now paying for his crimes against life. Does that conclusion make you happy? Are you glad that Tiller the Killer can kill no more? I am glad that he can kill no more, too, but I am none the happier that he is part of the body count.

What if the story had a different ending? What if "Tiller the Killer" had a "Damascus road" moment and repented of his past life? What if George Tiller became the biggest advocate against the abortion industry, and became its biggest enemy? What if his book had a 4 1/2 star rating on We will never know; the man who cut so many lives so violently short had his life cut violently short.

So, most of my loyal readers (I know you're out there, mom!) would never go so far as to kill someone who is doing evil — we cannot use evil means, such as murder, to reach good ends, such as a reduced number of abortions. Still, we would do well to mind the tone we take in the numerous "social network" debates that we have with "Osiris Nostradamus Darko" or whichever bogus name the secularist we are arguing with this week happens to use. While we aren't killing these people with a weapon, we cannot calculate how much damage we are doing to the soul of a person by using the same sarcastic tone and cutting insults that even they might be using. We have to be mindful that the mission of Christ is one of mercy, and not condemnation, when having these conversations.

As always, scripture provides us with good company in our errors. This week, we have the always "encouraging" example of the apostles; pre-Pentecost, of course. In Luke 9, the apostles have just been given the authority over demons and disease, which they put to good use immediately. Yet, in no time, the apostles come across a particularly difficult case of a boy with a demon (Lk. 9:37-43). The response of Jesus, who heals the boy, is telling:
"O faithless and peverse generation, how long will I be with you and endure you?" (Lk. 9:41)
It seems that a lack of faith was a culprit in the failure of the apostles. Surely, the same would apply to the apostles when proclaiming condemnation, right? Later in the same chapter, Jesus and his apostles are passing through a Samaritan town that does not welcome him favorably. Instead of the customary "dusting off the sandals," James and John have another idea:
"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" (Lk. 9:54)
Are we so different from the apostles in this story? Don't we too often have the faith to condemn, but not the faith to heal? Are we so obsessed with winning arguments that we forget about winning souls? It would seem to be no coincidence that the story of the Good Samaritan, who saves the man near death,  even when a priest and Levite will not, is located in the next chapter. In Scott Hahn's commentary on the story, he points out the lesson of St. Augustine, who compares the man "near death" to Adam (or fallen man) and the Good Samaritan as none other than Jesus, who comes to save the man near death. Christ brings him to the inn — the Church — where he continues his healing, even after Christ departs. Perhaps Augustine would permit us to be fellow lodgers at the inn, caring for our brother on his road to recovery. After all, Jesus has provided the denarii — the grace — to provide for all of his needs.

"Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Is Fall Finally Here?!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Fair-ly Busy Weekend (Bah-dum-chhh...)

by Shannon

That post title was Ryan's pun. I can't (and won't) take credit for it.

Saturday, we ventured out to our favorite coffee spot, an outdoor flea market, a famers market, a local eatery for lunch and a town fair near Cruncher's new school. Pictures ensue (click pictures to enlarge):

Screwing on his head good and tight. He needs it after two weeks of school.
Silly boy. You can see his loose tooth in all it's glory.
Look at those cheeks! 
Beautiful day.

The ferris wheel ride runs about half a cigarette long. 
I was a nervous wreck...
...and I don't think I was the only one.
I'm getting visions of 10 years from now. Eek.
Cruncher rides The Prayin' Gator. "Lord, let these children walk away from me alive!"