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So I haven’t blogged for a long time.  Because birthdays.  Most specifically, this year was my husband’s 50th birthday, which he had been anticipating for some time.  We had a special party, and I thought I would share some pictures of the big event.

We had a great turnout–about 100 people–and even the staff at Deadbeat Pete’s said it was the best party they had ever attended!

Instead of using a traditional guest book, I created a questionnaire for the guests to fill out and enlisted the help of DJ John Rutherford (who was amazing) to make sure everyone remembered.  I’m going to gather them up into a binder along with all the cards John received.  I know he will enjoy reading them over again and again.

guest book page

I also created a hashtag for the event and printed up cards to put on all the tables.  This was not as successful as I don’t think a lot of people who came are as active on social media as I am.  :-)  However, a many people did upload their pictures to the Facebook Event page!

#Happy50JTS

 

I used Canva to create both of those, as well as the invitation, which we disseminated with a Facebook Event page, an Evite, and even by hand. :-)

You're Invited

To make sure that people didn’t forget our upcoming event, I posted several pictures each day of John from birth up to the present, which he said made him feel very loved!  The one below might be my favorite:

JohnS.6

John said this one of him and Emily (who shares his birthday and turned 25 this year) was his:

john emmy baby smile

Besides food and drink and cake and dancing, of course a milestone birthday demands toasts.   To finish this post, I want to share with you what I said about John.  It was a pleasure and an honor to get to stand up in front of everyone to sing his praises.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone on John’s behalf for coming to help him celebrate tonight.  It means a lot to him that so many people turned up for this milestone.

John was 19 when I met him—he was delivering mail at our dorm, and my roommate, who was in the same French class, introduced us.  For an entire year, we called him John Paul, because that was what he was going by in French class and we thought it was his real name!  I wrote about meeting him in my diary, saying that he was “a very funny guy.”

John didn’t wear suits every day back then, but he was certainly more dressed up than almost everyone else, and we formed the opinion that he came from a well-to-do family.  We never would have guessed that his father had been a steel-mill worker and that his mother was a waitress, and that he was the first person in his family to attend college.

As we got to know John, he shared with us that his father had died when he was 18.  By the time he spoke of this, it had been about two years since it happened, which seemed like a long time back then.  But of course it wasn’t very long at all, and he was still reeling from the effects of that loss.  His dad was 49, and that’s why reaching this 50th birthday has always been a big deal to John.

Anyone who knows John can tell he is a natural leader.  He has held numerous leadership positions starting in high school.  When I met him, his plan for his life included joining the Foreign Service, living a bachelor lifestyle until the age of 30 or so, running for political office, and never having any kids!

Like most of us, John’s life took a different path from the one he envisioned back then.  Instead of being in the public eye, his choices have led him to be instead an unsung hero, someone whose life is centered around faith, family, and making the world a better place.  The kind of hero who uses his many talents to help the less fortunate, whose job representing indigent parents and neglected children is more vocation than career, who always puts his family ahead of his work, who worries more about helping his clients than getting them to pay their legal fees.

John is generous to a fault.  Everyone in this room knows that they can count on John to do anything asked of him, even when it’s personally inconvenient.  He is the kind of friend that anyone would like to have.   

Today it’s time for us to sing songs about the unsung hero, or at least to toast him.   So let’s raise our glasses and I will finish this with an Irish Toast:  “I have known many, and liked not a few, but loved only one and this toast is to you.”

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Jake, our oldest son, toasting his dad.

 

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Teddy, the middle son (and middle child), adding some humor to his toast

Even when I was a little girl who still enjoyed getting toys for Christmas, I also looked forward to receiving books.  Then as a teenager I remember enjoying Christmas night, after all the festivities were finished, finally getting to lie on the sofa to read whichever book I was most excited about receiving.

Well, that hasn’t changed.  These days, if anyone asks me what I want for Christmas, I will have a list of books ready even if I cannot come up with anything else.  Usually these are the latest installment of favorite series that tend to appear in November.  I resist the temptation to buy them myself, eagerly anticipating receiving them as gifts.

I read very fast, so I’ve already finished most of my Christmas books, and am ready to share them with you!

This is the latest of Patricia Cornwell’s novels about Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, a series I have been enjoying and collecting for years.  Sadly, Cornwell seems to have peaked years ago, at least as far as this series goes.  Long gone are the detailed autopsies and absorbing stories I enjoyed.  While this one was better than some of her recent work, and I did enjoy it just because I care about the characters, I am tired of hearing about the same villain over and over again.  These days, all the attacks are against Kay and her family.  I’d like to see her get back to fighting criminals and being a voice for victims.  I’ll keep reading these, though.

Here’s another series and author I love, and was again disappointed with this go-round.  For one thing, I have been wondering for YEARS what the title of this book would be.  Ever since A is for Alibi Sue Grafton fans have tried to predict her titles and of course everyone could hardly wait to see how she handled this most difficult letter.  What an anti-climax.  She didn’t play by her own rules! I enjoyed the book–I still love the main character–but again it felt a bit like the author was phoning it in.  It seems like she has lost interest and is just trying to get to the end of the alphabet.  Even the way she peppered the story with unnecessary encounters with just about every one of the protagonist’s former love interests seemed forced, like a sop to fans.  Again, I’ll read the rest of these and hope that this was an anomaly because this is the first time I’ve felt disappointed in one of these.

I wrote about my desire to read this book in a very popular post last year.  While I have not yet put its principles into practice, it has definitely inspired me to declutter and tidy.  If I really end up following Marie Kondo’s method, I will let y’all know how it works out!  Unexpectedly, one thing I’ve enjoyed about it is small glimpses into Japanese culture (like offhand mentions of the problem of storing kimonos and items for tea ceremonies).  I do find myself talking about this book a lot, which tells me that parts of it resonate with me and I am being inspired to think about “things” in a different way.

Okay, so this one is a bonus.  This isn’t mine (it’s Emily’s) and it wasn’t a Christmas present (she bought it herself).  But I did read it, so I thought I’d tell y’all about it.  Now, I don’t expect a whole lot from movie novelizations.  The best part of reading them is finding little tidbits of backstory that were cut from the final script, and this does deliver on that score.  But oh my gosh, y’all, the purple prose!  The speechifying! The dialogue!  It was BAD.  Read the book if you loved the movie, by all means, but be prepared to laugh and what are supposed to be some solemn moments.

I’ve got two more Christmas books to read, which I will write about at a later time.  What have YOU been reading lately?

Awhile back I posted some info on Coobie Seamless Bras.  As a blogger for US Family Guide I occasionally get free stuff in exchange for my honest opinion on said stuff.

Usually my honest opinion ends up being more or less positive, but I’m not a fan of the Coobie Bra I received.

Coobie Seamless Bras are marketed as comfortable, ffordable, stylish, and seamless.  They come in two sizes (32A through 36D and 28 – 42D), 10+ styles and 50+ fashion colors and patterns.

You aren’t going to see any pictures of me in any bra EVER, so here’s the picture they gave me to show you:

The one I received had lace on the top, and that was the first problem, because it almost immediately got a pull in it.  That could have been a one-time glitch, but it does make me concerned for the quality and lasting power of this bra.

It was pretty, and felt comfortable enough, once I got it on.  That was the hard part, because it’s a pull-on bra (obviously), and those are difficult to deal with for well-endowed ladies.  And these bras are light and thin, so it got all rolled up while I was trying to get it on (I’m sure you have experienced this and understand what I mean).  With a thinker sports bra it’s easy enough to cope with this but it was hard to deal with given the sheerness of the material.

Granted, one-size-fits-all never really seems to fit when you are at the top of said size range.  I could see this being a nice bra, a cute bra, if you are smaller than a D-cup.  But it’s not for me.

I also got a Violet Love Headband to try.  These are advertised as “no-slip no-headache headbands that are perfect to wear for yoga, pilates, or just as a stylish accessory.” I like my headband, which I have been wearing to hold back my hair when I go to the gym, and I have received compliments on it. (Again, that is NOT a picture of me!)

If you want to give either item a try for yourselves, I have the following promotion for my readers: Save 30% on any order of Coobie Seamless Bras or Violet Love Headbands at www.shopcoobie.com and http://www.violetloveheadbands.com
Use Promotion code: USFG30

 

As I did last year, I’m going to do a little recap here, showcasing the five posts YOU, the readers, liked the most this year (according to my WordPress stats), as well as the five posts I, the writer, liked the most.  Please feel free to check out any posts you missed and share this with anyone you think might enjoy my blog.

YOUR FAVORITES

Too Much Stuff: An All-American Problem

TOO MUCH STUFF

This post was kind of a phenomenon for me.  It was shared hundreds of times on Facebook, which is as close to viral as I’ve ever gotten, and was also featured on BlogHer.  Yet it was a simple, short post that owed much of what was interesting about it to another blogger whose post I was reacting to.

 

What Not to Say to the Parents of a Picky Eater

What NOT to Say to the Parent of a Picky Eater

This will probably be the only “things not to say” post ever, because in general I don’t like that kind of thing, but this is a topic that is very personal to me.

 

All Dogs Go to Heaven, and That Other Thing Pope Francis Never SaidPope Francis follows the Church

Most of the views on this post came from Reddit.  I probably would have picked this as one of my favorites from the year myself, since people failing to investigate the various claims on the internet before resharing is a major pet peeve of mine.

 

Stoney Point Baptist Cemetery

Stoney Point 11

I’m disappointed I didn’t get to visit more cemeteries in 2015.  My visit to this lovely, well-kept graveyard was delightful.

 

Dear Mom in the Pew

Picture of IC that looks like a painting

I wrote this post years ago and am thrilled that it’s still so popular and that mothers find it helpful and affirming.

 

MY FAVORITES

Why I Love My Lawyer

##LoveYourLawyerDay

This post is dear to my heart because it’s about my husband and he richly deserves every word.

 

Giving the Gift of a Good Death to a Good Friend

RIP Balthazar

I still can’t read this account of our dog’s last day without crying.  Maybe I will never be able to.

 

Love and Fear

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.- Marianne Williamson

This is a sobering reflection on the troubling times in which we live and how we allow them to affect our relationships with each other.

 

Violence in Baltimore

violence quote

This post is special to me because it was my first to be featured on BlogHer (or anywhere for that matter!).  It was widely read and remained one of the most popular posts there for several days, and engendered lots of good discussion.

 

Spring Fling

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a

This post is just eye candy–a collection of pictures with quotations that I made to celebrate Spring.

I’ve linked this up with the ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter.  There are more great posts to read there!  As always, thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

At the end of 2013 and again last year I participated in a linkup in which participants shared one picture for each month of the year.  I’m not sure that the linkup is taking place but I think it’s a fun way to recap the year so I am going to do it anyway!

January: Jake on his 21st birthday with a cake full of candles.

Jake 21

February: Last year we had a snowy winter for the first time in a long time.  I always like taking pictures of Mary in the ice and snow.

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March: I love this picture taken at Seven Islands Birding Park.

seven islands 14

April: Easter at our house.  This is Leo, age 4, our nephew and godson.

Easter15 Leo 2

May: This is Echo, the most recent cat-addition to our family.

echo 3

June:  I traveled to Dallas with my sister and we stopped in Memphis for the night.

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July: I took this at Cedar Springs Cemetery.

cedar springs 14

August: John getting excited about his drink on one of the mini-vacations we took this year, this one to Pigeon Forge.

PF 2

September:  My cousin’s wedding in Nashville.

wedding 13

October: Our awesome Notre Dame football trip.

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November:  Lorelei’s 11th birthday, in which this year’s obsession is evident.

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December:  Ready for Christmas (just barely).  And finally I got enough lights on the tree.  Note the rope attaching our tree to the wall.  Let’s just say that’s the result of some bitter experiences.

christmas 2015

Thank you, everyone, for reading my blog this year.  I hope the New Year is full of blessings for all of you.

To take a glimpse at a year in the life of other bloggers, click below!

RevolutionofLove.com - 2015 in 12 Photos // logo_end_year_2015A3

Time to get real here, folks.  All last week I posted about Advent: Advent memories, Advent crafts, Advent Workshops, complete with Pinterest-ready graphics.  Yay me!

But the truth is, I’m failing at Advent this year, and it’s not the first time.

I wanted to buy all the Christmas gifts in November, so I could concentrate on Advent in December, but the stars (read money) did not align.  So I’ve got that hanging over my head.

While I managed to buy a chocolate calendar (not my preferred kind of calendar for Advent, but definitely Lorelei’s) we open it in spurts because we forget.

St. Nicholas came a day late.

We haven’t been able to locate the box containing the Jesse Tree ornaments and the Advent Wreath, which is probably just as well, since that would give me more things to feel guilty about not doing.

This was about three years ago when I had it so together I even had the right colors of candles!

Family commitments have meant we have already missed some of the Christmas events around town that we enjoy participating in at this time of year, and I foresee that this trend will continue.

The orange lights in the family room came down and white ones went up (thank you, Lorelei) but less-than-fresh mini-pumpkins and oddly-shaped gourds still festoon the mantel.

Do I need to mention the house is a mess, or could you have surmised that already?

I’m listening to my Spotify Advent playlists, so there’s that.

But otherwise, this is one of those years where “we observe Advent” is just a good excuse for why we are the only house on the block that isn’t already decorated for Christmas.

When this happens (yes, this is not the first time), I tell myself that there’s always next year.  But once you’ve reached that point in your life when you realize there are almost certainly fewer Advents ahead of you than there are behind you, doing it right takes on more urgency and “there’s always next year,” rings a little hollow.

 

star boy and the virgin

Lorelei and William as Star Boy and the Virgin Mary at the Advent Workshop

Since it first launched in 2001, my family has attended the Signs of the Season Advent Workshop at our parish every year–even when Lorelei was only ten days old!  This annual event, founded and conducted by Dorothy Romines, has always been an integral part of our Christmas preparations.

This year, Dorothy and the parish CCD program joined forces and held the workshop on Sunday morning during class time.  Lorelei was one of the few non-CCD kids to attend, and she enjoyed it as always.

A few years ago I wrote an article for The East Tennessee Catholic about the workshop.  I’m sharing it in a revised form here.

Last month Dorothy Romines conducted her annual Advent workshop at Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville, sharing years of research about Advent customs around the world. But her interest in the subject began many decades ago.

As a young woman she attended Webster College in St. Louis, where her aunt was the mother superior and her sister was in the convent. She recalls the sisters celebrating St. Lucy’s feast on Dec. 13 by bringing hot chocolate and sweet rolls to the students’ rooms early in the morning, singing as they came, “like angels floating down the halls.”

Mrs. Romines shared the St. Lucy custom with her children, one boy and four girls. They had Advent calendars too, and she recalls making Nativity sets and O Antiphon decorations with them. Today her children carry on some of those customs with her 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. And after 28 years of teaching elementary school, Mrs. Romines now teaches the children—and adults—of Immaculate Conception Parish about Advent.

Mrs. Romines had been a member of IC off and on over the years, returning for good when she retired about 20 years ago. Five years later she had the idea of beginning an Advent workshop, “Signs of the Season,” for the children of the parish. The project started small, with $100 from the adult-faith-formation team. It quickly became one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year, with 50 or more people attending, including adults who enjoy learning about Advent and making crafts.

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Over the years Mrs. Romines has presented Advent customs ranging from the Mexican piñata and posada to the Polish oplatki (Christmas wafer). Participating children have made Nativity sets from a variety of materials, corn-husk angels and turnip candle holders from the Celtic tradition, a variety of Christmas tree ornaments, and always Advent wreaths.

Mrs. Romines provides handouts for home celebrations, including blessings and readings for use with the Advent wreath and Jesse tree ornaments to make at home. The event has also included dinner, singing, and some impromptu dramatic productions.

Lorelei participates in a play at last year's workshop

Lorelei participating in a play in the 2011 Worshop

Already planning for next year’s “Signs of the Season,” Mrs. Romines says she is pleased by the popularity of the workshop, which she puts on with the help of the Immaculate Conception women’s group and other helpers, including her great-niece Nora Connelly who has provided music, and her late brother George Willard, who documented the event with photographs.

“It’s something I love to do,” she said, citing the O Antiphons and the St. Lucy custom as favorites. “I love the sense of cooperation with the parish community, and I hope families will benefit by learning some Advent customs.”

Here’s a link to an article on the Workshop that appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel in 2010 if you’d like to read more about it. 

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