Thursday, January 23, 2014

A TWO-FER just for you

Book 1: These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson

I was really excited when I heard about this book. I have always loved learning more about Blessed John Paul II’s teachings on the theology of the body. But most of what I read was often too theological for this former theology student. I couldn’t maintain the focus necessary to slog through it all. 

Also, most of the writing on TOB is focused on the Church’s teachings on Sexuality—which is fine and all, but I guess I felt like I am on board with those teachings and didn’t need to rehash a lot of it. 

At any rate, a book on TOB that professed to be an “everyday theology of the body” seemed perfect. And when I read the chapter headings, I knew I was in for a treat:

  • The Joy of Labor, Laundry and Lice: The Theology of the Body and Work
  • The Steps Within the Dance: The Theology of the Body and Manners
  • The Last and Other Suppers: The Theology of the Body and the Gift of Food

Emily Stimpson has a great style of writing. She is easy to read, always relevant, personal (in a good way) and yet theologically and doctrinally precise enough to not leave you confused. 

I highly recommend this book to all readers from youth on up. Your high school student can benefit,  your college aged child, you, your mother, even your grandmother! And certainly your parish priest or seminarian. In short, read it and pass it on. 

Now for some favorite quotes that will serve to set up my next book review. 
“The Theology of the Body is like Hooked on Phonics for the sacramental worldview, offering the contemporary mind a step by step lesson plan for how to read the world rightly once more.” pg 26

Loved this quote. The sacramental worldview is really what makes a uniquely Catholic world view and it is so lost on the modern man. 

"…as the Catholic anthropology of the theology of the body reminds us, man is a union of body and soul, made in the mirage of God. Which means our bodies are us. Your body is you. my body is me." pg 27

Far from despising our bodies, we as Catholics highly respect our bodies, even reverence our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us. 

"In all that, the theology of the body offers a resounding response to the modernist lies about the body, helping us see that the body isn’t a piece of matter to be molded, manipulated and used. Rather it’s a gift to be cared for and cherished. The body is us. It reveals our soul to the world, enabling us to love, serve, and give ourselves to others, while, at the same time speaking to the unique splendor of man in the order of creation as the only creature to posses both a material body and an eternal soul." by 36
Molded, manipulated, and used. Isn't that what we see in the culture around us? And does it not lead only to unhappiness and dissatisfaction? Women are especially tempted in this way. If you have ever felt that the particular shape of your body somehow makes you less than you should be, the Theology of the Body is the answer. 

Book 2: Alignment Matters: The First Five Year of Katy Says by Katy Bowman

And now, the unlikely second review: a book that on the surface seems to have nothing to do with Emily Stimpson’s book. In fact, the two online worlds in which I found these two books would seem to have little intersection at all. I doubt Ms Stimpson is a Katy Bowman fan (not that she shouldn’t be, just that she isn’t…yet), nor is Katy likely to be found on the Theology of the Body discussion forums (yet). 

But here they are together on my blog. 

I first came across Katy Bowman via a mommy blog that linked to a mommy blog that talked about PFD (pelvic floor disorder) and why Kegels were NOT the answer. And my first reaction to Katy’s stuff was that it made so much sense. 

Now, although I am a mostly conservative and traditional girl (I mean those here in the most basic way—not politically or liturgically), I tend to love anything that bucks conventional wisdom, yet makes perfect sense. 

And so when I read on Katy’s blog about what heels on shoes do to our feet and how her studies as a “biomechanist”* showed her that the foot was not created to be used the way we use it (stuffed into a shoe on an incline anywhere from 1/4in to 7+in and in a state of non-motion for the greater part of our day). 

Of course, her expertise spreads beyond the feet to the whole body, but my introduction to Katy was mostly via the feet (and the PFD thing too). 

Because of Katy I spend most of my days with pain free feet for the first time in my adult memory. Most of that has to do with my shoe choices these days, but it also has to do with stretches, exercises and ways of moving that I have learned from her. 

This review is as much about Katy, and her blog, and her classes, as it is about her latest book. In fact, it is as much about her first book as it is about this second book (and I think there is a third coming too!). Her writing style is easy to understand, and fun. She cracks me up all the time. And her videos on her blogs inspired me to JUST get it done and not worry about perfection. 

Her first book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief is a must for anyone who ever has any sort of foot pain (plantar fascists, corns, bunions, heel pain, ankle pain, cramped toes, etc.) but this second book goes way beyond the feet. 

Alignment Matters really is Katy’s blog in book form. It is organized by topics (rather than date) and so makes searching for the information that is most pertinent to you much easier. 

Coming upon Katy and world of alignment and natural movement can be overwhelming, but this book takes all that great stuff and arranges it in a way that helps you to take baby steps—starting on your own journey to better health where ever YOU need to start first!

Now, why, oh why you ask, did you put these two books together. Let me see if I can explain. 

Emily’s book shows us how God reveals Himself and His plan for us in the way He created our bodies. 

Katy’s book (and blog) show us how the way the body was created explains how it is best used. 

Make sense? 

When I came across Katy's blog and the way her study of the human body, from biological and mechanical point of view, helped her to come to conclusions about general health and the diseases that plague us moderns, it changed the way I looked at my own body. And it confirmed for me something that I have believed all of my life, but somehow hadn't taken to the next step. God created my body (and your body and every body) in a certain way knowing full well the sort of environment those bodies would be living in for most of human history. And, though He could see what modern life would be, He knew it would take thousands of years to get there. 

In other words...
your body does not need a chair in order to be at rest
your body does not need specialized shoes (that only modern technology could give you) to be properly aligned and protected
your body was not designed in need of a 1.5 inch heel.
your body was not made to be still for most of the day (what the heck are all those little muscles for, if not to be used).
you DO use that high school geometry in every day're just doing it wrong

If any of this makes any sense to you I highly recommend visiting Katy's Blog. And if you find yourself going from blog post to blog post looking up your particular issues, I HIGHLY recommend getting Alignment Matters

Now for a little quiz. Who said these two things? 

“Lectio divina is a way to mediate with the written word….of course, you can always read this way, but what makes it a meditation is that you have chosen a time in which your behaviors match your choice of behaviors exactly….Your body executing your mind’s wishes is mindfulness.”

“Once upon a time, before the automobile, the steam engine and the jet plane people moved every day of their own accord. They had to. Their survival depended on it….Today, however, moving is mostly optional. For many of us the only movement our work requires of us is flapping our lips or tapping our fingers. That is not enough to keep a body fit.” 

If you think you know, leave a comment.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

VLOG: Transubstantiation: It Looks Like Bread, But It is Jesus!

I know I promised a Steps Into Sin Part II video and that footage remains on my computer, un-edited. There was more momentum behind a new VLOG to help A get ready for her First Holy Communion. 
And here it is: 

UPDATE: I realized that I forgot to include the sentence that came out of this lesson that I have been whispering in the ears of my children at Mass since the oldest was a baby: It looks like bread, but it's Jesus. I thought it deserved to be in the title of the blog post, even if I didn't get it into the video in the quite the way I would have liked. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell

I finally finished this book. It wasn't the one (in my stack of books) that I thought I would finish first. 

I highly recommend it to anyone who does anything at their parish (CCD teacher, administration, parish council, welcoming committee, donuts, etc.) Actually, even if you don't do anything, I highly recommend reading it. There is so much valuable information on the state of the Church right now and what God calls us to do about it. 

That being said, I have a very mixed reaction to the book. For one thing, some of the statistical information (it is not dry stastitic-- the numbers are very well presented) will make you sad----or maybe even frustrated and angry. 

Yet, the focus on DISCIPLESHIP is so important and so hopeful. 

But, I am getting ahead of myself. The way that I came to this book is an interesting story (at least to me!) and may explain my reactions. 

I was surfing one day looking for discussions on one of my favorite topics, Sacramental Preparation. I found a discussion of the age of Confirmation (an issue I love to go on and on about) and I scanned the comments to see where I fit into the discussion. 

I have been out of the world of parish/school catechesis since my kids were born and part of the reason I backed away (aside from the obvious motherhood aspects) was a growing dissatisfaction---even feelings of hopelessness---about the way catechesis plays itself out in parishes. So, for a decade now those thoughts have developed and morphed. But I wasn't sure whether I had drifted so far from my former colleagues that we were no longer on the same page. 

Back to the online discussion. I found a comment that went something like this: If we move the age of Confirmation back, we will lose these kids at a younger age (since so few kids remain active in parish life after Confirmation) and will essentially see the end of catechesis for children at the parish level---the programs will die. 

And my gut reaction was to say--Okay! Let them die! Lets start over with something that works. 

At the root of my reaction is a belief that the grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation is needed earlier in life and so waiting until the teen years means that kids are faced with overwhelming challenges without the grace needed.

In addition is the firm conviction that parents are "the primary educators" of their children for a reason---the atmosphere of the home is the best place to foster a relationship with God, especially in a child. Children do not often take the content of a 1-2 hour class and transform their lives with it. Yet, this is the goal of Catechesis: transformation in Christ. 

I have felt for a long time that CCD-type programs are only successful if they build on a strong family life--in which case they are almost not necessary. 

Thus my reaction to the fear that parish level catechesis for children will pass away if we give kids the Sacrament of Confirmation too early. And of course the flip side of the argument is that we must postpone such a crucial sacrament of initiation in order to be sure those programs remain full and active. 

But…back to the book. I found myself wondering about the background of the commenter in this case. So I googled her. Then I found she had a blog. Then I found she wrote a book. Long story short, I bought her book. 

The commenters name was Sherry Weddell and her book is called “Forming Intentional Disciples”.

So I started this whole mental journey in disagreement with the author on a point of strategy…not a point of Faith. And this is where I still find myself. Though I am less confident in my own approach than I was when I first stumbled upon her comment in the Confirmation discussion. 

I have a negative gut reaction to the multiplicity of parish “programs” aimed at Catechesis. Part of that comes from a conviction that “programs” do not bring about conversion. 

Personal relationships with people who know Jesus Christ bring people into personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

After saying “yes!” and “exactly!” through most of the book I was hoping to read something like “So lets scrap all these “programs” and get to know Jesus!" But that is not how Sherrie concludes her book. 

To be fair, I have on my mind children’s catechesis and she has on her mind youth and adult catechesis. We may not be so far apart after all. 

Yet, I need not agree with everything in a book to enjoy it and get a lot out of it, right? 

I highly recommend you read it…then come back here and discuss it with me. Lets see if we agree. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013: The Year We Became a Texas Family

This is a panorama shot of our Texas sized backyard. It makes it look like we live in a forest with a pool growing in it. You can't really tell that you can easily see the fence in the back or the neighbors yards.
Beautiful, but TOTALLY deceiving. 

This story begins in mid 2012. 

We spent all of that summer showing our California house to prospective buyers, convinced it would never sell. Then days before we were set to take it off the market, we had a buyer. Within a month we were on the road. Though far from family, our new home in Magnolia, Texas has been a blessing in so many ways. Looking back we can see God’s hand in this move. 

First we said goodbye to California... 

and headed to the Lone Star state.

The Drive
We couldn’t pass up the chance to see some of the west on our trip to Texas. 
Sedona was a surprise highlight. 

The Grand Canyon was a nerve wracking (as in too many steep cliffs) favorite.  

Dallas (and seeing our neice Michelle ) was a memorable moment. 

Swimmers’ Math...

3 kids + 2 years of lessons in Scotland = 1 beginning to kick around a wee bit
3 kids + 2 years of lessons in California = 2 swimming across the top a bit
3 kids + 1 month in a backyard pool = 3 swimmers

Y'all come see us some time!

In our first fourteen months as Texans we have had the pleasure of visits from Jim’s brother John all the way from Scotland, our niece Michelle (who got to help move us in to our house on Thanksgiving 2012!), our friends the McClellands down from Ann Arbor, MI, Carol’s Mom (who tried out the zip line, played more than a few hands of poker, and had an important meeting at NASA...seriously. Ask her!). Jim’s brother came back again with his two oldest kids Callum and Helen and Michelle came back at the same time (and Carol got to pretend she had a big family for a week!). Finally, in September we got to meet "in real life" the blog family we have come to know online.  

All this to say that while we hope to do our own visiting soon, we are more than happy to welcome friends and family here!

Memories in short...

From the end of 2012:

  • Our Song playing the first time Jim saw our new house. 
  • Thanksgiving Dinner cooked by Kroger
  • Michelle’s first view of our kitchen: every surface covered with dishes and other kitcheny things. 
  • Watching live while white smoke came pouring out of the Vatican chimney.
  • Meeting the Cowboy In Charge at Red Robin
  • Our first Christmas in Texas.

From 2013:

  • Meeting Grandma at the Airport
  • A frog in Jim’s shoe
  • A brand new cousin is born (Hi Sophia!)
  • New friends, complete with a big sister to come and play with the K kids while Mama gets a break!
  • Oil museum on Galveston Island
  • Hangin' with the neighbors (Hi Swartz's!)
  • Finding the Irish Pub just in time for Fish and Chips Fridays
  • Swimming on Easter Sunday
  • Bluebonnets
  • The Houston Rodeo
  • Meeting blog friends IRL
  • Growing sunflowers
  • The red fox running through the backyard during dinner
  • The deer leaping over our fence during lunch 
  • D mastering the zip line
  • Annabelle's first Confession
  • The First Annual Oor Wullie and The Broons day
  • Visiting the Sisters in Austin
  • Visiting Fr. Tony S.O.L.T. in Corpus Christi
  • Jim and D goin' shootin'
  • The San Antonio River Walk
  • The Alamo
  • Re-discovering British Football (there are no troubling commercials---practically no commercials at all!)

At some point I had to stop writing and click publish. There is so much more to share, but so little time to type it!

      Happy New Year!