Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: Lord Have Mercy The Healing Power of Confession

Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of ConfessionLord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession by Scott Hahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scott Hahn does it again.  This time in a 177 page volume, he explains the origin, history, and necessity of Confession.   As someone who is joining the Catholic Church and has completed RCIA, I think this book adds a lot to what was not covered in our classes.  I think Dr. Hahn’s books should be utilized in RCIA — or at least they were not in my classes.  

Don’t think this is a book for just the non-Catholic, I truly believe Dr. Hahn’s books are fantastic for anyone.  My fiancĂ© is a cradle Catholic, and because of me learning about the Catholicism, he has been enriched as well.  Sometimes things become rote, and that’s not what our faith is about, it should be living and dynamic, and I think that reading Lord Have Mercy will give you a new appreciation for Confession.  I admit, I picked up this book because as a Catholic convert, I am nervous about this sacrament.  This book has put my fears at ease, and in fact, I’m looking forward to when I will be able to make my first Confession.  

As with many of Dr. Hahn’s books, this took me a long time to read.  They are so full of great information I want to ruminate on them.  One of my favorite parts was where he explained why our sin does not cease to exist once it is forgiven, we live with the consequences.  He picked apart the common Protestant teaching that God turned his back on Jesus while He was on the cross.  This is something I heard my whole life, and when I read why Dr. Hahn feels it is an incorrect teaching, it felt so freeing, and helped me understand my sin and its consequences all the more.  We can’t think “Oh, this is just a little sin” because it still separates us from God — and therefore we need confession.

I also learned why Dr. Hahn thinks regular confession is a good idea.  I know at one local church they didn’t even have a confessional until recent renovations.  Penitents had to go with the priest to a room off the kitchen.  Yet, in years past, there would be lines of people on Saturday evenings.  Maybe they knew something we have lost along the years?

This is a book I will be referring back to quite a bit in the future.  It’s an excellent work, and one I believe should be in every Catholic’s library.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

You can purchase this book here:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to School With Technology and U.S. Cellular

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post, but I only recommend products I believe in.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

I've already been enjoying the back to school photos my friends are posting online.  With school back in session for a week now in some places (Really!  One of my friend's children started in July!)  I wanted to write a post about using technology to get organized, stay on top of things to do (including assignments) and a bit on how technology is used in the classroom.

A recent U.S. Cellular survey showed that 74% of households with children under 18 have a tablet.  That's a great tool for your child to use, especially when a child is sick and misses school.  It's easy to message a classmate  -- or even a teacher to get assignments which can be completed at home.  I know when I was a child before the advent of so much wonderful technology, teachers were scrambling to figure out a cost effective way to get snow day work to us during January 1985.  The solution -- as I remember it anyway -- was make the kids who lived in town go to school one day (the fire exits were snowed shut!).  We were loaded down with more snow work and we were to call our friends who lived in the more rural areas.  How easy would it have been for the teachers if they could have posted assignments online and we could have picked them up instead of those of us who lived in town having to relay the message via phone to those who were still snowed in!  Even if you live in a warm area, the same holds true -- if school is missed for any reason, it's easy to get assignments.

Did you also know that tablets are being used in the classroom?  I'm a little more familiar with this because I have friends who have special needs children and I am more aware of them using tablets.  But all children can benefit from educational apps, eBooks, online videos to enhance learning, and Internet access.  A recent Student Mobile Device survey showed 87% of students would like using eBooks instead of traditional textbooks because it would be much less to carry in their backpacks.   I know when I was in school, from about November through March, we were required to take home all our textbooks every day even if we didn't have homework -- in case it snowed and we were off school a day.  That would have been much easier if we had eBooks.

Accessing the Internet opens up a whole world of learning.   With U.S. Cellular's reliable 4G LTE high speed network, this can be utilized for many different learning activities.  I remember when I was in second grade, we were class pen pals with a school from Oklahoma.  How fun would it have been if the technology existed back then to have used Skype or Facetime to have been able to "meet" each other at the end of the year?  Obviously, this could also be used to "bring in" guest speakers to a class who might not otherwise be able to visit.  My 4th grade class had a very unique opportunity -- we had someone from Australia visit.  My teacher had taught there for a couple years and a friend of his came to visit.  In the 1980s, the only way we could have a guest speaker was for them to physically come into our classroom.  Now, there's the technology available that a guest speaker could be on the other side of the world and be able to interact with a class of students in another hemisphere.

Another notable app is Teachers Assistant Pro which is a $3.99 download.  This allows teachers to keep track of classroom behavior and achievements as well as communicate with parents to help cut down on paper usage.

Dropbox is another great app.  This is a cloud based file sharing app.  Be it teachers storing data or students working together on a group project, this is a handy site to use.

Notability gives users the ability to take notes, record a lecture, journal, sketch ideas and more.  It can even be shared with others using iCloud or Google Drive.

But what about funding?  Every school could use more funding, right?  Well, U.S. Cellular is bringing back the Calling All Teachers promotion.  If you live in the U.S. Cellular footprint area and are a public school teacher, apply at and register as a U.S. Cellular affiliate teacher.  U.S. Cellular is fulfilling $1 Million of teacher projects for the 4th year!  So if your classroom is needing something your budget doesn't allow, apply and your project might be chosen!  Your project must be submitted between August 11 an September 21 to be eligible for this year's funding.

Finally, back to school is a great time to go over cell phone usage with your child.  The FREE Parent Child Agreement is a great tool to be able to start a conversation to make your child's cell phone experience safe and enjoyable for everyone.

FTC disclaimer:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Blogger Brigade and this is a sponsored post.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Body Wash

I recently received a sample of Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Hydrating Body Wash.  I love anything mango.  I spent a summer in Asia in 1997 and I was on the mango bandwagon well before anyone else in the United States seemed to be.  So I jumped at the chance to review the new Dial Soap Body wash.  If it's mango or mango scented, I'm right in line for it!  Another thing I like is it's a fruity scent so it's a great family body wash.

This is a clear body wash, which isn't always my favorite because without glasses in the shower I'm not always sure how much I'm using, but that's the only thing I didn't like about this.  I really like how slick it is, I can really tell it's a moisturizing body wash.

Dial is a brand I trust, I have used it my whole life, and I'm excited they have added this nourishing body wash to the line up of skin care products for healthy skin.  It's something I'll definitely be buying in the future.

FTC disclaimer: The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash in exchange for a product review.  However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

And now for the giveaway. . .

One winner will receive THREE totally free coupons for Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Body wash 11.75 ounce size or larger with a maximum valued of $4.49.  These expire on September 30, 2014.  Open only to the United States.  Winner has 48 hours to respond to the e-mail or another winner will be chosen.

Ends 8/10 at 11:59 pm.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A One Room School -- 1980s style

I went to a one room schoolhouse in 1988-1989.  Well, almost. It was a converted farmhouse, and walls were removed to make one large room.  From where I sat, I couldn't see the boys' room, my view was a closet that held hymnals for our weekly chapel.  If you had already guessed it was a Christian school, you are correct.  We were loosely associated with a Pentecostal church, but we were the only Christian school in the area and we had Pentecostal kids as well as Mennonite, and me, a then-Nazarene attending the school.  Aside from the actual texts we used, there was no one belief that was taught to be superior.

There were 16 students in grades -- um something -- through 12.  Except for seniors, no one was really quite sure what grade they were in, so they usually said what grade they would be if they were in public school.  We used a curriculum where we worked at our own rate.  Twelve workbooks equaled one credit.  We worked on our own and if we had a question we would ask our teacher.  Upon finishing a section, we would "go score".  We never thought of the secular use of the word "score" and we tossed around sayings like "I need to score."  "I left that at the score table."  "I really need to score."   What was scoring?  Basically checking our answers.  There were red pens at the score table.  (Our teachers used green on tests.)  Until we reached the end of our workbook, we checked all our work ourselves.  Then we took a test, and if our grade was under 80%, we had to redo the workbook.

As you can imagine, with so few kids, we had some great times.   This post is first in a series and basically gives you a bit of an overview.  Our school day started at 9:00.  We began with the pledges to the American flag, Christian flag, and the Bible.  There was the Scripture of the month read.  If we wanted to be on honor roll, we had to memorize that passage.  Then someone would open the day in prayer.  I always hated when they called on "Sister Jennifer" to pray.  I wasn't even a Christian then (though I didn't realize it!) and I thought "Sister" in front of my name sounded so funny and I'd always have to hold back a giggle before I prayed.

We then worked in our workbooks until morning recess.  (Yes, even 12th graders got recess!)  After that break which was sometimes playing volleyball or going into the basement to play ping pong with badmitten birdies or tennis balls, we were back at our workbooks until 11:30, at which time we had an hour for lunch.  We often brought board games for this break, and the picture on this post is us playing Old Maid.  For some reason we played that quite a bit.  After lunch, back to work until 1:30.  On Wednesdays we were dismissed at 1:30 (and had no morning recess because we had chapel instead.)  The other days, the final hour of school might be gym (either volleyball or running around the school building 12 times.)  This was also the hour where girls had home ec and boys had wood working, at least for a while.

I eventually showed up once a week to school.  Homeschooling was illegal in my state at that time, and the school said as long as I did 2 1/2 hours of school work each day, I would be counted present.  I went to school to take tests and get new workbooks.  Home Ec was then 120 hours of cooking, baking, sewing, crafting something I had never previously made.

I have so many unique and fun memories of that year I will be sharing over time on my blog. . . so stay tuned. . .

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ragamuffin Based on the Life of Rich Mullins DVD review and GIVEAWAY

I have been, unfortunately, unable to post this review until now.  The good news of that is rather than posting a review immediately after watching a movie, I can think back on it, mull it over, and give what I believe is a better review.

I was excited to hear of a DVD coming out called Ragamuffin which is based on the life of Rich Mullins.  I followed his music from his first album -- before people started singing Awesome God.  Although I never met him, his life and music influenced my life more than any other artist.  

This DVD is 137 minutes long, and although it's a Christian film, there is caution for language, alcohol use, and smoking.  I am glad to see that Christian films are beginning to show life as it is and not some sugar-coated version where everyone is perfect because I know I'm not, and neither was Rich Mullins.

My fiance had sung Awesome God a number of times, but couldn't tell you who wrote it.  He knew nothing about the life and faith of Rich Mullins, but after watching it, he asked me why this was released straight to DVD and wasn't shown in theaters.  He immediately started saying who he knew who would enjoy this movie, although like him they are not fans.  So this is a fantastic film for anyone regardless if you know every word to every song Rich Mullins sang (I'm raising my hand here) or if you have never heard of him before.

This is a film about the struggle of life.  Hurts from childhood that sear so deep we never really get over them.  Love that is not returned.  Falling in love with Jesus.   Living differently than the industry around you.  Caring about people.  Being a bit of a rebel.  Being a Ragamufin.

I don't want to imitate Rich Mullins, he's not the example we should strive to be, but I long for the faith he had.  I admire him as a fellow believer and hope that my life can be like his.  I have heard (this was not in the movie) that he usually signed albums "Be God's".   This is the story of a man who strove to "Be God's" be in so doing, he was honest with himself and others about his failings, pain, and problems.

Connect with Ragamuffin:

Watch the trailer:


Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month!

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

Did you know that July is National Cellphone Courtesy month? I honestly think that everyday should be a cellphone courtesy day. Phones add so much to our lives when used correctly. I can share photos with family and friends who live far away. I was away recently and I was able to connect with a roommate from college so we could meet up for a few minutes at an Interstate exit. This would not have been possible without cell phones and U.S. Cellular's reliable 4G reliability. But with phones also comes responsibility.

Photo courtesy of

A Pew Research survey found 67 percent of cellphone owners check for messages even when they don't hear their phone indicate there is a message received. That's a lot of time spent checking, and obviously there are better times than others to check your phone and that's what this post is about.

U.S. Cellular conducted a survey between November 15 and December 2, 2013 of 500 people in partnership with Maritz Research. They found 37% of people said that others get upset with them for using a cellphone because of the time or place they are using it. Yet, 63% of people said they get upset with others. So either it's the same people causing all the problems for everyone, or there are people who don't realize their cell phone habits are annoying to others. Interestingly, the same proportion that believe no one gets upset with them is the same percentage that say they get upset with others!

As is to be expected, those over the age of 54 have a stronger etiquette believe than those younger. Among those ages 55-64, 82% think it's rude to check your cellphone with talking to someone else, and 80% find it rude to check it while dining. Contrast that to only 63% of those ages 18-34 find it rude to check your phone while in a conversation with someone, and only 57% think it rude to check it while dining.

Also found in this study, women tend to prefer texting more than men. Women are also more likely to use texting as away to avoid a conversation.

So what are some tips for improving cellphone courtesy?

Set ground rules.  If you are meeting with others for dinner or going out with friends, discuss the expectations for phone use.  When my mother was very sick, I informed people that I might need to answer my phone at any point.  Even so, I did my best to be considerate.  If I was with a group of people I would often step aside to answer the phone and would keep it silenced, but would be able to feel it on vibrate. I tried not to have it out on a table because that can also be distracting to others.   Did you know that if you forget to turn off the ringer on a Samsung Galaxy S5 that just by flipping it over, it will stop ringing!  How convenient is that?  I have the Apple iPhone5S and to make that stop ringing, I just have to press the button on the top of the phone.

Another great tip is to understand those around you.  If you are out to dinner with a younger friend, taking a photo of your food may be totally acceptable, but that might not be okay with your great-grandmother.  Yet, the opposite could be true.  If you have a high-tech grandparent, she might not be bothered by your cellphone use while someone else could be.  Knowing how others feel about electronics can go a long way towards generating an environment that makes everyone feel comfortable.  I had to check the time recently when talking to someone, and I made a point of saying why I was pulling my cell phone out of my pocket -- that I had an appointment and didn't have a watch.  That was all I did on my device.  Yet at dinner with a different person, I checked in on social media and even used a special that I received for checking in.  Understanding the other person's attitude can help immensely in making for a more pleasant experience for both.

Adjusting the brightness of your screen can also allow you to use your phone or tablet without disturbing others.  I know of one site that allows for "night browsing" but few sites give that option -- on most sites, you should adjust the brightness of your device.  This way to you can use your cellphone or tablet without disturbing those around you.

Single Tasking is a huge benefit to those around you as well.  Did you know that according to the survey I metioned above that more than 1 in 3 people (35%) have had someone walk into them because the person who bumped into them was paying more attention to their phone than they were where they were going.  I know this week someone nearly walked in front of us while using a phone -- the scary part was he was crossing the street while looking at his phone.  If you stake single focused, there chance of a problem is a lot less likely.  In fact, even when I am on the phone, I like to stay single focused.  Yes, I could clean house or fold laundry, but personally I believe the person on the other end is worthy of my undivided attention.

If you are looking for ways to help your child learn good cellphone etiquette,  don't forget to download the  U.S. Cellular Parent Child Cellphone Agreement .  It is free, and it will help facilitate discussion with your child regarding cell phone usage.

Cell phones are a great way to help make life better and it's a good thing to use them so they enhance life and not distract from it!  It's simple to do, and I hope you will join me in my quest to be ever aware of respecting others while also staying connected!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wedding Planning Two weeks In: 7 Quick Takes Friday

1.  No we don't have a date set.

This is the question I am getting most.  We need to talk to our priest, and schedule the ceremony around some other people's schedules if at all possible  (My father is deceased and I want a close friend to walk me down the aisle.)  In addition, I want to join the Church prior to the wedding.

2.  No, I won't answer your question about when I'll have a baby.  

Really?  In what universe is it okay to ask a woman in her 40s when she is going to have a child?  You don't know what issues there might be that might be able to prevent that.  A few people I graduated with are now grandparents.  I don't even have a wedding date set yet, and I'm getting this question.  This is an area that if I want you to know about it, I will discuss it with you, and if not, please don't bring it up.

3.  I miss the weddings from the 1970s and 1980s.

Maybe it was just where I grew up, but I loved how back in the 1970s and 1980s if someone was getting married and you knew them, you would show up.  There would be a ceremony, and everyone would go to the church basement, give them a small gift, usually very small, and everyone would eat mints and children would spill red punch on their best clothes.  We are hoping for something more along the lines of this, so we're wanting to do a very low budget wedding so we can invite everyone.

4.  I wish I had more talented friends who are willing to help. 

Having a low budget wedding means I would gladly take some services as a wedding gift.  I've done this in the past with friends having low budget weddings.  I had taken every photography class my college offered and I had a nice camera and filters, etc.  I did photography for friends who couldn't afford a photographer otherwise.  Made a great gift, and saved them money.

5.   I am considering taking a cake decorating class.

Cake decorating classes are offered around here for about $50.  I am thinking if I can make a cake look better than average I might bake my own.  I particularly would like one that looks kind of like the one Mom and Dad had (and as you can see in the photo it was nothing special.)   I'd like it for a photo op because both my parents are deceased and it would be neat to be able to hang both photos side by side.  Of course on my cake I want to make guinea pig bride and groom cake toppers.

6.  I'm more than willing do do reviews on my blog for wedding stuff.

Yes, this is a bit of an announcement.  I would love to review anything wedding related.  We're trying to keep costs at a minimum.  If I can't review it, win it, borrow it, we have to buy it.  And we don't want to buy much.   Did I mention we are on a tight budget?

7.   I've been focusing on the planning in this post, but the most important this is. . .

The most important thing when planning a wedding is the sacrament.  The vows before God.  Then family and friends.  That's why I am not obsessing about finding the "perfect" wedding gown.  What is going to be perfect is when family and friends are able to share in this sacrament with us.   And the fact that there will be no punch.  I hate punch.  (Meaning that we are able to make this as unique as we are, and the only people we have to please is ourselves at the reception!)

You can read more Seven Quick Takes over at

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Hail, Holy Queen

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of GodHail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scott Hahn has a way of making simple theological concepts.  As a former Protestant, Dr. Hahn has, in this book, tackled the one area of faith that has so often divided Protestants from Catholics — Mary.   Who is Mary?  Why is she so revered?  What does the Bible say about her?  What does the Church say about her?  These are just a few of the topics that are covered in this book.

As someone who grew up Protestant, I have appreciated the works by Dr. Hahn over the years.  They have taught me about the theology of our Catholic brothers and sisters and have made me realize we are Christians.  By his taking different concepts and breaking them down into book form, it has made me understand not only our differences, but our sameness.  I think anyone who is Protestant who reads this will understand why Catholics honor Mary.  (Catholics do not worship Mary, but instead honor her because she is Jesus’ mother.)

I often hear teachings when I was growing up about “types and shadows” meaning that teachings in the Old Testament were often fulfilled in the New.  In this book, there area examples of how Old Testament passages were actually referring to Mary.  This was an exciting discovery for me because I never realized this prior to this book.  By reading this book, I walked away with a much better grasp of who Mary is and why she is important to the Church and to faith.

As someone who recently went through the RCIA class, I felt the class left a lot to be desired in the instruction of the role of Mary in the Church as well as in history and the Bible.  I believe this book should be referenced (if not utilized as required reading) in every RCIA class as the doctrine of Mary is often the most difficult for converts to Catholicism to overcome, mainly because of the misrepresentation of others who are not Catholic.

This is a quick and easy read and one I highly recommend for all Christians.  Even if you are Protestant, understanding Catholic theology is never a waste of time.  I believe it only builds understanding between the two groups.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  The opinions are my own.

You can purchase this book here:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Free Parent Child Agreement on Cell Phone Usage #BetterMoments

FTC disclaimer: I am part of the U.S. Cellular Blogger Brigade and this is a sponsored post.

On Friday evening June 13, 2014, my boyfriend asked me to marry him.   We were at a youth camp, and in a room full of 50 teenagers, only a few adults had a cell phone.  To get photos, I had to toss my phone to one of them so he could snap photos with my phone.   Under normal circumstances, my boyfriend on one knee would have meant tons of photos snapped, and even a video (which I wish there would have been).  But do you know why none of  the teenagers had a phone with them? According to the rules, cell phones were allowed only after dinner -- and my boyfriend proposed at dinner.

I know this was a youth camp where if the teens disobeyed the rules, they could get sent home, but still one thing that every one of these campers had in common was they knew

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Answer Me This. . . Volume 2

To read other bloggers answers to the "Answer Me This" post, you can find them here at Catholic All Year

1. What’s something you intended to do today, but didn't?

Hmm, nearly everything.   I spent most of the day on the phone and on Facebook.  Somehow having a lot of friends and posting a photo like this with the caption "The answer was yes" results in a lot of time on Facebook reading lots of congratulations.  :)

In addition, I was engaged at a Catholic youth camp.  The priest from that parish was in our home this week, and he had to return early for a meeting.  He missed our engagement but called to extend his congratulations.  Just lots of wonderful things today and meant I only did dishes, went to Mass, and social media-ed.  lol

2. What's your favorite grilling recipe?

We just got a grill.  Hot dogs were made on it yesterday.  Despite what 50 kids from a parish in Pittsburgh may think, I am not a great cook.  I just made my best dishes for them.   My boyfriend My fiance, is the cook, and he often just throws stuff together, although recently he has been writing down his recipes and entering them in recipe contests.  (We are keeping our fingers crossed.  Weddings are expensive and hopefully he can win with some of his recipes.)

3. What movie did you see most recently?

Madea's Witness Protection Program.  Before last summer, it was 1999 since I had seen a movie in a theater.  I'm not much of a movie watcher.  I do like documentaries.  I have one here of the rise and fall of the VHS tape called Rewind This! but I can't talk my boyfriend my fiance into watching it!

4. Would you say your tendency is to over or under react to medical situations?

Probably under react.  I don't have insurance (not even after it was made "affordable" because someone else's idea of "affordable" and mine differ.  I suffered through a 2 hour long asthma attack recently because I didn't want to pay the fee at a hospital to go and a breathing treatment.  Thankfully my doctor has now prescribed an inhaler (I need to check around for prices on that and try to find it cheaper somewhere.)  

5. Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube or roll it?

I squeeze, but my boyfriend my fiance is very picky about rolling his toothpaste.  In fact, he uses a binder clip to help keep it rolled up neatly.  

6. What are you doing for Father's Day?

My boyfriend My fiance works.  (My dad died in 2006 and we are visiting my boyfriend's fiance's dad soon.)  I will likely be working on a blog post I need to get written, cleaning house, reading, and likely spending more time on Facebook than I should.  (See question one.)