Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

Welcome to The Not So Perfect Catholic!

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, just a Catholic empty-nester trying to figure it all out. The views on this blog are my own.

Heavenly Hugs

Photo by Brett Sayles
With the 2 year anniversary of my husband's cancer diagnosis looming, I felt the pressure of the insecurities and fear of living without him. The reality hit hard. It's been easy (for me anyway) to go about my life with a new routine since he started chemo. He is able to go to appointments without me and since I'm still working full-time outside the home, I'm not there to see just how badly it affects him. The worst days are a couple of days after his pump comes out. To look at him, you would never know that he is terminally ill. You wouldn't even know that he is sick at all. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm ecstatic that God has given us this precious gift of time. But I know with each month that the sand is running out of the hourglass. I know I shouldn't mourn him right now; we have a lot of living to do while we still can. We have a lot of memories to make; we want to live life to the fullest until we can't. 

So, yeah, I had a pretty pissy day the day before the anniversary. I went to the Adoration Chapel and spent more time there than I had in a long time. A friend gave me the booklet "Pray the Rosary with the National Council of Catholic Women". Each of the Mysteries includes several different themes to choose from. Since it was a Friday, I chose the "For Courage in Adversity" theme in the Sorrowful Mysteries. Those meditations were exactly what I needed. The words were perfect. They helped to console me and give me the hope I needed. 

While in the Chapel I talked to God about how much I miss my mom, especially now. I know that she would have the right words to say to me; at the very least her hug would help ease my pain. My dad wouldn't know what to say (he was a man of few words) but his bear hug (even though somewhat awkward) would hit the spot. On the day of the anniversary, during my morning prayer time, the morning Reading from the Liturgy of the Hours included this verse:

He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from him. (2Corinthians 1:4)
I pulled out my Magnificat, read the day's Mass Readings, and then took a look at the meditation. I have to admit, I will often look at the author of the meditations. Sometimes I'll read it and sometimes I won't, based on who wrote it. The meditation on that day was from Mother Agnes of  Jesus who is St. Therese's (of Lisieux) sister Pauline. My mom had a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux so this meditation intrigued me. Man, am I glad I read it! 

Let us not ask Jesus that suffering or some events should not make us tremble—for that might perhaps
be a useful humiliation—but that we may always follow him step by step; and if we are so weak that we
run away for a time, that our hearts may remain united to him in continual prayer and confidence, and that we may come back to him without delay. Never doubt his love and mercy, for that wounds him to the heart...
 He must therefore know that we are weak, that our exile is painful, that even the most strongly established virtue can fail, and that often everything around us seems to combine to make us weep,
seeing that we no longer have the strength to row because the wind is against us. He comes to us in the night of trial. We must do our best simply and humbly. How beautiful it is, it is everything—littleness, the spirit of childhood, humility. Let us ask just for these virtues at Jesus’ crib. He will give them to us, and we shall be as happy as is possible in the land of exile and then go straight to heaven. You have only to acknowledge in the depths of your heart that you are unworthy of so many blessings
and immediately you will be pure. “O my God, make me more and more aware of my weakness, but at the same time of your divine strength.”
Mother Agnes of Jesus, o.c.d.
Mother Agnes of Jesus († 1951) was the sister of Saint ThΓ©rΓ¨se of the Child Jesus, and prioress at the Carmel of Lisieux for over fifty years.

There are moments when I just want to run away. I just want to be left alone and not have to face what is to come. I want to run away to Ireland and hide out in the countryside. I heard a song about a week ago; these verses really hit home for me:
To run and hide would be so easy
You don't wanna stay and fight
If you don't give yourself completely
You won't get to see the beauty
Waiting on the other side
It's gonna take some time
Healing always does
Embrace the road you're walking
Be patient with the process
You're gonna make it out alive

I'm getting constant reminders that God is here with me. He's giving me what I need when I need it. Running away isn't an option. Instead of "Godwinks", He is sending me "heavenly hugs" just when I need them. God is good all the time; All the time, God is good.

Why I Ditched a Popular Catholic Planner

laptop open to blog page with planner, and coffee cup

I've written a couple of posts about different Catholic Planners. In Which Catholic Planner is Better for You? I reviewed 2 different Catholic Planners: The Blessed is She Planner and the Catholic Through the Year (CTTY) Planner. In I have a Winner in the Catholic Planner Debate, I really thought I had a winner in the CTTY Planner. Gosh, I loved that planner! It actually had more than what I needed, but I loved the layout and the disc option. It was just about perfect. 

When it was time to buy another academic planner for my last school year before retirement, I immediately went to the Catholic Sistas ETSY Store...but a planner for this school year wasn't there. A quick search on ETSY came up with no hits, so I think she may have closed her store. So, I went to their site...nope, not there either. I don't know what happened. Maybe they didn't sell, which is a complete shame because it's just about perfect. Or maybe Martina decided that it wasn't worth putting her time and effort into. Whatever the reason, it's not available anymore. So, I decided to go back to the BIS planner.

As a school-based Speech-Language Pathologist, I have specific needs for a planner. As a Catholic professional, those needs include keeping up with the Liturgical Calendar.

During my first couple of years using a Catholic planner, I purchased them from BIS, then I switched over to CTTY. I decided to go back to BIS because it's so wildly popular. At first, I was excited about it. Once I received the BIS planner and started filling it up with appointments and IEP meetings, I realized it just wasn't going to work. There just wasn't enough room for each day to put in everything I needed. (Click on the picture for a better view.)

Blessed is She Planner: Weekly View
I considered just going to an office supply store and buying a regular planner, but I really like to support Catholic shops and I like to have the Liturgical Calendar at my fingertips without going to a separate calendar. I began searching online for other options and found the 2022-2023 Catholic Planner (Half-size) from ElizabethClareShop on ETSY. In the past, I have purchased stickers from her and have always been pleased. Elizabeth has been very quick to respond when I've had questions. This planner was the closest I came to find one similar to CTTY. And it was on sale with free shipping! I have plenty of room on the weekly view to write in all of my IEP meetings, appointments, and To-Do lists for school.
ElizabethClareShop 2022-2023 Catholic Academic Planner
As you can see from the picture, I used washi tape to divide the days right down the middle. I put my IEP meetings/appointments/events on the right and my "To-Do" list on the left. It's working like a charm! Overall, I'm really happy with this planner.

There are a couple of things I would have liked to have had in a planner. 1) Since the cover is heavy laminated cardstock, I'm hoping it's going to hold up until May. Time will tell on that one! 2) The tabs weren't already on the monthly view pages so I had to put them on myself. That is definitely not one of my talents.

It came with a guide, which helped, but as I was placing November, the tab stuck to my finger and tore. I like BIS' tabs, which are sturdy (and already fixed onto the pages):

One thing I really like about the EC Planner is that it is "no frills". The beginning of the planner has the year's calendar, 3 pages for notes, and a page that has space to write "My Rule, My Patron, My spiritual Practices, and My Goals. Then it jumps right into the calendar. The BIS starts out with a letter from Jenna, a whole page for Liturgical Mass Colors, another page for the yearly calendar, a page for the yearly feast days, a page for Holy Days and Novena Start Dates, a page for "How to Make a Holy Hour " and Friday Penance, 1 more for prayers, 2 pages on the Rosary, and another 2 for Examination of Conscience. That's 11 pages before the planner even starts! 
The EC monthly view has the dedication of the month (for example September is "mother of the Seven Sorrows of Mary") Prior to each month there are a couple of pages.
A page for goals/tasks and notes

Novena dates/tracker, monthly confession check box, and a Scripture verse to ponder as well as a page for notes
In BIS, prior to each month, there's a page for reflection and then a beautiful cover page with a quote from a Saint. The monthly views include the Liturgical Colors and the quote that was on the monthly cover.  I find that this view is just too small to really make it effective for me. I do like that both planners have space on the side where I can write the IEPs and Re-evaluations that are due each month.
Blessed is She Academic Planner Monthly View

ElizabethClareShop Monthly View
At the end of the BIS Planner, there are 15 blank pages for notes. The back of the EC Planner includes:
Common Catholic Prayers and the Rosary. I'm not sure why the Luminous Mysteries aren't included.

Suggestions for using the planner, Catholic Practices, and a symbol guide.

Note and Future Plans pages

Next year's calendar and the Liturgical Colors for this year
I've found that I just don't need all of the information that is in the BIS Planner. I just need a planner where I can keep track of my meetings/events/to-do list, and be reminded of the Liturgical Calendar. I need a half-size planner...I have to carry materials between 2 schools so I don't need a planner that's going to take up a lot of space and weigh down my already too heavy backpack. (Both come in half-size.) Both have absolutely beautiful covers:
ElizabethClareShop 2022-2023 Catholic Academic Planner

Cover of Blessed is She Catholic Academic Planner
The ElizabethClare Planner's original cost was the same as the BIS, but with the 30% off the total price was $15 less. With ElizabethClare there is free shipping; BIS does not have free shipping unless your order is over $100. 

As you can tell, I definitely prefer the EC Planner. In my opinion, teachers would absolutely love this planner, especially itinerant education professionals. I would love to see an option given by CTTY: no holes punched so I could use my disc hole puncher and make it a disc planner. That also gives the option to choose what's in the planner. I really don't need all of the note-taking pages, but maybe someone else would use them. Plus, I could pop in a couple of folders that I had in my CTTY planner to hold my planner stickers. It's all about options!

To wrap up, here are the features of the ElizabethClareShop 2022-2023 Catholic Academic Planner that made me ditch the Blessed is She Catholic Academic Planner:
  • No frills
  • Lightweight (approximately 8 oz. lighter than BIS)
  • Large weekly view with plenty of room for IEP meetings/events/to-do list
  • Large monthly view that is readable
  • Few pages for notes 
  • Compact Catholic Practices and common prayers pages
I'd love to hear from you. What Catholic Academic Planner works best for you? Have you stayed with the same one for years, or like me, are you trying to find that perfect one?

**I have to note that I found a planner on ETSY that is similar to the CTTY in the weekly format. It is only available in the calendar year and not the academic calendar, though. It looks as sturdy as the BIS planner with the CTTY weekly format, so if you're looking for a calendar year planner, the Simple Holiness Planner might be worth a look. 

FMF Writing Prompt: Forget


Five Minute Friday: Kate provides a word every Friday. The writer sets a timer for 5 minutes and writes whatever comes to mind.

Sometimes it's easy for me to forget that my husband is sick. It's easy for me to go on with my life and forget the heartache that is sure to be in my future; the loneliness that I will surely feel. I have to forget our plans for post-retirement...they will not happen and I'm mourning the loss of those plans. 

When I remember that it's very possible that I will be alone in a few short years, it feels like the weight of the world is crashing down on me. I think that perhaps my sons are also forgetting just how sick their father really is even though to look at him you would never know it. It's so easy for all of us to go about our daily lives while forgetting what the future may very well hold.

It is so very scary to think about my life partner no longer being by my side. To have to navigate through my life without him is not something I ever thought I would be doing, but here it is. As I've written before, I'm so very thankful that God has granted us the gift of time. We have time to plan what life may look like when he's gone. Of course, I realize that those plans could very well change depending on just what His plan is. 

Wow...five minutes flew by this time! I'm sure I'll be putting my thoughts to the screen again and again.

Digging Deep for Thankful Thursday

I really had to give some thought to gratitude this week. It's been a tough one, so I'm reaching back over the past couple of weeks that I missed posting.

😊 Much-needed rain. We've had some typical summer rains over the past few days which has been nice. It makes it a bit humid, but the grass and plants appreciate it.

😊 Home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers. There's nothing like being able to walk outside and grab some cherry tomatoes to throw in salads.

😊 Coffee. This was the first week back at school and coffee has definitely been my friend.

😊 Mid-week getaways. We went camping for a couple of nights last week and had the whole campground (all 7 sites!) to ourselves. I'm looking forward to being able to do more of that after this May.

😊 Last year of school. I'm so thankful that this is it and that I know without a doubt that I'm ready to retire. It's just the first week back to school, but I'm already not feeling the anxiety or stress that usually comes with the beginning of the school year. 

Thanks, Rebecca for helping us look at the positives in our lives!

A Quotable Thankful Thursday

I'm sippin' my coffee out of my "Thankful" mug, thinking about what I'm most thankful for this week.

  • A couple of cool mornings this week. I usually walk in shorts and a sleeveless shirt but swapped it for a t-shirt those mornings. Unfortunately, it didn't it was back to sleeveless.
  • New, free books!
Well, technically they aren't "free" because I send in a small donation to Dynamic Catholic every month to help keep the evangelization going. In return, I receive new books from time to time, and monthly videos from the founder, Matthew Kelly (see one of his quotes at the top of the blog page) and Alan Hunt.

Today's entry from The Wisdom of the Saints: I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind. --St. Bernard of Clairvaux

  • Which brings me to my next thankful: my Faith. That probably should go without saying, but I love the beauty of the Catholic Church. I love that I can receive Jesus I also love that our Protestant brothers and sisters have taught us how to evangelize. I truly believe that, especially through converts, the Church is learning how to "get out there and do something" instead of keeping it to ourselves. Or, maybe I'm just more aware of it. Or it could be because I have chosen to surround myself with the Church. 
    This is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Fountain. It hasn't been working in several years but a couple of men got it up and running this week and put a bench in front of it. Just in time for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (which is tomorrow). The Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist is usually on June 24th (6 months before Christmas Eve) but since the Sacred Heart is on the 24th, St. John's Baptism was celebrated on June 23th. 

  • Beautiful sunrises on my walk. 

I turned around as I walked across the street and saw this beautiful scene. During my morning walks, I say the Rosary (if you aren't Catholic, you may be interested to know that the reason the prayers are so repetitive is so that you can meditate on different parts of Jesus' life) and meditate on Jesus' life followed by listening to the daily Mass Readings and a reflection. This morning (again, keep in mind it's the Solemnity of Birth of John the Baptist) went right along with the "Thankful Thursday" theme. The readings were Isaiah 49:1-6, Psalm 139, Acts 13:22-26, and Luke 1:57-66, 80; all about knowing that God made each of us with a plan in mind. 

The reflection I listened to was (again) perfect for this Thankful Thursday:
The more you are grateful and give praise to God, that is a measure that you've grown in humility. ---Dr. Tim Gray, PhD, The Augustine Institute

Thanks, Rebecca, for traveling with us as we learn to become humble!

Steamy Thankful Thursday

Time for some gratitude! Head over to Knit By God's Hand to get a huge dose of thankfulness from other bloggers!

It's been a hot and humid week, y'all! As in, when I walk out the door to walk around 6 a.m., the humidity slaps me in the face. We're talking "real feel temps" in the triple digits because of the humidity. It's days like this when I'm thankful I'm in East TN and not in SC anymore. 

This should go without saying, but thank God for air conditioning. I'm not pleasant to be around when I'm uncomfortable, just sayin'. So, thank you, Mr. Carrier for your invention!

On that same topic, I'm thankful for alternate cooking/baking options. I'm trying to cook supper using the air fryer, slow cooker, and electric skillet instead of turning on the oven. So far, so good! 

I'm so thankful for being able to catch up with childhood friends! I met a friend for noon Mass and then lunch. When I looked at my watch, it was almost 4:00. We've seen each other briefly at church but haven't had time to talk. I think we could have sat at the table for at least another hour or two. 

I'm in a huge spiritual slump right now. There is a Catholic site "Formed" that has a lot of videos ranging from Bible studies to movies to books. I decided to do a self-retreat using one of the book studies to get out of this long dry spell. And it's working, so thank you, Formed!

And thank you, Taylor Tripodi, for the gift of your talent and beautiful voice. This song expresses what I've been going through for months!

Slowing Down for a Thankful Thursday

Time for some gratitude! Head over to Knit By God's Hand to get a huge dose of thankfulness from other bloggers!

This week I'm thankful for:
  • A job that allows me to have summers off. When the boys were young, that meant we could do things during the day, or do nothing. The only schedule we had was when we had supper and baseball practices/games.
  • Drives in the mountain with the hubby. We took a drive to my "happy place" (a.k.a. Cades Cove) but got caught in a bear jam for about an hour. The plan was to drive halfway through Loop Road then take a road that just opened back up after being closed for 6 years and take the long way home. But because somebody wasn't very smart with their kids (hence the bear jam) we ended up taking a side road, driving to the other side of the loop, then taking another side road to double back and eat lunch at my hubby's favorite lunch spot in the cove. 
  • Wading in mountain streams. I haven't done this in years! The water was so cold that it took my breath away at first.
  • God's creation. From little frogs in the mountains to Red-Bellied Woodpeckers outside of my window, I'm always amazed at what He has created!

  • Irish Brown Soda Bread. I'm trying to tweak a traditional bread recipe, but it still doesn't taste the same as it did when we were in Ireland. It's good, especially with Irish butter, but it just isn't the same!

My motivation level is right at zero these days but I can still find some things to be thankful for!