NAS: What Brings You Peace

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Hello, ladies! Thanks for visiting today! We’re talking about peace. In your single life, what brings you peace? Hobbies, reading, crafts, something else?

One of the wisest things a dear friend said to me  about relationships is “You’ll know when there’s peace.” Wiser words have rarely been spoken to me. Thinking about previous experiences, an unrequited crush with a friendboy left me anxious and irrational. And as comfortable as previous short-term relationships in my early twenties had me feeling, the overall feeling after they ended was not peace. ID didn’t really experience true peace in relationships until I started dating my now-husband PJ. I hate that expression that “you’ll just know,” but seriously, I didn’t know what real was until I experienced it firsthand. But what about peace when you’re single? That…was a bit harder.

I kept busy–writing, reading, working, spending time with friends and family–but was a calendar full of stuff to do really engendering peace? I wasn’t content with my singlehood, and poor online dating results at time left me a minor inner emotional wreck. While those favorite activities did help me feel better, and on some level content (“I don’t need a man when I have____!), I couldn’t let them become the sole source of my happiness. I needed to feel peace with myself in the moments when I was alone, with nothing to do. The times I did experience calm, tranquility, and freedom from worry was when I truly believed in the following words from the Mass:

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What a perfect prayer! It’s asking God to take all our worries on himself, as well as making the wait something happy to anticipate. And calling upon that, as difficult as it was in some periods, was probably the greatest thing that brought me peace.

Now that I’m married, I have peace with myself, with our relationship, and with my call. But like faith and trust, peace, I believe, can have a certain fluidity to it. I sometimes feel anxious about possible (hopefully!) motherhood, my work as a writer, and the capacity to deal with what life throws at us next. I’ve lost the strong embrace of the quote above, and I’m working on bringing it back. So some of the things I’m doing now, while they’re not achieving peace 100%, they are bringing me to a state where I can calm down and reflect on things–a state where I can find myself and be content. Some activities are still reading, writing–blogging more so, I have to be real, starting to exercise more, and gosh, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, coloring.

Yes, I have jumped on the coloring bandwagon. Though when I was a bookseller we met the crazed coloring book seekers with bafflement, I found a free one in some craft stuff at work and a boss bought me pencils as a thank you. And, well, I get it. I get what people take from sitting down and shading in a pretty picture. I get why my friend has piles of those kids’ character coloring books from the drugstore way before the trend ever became cool. Here’s one image I did. All we need now are some Catholic themed ones. Artists, any takers?

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Oh, and peace be with you.

Next week, head to Beth Anne‘s to talk about…you! She’ll have a survey for all the NAS ladies so we can get to know each other!

An Open Book: Reviews! Comedienne Edition

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Author Carolyn Astfalk is reviving a book review link-up starting next week! I’m going to get the ball rolling now and offer some reviews.

To entertain myself on the longish commute to and from my new job, I got into audiobooks. Preferring something light and not cliffhanger-y, I started with the well-reviewed memoirs of some funny ladies. I greatly enjoy these comediennes in their television work, so I was excited to hear what else they had to say. Although, note I am only about 70% through Yes Please.

The easiest way to review them is to first rank them:

  1. Yes Please
  2. Why Not Me?
  3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
  4. Bossypants

Yes Please is my top favorite so far–it blends humor, Amy Poehler’s life story, and great messages about writing, work ethic, and life in general. I was practically cheering aloud in my car with her words on women and how sometimes we can eat each other alive. Her mantra–“Good fr you, not for me.” And whenever I have children, her hilarious essay outlining her birth plan will be typed up, printed out, and handed over to anyone who any ask annoying questions.

Mindy Kaling’s two books were very close in my estimation. Why Not Me?, her later book takes the edge based on just a few essays standing out more so than in her first book. The highlight of all her writing was her essay on relationships, magazine advice columns, and her desire for the type of love I think we all search for–viewing romance, commitment, and children as good things, is a sentiment I can get behind. Also, her commentary on body image and how the media perceives women is great.

Now, just because I ranked Tina Fey’s book lowest does not mean I did not enjoy it. Quite far form it–it was amusing, and I loved how the audiobook format allowed me to hear some of her infamous sketches from Saturday Night Live.  My biggest critique is that sometimes Fey dropped her voice to a whispering mumble, so I missed the punch line. And one of the CDs was so cruddy, I had to skip an entire section. Perhaps reading the actual book may give me more reasons to appreciate it, but I’m not sure it convinced it would change the ranking. Most of her book followed the story of her life and career, with some good insights, but not as good as connection between her story and greater takeaways for life for the reader/listener.

While I’m sure I would enjoy these books reading them, I do admit some bias toward a favorable review because I got to listen to the authors read their own words aloud. Given that they are performers by trade, their inflections, inclusion of bits from their shows, and special appearances by their also-funny friends and colleagues, the experience of the book was heightened. I definitely recommend audiobooks–available for free at your local library, often least requested than actual print or e-books!

*Catholic codicil: The ladies above are witty, but hold positions contrary to Catholic teaching. Some individual lines and an essay in Poehler’s book made me squirmy, but on the whole, these memoirs capture the fun of life, the merits of hard work, and a appreciation and love for their children.

Also, don’t forget that on Tuesday, March 1, I’ll be hosting the Not Alone Series. We’re looking at Peace–What brings you peace in your single life? (hobbies, reading, crafting, etc.).

And, one more thing! It’s my birthday next month, and I want to give the presents! This week I am running a Goodreads giveaway of five signed copies of my novel for teens Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean. And the only thank you I’d need would be a review! Please click on the link below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean by Britt Leigh

Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean

by Britt Leigh

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

NAS: Reading List Recommendations

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We all enjoy new reading material and this year a reading goal just may be on your list of goals.  What book genre(s)do you like the most?  Do you borrow books from your local library, purchase them for current and future reading, or do you read e-books?  What are some books that you loved reading and that you would recommend? 

Linking up with Lindsay! Say hi to Rachel! And be sure to tune in next week HERE for the link-up!

I love this topic! As a former book editorial assistant, bookseller, and now a library assistant, books and reading are my favorite!

Fave Genres: YA/Teen, Middle Grade (think ages 9-12), really special picture books, and now quality nonfiction–the kind that takes an interesting topic and adds some pathos and bathos

Fave Places to Get: The library. It’s just so easy to wander around before my shift and grab what’s interesting. Or snatch a cool-looking return for myself. While I love a good bookstore as any good reader does, I much prefer the FREE! and nearly immediate access to what I want to read (maybe some “bestsellers” or brand new stuff isn’t so quick), as well as the ability to uncover older gems. Barnes and Noble can be great with their discounts, coffee, and breadth of new stuff, but their backlist, especially in nonfiction, can be very thin.

Fave Places for Recommendations: Friends, Hypable, Buzzfeed.com’s books e-newsletter, articles about the general topic that mention a book (how I found out about Always Hungry — see below). I do need to get more into Goodreads, especially seeing as I have a GIVEAWAY listed! See the end of this post for deets!

Fave Way to Read and “Read”: When it comes to physical book or e-book, I take the hard copy every time. Even though I’ve now got f.lux on my computer and Twilight on my phone, I’m still on the devices too much to also want to read for hours at a time on them. Something about the feel of the weight of the book, the drama of the page turn, the fact that I will never need technical support, well books can’t be beat. And now that I’m driving and not on public transit, and flying is my “magazine” time, it’s not like I’d use an e-reader  enough. Speaking of driving, a new library job has me on the road for 66 minutes four times a week, so I’ve gotten really into audiobooks. They’re my new favorite way to “read.”

Once my mom and I went to a major city 3.5 hours away for some major shopping, so I picked out a James Patterson novel for us to listen to. Fiction can be really hard for the driver, especially if it’s suspenseful. Plus, short drives with long chapters would be frustrating! I’d be late heading into work because I wouldn’t want to kill the ignition mid-sentence–or drain the battery by hearing it out! So I really like nonfiction for my drives.

Fave Listens: I went on a comedienne kick first. Reviews coming tomorrow!

Fave To-Read: 

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Billed as “Friday Night Lights” meets “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” this mash-up is one I can’t miss.

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Why, yes I am! I think it has to do with my legit sugar addiction. And not so much about dieting or weight loss but getting my pants to fit again.

Like to read teen books? Want one for FREE? Enter my Goodreads giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean by Britt Leigh

Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean

by Britt Leigh

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

What We’re Reading Wednesday

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Check out this book!

A brand new series from debut author, Lisa Mayer, The Aletheian Journeys is a wonderful contemporary Christian allegory in the style of The Chronicles of Narnia. The first novel, The Arrow Bringer, is an exciting adventure that blends fantasy and faith.

Evangeline, Evie to her family, is your typical high school girl…until she receives a terrible burden, revealed in the powerfully emotional opening chapter. She’s probably going to die. Soon after the awful prognosis, she enters into the world of her childhood dreams–but this world, Aletheia, is real. And what’s more–it’s hers. She’s pulled into her birthland facing its own crisis moment: her father, the king, wants to destroy the arrow, which the Arrow Bringer has given them for its protection. The Arrow Bringer is calling Evie to come to Aletheia to save it–she’s their hope. But to do so, Evie will have to leave her earthly family immediately, instead of spending her last precious months with them. Her choice and the subsequent choices she later makes leave the fate of Aletheia and her conscience in her hands.

The fast-paced, ever-changing plot is more than just a well-described, action-packed fantasy with dramatic stakes–it’s a meaningful allegory that deftly presents themes of honor, forgiveness, and sacrifice. Many scenes are inspired and informed by passages in the Scriptures. The renderings fit naturally within the narrative–it’s Evie’s story and journey all the way, but with special significance. As Joseph Pearce writes in his recent post on The Fellowship of the King: “magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it.” And The Arrow Bringer is full of magic, meaning, and well drawn, admirable but real characters to bring the meaning to life. Fans of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein will enjoy this book.

Click on the link with the cover to learn more about the book, the author, and how to purchase your own copy.

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Lisa is a fellow member of the Catholic Books for Teens Facebook group and kindly sent me a complimentary copy for a review. As you see form above, I was very happy to promote such a worthy book!

NAS: Spiritual Motherhood

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Most of us single ladies aren’t mothers here on Earth, but that doesn’t mean we’re not mothers at all. Christianity has a long tradition of “parents” who become our leaders, protectors, guides, and counselors by spiritual means instead of physical. Do you have spiritual children? Godchildren, adults you sponsored through the RCIA, your close friends’ kids, or students? How do you build relationships with them as a mother? Have you ever spiritually adopted an unborn baby in danger of abortion, or a priest? Are all women called to be mothers?

Linking up with Lindsay, our host, and Rachel!

When I was single, for a long time, I never seriously thought about motherhood–literal or spiritual–except for the idea, that one day, when married, I would happily become one. Late in my twenties I first heard of the concept of “spiritual motherhood.” I immediately took to the beauty of the concept as set forth in the theology of the body.

Women are designed by God as bearers of new life and as receivers. New life can look like nurturing spiritual children. I think of Dorothy Cummings MacLean of the Seraphic Singles blog of yester-Internet and Cindy at The Veil of Chastity whose wisdom and spiritual counsel have guided and inspired young women along the faith journey for years. I don’t know about the rest of their readers, but I certainly feel “new” after their particular form of mothering. We are also receivers–called to be open to life–we are given the gift of persons, and not necessarily children within marriage. In the Gopsels, the children and little ones Jesus speaks of and to are not just literal young ones, but also spiritually young, and we need to follow His example and “adopt” them.

Called to be a godmother to my nephew, I have been entrusted with his spiritual care. Though sometimes it’s difficult at times to “mother” him and his sisters in the faith to the degree I would like, I take my responsibility seriously, praying for him and the other “children” God sends my way and living my life as a witness to Christ, His Church, and His teachings. In some way, I also feel like a spiritual mother when it comes to my writing. For when I write, I think of the girls and boys, and young women and men, who will read my work, and how this book can nurture them, help them understand God’s authentic love, and grow in faith.

But until the prompt, I’d never considered becoming a spiritual mother to babies the world has lost. That act is so beautiful and wonderful, and something the Lord could be calling me (and you!) to. For yes, I believe all women are called to be what we already are: mothers. We are fashioned after Eve, mother of the living, fashioned after Mary, mother of the Church and model for every woman. Though sometimes it’s hard to sense our role and how, in our particular lives as God calls us, as “mother,” I believe it is a wonderful vocation that I pray I can tap into more.

NAS: Finances

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Linking up with Lindsay and Rachel and the rest!

Money and budgeting seems to be at the top of many New Year’s plans. Finances can add stress to a relationship, but it’s obviously preferable that we know how to manage our finances before we are married, as well as have some sort of idea of how we want to share finances once we are married. What are some of your recommendations for planning your finances and budgeting your money now so that it will be less stressful down the road? Do you hope to share accounts with your spouse or have a yours/mine/ours system? How have you seen other couples manage their finances in a way that works well?

While money isn’t everything, it is certainly important to know how it works, how to manage it, how to save it, how to spend it (yes, that too), and how to share it. When I was single, I admit to not knowing much except, yes, contribute as much as I could afford to my employer’s 401K, save for a rainy day, and spend wisely and always within my means. I never drew up a budget, followed a program, or went beyond my comfort zone. But I did keep an eye on my ins and outs and never overdrafted my checking or carried a balance on a credit card. I do regret not learning more about advanced savings (investments beyond safe work programs or IRAs), but feel that the following fiscal habits helped me to now share finances with my husband, an experience nothing before would ever truly prepare you 100% for. Lots of financial advice centers around specific philosophies or advocates certain principles that you may not feel are appropriate for you, and you will want to keep doing it in a way that’s comfortable for you. And my biggest takeaway for this post is THAT’S OKAY.

Some Basic Rules

I’m sure you’re all going to hear about keeping a budget or never carrying a balance on a credit card or never paying full price. So here’s a couple general rules I always followed that I think get lost in financial advice columns.

  • “Pay yourself first.” This advice from Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, is the biggest thing I remember from AP Econ (it was the summer reading). Essentially, this principle asks you to put money into the bank–savings, your retirement. Even if it’s only a little, or not the same amount each paycheck, the habit fosters an awareness to sock away what you can for the future. If you absolutely cannot, this principle could demonstrate changes you might make over a period of time–seeking better compensation, lower rent, investigating why credit card bills got so high, etc. Now that I’m married, and viewing what our aging parents and grandparents are experiencing, I’m personally finding it more and more important to have savings, especially for retirement. Also, as jobs change or your family changes and if someone’s at home with the kids, a nest egg built in your twenties will help so much more. Compound interest is a beautiful thing.
  • Trust yourself. What this means is getting to a place where you can make financial decisions, like using a credit card for air miles, without worrying about “mistakes.” Advisers like to tell young people not to do certain things because they presume we all lack self-control. If you are in a solid place and have made good decisions, you can ignore some of the “nos” you might read about–not everyone needs to link all their bills and accounts online to a budgeting software if they can follow their accounts without remembering yet another password; or to be told not to use a credit to pay for things (to earn rewards) if they’re responsible enough to pay it off every month.  But if you feel like you just know it might go sour, or you can’t adapt a habit if later circumstances change, then get to a place where you can trust yourself. In marriage, confidence and trust in money management skills are central to sharing funds.

Flexibility

Sometimes you can’t stick to hard and fast rules, the program or budgeting software you got in college, or even your own ingrained habits. Life changes. Circumstances change. It’s incredibly important to learn how to adapt, as well as give in on some of your own rules–even as something as small as “never full price”–because it is better in the long run. Plus, when you marry, flexibility is key.

As my husband and I discuss finances, we keep in mind that whatever we decide together now is the “right now plan,” and doesn’t necessarily have to be the forever plan. When two people are figuring out the rest of their lives and spending them together, differences will arise. You should definitely discern the ones that you know you could not overcome, including with money management. But with flexibility, some differences, even money management skills, can be worked around. My husband and I have the important similarities, but we also realized we have two different mindsets about a particular fiscal move. The rationale for both ideas were explored, boundaries discussed, and in the end we’re going with a particular accounting plan, but with the caveat it could always be changed in the future.

Flexibility does not mean fluidity, though. If one of us is seeking a change, it should be discussed and agreed upon. Too much yo-yo-ing within plans and habits is not good when dealing with something as serious as money. It pays for the roof over our heads, the food we eat, our medical care. We’re not going to treat it cavalierly.

Balance

The above word is the watchword of our marriage, in so many respects, but especially with finances. Both of us carried similar attitudes from our single years into our relationship. While we don’t treat money loosely, we also don’t hoard it. We save, but we also treat each other. I shop at certain stores for somethings, and Savers for others. Even our nontraditional accounting plan is not heavily skewed to one way of working. Rather, we have it set up so it levels out in both our favors.

A healthy attitude toward money is one that appreciates its value and role in the world and people’s lives, but doesn’t make a god of it–either through accumulating to spend out of greed or accumulating to save out of fear. Be a good steward of your money now, seek it out as the chocolate chunks in the ice cream of goodness that is your hopeful beloved, and however you decide to manage money will be what is best for you.

 

7QTF: Status Update

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Linking up with Kelly and the gang!

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I did the thing. I wrote two novels at least 50,ooo words each, in the month of November. And I did it. Two novels, The Graced, and The Dream Maker, poured out of me. And now they await some serious editing. But they’re there. And done. I’m so very tired. Happy, but exhausted.

[2]

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These are the Christmas bins that lined the living room Sunday afternoon as we rooted around for the Advent wreath. Of course, it was in the last bin we pulled out of the basement. And below is a sampling of what I got done Wednesday, my first day I had not full-time writing or Christmas shopping.

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[3]

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Above is the Christmas box of shame. Not pictured is the cannister of candied popcorn and box of brandy beans I hope someone in Boston is getting me ahead of our excursion there next week. Fun fact: Connecticut Trader Joe’s stores cannot carry their infamous two buck chuck, nor any other alcohol products, save beer. So far we’re done a half of the mint stars and a quarter the dark chocolate stars.

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Oh yes, the Christmas shopping. The list has doubled since my single days, what with a whole other family to buy for. And I love buying presents for loved ones; just get easily frustrated when I can’t think of what to get them. So far, we’ve tackled a fair bit, and I think the best was getting lost in the Target baby aisles for our newest nephew, just three months old. He’s giggling now, and baby giggles are the best giggles.

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That reminds me: I don’t mind sharing (if any of you were curious), that current status is not pregnant. Auntie Seraphic/Edinburgh Housewife has a points game for single girls at the holidays. I’d like to create a married-no-pregnancy-or-kids (MNPOK) points game, creating a tally for every time I get asked about our family planning. Any takers on how high we get by January 3? But so far, a total of 0 since the wedding, including Thanksgiving! So that was nice.

If the above seems weird, I humbly refer you to this post in the “Just Don’t Say It” series by Amanda at Worthy of Agape.

[6]

Did you all check out my Verily article? My freelancing got stalled thanks to NaNoWriMo, but in the coming weeks, I hope to put out feelers for trying to get more pieces–especially pieces that pay. But mostly that looks like brainstorming topics I could reasonably write about to sustain a regular gig I’m considering.

[7]

A couple weeks ago, I had an interview for another part-time job. Did not get it, but I was one of the finalists. I’m all right with that, as just yesterday, I found a listing for another one that pays more per hour! Wish me luck!