Birthday Festivities

The entire weekend felt like a celebration of family and friends. I felt like it wasn’t just my birthday, but all of our birthdays. Let’s jump in, shall we?

Friday Evening
My very good friend from work came over to give me a birthday present because I was not going bowling that evening. She’s my bowling pal, remember? She stopped in and handed me the sweetest, most heartfelt card. Even the wording that was printed on the card described how we are to.a.tee! I got an Amazon gift card, and to hear her explain it (and she did), I went over to her desk over a month ago and said this:

So, my birthday is next month. I want an Amazon or a Barnes and Noble gift card. That’s it.

And I walked away. I don’t remember saying that. But I know that I can be a little off the wall and random like that a lot of the time. She remembered. Hey, points to her, right? I cross stitched some more, and went to bed at the late hour of 8:56PM

Saturday
Alex had his very first basketball game! I was so nervous for him. He’s not super athletic, but he loves the game and I really wanted him to feel good about it. He tried to assure me before the game with the “I got this, Mom. Really.” speech. Well, we won 53-14! He didn’t get any points himself, but he made a great pass that led to a basket, he also made a great steal and played solid defense. We all went out to a celebratory lunch and toasted to Alex’s first game and all of the pre-Welcome to Night Vale! My favorite new podcast to listen to as I cross stitch! Read all about the birthday festivities! by @fillprayclosetbirthday activity, which wasn’t much because I love my threadbare velour pants that should never see the light of day, but they do.

We came home and I cross stitched even more as I listened to my new favorite podcast Night Vale. It’s so off the wall and my kind of humor that I can’t even explain it. But I listen and stitch and it’s perfect. I’m on episode 21 “A Memory of Europe” if anyone listens and would like to laugh hysterically about it with me.

Side note for you Serial listeners. I feel it’s my duty to share a link for what to listen/read/follow when Serial is over.

****Spoiler Alert****
The last podcast is 12/18/2014 #icant #longsufferingsigh

Back to my Saturday
We went to vigil mass because Alex was scheduled to altar serve. I asked him if he needed help finding the right sized robe and I got the “Mom, it’s ok. I can do it”. You would think that I’d be bummed that he didn’t need me. I wasn’t. I was and am just proud of him. Mike and I both are.

Mike couldn’t wait and gave me my birthday present. A beautiful and much needed watch! Mine broke, or the battery was dead? I can’t remember but the watch is perfect and has a lilac colored face. YAY presents!

After mass we went to Wegman’s. Ever hear of it? It’s only the Christmas of supermarkets. I mean, they have everything. I had some sushi and Mike and the boys had dessert (they ate earlier, but I was too busy chompin’ on podcasts and stitches to eat!)

Sunday – BIRTHDAY!
Mike went out and procured an assortment of bagels, and made coffee, while I lounged around in bed reading the hand made birthday cards the boys made me. They included a gift as well: hand made money. They’re called Giggi Dollars.

Have we discussed this? Gabriel’s nick name? Story time! When Gabriel was born, we introduced him to Alex and said, “Alex, this is your brother, Gabriel” to which he quickly and straightforwardly replied “His name is Giggi” (that’s a hard g there). We tried to corect him, but he was adamant. Who is going to argue with a 3 year old? So that’s what we call him at home.

Hence, the Giggi Dollars, where all of the presidents on the bills for a kajillion dollars are happy faces and the quazillion dollars have serious faces, because, more money = more problems. What? I don’t know. You tell me the reasoning!

Cross stitch, Cross stitch, Cross stitch, podcast, podcast, podcast and DINNER!

Here’s a picture of all of us at dinner, taken by our fun waitress. Notice, most of my salad is still present on the plate. No veggies for this birthday girl!

Family and friends at dinner. We had Italian! Delicious!! Read all about the birthday festivities! by @fillpraycloset

Mike made a lovely toast about being pretty and grey and everyone shared a communal “Awwwww”. The boys said grace (we do two prayers, remember? That Gabriel.) Food, food, food. Gifts, gifts, gifts of the stitchery, candle, and gift card-y kind. We all left and headed home. Most of the party followed us back for more laughing, rare 80s music and the odd mixer for rum. Ever have it with a V8 Splasher? The consensus is that it’s not bad, but interesting. You really taste the banana.

The party whittled down to just me and my guys. This means snacks. We lit the rose colored candle on our Advent wreath as the boys chomped on a chocolate pop tart (Gabriel’s favorite) and Nutter Butter’s before bed.

Doesn’t that sound like the weekend of a youthful 37 year old? So much debauchery, carelessness and strobe lights. Who am I kidding? The only strobe lights were the ones I saw when I shut my eyes. You know, because I stared at my phone before bed. I was reading a new Cozy Mystery about, you guessed it, Cross stitching! (well, embroidery, crewel and other such stitched goodness) According to Amazon:

The Quick and the Thread: An Embroidery Mystery  is the first in a new mystery series that will have readers stitching-and itching for more.

I would have used my tablet to read, but, I killed the battery with all that reading the night before. The chapter had to be finished. You can’t stop mid-chapter! #amirite? Try it. See how easily you nod off to sleep. You don’t! A quick download of the Kindle App and I finished up the last few pages. YAWN, and sleep.

***Another SPOILER alert that has nothing to do with podcasts***
Tiffany and I came up with a splendid idea for a new series having to do with all things needlecraft-y and books!! Coming to a computer screen near you in 2015!

Monday
Yes! Monday, because the festivities were extended to include a cake of my choosing, made by another work friend, whom I lovingly call Hawk-Eye. I love Hawk-Eye. It was tres leches cake. It was amazing. It is gone.

Only the best cake on the planet! The time consuming and best consumed when you eat more than one piece. Tres Leche Cake by The Pioneer Woman Read all about the birthday festivities! by @fillpraycloset

*Moment of silence for the cake that was. And if you want the recipe, this is what she used.*

How was your weekend?! Tell me all about your strobe lights!

And majorly UBER P.S. “Working Mother” by Erin McCole Cupp, OP is available for pre-order today! I already pre-ordered my copy! Get it. It’s goood. Yes. I read a very early draft, and I even wrote a blurb for it. If you get the book you’ll see what I think of it (if that sweetens the pot!)

#7QT What I Learned in 36 Years

I’m going out on this frightful ledge, because we’re super BFFs at this point. This year, my birthday is on Gaudete Sunday. Instead of mourning another step closer to 40, I thought, why not go as the Liturgical Year goes, and Rejoice!! Here’s what I learned in 36 years of living on this earth. Because, dear readers, I will be 37 this year. As my husband playfully jests with me “Ooooooh! That kinda stings a little, right?!” I am sure there are more than 7 things I’ve learned, but these are 7 quick takes, not 8,496 takes. Right?

— 1 —

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.

What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset

Ain’t that the truth?! Growing up, there was no such thing as sorry in my house. No one apologized to anyone for anything at all, no matter how wrong they were. This means that for a long time (read till a couple of years ago) the word sorry may as well have been a four letter word. Not good. How can anyone have any kind of thriving relationship, or marriage that way? Here I was holding on to the moments where an apology should have been given, rehashing it in my mind and asking why? What a wake up call to find out that I was a cheapskate myself. Well NO MORE!

— 2 —

I’m super organized, diligent, efficient, forward thinking and have a memory like a steel trap, at work. At home? I am SO not that. And I accept that.

What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset

I’m an Executive Assistant and work in corporate. The person that I support has a very visible, global position. This means I have to have it all together. And I do, no problem. I can remember the smallest details and bring fresh ideas to the table. At home? The kids go to school in gym clothes on mass day, or I forget they need to pack lunch. Don’t ask me when my anniversary is because you’ll see me punching in numbers on an invisible keypad because it has to be the code for my work voice mail for me to remember it. I’ve even gone to work with my underwear on inside out. (That’s sharing.) I laugh at it all. I share my foibles with my friends and husband, poor thing. He’s on the wrong end of the stick with this one and has to clean up my mishaps all the time.

— 3 —

I’m super protective. What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset

If you are in my “circle of trust”, a switch in my brain must flip because I roll out the platinum package. Come to me with an issue, a problem, anything and I am all about making sure your heart is smiling as you sip your last bit of coffee. I guess it started when my brother, then he was my youngest brother, was being made fun of on the school playground. He has hydrocephalus and kids would make fun of the size of his head. Well,  let’s just say they never bothered him after I was done with them. I didn’t mean to smash the kids’ pinky with the corner of my penny loafers (complete with a shiny new penny). I’m not violent, relax. But, I am super protective.

— 4 —

Stay, only if it’s worth fighting for.What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset

Relationships man, I mean, they’re hard, right? It’s because there’s another person involved and SURPRISE! You can’t make them do the right thing. I’ve had a long dance with the whole “Honor your father and mother” thing. I don’t need to try anymore. It’s not worth fighting for because they don’t think I’m worth it. And that’s ok, I’ve got plenty of people who think I am and you can only lead a horse to water. Right?

— 5 —

I am the Queen of Defense Mechanisms, which is also the Queen of Funny. What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset

I just found this out yesterday, that I’m the Queen of two lands that are right on top of one another. As I was having lunch with a friend who needed cheering up, I said some things that would make Amy Poehler say “What?!” But my friend was cracking up. I said it all in such a way that made even the horrifically shocking, funny. Over the years, I created funny out of those situations and retold them to myself like bedtime stories to a toddler. Afterwards, she said, you should go on the road as a comedian. Nah, then who would write?

— 6 —

This is going to sound shallow. Who cares? I cannot be happy weighing any less than I do right now. 

I won’t tell you what that magic number is, BUT, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s well over the BMI suggested weight to height ratio. I am practically obese for my height. WHO CARES!

What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset
AFP / Getty Images ANDREW COWIE / Via Quotes via: marieclaire.co.uk via buzzfeed.com

and for more of her awesomeness, head here.

— 7 —

I am right where I am supposed to be.

What I Learned in 36 Years or Happy Birthday to Me! I share only seven things, because otherwise we'd be here all day! by @fillpraycloset

Writing, reading, praying, loving, listening, cross stitching, laughing, cooking, baking and learning. Life’s pretty good, isn’t it? If you think about it? I made it. I made it through every day, every hour, every minute and every second to this very moment. I married the funniest, silliest, smartest, sexiest man and we made babies. No matter how many grays I have (and there are SO many, I found one in my eyebrows), or how I “shut it down” before 7PM most nights, I made it, I’m alive. I’m blessed and loved, right where I’m at.

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Happy Birthday to me (and you, if your birthday happens to be today)!

So what have you learned in all your years of living? Share!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t The Lyceum!

From the Sacred to the Profane, Books!

As I was getting ready this morning, I thought of you. Yes. You staring at these letters that are organized into words. I wanted to share all the books I’ve read this year, just in case you would like to read them before the year is out. I created a Pinterest board of all the books I read in 2014. There are certainly other books that I have read, but never finished or have yet to finish (Game of Thrones and Read Like a Writer, I’m looking at you) but since I didn’t get to the back cover, they will not be included.

Let's Talk Books! I share my favorites from 2014. They were all written by women, and are indie publishers to boot! by @fillpraycloset

I will highlight those books that are written by gal-pals I know because I think they deserve center stage. It’s a brave thing to write, an even braver thing to share it with the world. They love their words, so much, that they set them free. Unlike social media, there is no block feature to remove a scathing review, so hat’s off to them, right? Here we go.

D is for Dysfunctional by Ericka Clay. I know, I talk about this chick all the time. She really does make the ugly beautiful. This is a collection of short stories and poetry. I have to say, the one that sticks with me is the story at the funeral parlor. Wanna know more? You have to get the book! Her use of metaphors are haunting as is the sneaky way she injects dark humor into her prose. She’s got a serialized novel out on Wattpad (for free) titled Wren, based on the main character of her next book Unkept which is slated for release by Bannerwing Books in early 2015. Homegirl also makes her own covers. Again, NOT for the faint of heart. If you’re not into @(*%#, then it’s not for you. If you can set that aside, and read anyway, you won’t be disappointed.

Let's Talk Books! I share my favorites from 2014. They were all written by women, and are indie publishers to boot! by @fillpraycloset
Photo Credit: H O L L Y. on Flickr

You’ll also see that I’ve commented on each chapter. That’s what’s so great about Wattpad, immediate feedback from your fans. I won’t go on a Wattpad parade here. I already did that when I interviewed Ericka. To keep up with this chick, head over to Tipsy Lit, I’m there too.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp. Let’s count all the ways this writer and book are awesome. Erin, (yes, I am on a first name basis with her!) is a lay Dominican (hi-ooooh!), homeschooling wife and mother of two sweet girls, meets a random fan-atic at a cave to exchange a book for a review on this here blog (the fan-atic is me). The book is about Cate, a cool customer, on a mystery wrapped in a suspense, wrapped in an NFP Catholicky-whodunit goodness, caper. And the titles of the chapters are all 80’s music titles!!! She is also about to release a turned-on-it’s-head novella, The Working Mother on Holy Family Sunday (tentative release). From her blog:

With her husband disabled and out of work and her child in mortal danger,

a mother must leave her family and find work so they can all survive.

The husband’s name is Joseph. The child’s name is Jesus.

The working mother is Mary.

I mean, really. Did you ever think to…? Just re-read that, and imagine a movie trailer voice. Did you do it? When she told me the premise, my insides screamed “Of course!!! That makes SO much sense” but my outsides played it cool, with “Yeah, that’s interesting” complete with a Robert DeNiro head nod and point.

Let's Talk Books! I share my favorites from 2014. They were all written by women, and are indie publishers to boot! by @fillpraycloset
You. You’re good, you.

The Isadora Interviews, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and Antebellum Awakening by Katie “Mic Dropping it Like it’s Hot” Cross. That’s her real name. For real, farina. It has to be, because all three books? DEVOURED in 5 days. Her next book, Mildred’s Resistance is set to drop (with all her mic’s) in March 2015. How can I even begin to explain the story here? I’ll do my very best. The Isadora Interviews are character sketches of the main character, Bianca and her gal pals novella stylie. Each character is distinct and lovable, even if they are a little edgy. The story overall is about Bianca, a teenaged witch who tries to lift the family curse before she turns 16. That is so distilled, because there are stories within stories, like a blooming onion in there. I love those, they make great appetizers. Her descriptions are lush and realistic. She taps into feelings you’ve felt and buried only to relive them again as you turn the page. I can’t say enough. It’s too much! The big news, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is now available on Audible!

Let's Talk Books! I share my favorites from 2014. They were all written by women, and are indie publishers to boot! by @fillpraycloset
You get an audiobook! You get an audiobook! Oh Oprah, we love you.

But even cooler than that, she wrote about the experience of using audible to create an audio book.

Ahhh, that was a lot of awesome, was it not? If you’re interested in checking out all of the books I’ve read this year, head over to the pinterest board and check them out.

I still have to finish Game of Thrones. I’ve been on hiatus because of my neck pain, which is finally subsiding after 5 days of muscle relaxers, high octane ibuprofen and stretching exercises. So glamorous, aren’t we? What all have you read this year? Or rather, what are you racing to finish before December is done?

Thanks for Looking at Me

I went to mass last night, for the vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, by myself. I wasn’t going to make it today with work, Scouts for Gabriel and Basketball practice for Alex in the evening. The boys had school mass for today and Alex was an altar server.

I sat in the usual pew, but moved in a little, to make room for my family that wasn’t with me. Funny, that I noticed that. The mass was lovely, and the parishioners present were louder than usual with their responses and prayers. Or maybe I hadn’t noticed before. It felt more full than the usual 10AM Sunday mass but with less people.  My eyes were fixed on the large crucifix above. I mean, truly fixed. I don’t know what made me think that the more I bore my eyes into His, he would be more likely to turn His crowned head and smile at me. That’s all I wanted. I knew it was silly, and as I write this, I know it’s a little ridiculous.

New Post: Thanks for Looking at Me by @fillpraycloset. A reflection on how my Advent is shaping up, relationships in my Catholic Church and online..
This is really the altar at my church.

We’re in the thick of Advent, and just like last year, it’s been spoiled for me by external factors. Right before Advent begins, I am left with a fake, plastic smile whenever I leave my house. Maybe that’s why I wanted His smile, to know that He knew (even though I know in my heart He knows) and that at least He was with me.

Last week, I left the first candle burning too long (it won’t last the next two weeks), I forgot to move the little wooden Christmas tree on my Advent calendar, and my Jesse Tree? I’ve got two ornaments up and I am sure they’re the wrong ones. I stopped reading the Advent reflections from the booklet that I bought for myself and Tiffany back in October. I’m just deflated, if I’m really being honest with you, and I know I can be. It’s not spiritual dryness so much as a disappointment in certain people, of late. I pray for others that ask me to, and I pray for my family every day.

It’s more about being let down by others in my Catholic community. I expect slightly more compassion from them. Maybe that’s not the word. I expect more love, in the agape sense. I get that you never know what cross people are carrying, so you can’t always assume that the response you are getting is not intended to hurt you. Believe me, I get that. You could also argue that to get, you gotta give. And maybe I haven’t with every, single person. I’ve learned that I don’t need to allow negativity and disrespectful behavior regardless of whether they are Catholic, Christian, Purple or Unicorn. Those unicorns are shifty.

I always say "I'm not subscribing to that magazine" when someone is all about the drama. #Inspiration #drama #justsayno

A photo posted by Cristina *Writer* (@fillpraycloset) on

A friend came by Saturday night to drop off a little present for me, and to see how I was doing (neck spasms, remember?) and we all got to talking about friendships. She didn’t have friends from elementary school that she was connected to now, whereas Mike and I have one each from Elementary school. I noted how the close circle of friends that I have, I’ve made in the past 4 years. Most of those are online friendships and I treasure them. I pray for them. My boys pray for them. My husband knows them because I talk about them as if I just had coffee with them and “oh Honey, wait till you hear what happened with so-and-so”. I love them all dearly.

New Post: Thanks for Looking at Me by @fillpraycloset. A reflection on how my Advent is shaping up, relationships in my Catholic Church and online..

It’s easier to see the darker side of the coin though, isn’t it? When I talk about these disappointments in my Catholic (real life) community with my husband, he says “Honey, it’s like you always tell me, it’s not the Catholic Church, it’s the people, and they aren’t perfect”. I remember looking at him thinking I said that? And even more than that, he remembered? Isn’t that a blessing? I remember my mouth hanging open as he said that, and thinking to myself, He’s right. Of course. I can’t keep my Catholic community on a pedestal. They are no different than anyone else. And hey, Cristina, guess what? They will probably feel the same way about you at some point. Because you, for sure, aren’t perfect. You are bound to mess up and let someone down that you didn’t mean to. And just like that, I remembered this verse:

Psalm 118:8
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to put confidence in man.

Maybe that’s what I was doing last night as I focused on Jesus, I was taking refuge in His face, turned to the side, grieved and pained. Sure, I may not be lighting my candles, or putting ornaments on the tree, But I am reminded of where my refuge is, and the blessings I do have in my husband, children and those wonderful women that have become like family to me. Their virtual presence is felt more than the multitudes of people I encounter every day.

Isn’t that something for Advent? Nice one, God. Thanks for looking at me, without looking at me, and telling me, in your way, that it’s all ok.

How’s your Advent shaping up? Tell me. I want to hear all about it, especially if you went and got that wine advent calendar!