Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Shopping - This is how we do it!

I love to give Christmas presents. I spend days thinking about each person on my list and the perfect gift to bring a smile. I like to support local (and most especially Christian/Catholic) stores and find unconventional items. Unfortunately, my mind goes "Let's-Oprah's-Favorite-Things-This!" and my wallet goes "Bah-Humbug!" I just can't give what I'd like to. So I make my presents or find creative ways to give something meaningful (I'd tell you what I'm giving my brothers, but I'm afraid they'd see.. I'm excited -- Stay tuned.). But that doesn't stop me from shopping..

My Gift of the Season: Tiny Saints!
I found these at NCYC and I'm smitten! Dozens of different saints 
-- they're perfect to clip on your favorite rosary, a bookbag zipper 
or even your car rearview! Go to shoptinysaints.com to find them!

In the last few years I've been sending my mom a list of suggested gifts for everyone in the family.. I get to do the shopping and she gets to do the "From Mom and Dad"-ing. Truthfully, I don't even know if she looks at the whole list. But if it's the thought that counts, I'm scoring every time. :)

Here are a few of my favorite places to find great gifts! Etsy.com is a gift-giving vortex and I always cross-check with Amazon.com for the best prices, but these are some lesser-known ways to get great ideas! Please, let me give vicariously through you! 

Little tip: find the Bestsellers section first and watch those reviews!


This is just a hub site. Each gift sends you out to a linked spot where you can buy the item. But it's a great place to browse and it even offers sections like "for him", "for her" and personalized suggestions by someone's personality type.



I like to just browse this site for fun! These gifts are really creative and interesting -- albeit a little expensive. You probably could make some of these, so it might spark some good DIY ideas.



These are great for kids and adults alike! I like giving gifts that are different -- PerpetualKid has many practical gifts with a fun twist. Like a toned-down SkyMall.



We don't have a lot of geeks in our family -- mostly dorks. But there is still a lot on this site that would make fun gifts! If you have a Star Wars/Trek, Big Bang Theory or gaming lover in your family, head here!



If your style is more homey, try shopping at CrackerBarrel.com! Clothes, decor, books and more -- this is a great one-stop-shop. I personally think going into this store is better than shopping online in this case. Always cute, cozy and clever things to find in here.



Uhm, I'm going to have to ask you to not judge me here. I have become a huge QVC fan. I haven't bought anything yet, but the odds are if you turn my TV on at any time, Today's Special Value will pop on the screen. :) With great prices, easy pay and reviews, this is a good place to get quality gifts. Just be careful not to shop for yourself. I have a wishlist longer than I'd like to admit.

For Kids:
There are sooo many great sites for kids' toys.. Land of Nod, HearthSong, even Target! Kids aren't hard to buy for, so I'll let you on your own there. Truth be told, all of the sites above have great gifts for young people! Go to town, ye wisemen and women.

The End
So, there you have it! All my gift-giving secret sites! Good luck!

And if you're really having trouble, my fourth calling in life (besides youth ministry, wedding/part planning and hair-cutting) is professional gift buyer. Especially around this time of year, I kinda wish that vocation had panned out.. :) Happy to help if you need it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Sister: A Heavenly Veteran

First, I wanted to share something. One of my favorite sisters posted this picture awhile ago.. A guide on finding out if you're really wearing pants or not! Very helpful in this legging-loving age.


She's not a biological sister. She's like, a religious sister. From the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration -- one of my favorite orders of all time! And I desperately want to bring this chart out at my youth group meetings because leggings are the new jeans and it's not ok. Seriously, stop by on Sunday night and you'll wonder if you've just interrupted Cirque du Soleil practice. Lycra, anyone?

Speaking of sisters, I've been thinking a lot about one of mine lately.

A biological one this time. Mary Clare.

I'll set the scene for you.. It was 1998 and I had just started 8th grade. I was going through that pitifully awkward phase (which incidentally I've never come out of) and being the oldest of five with four brothers, I was ready for a girl in the fam damily.

She was born on a beautiful day in August, just a day after her due date. And, sadly, just a day after she'd passed away. I still have trouble talking about how mom and dad came home from the hospital in the middle of the night to tell us the sad news. Tommy had come into my room hours before with the friend he had sleeping over and woke me up, worried. "Mom and dad just went to the hospital.. Something's wrong with the baby." He'd said. I waved him off. "She's probably just going into labor. It will be okay." Later, when my dad came in to wake us up and bring us downstairs, Tommy's friend was still awake. "Is everything okay?" He asked. He was the first to find out, actually. Tommy and I found out in mom and dad's arms on the couch downstairs and I've always been thankful for that private moment -- even shared with that friend. Tommy and I were both in his wedding this past summer.


So our dear Mary Clare was a stillborn baby. I remember my friend Erin telling me that when our priest had made the announcement from the pulpit before Mass, asking for prayers, she'd been confused. "Okay, so the Beardmore baby is going to be still born.. What's the bad news?"

By the way, Erin is also the gal with whom I had my most embarrassing moment.. Although, I didn't realize I should have been embarrassed until years later. Can I share? Allow me to bring you back to 1995. I'm in 4th grade. Stirrup pants are in. Beanie babies are all the rage. As are goofy Jim Carey movies. Erin and I worked out this little comedy bit with an armadillo Beanie Baby and when her dad came to pick her up from school, we tried it out. "Go ahead, girls." He'd said. "Okay." I started. "Hey Erin! Is that an armadillo in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" Erin's dad looked confused as his only daughter responded with a grin, "Nope, it's an armadillo in my pocket!"

Ta-da!!!

Obviously we had no idea what we were talking about, but I can't imagine what that poor man was thinking. When I remembered this as an adult I nearly puked. #mortified

If you have trouble, click here to go to the video's YouTube page. 

Anyway,  someone sent me this video above and memories of Mary Clare's funeral came flooding back. I totally boo-hoo'd at the pictures of this mourning family, remembering the tender loss of a sibling we never knew. I thought about all of the people who brought meals and cards and toilet paper and took me to the eye doctor (yeah, when someone asked if they could do anything I chirped, "Well.. I need a new pair of glasses." And off we went. #alwaysmortified). The Church was full of friends and family and I can still hear how my Aunt Cathy read, "Come now my love, my lovely one come." in her soothing, tempered voice. My dad carried the tiny white casket out of the Church and the final song, "Goodnight Sweet Jesus" still makes me cry.

Afterward my brother and I went bowling with friends. A totally 90's way to deal with grief. And, in the months ahead, I struggled with a lot of anger towards God. That, however, became a great source of spiritual growth for me. I know that sounds strange, but it showed me that I had a real relationship with Him! Why would I be upset with someone who I didn't consider to be a loving God to me? How could I try to run from someone who I didn't think existed?

The biggest thing that got me through was the 3-inch binder spiritual bouquet we got from the CC kids. Hundreds of page-long notes from high schoolers offering prayers and their own stories of grief.  I must have read that thing 100 times. It made me feel like I wasn't alone. And it also made me feel like a certain senior boy was probably trying to secretly profess his undying love for me when he misspelled sympathy. 

And condolences. 

Oh, and funeral. 

(Sigh) It was all for a baby we'd never even met. 

So, I can't help but wonder.. What if we mourned the loss of every baby like this? :( Each one, planned or unplanned, miscarried or aborted, in perfect health or with struggles, is as important as Mary Clare. Can you imagine if our lives stopped and we wept each time a little soul in our lives was lost before they even took a breath? Maybe one of the biggest tragedies of abortion is the fact that no one even notices the loss. :(

Today, on Veterans Day, I thank each person who sacrificed their life so that we could have the chance to live as we please and I think of all the souls who never got the chance to live because we wouldn't sacrifice our lives to allow it. 

See, Mary Clare may not have ever taken a step or said a word, but she made a difference in this world. She would have been 15 years old by now. And although I'm guessing they don't wear leggings in Heaven, I'm pretty sure she is workin' it when it comes to fighting for babies who just want the chance to live and breathe and embarrass themselves with awkward armadillo jokes.  

It's so worth it. 

Mary Clare, pray for us. :)