March is here! I love March for several reasons. First of all, it means we are closer to Spring! The 65 degree day we had last weekend was glorious! I was able to get outside and get some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise, all of which were much needed. Of course the flurries have returned, but such is “Sprinter” in Buffalo! March is also the month we observe the feast of Saint Patrick, and with Irish roots, it is always a fun month of celebrating. March also marks the start of Lent, with Ash Wednesday on March 2. Lent is a beautiful time of prayer, fasting, and giving to others, a time to dive deeper into our relationship with the Lord. Part of that deep dive for me is spending this year getting to know the Saints. I spent the month of February getting to know Saint Maria Goretti, and I’m excited to share her life and example with you today.
For a short month, February has felt awfully long. Of course, January felt long too so perhaps it’s a winter thing. There has been much going on personally and professionally for me, and I was grateful for the long holiday weekend to rest and recharge. I’ve been reading some spiritual books and trying my best to pick up some read-for-fun books. But I’ve once again found myself in the dreaded reading slump that tends to come around this time of year. To be honest, February seems to bring an all-around slump for me, likely due to the continuing cold and dark days. But we’ve been experiencing warmer temps here and there, and the abundant sunshine we’ve seen in recent days gives me hope that spring will arrive soon!
Spiritually, a new liturgical time period is right around the corner, with Lent arriving next week. I’m excited for Ash Wednesday and the chance to grow closer to the Lord during the coming weeks as we prepare to remember our Lord’s sacrifice and celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter. I will continue my journey with the Blessed Mother and the Saints during Lent, and I hope you’ll check back in to share the journey with me. For February, I will be sharing about the Blessed Mother under the title Queen of Angels. What is Mary’s association with angels? Why do we call her Queen?
I decided to start my year of journeying with the Saints with Saint Francis of Assisi. When I started studying Catholicism in 2018, references to St. Francis came up often. As a dog mom and an animal lover, I was intrigued by his connection to animals. I had heard stories of him communicating with animals and being connected to God through nature. Many Catholic parishes hold an annual pet blessing in October in honor of St. Francis’s feast day. I was so thankful to bring my sweet dog, Wylie, to receive a pet blessing in October 2019, just before he died. Utilizing resources like Formed (basically Catholic Netflix!) and a book that came highly recommended, The Journey and the Dream, I spent January getting to know Saint Francis better, and I’m excited to share him with all of you.
January always feels like an extra long month to me. Maybe it’s because the holidays seem to rush by in a blur. Then once things slow down, they seem to really slow down. January in Western New York has been cold and snowy, with winter finally arriving. But sub-zero temperatures have never stopped anyone in Buffalo from enjoying life.
I’ve been enjoying my 2022 adventures with the Saints and the Blessed Mother and visited my first church of the year dedicated to the Blessed Mother. For January, I’ll be sharing about the Blessed Mother under the title Our Mother of Perpetual Help, also called Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Before I get into specific titles, I’d like to address the two most common references to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ. When Catholics refer to Mary, we typically call her either the Blessed Mother or Our Lady. But why do we do that? Why not just call her Mary?
To say that this post is overdue is quite an understatement. So many times I meant to sit down and type out an update on my 2021 reading goals and progress, to mention new books I’d read, to share my spiritual journey. But life got busy and I began opting for self-care like naps, workouts, and attending daily Mass instead of blogging. I did share many of my adventures from 2021 on my social media pages, so if we’re connected there you’re in the loop on what I’ve been up to. My biggest accomplishments of 2021 were meeting my goals of reading the entire Bible and still accomplishing my Goodreads goal for the year! That’s a whole lotta reading, and I’m so thankful I was able to complete both goals.
After a couple of years considering joining Book of the Month, I finally did it! I was so excited to get my first blue box. Picking my first book was not easy, but when I read about a new book that is a reimagining of Jane Eyre, I couldn’t say no.
When I heard the title The Wife Upstairs, it definitely reminded me of Jane Eyre and for good reason. The Wife Upstairs is a contemporary reimagining of Jane Eyre set in the American south, Birmingham, Alabama to be specific. I’ve always loved Jane Eyre. I read it once in my twenties at my mom’s insistence that it was an amazing book (she was right!). Then I read it a couple more times in college while studying women in literature and English literature. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite protagonists. In a time when women, especially young ladies, were expected to be silent and compliant, she was vocal, independent, and brave. Realizing that The Wife Upstairs drew inspiration from this classic and personal favorite, I couldn’t wait to start reading.
It’s hard to believe it’s March already! The first couple of months of 2021 turned out to be…shall we say…challenging? Of course I realized that things weren’t going to change drastically overnight with the turning of the calendar page, but I had high hopes for some return to normalcy. I do think we’re getting there. It just takes time. I’m going to cling to my optimism throughout the year and allow my faith to give me hope. And the year hasn’t started off all bad. I had two new books just release from Capstone Press! It’s always exciting to see a completed project in print!
I’m also happy to share that I’m sticking to my reading goals for this year. I’m current on episodes of the Bible in a Year podcast which means I’ve already read all of Genesis and Job, Exodus and Leviticus, parts of Proverbs and Psalms, and am currently reading Numbers and Deuteronomy. I have learned so much, and I can’t recommend this podcast enough! I’ve also read a cozy mystery, which was unfortunately a miss for me, a nonfiction book written by visionary Mirjana Soldo about her apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Medjugorje, and I just finished a terrific memoir by actress Maureen O’Hara about her life and career during the Golden Days of Hollywood. It proved to be funny and entertaining. I love her feistiness and her spirit!
In addition, I’ve been reading a lot of picture books for work, and today I’ll be reviewing a new picture book that I think needs to be read in every home and classroom in America. It’s called We Disagree by Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Truthfully, I’d love to see this book in the hands of several adults I know as well!
Well, 2020 is finally winding down. What a crazy year it’s been! Around this time last year, most of us were setting goals and resolutions and looking forward to what 2020 might bring. I don’t think any of us would have ever imagined the year that lay ahead. I had high hopes for 2020, and now looking back, I realize that while it was a difficult year, it was also a beautiful year for me personally.
2020 is the year I found my faith and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, I maintained a healthy workout routine all year, not just for the first month or two, and that’s even with the closing of gyms during quarantine. My hubby and I welcomed two new fur babies into our home this year. The Buffalo Bills won their division for the first time in 25 years! And, to top it all off, I needed an unexpected surgery this fall (hence my long break from the blog), and as shocking as it was to need the surgery, it ended up bringing incredible healing to my body. I’m now living pain-free! So while it’s easy to look back on 2020 with contempt and dismiss it as “the worst year ever,” I’m trying my hardest to find the joy amid the sorrow.
Since converting to the Catholic faith, I’ve found myself splitting my reading time between entertainment and faith-based books. I find it’s a good balance between growing in my faith but also allowing myself time to relax and indulge in my favorite pastime. Lately I can’t seem to get enough apologetics! Catholic Answers and Dynamic Catholic are at the top of my list. I do have some fiction reads coming soon, including another new picture book. But today, I’d like to talk about a new faith-based favorite of mine, a book I think everyone should read: Why We’re Catholic, Our reasons for faith, hope, and love by Trent Horn.
I’ve been enjoying a variety of new books lately covering everything from children’s picture books to teen and YA to Catholic apologetics. I spent most of August checking out new releases in the YA genre. Some were hits, others were misses. But overall, summer YA releases were strong in my opinion. I loved Parachutes by Kelly Yang. It’s Ms. Yang’s debut YA novel, and I only hope she writes more. On the other hand, My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong fell way short for me. I couldn’t connect with the main character or get into the story. It actually ended up being the rare DNF (did not finish) for me.
Fortunately, I finished the month strong with Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti. This was my first read from Caletti, but I’m excited to see that she has many more books available. Girl, Unframed was a typical yet unique YA novel. All the elements were there – teens, first loves, relationships, drama. But the setting and the dynamic of the parent/ child relationship is different from most, which created an intriguing background for the story.