Monday, November 24, 2014

On Moms' Groups and Glasses

Let's talk about moms' groups. Are you in one? Do you want to be? 

As a new mom I needed people who were right where I was. All of us almost drowning together, white-knuckeling all the parenting decisions we knew were the best. Laid back older moms - they scared me, mostly because I didn't know how to do what they did and I felt like my failures were so obvious standing next to them. Now I want those women in my life, mentoring me and helping me. But I also just crave the fellowship of women and I don't mind your baggage, wounds, or burdens. 

The only thing I need now is an understanding that no matter what we're actually doing there is a reachable goal that is living out the faith as the Church asks us to do. In other words, orthodoxy. And please note that I didn't say an "easy goal" but a "reachable" one. There's a big difference between those two and in that room is where we become saints. In that room is where I want to foster friendships.

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to spend the morning with the lovely ladies of Morning Star Ministry in Rockford, Illinois. 

Guys, they are doing such a great job. Women are invited to spend one morning a month relaxing at a mini retreat. There's lovely decorations, wonderful refreshments, morning Mass, a chance for confession, music and worship, a speaker, prayer, chatting, free babysitting for those who need it. They've thought of everything. (And this coming December 10th they're hosting it in the evening so working moms can come, too. See! They're thinking everything through!)

I'm part of two moms' groups. One is at my former parish and I don't know if I'll ever give it up. It's a mix of older moms and younger moms. We bring food (and keep a stash at the church hall), eat, chat, pray, discuss a podcast or book chapter, and our kids eat, pray, and play too. It's amazing.

The other one is still pretty new to me. Moms from my new parish, and all of them parish-school moms at that, gather once a week, watch a bit of Women of Grace, and chat while our kids play all over the hostess' house or our laps. I love it. Recently we've been watching episodes where they talk about "the daily duty" which makes us all smile and chuckle a little because: poop jokes.

I think about moms' groups a lot. What should they look like, what should they do? Exclusive? Kids? Books? Wine? Also, how do we make sure that orthodoxy is understood without distancing those who are struggling with it? And how do we take care to build up the leaders while they build up the rest?

And then, on the most personal level: How will I fit in? 

Take, for example, my new glasses. 

I've been wearing a super old, not the right prescription pair for a few months because the kids broke my last pair. I've been wanting a pair of big, thick framed glasses since I was in middle school and loved Buddy Holly, but it wasn't until hipsters made them cool again + five more years that I finally did it. 

The women in my new-parish moms' groups were the first to see me in them, besides Travis and the kids. Every time I had looked in the mirror I would tell myself, because I'm super lame and talk like it's still the '90's, "These are hipster glasses and you look like a poser."

The fear that I'm not good enough, the fear that those other moms will see me as totally lame, whatever, as if, the fear that fat Midwestern moms just shouldn't try for cute and hip made me worried to attend the next group. But instead, those other women smoothed my feathers, ruffled from worry, and spoke to my angsty heart. "Bonnie, you look so cute! I love your new glasses! They really suite you!"they said and I was so relieved.

It felt like they said, "I see you, Bonnie. I see what you're going for and I want you to know that you're there. I'm happy for you, friend." As silly as it may sound, that was when I felt like I finally did belong, like I was a part of them. From that point I have felt like I can go forward with them, becoming more who I am supposed to be while we all support one another in our vocations. 

PS - I got my glasses for free from Firmoo. I really do love them and had a really great experience ordering them. The website is easy to use and the customer service was great. All I had to do was get a copy of my prescription from my eye doctor and the rest was easy peasy.

If you want a free pair of glasses you can get some, too, Check out their First Pair Free program!

PPS - If you're new here, stick around! You can follow A Knotted Life on Bloglovin' or Feedly.
Plus, I'd love to connect with you. You can find me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook. I hope to "meet" you soon!

Friday, November 21, 2014

7QT - radio dj, cookies, Minnesota pics, and more

1 - I added this song to my Songs for November playlist from last week but in case you didn't see it I wanted to share it again. It's a really pretty song and a really lovely video - it's her real wedding video! I even tear up when her dad is walking her down the aisle.

2 - Today I'm fangirling out a bit and totally enjoying the opportunity to guest dj at my favorite local radio station: 99.9 WWCT FM. Their tagline is music for people who love music and they play a lot of the songs I share here on the blog - minus the country. Oh! Unless it's Johnny Cash. They play Johnny Cash.

I suppose I'm most excited about this because I'm not doing it because I'm James' mom or a blogger. As a fan I submitted my name and playlist, and as a fan I was picked. They probably pick everyone who submits but I don't care. I'm really happy to be doing it.

And I'm going to give a shout out right here and now. My good friend Jen R. is babysitting my kids so I can do this, because she's great.

You can listen live if you click right here.

3 - Let's talk holiday cookies. A holiday season isn't a holiday season if I don't bake chocolate crinkles, snickerdoodles, peanut butter blossoms, and decorated cut out, sugar cookies. What about you? And I'm talking Thanksgiving - Epiphany, people! Let's get 'em ALL in!

4 - I had a lot of fun in Minnesota last weekend. I didn't really have fun getting there or coming home (missed flights and hours of de-icing make me want to cry, and what up O'Hare, with no free wi-fi?!! Lame!)

ahem.. But Minnesota was wonderful. Highlights include:
Nell and her family who hosted me in their dreamboat home.
Teresa and all the wonderful folks from Holy Spirit Academy
Being able to pray in gorgeous St. Michael's Church.
The amazing pretzel bread Nell served me for lunch.
Meeting so many wonderful bloggers. (like Marie and Anna and Jaqui and so many more!)

5 - My friends Haley and Christy have a brand new podcast that they launched earlier this week. I am SO excited for the Fountains of Carrots podcast. If you haven't listened yet, please do! So many great things to come.

6 - More exciting news for another one of my friends: Kelly is one of the keynote speakers at Edel '15! I am so proud of my friend and so happy for her and everyone else who gets to attend. She will be great!

7 - I'm really excited about the Advent Care Package giveaway that's happening right now on my blog. I'm not doing it to get more followers or because I was given something and now need to promote a vendor. I'm doing it in the hopes that whoever the lucky winner is, she will really benefit and have an easier Advent because of it. If you haven't entered yet, you can check it out here.

And now no more Advent from me until after Thanksgiving! I need to focus on gratitude and generosity a bit more.

And thanks to the aforementioned Kelly for hosting! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Advent Care Package Just for You {a giveaway}

Thanks to everyone who commented! The giveaway is closed now! Best of luck to those who entered!

The holiday season is right here, people! I'm almost stressing out about all the stress I'll probably be feeling, which is ridiculous, I know.

But! There is food to make, gifts to buy, and Christmas carols to avoid so I don't hate them by December 20th! I need to figure out gift exchanges, how I'm going to get everything clean, and what in the world I'm going to wear.

Maybe you're stressing about similar things. Probably.

And since I really do love and appreciate you guys, I want to help and maybe make your Advent more fun and less stressful. So this giveaway is for you.

One lucky A Knotted Life reader will win an Advent Care Package with a value of over $320*

Picture it:

You have a cookie exchange party to attend tomorrow night but you don't have time to go get a manicure, do your hair, or bake. 
But now you can put on some cute, festive Jamberry Nails, make your lips look perfect with some Roden+Fields lip care products, pull your hair up with a Lila Rose flexi clip, and take two dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies that you didn't have to bake.

It's December 5th and you need some stocking stuffers for St. Nick to leave the kids because you forgot and you have nothing. 
But now you have plenty of gold chocolate coins; a hip, new cd for you pre-teen son; some lip balm and hand cream for your teenage daughter; a book about St. Joseph for your husband, and a beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe bracelet for you. Thanks, St. Nicholas!

People are coming over in an hour and the house isn't ready!
So whip out the Norwex dusting mitt, pass it to the kids and have them met busy. While they're doing that, you can set out the gorgeous Madonna in Blue print from Audrey Eclectic. Your guests will come and spend so much time noticing its gorgeousness they won't even see that you didn't have time to mop.

You seriously need a break. Right now. Just you. Please, good Lord! A break!
So warm up some of that chai tea, pour it into a cup wrapped in a cute coffee cup cozy. Warm up the organic cotton and flaxseed sack and lay it on your shoulders, so full of stress. Grab your copy of The Little Way of Advent and your Blessed Is She Advent journal. Get snug and read and write.

All the Pretty Items:
Scentsy Purse Pack in Sugar
includes lip balm, hand cream, and hand sanitizer
I got mine from Linda Force
$26 value

Santa Suit Jamberry Nails
I got mine from Jen Brody
(Mani takes just 30 minutes, a pedi 20. Over 300 designs and most are buy 3 get one free.)
$20 value

Lilla Rose Floral Design in Black Nickel medium sized Flexi clip
donated by Mandi Richards
$20 value

Rodan+Fields Lip Renewing Serum and Lip Micro Dermabrasion
I got mine from Maia Jarvis
(Use the Lip Micro-Dermabrasion to help your chapped lips, especially in the morning and again in the evening before you use the Lip Renewing Serum.)
$80 value
PS - any AKL reader who contacts Maia will get a free mini-facial!
PPS - Every order comes with a 60-Day-Empty-Bottle-Money-Back Guarantee - so folks can try it risk free. My Preferred Customers get 10% off and free shipping every month.

All the Sacred Items:
The Only Light ep
by Matt Faley
$10 value

Madonna in Blue 8x10 print
by Audrey Eclectic 
$20 value

Joseph, the Man Who Raised Jesus
by Fr. Gary Caster
$15 value

The Little Way of Advent
by Fr. Gary Caster
$15 value

Our Lady of Guadalupe novena bracelet
by Shannon Wendt at Organic Mama Shop
$30 value

Blessed Is She Advent devotional journal
$20 value

All the Helpful Items:
Coffee Cup cozy
from [un]common workbasket
$10 value

Norwex Green Dusting Mitt and a mini EnviroCloth
I got mine from Carrie Walters
(Don't bleach, no fabric softener or dryer sheets, wash in hot water with detergent with no fillers.)
$30 value

Organic Cotton and Flaxseed Heat Sack
by Nell at Whole Parenting Goods
(Heat it for 30 secs in the microwave or keep it in the freezer for booboos.)
$20 value

All the Yummy Items:
Chocolate Chip Cookies, 2 dozen
homemade by yours truly
Can you put a dollar amount on love?

Tazo Chai Latte concentrate
$5 value

4 bags of chocolate gold coins
$4 value

To enter all you have to do is leave me a blog comment. Say "Hello" or recommend a song, movie, podcast, or book to me. Tell me what you'd like to win most of all.

Thank you again for reading. May God bless you this holiday season - may it be filled with joy and peace.

*All listed values include item price + estimated tax and shipping costs.

on being bummed but not complaining

Today was the big day. Today was the day that tickets to Edel '15 went on sale.

Maybe you bought one. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you wish you could go but you can't.

You don't have the money.
It's a conference for moms and you aren't even married.
You would much rather have a quiet time of prayer than a loud dance party.
Even if you could swing the $280 ticket there's no way you could pay for the hotel and the air fare.
You're an introvert anyways and you just wouldn't fit in...

I get it.

$1,000 is what it would take for me to get to Charleston and attend the conference. Unless someone suddenly asks to fly me to the area to speak on James' miracle the evening before or after Edel (which is one of the ways I was able to attend Edel '14) I will be staying at home, wishing I could be with Jen, Hallie, Kelly, Rachel, Jenny and the rest.

So what if I pretend that* if only* Rachel Balducci lived next door to me she would be my bff / mentor mom? That's not weird. 
It bums me out a bit, I won't lie. The Edel Gathering is an amazing experience and some of my favorite internet people are going to be there. I wish we had the money, but we don't so I won't go. 

And you know what else I won't do? I won't rag on the event or the people who are going. I won't gripe about the cost or belittle the gathering.

It takes a lot of money to pull off something as nice as the Edel Gathering, but there are cheaper events in our dioceses so maybe you and I can attend those.

Or maybe you'd enjoy FOCUS' Seek'15 Conference that's coming up. Jim Gaffigan will be there and honestly, I wish I could be there too.

A quiet day of prayer is more your speed? The Sisters of Life have some really awesome retreats coming up - maybe you can make one of those.

Of course, I'm still holding out hope that someone will invite me to speak at a parish in the area, paying for my flight and giving me enough extra to cover the cost of the ticket, but since that probably won't happen I want to end with two last things:

Jen and Hallie, thank you for all the work you are investing into the Edel Gathering. Thank you for doing this to build up your peers and to glorify God. 

To all the women who are able to attend Edel '15, I hope you have a blast. I will be praying for health in your homes, safe travels, renewed spirits, warm hearts, and a lot of fun for you. 

God bless.

Monday, November 17, 2014

An interview with musician Matt Faley: talking Mother Mary, crappy Christian music, and his new ep

Matt Faley is an incredibly talented musician. A man who happens to be Catholic, his new EP The Only Light, contains five songs - all which have a Jason Mraz-like vibe and are in one way or anther about Mary, the Mother of our Lord.

I had a great time interviewing Matt about his new album and Christian music and I'm excited to share the video with you here. This one is a little lengthy, coming in over 31 minutes, so you may need to save it for when you're folding the laundry, washing the dishes, mopping the floor, or vegging out. 

But be sure you listen! Matt is interesting, talented, and has a great sense of humor. I also include some samples of songs from The Only Light to give you a taste for how great the album really is. 

I love this thumbnail. It's like we planned it all out: 
Okay, reach to scratch an itch and then freeze!

In the video we mention:
Likable Art
The Head and the Heart
Audrey Assad
and her new band Levv
Marie Miller
Christian music
Shake It Off
All Sons and Daughters
The Lone Bellow
The Avett Brothers
and hipsters

Finally, go to Matt's website to buy his album! You can also email him at mattfaley at gmail dot com.

Friday, November 14, 2014

You're not a big deal and that's okay

Alright friend of mine, there's something I want to tell you. Actually, I already told you, but I'm going to say it again:

You're not a big deal and that's okay.

I'm not either, so we're in this together.

I know there's blog posts and Pinterest pins and podcasts and magazines that are telling you that you can be GREAT. I know that a lot of our American culture, especially as it is lived out via social media feeds, sets us up to believe that if we just do these Five Quick Tips we will be awesome. We will have arrived. 

That's just not the way it works.

I'm going to speak very specifically about the world of blogging because that's where I see it play out so vividly and also because it's something I want to tell every client I've worked with in my blog consulting business.

I'm 99.9% sure that you're never going to be a BIG Blogger. You're not going to make a full time salary from blogging. You won't be giving away KitchenAid stand mixers while you work hand-in-hand with major corporations. You won't get your own show. You're not going to be a big deal. And I promise, promise, promise you that that's okay.

A mistake many bloggers make is to live in hopes of the 'k'. I know because I've done it too.

What's the 'k'? It's when you have so many likes or followers or fans that IG or FB or Feedly uses the letter 'k' instead of all the zeroes that mark one thousand. 999 likes + 1 = 1k. Or 27k followers or 350k hits a month.

Don't live for the 'k' and definitely don't write for it. If you do, you will grow to resent successful bloggers (who are really only successful because of luck - sure talent and effort too! but mostly luck). If you do, you won't be happy with the two comments you did get out of the pool of fifty people who did read your post. If you do, you will feel blogging burn out and you will feel like a failure.

The truth is, the only thing you've failed at is appreciating what you have. And you have a lot of good things:
- a creative outlet
- a way to improve and showcase your photography / graphic design / computer / writing skills
- a virtual scrapbook your loved ones can appreciate years later - the things you loved, thought, felt, did at a specific time in your life in a specific moment in history
- a way to connect with like-minded people

It doesn't matter if you are thinking of starting a blog, if you've been blogging for two years, or if you've been blogging for 10 years - the only reason you should blog is because you enjoy it. 

All of this is not to say that it's bad to want to grow your readership! Not at all! The best part of blogging is the community that comes from it and your readers are your potential friends.

If you're blogging for the community - we can tell. If you're blogging because you want to be famous, make money, go viral, etc - we can tell.

Speaking for myself, the best blogs (usually not this-once-was-a-blog-but-now-it's-a-website-making-me-money) feel like a living room. I come to your site and there's a bright, cheery picture of you smiling and welcoming me to your space. It's decorated like your living room - reflecting your style, faith, family, loves, and interests. We sit and chat about movies, kids, books, politics, faith, celebrations, school, losing weight, sleep, recipes. Some of the conversation is light - almost fluff - and some of it is really personal, beautiful, trusting, and sincere.

Most of those blogs don't have the 'k'. Most of those bloggers are not a big deal. Most of those bloggers have 25, 67, 120 followers and really, truly that is fabulous.

And what about the ones who do have the 'k'?  That Big Blogger who has made it. We think of her as a Big Deal.  But her neighbor across the street just thinks of her as a mom who takes lots of pictures of all her kids and gets lots of packages. Really, even she is not a Big Deal. She's a person who started something, kept doing it because she loved it, invested her talents and effort into it, and then just. got. lucky.

If you're blogging to be a big deal maybe you should take a step back.
If you're feeling burned out for other reasons maybe you should take a step back.
If you find yourself feeling jealous more than feeling happy for other bloggers' successes maybe you should take a step back.

But keep your blog. Keep it hanging out in the internet so that when you are ready to write or share again it's there and so are your followers. Keep it so that when you comment on other blogs there's a site linked to your name so people can still get to know you. Keep it so that when you're ready to enjoy blogging and you're ready to not worry about stats and likes and being a Big Deal - it will be ready for you. And so will we.

If you're new here, stick around! You can follow A Knotted Life on Bloglovin' or Feedly.
Plus, I'd love to connect with you. You can find me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook. I hope to "meet" you soon!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A little gift for Minnesota readers and some Best of the Web

Friday and Saturday I'll be speaking in Minnesota and I have a special gift for any A Knotted Life readers who come to hear me. :)

On Friday, November 14th I'll be the keynote speaker at the Holy Spirit Academy's 2nd annual Harvest Banquet in Rogers, MN.

On Saturday, November 15th I'll be speaking at St. Michael's Morning of Renewal. The event begins at 8am with Mass and ends at 11am. There will be light refreshments, time for confession, and I will be sharing the story of James' alleged miracle, the reasons I love Venerable Sheen so much, and I'll speak about the canonization process. There's no need to register so you can just show up! A free will offering will be taken with all the proceeds benefiting Holy Spirit Academy.

If you live in the area I hope we can meet! Be sure to tell me if you read my blog so I can give you your gift and if you're a blogger please tell me the name of your blog, too! Sometimes I'm horrible with names so the more help you can give me the better.

And in the meantime, here's some Best of the Web reads. Please say a prayer for safe travels for me and then enjoy these articles.

Intolerable Pain, Unfathomable Joy by Melody Lyons at Catholic Exchange

When NFP Is Hard to Swallow by Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee

While You Were Out from Verily

Where Are All the Good Stories About Marriage? from Christianity Today

That One Time I Accidentally Chopped Off All My Hair by Deme at House for Five

Being Absent and Being Fully Present by Calah at Barefoot and Pregnant

Walking Light and Carrying Little by Ashley at Narrative Heiress

About by Elizabeth at Super Swell Times (Yes, I did just link to an About page - but it's so well done!)

If you're new here, stick around! You can follow A Knotted Life on Bloglovin' or Feedly.
Plus, I'd love to connect with you. You can find me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook. I hope to "meet" you soon!