Friday, February 23, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 2! Resolution Time!

I'm back with another short episode of the Tea Time podcast for the first full week of Lent!

Today we chat about Lenten resolutions. What are mine? How are they going? What are yours? Is it possible to get back on the bandwagon after falling off? I'd love to hear from you!

*I said Magnificat Advent Companion in the recording, when I obviously meant the Magnificat Lenten Companion!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from

 Comment below on all things Lenten resolutions!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 1-6...

Hi all. I am SO glad to be resting in here with you today, my family and friends. I've had a difficult week, and I covet your prayers. This book though, The Thief, really was a balm to my soul. Despite my heart being in my throat a few times for worry of what is to come in the story, that is. :0

I have lots of Lent stuff to talk to you about in Tea Time tomorrow. Are you as excited for that as I am?! I'm SO glad that I started that back up again for Lent, and it's back to it's older short form! So if you'd like to listen, but don't have a lot of time, this new short format may be for you.


All right, so chapters 1-6. Let's dive in!

We read book 1 in this series, The Well, during Summer Ordinary Time. I really enjoyed that book, but I have to say that The Thief grabbed me much sooner than that one did. This book starts out fast, and I was immediately caught up with Mouse and his surroundings, feeling immediately empathetic to his plight in being poor and hungry, and thus being forced to steal to provide for his family. My heart was pounding with fear that he would get caught. And so when he does...


A lot of anxiety was exuded during this part. :0 Mouse is caught by Longinus, a Roman centurion. Mouse is working with a guy named Dismas, and though Dismas seems callous and selfish, he actually comes back to save Mouse. A big sigh of relief was exhaled when they both escape.

And then the second chapter started, and I was like HOLY C*#@! MOUSE IS A GIRL!! Mouse is actually Nissa, a young Jewish woman who is desperately trying to keep herself and her blind brother, Cedron, alive in the face of their parents' neglect and addictions. And she's also trying to keep the family donkey fed too. I really like that Nissa.

Nissa feels pretty down on herself because she thinks of herself as plain. Her father and various other questionable men in her life have convinced her of this. She believes that she is plain to look at, and that her sharp tongue makes her unattractive to those seeking a wife. She has resolved to be a caretaker for her beloved brother, and for Amit the donkey. Although the stealing has been working, she wants to quit and find an honest way to make their living.

Next, we spend some time with Longinus. He's a character that evokes mixed sympathies from me: he has a job that involves violence and cruelty towards others, but he has an empathetic side that he tries to keep hidden from his colleagues. In a scene similar to what we saw in The Well, he goes to the bathhouse with his smarmy compatriot, Silveranus. He hates Silveranus and his treatment of others, and comes to the aid of Silveranus's victims where he can. But he has to be careful. Silveranus challenges him to find the thief who got away recently as a test of his manhood or some such notion, and Longinus agrees. He wants out of this duty post, and this is his way of proving himself and receiving a requested transfer so that he can live in peace. I feel for Longinus, but I also have a very bad feeling about all of this.

Back with Nissa, her father's gambling has caused her to reevaluate her cessation of stealing. He has yet again gambled away what little money they had instead of paying their rent, AND he has absconded with Amit the donkey; Nissa fears that he will sell the animal to a tanner for money. I may have cried at this part.

So Mouse comes back out, and the danger is very real. Mouse and Dismas are very much at risk of being caught.

We move into a heartbreaking scene in front of the Temple, and here we see Jesus for the first time. He is intervening on behalf of the woman caught in adultery, and saving her from being stoned. Everyone is quite taken and/or bewildered by this new character, and Nissa knows that Cedron has heard of this man and wants to meet him. She collects enough loot to provide for the family for a time, splits it with Dismas, gives some to a starving woman begging on the Temple steps, and heads off to change and find Cedron.

Cedron is just the sweetest, and is immediately taken with Jesus. Jesus puts mud on Cedron's eyes, and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. This is where chapter 6 ends. I think I know where this is heading, and I'm super excited to find out if I'm right!

I'm also super nervous, have I mentioned that? 😰 There are lots of possible yikesies looming on the horizon. I have a feeling that the ending is going to pack a wallop, since we know just from the description that we do get to Holy Week in this story.

I am loving this book. I'm getting a lot of out of it spiritually, with the timing and setting, and I find the characters very relatable. The story is moving VERY rapidly and I'm all caught up in the events. I cannot wait to read the next 6 chapters!

What did you all think?! Leave your comments below or over in the Facebook group!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 1! Musings on Ash Wednesday and starting Lent off strong...

Hey looky, a SURPRISE! I was inspired this week, and so have the first episode in a Lenten series to share with you:

These are going to be *short*, 9ish minute vignettes that I share each Friday during Lent on a Lenten theme or my own Lenten experience. This week I talk about Ash Wednesday, and my attitude of starting Lent off strong. I hope that you'll join me!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from

 How was your Ash Wednesday, dear listener? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ash Wednesday is approaching, and new adventures in fitness to combat the winter blues...

ooooo, Ash Wednesday is almost here! I have to say, despite Lent being a penitential season, I look forward to it every year. It's a time for contemplation and reflection, a time to refresh and grow. It also means that it's at least midish February (sometimes early March) and so spring is not so far off in the future. Lent causes me to truly appreciate the sacredness of Holy Week, the poignancy of the Triduum, the breathtaking awe of the Easter vigil, and the sweet relief of Easter morning. I love it.

Lent also usually falls right near my birthday. As the years go by, birthdays have become more a reason for inner reflection and appreciation, rather than any outward celebration. I do miss my days of birthday parties in my parents' basement, the pictures inevitably featuring a pigtailed, glasses-wearing Yours Truly, with lots of games and homemade cake. Now, I see my birthday as a time to be grateful for how far I've come from that happy, but very insecure little girl, and to appreciate my adorable husband and kids. It's a time to be grateful to be alive. It really does tie in nicely with Lent. :0

This Lent, I am aiming to keep it simple, but meaningful. My item that I will give up is alcohol. Indeed, it is a bad habit to rely upon that as a way of winding down after work, and so this is a sacrifice that has been a long time coming. 😳 As well, I have the Magnificat Lenten Companion downloaded for Henry and I to share each evening, and the January/February/March issue of Our Daily Bread for myself to reflect on in the mornings. And therein lies the entirety of my plan.

In the past, I had more grandiose ideas, and inevitably, I'm not able to keep up with it all for the entirety of Lent. Then I feel like a failure, and by Holy Week, I'm castigating myself for yet again, being the Worst Catholic in the Known Universe. This year, I'm keeping it a little simpler. I'm curious to see how it will all turn out by the time Holy Week rolls around.

And frankly, I could use a Lenten boost, because the winter blues have hit me with a vengeance this year. I normally love the winter, but for whatever reason, this year it's affecting me differently. When the new semester approached, I assumed that, given my lovely holiday break, I would be a little down, but that I'd get back into the routine soon enough. Miss Type A over here tends to thrive in routine. Not this year.

We're on the third week of the semester, and my malaise has not let up. I dread coming to work, and I'm emotional and teary at home in the evenings. Not necessarily about work, just about...everything. It's like I don't totally understand why I feel so sad and cannot shake it. I'm normally a very upbeat person, and so this was a huge red flag for me. There is only one other time I remember feeling this way, like I couldn't control the depth of my emotions, and that was right after I had my kids. Postpartum depression. I'm obviously not postpartum now, but the basic physiology in my brain is the same: Depression. I'm thinking it's seasonal, but I suppose I don't totally know for sure. I just know that it's very unusual for me.

I decided to be proactive and get myself moving a bit more, because I know that there is a connection between physical exercise and mental health. I'm certainly not an inactive person - I go to 3 dance classes per week right now, and I take 30 minute walks at lunch when I can. But I know that dance technique classes, for all of their many benefits, are not cardiovascular or strength training exercise, so I decided to step it up. I'm participating in a free fitness class for staff here at work on Tuesdays, and in the big step I did something that I've never done before: I joined a gym.

The free class at work is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and as evidenced by the fact that I can hardly walk the next day, I suppose it's "working." To be honest, I don't really love it, because I have a weak knee that I don't want to risk injuring, and the intervals are extremely fast paced and involve lots of getting up and down. But I've tried to modify things as best I can to accommodate for that, and I adore the second half of the class, which is more traditional strength training with hand weights, working our way through specific muscle groups. Afterwards, this type of exercise makes me feel an endorphine rush, and like I could climb Mt. Everest. This is what got me thinking about a gym.

I dance for reasons other than physical health, ironically. It's a creative outlet for me. Besides short walks, and now the HIIT class, I don't really dedicate time to fitness. I decided to check out the free trial at a local Crunch gym that I drive right past on my way home from work.

Gyms intimidate me, just keeping it real. They are generally filled with people in extremely good shape, who take fitness very seriously. I know squat about fitness. After 5 minutes of discreet frowning and head scratching, I can figure out how to turn the treadmill on, but that's about the size of it for me. Those weight machines? Looking at any one of them, I can barely figure out how you would even sit on the thing, let alone what it's supposed to DO for a specific part of your body? Nefariously, some of them you DON'T EVEN SIT ON; you hang, lean or otherwise contort around them, and trying to figure that all out without getting in some other gymgoer's way makes me break into a cold sweat. Let's not even get started on the free weight area. I would rather get a root canal that go over there and deal with all the unspoken social interactions involved in that Pit of Potential Awkwardness.

So I went for my free trial. I donned my gym clothes and naturally, made my way over to the treadmill area. It did take me 5 full minutes to figure it out, don't judge :0, but I got it going, and managed a 30 minute slightly inclined walk. While I was doing so, I gym watched: how did the People In The Know use the scary torture machines? Ooooo, you put your legs THERE. Oh, oh, what are they doing now?! Ahhhh, that's a cleaner bottle thingy to wipe the machine down, good idea. That seems particularly smart for the winter. Oh I see, that's a machine to do abdominal crunches on. For reasons I cannot explain given how uncomfortable it looks, that seems like a very popular one.

Even looking over at the free weight area required courage I didn't know that I possessed. Herein lies the people with gigantic muscular arms, who carefully watch their form in the mirror as they lift weights that they selected ever so carefully. There are people hanging from things and tugging on pulleys, and I cannot foresee that me and my stick arms will ever be able to do any of these things with a straight face. But I suppose our God is a God of miracles. :0

All of that being said, I did enjoy my trial. When I'm there, I'm focused on doing something healthy for my physical and mental well being. I'm in The Zone. I push myself much more than if I was taking a quick walk during my lunch break. Importantly, Crunch has a $9.95 per month option, and does not require you to sign an annual commitment. I went for it.

This is only my second week, and my big Adventurous Move was to move from the treadmill to an elliptical machine and pick a random track rather than simply setting a speed. But hey, I'm getting there! I do want to try the weight machines, and they have a 30 minute circuit that I'm itching to attempt. I feel very self-conscious because I don't know how to use anything and I don't want to be a nuisance to anybody else and/or be in their way. But I'm working my way up to it.

I actually look forward to stopping there on my way home from work a few days per week, so I'm optimistic that this will have a long term benefit for me. I'll keep you posted on how things go with my trying new things there. 😨

All right, today is Fat Tuesday, and I'm trying to perk. I'm dancing with my troupe tonight at a benefit for the SPCA, which is fun, but it's going to be a long day. I'm looking forward to Ash Wednesday tomorrow, and navigating Lent beside all of you. *heart* Starting tomorrow, I'll begin The Thief  in anticipation of our first book club post next week!

How are you prepping for Ash Wednesday? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Official book club plans for Lent, and navigating the snow into the spring semester...

Good day to you all! I'm working hard to have a better week over here. It's been intense, to be sure. Once again (*long suffering sigh*) we've completely redesigned our course, and thus each week the way that we are presenting the material is totally new to us. As you can imagine, this makes for time consuming preparation, in addition to all of the teaching, grading and email answering that is involved with having 200 students. It's not entirely pleasant, but it's not all that unpleasant either, if that makes sense. I'm getting used to it again, and if you can believe it, the volume is actually *better* than it's been in previous semesters. So I'm trying to look at the positive things, and not complain about the negative things. It can be a challenge, but it's actually going pretty well.

We also continue to get lots of snow and cold temperatures here in Western New York. Not that this is an unexpected thing in the dead of winter, but this has been a much colder winter than usual. It does wear on a person after a time. I've had the winter blues a bit, and actually joined a gym to try and climb my way out of it. In fact, I think we need a whole separate post on that topic, since it is a brand new one to me. Look for that in the next few weeks. ;-)

Lent starts NEXT WEDNESDAY, how did that happen?! I've been busily planning away. I downloaded the Magnificat Lenten Companion, and plan to read that each night with Henry. I also may give up wine. 😨 That might be a little rough when I'm looking to wind down in the evenings after work and the kids go to bed, but I think it would be fruitful. What are your Lenten plans shaping up to bed?

There is also our book club to plan for! You know me, I'm a Kindle reader, so I downloaded the book yesterday:

I know many of you are awaiting your copy from your local library. Here are my thoughts: We'll begin reading as Lent starts, so our first official "meeting" won't be until the week after Ash Wednesday; out timeline will run through Holy Week. We'll have a little book chat weekly, and I'm aiming for posts on Thursdays. I thought Tea Time for the book club worked well for Advent, but this time I want to try written posts again. I rather missed doing them over Advent. And speaking of that issue...

I had a little heart-to-heart with myself, and realized that during Lent, while the semester is very much in full swing, I will not have time to both write a book club post each week *plus* put out a short Tea Time podcast episode. I really wanted Tea Time for the major liturgical seasons, but Lent simply isn't going to work, at least not this year. I still think Summer Ordinary Time is a very viable possibility though, so that is my goal. For now, I'd like to focus on weekly therapeutic posts, along with the book club. These will likely be together in one longer post each week.

And here is how I see the dates/reading assignments broken down:

February 22nd: Chapters 1-6
February 28th: Chapters 7-12
March 8th: Chapters 13-18
March 15th: Chapters 19-24
March 22nd: Chapters 25-30
March 29th (Holy Thursday): Chapters 31-36

How does this sound to everybody? The chapters aren't long (the book is about 340 pages total), so I think it will be manageable. As soon as your copy arrives, you can get to reading, and I think the timing will be good! Thoughts? Who do I have joining me this Lent?! Leave a comment!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Why can I still not see this stupid portfolio? Was this not tested before they rolled it out?!" - 1st week of class adventures...

*waves weakly*

Hello all, I'm coming to you from a prone position on the ground, but otherwise, I'd say I'm holding up pretty well. :0 It's been an interesting start to my spring semester, but before we go there, we have to cover blog housekeeping, and thus talk about THE LENTEN BOOK CLUB!

Ok, so the tiebreaker poll was a bit of an epic fail. :0 We're all apparently book lovers who simply CANNOT be forced to choose between books because the tiebreaker poll ended in a tie.


I get it, I really do! So here's what I propose that we do: Let's read The Thief for Lent, the theme is just SO perfect, and for the Summer Book Club we will read Kevin Lowry's conversion story, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church. We will not have another book poll for a while, because well, we're all polled out. ;-) But we *clearly* all want to read these two books, and so we will read both! Let's work on acquiring The Thief for Lent, and after Easter we'll look at starting a Summer Book Club focused on apologetics in June-ish. Sound like a plan?

*virtual fist bump*

All right, sooooooo, my week. I'm exhausted, so there's that. Emotionally and physically. :0 It's not that it's gone poorly, but just like in every other semester, technical debacles abound the instant the first day of class rolls in. Combine that with multiple classes (I have 8 this semester, and this is the *lowest* number I've had since this enterprise started a year and a half ago), nearly 200 students to manage, and catching some sort of nefarious winter bug, and, you know, it takes a toll. I've been dragging the past few days, although my spirits haven't been down, so that's good.

I arrived on campus Monday morning in my little Honda Fit feeling mighty trepidatious. I know how first days tend to go: I walked up to my office, and soon learned that internet connectivity was spotty across campus due to a server issue of some kind. 🠔 Yeah, pretty much like that. :-\ My office PC was unaffected, but you want to know what was affected all day long? Our classroom's teaching station. And I was up for the 10 am class slot all by my lonesome.

Yyyyyyyaaaaaayyyyyyy 🎉

One of my colleagues finagled an iPad mini with an HDMI cable that was able to connect to the WIFI. So I was ultimately still able to use the teaching station and the projector, albeit a bit more awkwardly. The larger problem wasn't fully solved until Tuesday morning, but all's well that ends well, right?

Well. 😱

Tuesday morning found a new problem.

"Tiffany, are you over there? We have a problem. A BIG PROBLEM."

That's just what you want to hear shouted from your boss's office first thing in the morning, is it not?!

In the first few weeks of our library lab, we guide the students in creating an ePortfolio for their English course; we set them up with step-by-step video instructions on how to do this. Sounds foolproof, yes? It IS, unless a previously undiscovered little glitch occurs in the new ePortfolio software, and students cannot open or edit their portfolios after they've created them. This wouldn't be quite so apocalyptic save for the sheer volume of students that we teach in our lab - and this would be a couple thousand. Whenever we need to apply a fix with so many students affected, things get messy. Some had already created these ill fated ePortfolios, and so now we need to have them create new ones, but do other things to fix the problem and try to banish the old ones. Some had not yet created an ePortfolio, and so now we need them to do yet different things to create a Portfolio. Some will have no idea what is going on (can't really blame them in this instance), some will have 2 ePortfolios and forever be confused by which is which, some will not follow the correct instructions and will produce a malfunctioning ePortfolio, and some will do nothing at all until the end of the semester, when they will inevitably come complain to me about their low grade.


I've decided to deal with all of this...NEXT WEEK. 😳

I'm hanging in there; I mean, what else can we do?

I've also started to get the expected student emails, confused about where to click and look for assignments. No matter how clearly we try and spell things out in the directions, this always happens. I get it, to a certain extent. There's nothing like being addressed in an email as "respected madam," to make a girl feel old, though. :0

All right, that is my week in a nutshell! Over in CatholicLibrarianChildren Land, it is Catholic Schools Week, and my two munchkins have been enjoying all of the special activities and treats. I'm busily planning for Lent, and have I mentioned that despite my 100% failure rate with journaling, I want to try a journal again for Lent? Because THAT'S guaranteed to go well, right? What could go wrong?!

*high five!*

Let's discuss next week! In the meantime, what's up with YOU?! Would you rather our Lenten Book Club be Tea Time podcast discussions or written posts? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dealing with winter stress, and break the Lenten Book Club tie!

Hi all! Happy new week to you! As I mentioned before, we have quite the dramatic turn in the Lenten Book Club poll! :0 Two books received the exact same number of votes, and it's been a week since anybody has voted, so I think that all of my regulars cast their opinion. I had the poll set to allow multiple votes (because why not? I like having that option. I have a hard time with commitment in these circumstances ;-)) and so now I made an executive decision. I could have just picked between the 2 books myself, but I didn't want to do that. I closed the poll, and put up a new one. You have til next Wednesday, January 31st, to vote for one of the top two books (and yes, this time you only can vote for 1!): either The Thief:

or How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church:

Scriptural-based historical fiction (involves the story of Longinus), or non-fiction apologetics/conversion testimony. Go to it!

In other news, I'm not having the best of days. :-\ It's just one of those stretches in which I have a lot on my mind:
  • The semester starts in less than a week, and the frenzied preparation pace at work is very draining. I like a lot of quiet in my life (I'm a major Introvert), and this type of environment is extremely noisy, if you know what I mean.
  • With the semester starting next week, my work life will go back to whiny emails about why assignments are not done on time. They haven't even started yet, and I'm already over it. 😶
  • I'm always worried about my kids. I've given up on ever being in a relaxed state when it comes to them.
  • I'm getting more requests for professional dance gigs, and although this is what I "wanted," the Scaredy-Pants, Insecure Tiffany that lurks within is feeling downright nauseous about the whole thing.

    All of this, in addition to the following pile-ons of late:
  • My phone has decided that it suddenly doesn't want to connect to any other devices via Bluetooth. i.e. my Fitbit and my car's system such that I can play my podcasts in there. Fitbit challenges and podcasts are two of my sweet joys in life. And speaking of my car...
  • My little Honda Fit has decided that he is a sensitive soul, and thus sometimes he needs to be macho with his gear stick. This means that when I'm driving along in 5th gear, and need to downshift into 2nd to make a turn, the stick will get "sticky" and not allow me to move it into any gear at all, let alone the one that I want. 😳 Even Mike, a lifetime driver of stick shifts, has commented that my gear stick is more challenging than most. But back to my phone, who should be put directly into the Naughty Corner...
  • My podcast app decided that it didn't like a few of my feeds and was regularly throwing tantrums, refusing to download new episodes. I finally gave it the boot and downloaded a new app, despite the fact that I had paid for the old one. I've decided that I don't care, this one is working great, and isn't that what matters?
I feel exhausted from even thinking about all of this, and I've been down all day. Sometimes, it's just the way it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to rally! Life is good, even amidst frustrating days.  Mike is taking the kids and I out to dinner tonight, I'm reveling in my new dance choreographies, and I'm happily deciding on what I'll be doing for Lent besides reading our book club entry. Do you all have any ideas for me?! I haven't given anything up for Lent in several years, I've tried to add things in instead. And well...sometimes those things don't make it all the way to Holy Week. :0 I already know, from Advent, that journaling is likely to go down the tubes quickly. What are your ideas? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A return to reality...

Well, hello there, everyone!


I had a REALLY fun time talking to you all last week about our upcoming Lenten Book Club. Tons of interesting comments were left here and in the Facebook group, and the resulting discussion was fabulous! Lots of votes have been cast, and there's actually currently a tie! This is the most drama we've ever seen in a Life of a Catholic Librarian book club poll. :0

It's all very exciting! We'll see where the votes are ate on January 30th and go from there.


In the meantime...yeah, it's officially mid-January. What does this mean? This means that the holiday/New Year's glow has faded, and we have gone from glamorous belly dancing gigs, festive parties, warm fellowship, amazing food and drink, and days spent loafing about the house in my bathrobe while simultaneously crocheting and watching Christmas Hallmark movies, to the following:

(1) The spring semester starts in less than 2 weeks, and to say that we are not ready in our course preparation is the understatement of the century. A feeling of impending doom pervades our floor of the library.

(2) The weather has gone from charmingly wintry and cozy, to gray and cataclysmically polar within a span of 48 hours.

(3) Our "days off" begin with $1200 orthodontic appointments for one of my offspring.

(4) The dance studio is so cold that glamour goes out the window in favor of gigantic fuzzy socks and shroud-like sweaters.

(5) My new car and cute new suede boots are both covered with salt.

(6) My DVR has become clogged with Hallmark Winterfest movies that I have no time to watch.


Indeed, the bloom is officially off of the rose. I'm no longer basking in money showers and glittery costumes. I am stewing in a pit of lesson plans and dirty snow.


It's too bad, truly it is. I suppose, though, that this is what makes those good times all the sweeter. We'll get there. The semester will start, and it won't be nearly so bad as I fear. And then Lent will come, and we'll all enjoy each other's companionship on that journey quite well, I am sure. I also have some fun dance events coming up, including a very dancey weekend, with two choreography-intensive classes, plus a show that I'm attending. Life is good! Snowy, but good. God save us all from this frozen precipitation "wonderland."

What are you up to this cold January day, dear readers? Report in for duty, please! :-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lenten preparation! Because we are Catholic Nerds :)

Happy second week of January everybody! It feels like full-on winter right now, yes? I'm ensconced back at work, but the joy of New Year's Eve and the holiday break lingers on, and the spring semester hasn't started up yet, so I'm still in the Happy Zone!

I've been thinking a lot about Lent coming up on February 14th, and I figured the time was nigh for planning! We've talked about a few books for a seasonal book club (the Advent one went SO WELL), and thus I've put up a poll up for the Lenten Book Club! I have the books we talked about previously, plus a few more. Variety is good, right? *beams* Here are our descriptions!

We spoke about the Living Water Series, because we enjoyed The Well so much during our Summer Book Club. Therefore, I knew I would include one of the books as an option, but in the end I decided to include both of the remaining volumes! First up, we have Book 2, which is The Thief, by Stephanie Landsem:

A Roman centurion longing for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a deadly secret witness a miracle that transforms their lives and leads them to the foot of the cross.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Abandoned by the God she once loved, her only recourse is to depend upon Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, to keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and the landlord satisfied.

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure and is desperate to escape the accursed Judean province. Accepting a wager that will get him away from the aggravating Jews and their threats of revolt, he sets out to catch the thieves harassing the marketplace.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Nissa hopes for freedom from her life of lies. But the supposed miracle brings only more misfortune, and Longinus, seeking to learn more about the mysterious healer, finds himself drawn instead to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Cedron, Longinus, and Nissa are unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. As danger closes in on them from every side, they must decide if the love and redemption Jesus offers is true or just another false promise. How can the so-called Messiah save them from their shackles, when he cannot even save himself?
This is certainly a top contender, in my opinion. I loved this scriptural fiction genre when we investigated this series last summer, and the theme of this installment seems ideally suited to Lent.

Next, we have as an option Book 3 in the Living Water Series, this one about Martha and Lazarus, The Tomb, by Stephanie Landsem

In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.

Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.

Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love.

When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?
Thoughts? Also a nice option for Lent. Nothing says we have to read the series in order!

Next up we have an apologetics option. In my 20's, reading conversion stories like this one changed my life and my faith. I have always had a soft spot for personal testimonies like this, and I have not yet read this particular story! It is How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry

A preacher's kid at a Catholic university, Kevin Lowry settled into a double major in beer and billiards soon followed by uncomfortable run-ins with pious students, failing grades, increasing anxiety, a missing night and the startling realization that some fellow students actually attended Mass the morning after a party instead of sleeping it off.
After getting kicked out, Kevin got his act together, got the MBA, and also got the girl. Meanwhile God was working, drawing him to the inevitable conclusion that Catholicism was all true despite his objections.
Kevin Lowry's journey to Catholicism is fascinating, often funny, and demonstrates God's unfailing, patient love for all of us.
Doesn't this sound interesting? I really want to read this one. If it doesn't win, I'll keep it in the hopper for the Summer Book Club!

Finally, I thought this was a lovely option. The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life, by Melissa Musick

The popular mother-daughter team behind the hit website helps readers to discover, rediscover, and embrace the holidays and seasons of Catholic life through this collection of prayers, crafts, devotionals and recipes. 

This beautifully designed book will help readers celebrate Catholicism throughout the years, across daily practice and milestones. The Catholic Catalogue is a field guide, a list of far ranging topics, that should aid any Catholic, whether steeped in the tradition or just discovering spirituality for the first time, to understand the daily acts that make up a Catholic life. And like the most useful field guides, it is divided into user-friendly sections and covers such topics as the veneration of relics, blessing your house, discovering a vocation, raising teenagers, getting a Catholic tattoo, planting a Mary garden, finding a spiritual director, and exploring your own way in the tradition.

With more than 75 inspiring chapters, this book promises to be a resource that individuals and families will turn to again and again, helping to make room in their busy lives for mystery and meaning, awe and joy. 
You know me and the liturgical year, total fangirl. I think Kevin also enjoys liturgical living books, yes?

All right then, it's time to vote! I'll leave the poll up for 3 weeks and announce the winner at the end of January. *beatific beam*

I'll handle the structure very similarly to the Advent Book Club. I'll have either a Tea Time discussion or a post here on the blog with my thoughts each week (I haven't decided which yet), and also a thread up on the Facebook group. So you can take your pick as to where you'd like to participate. That worked out very well during Advent, and we had a lot of nice participation!

If you're torn between two books, don't forget: we also have the Summer Book Club! If you'd like me to keep one of the books that doesn't win in the rotation to vote on for the summer, make sure to leave a comment to let me know! Read, set, VOTE! The poll is up on the right side navigation bar of the blog!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year, 2018! It's an exciting, dancey start :)

Happy New Year everybody! I'm still exhausted from mine :0 (you'll see why shortly), and the transition back to work wasn't an easy one. I had a lovely vacation at home with family, and braving the sub zero temperatures here currently in WNY to troop back to my office, away from the family love, wasn't easy. :-\ But let's reflect back on the fun, and look at where we're heading in 2018!


Christmas was lovely. I did not enjoy having no 4th week of Advent though, is anybody with me? I know it just falls like that sometimes, but it's very unfortunate, in my opinion. Our church was already decorated for Christmas on the morning of the 4th Sunday of Advent, because there was no time to decorate before the Christmas Eve Mass that evening! :0 And Christmas Eve was hectic with family party festivities as it always is. But after that...BLISS.

Christmas morning Mass. Gift opening. And then days upon days of relaxing family fellowship and meals. I loved it.

And New Year's Eve? Was CRAZY. :0 In a really good and amusing way. Got your tea or coffee?

So I wound up with two dance gigs that night. We had a bit of a house of cards situation going on with dancers starting out at 2 locations, then funneling to a third as earlier sets finished up. As opposed to our usual tag team plan, with us switching out for each other at each set, this year Claire had to dance fully before me, and then jet to the second venue, leaving me alone to handle my sets for the final hour. This was uncharted territory for me, and I was nervous. :0 Oh, and I did I mention that the high that day was 4 degrees Fahrenheit?


We were starting off in a small Indian restaurant, and every time the door open to admit a new diner, a blast of icy air filled the space. And our "dressing room" was a tiny, closet-like indentation that we had to stuff ourselves into, with a window to the outside that also made it freezing.


All glamour, all the time over here!

Claire got started right on time just as the restaurant was filling in. Everything went great, the audience was very happy and responsive. After her first set, she reported in that despite the polar air regularly being admitted to the restaurant, it was actually *sweltering* out near the buffet while dancing. This actually made us appreciative for the freezing dressing room between sets. Huzzah!

The rest of her sets also went great (as I expected they would), and she noted something I would find true in precisely 1 hour: the 3, 10 minute sets with full costume changes between each, all within an hour, were pretty tiring. We are used to dancing multiple 20 minute sets, but over a multi-hour time period, with huge breaks in-between while the other person dances.

She finished up, said goodbye to the owners, and then I was on my own from 8-9 pm. Sweating profusely. My delightful friend Brandy came to help me with my costumes and start my music for me, bless her soul. I was changed and ready for Set #1 at 8:05 pm.

Veil and I swirled out and it went great. It was a polite and quiet crowd, but very attentive and responsive. I made my way around the entire restaurant with ease, given the size. I had 4 playlists for New Year's Eve, so I kept forgetting what was on each one - It was a big surprise every time a song ended. :0

Set 1 finished, and I rushed to change in The Freezer. Set 2 is Sword's set, and as you can imagine, he was all excited. ;-) I tried something different this time, and emerged with Sword already balanced, and I have to say, I like this model better. If you're having a good sword night, you can remove it, do some other things with is, and then re-balance at various spots of the restaurant, but if you're not, you can just discard it with the pressure off and no one is the wiser. Plus, when you come out with a sword balanced on your head, it really gets everyone's attention. :0

Sword had his big drama sequence, and it went really well. I re-balanced a few times as I swooped around the restaurant, and then handed him to Brandy as I moved into my second song - which is to say, my favorite Middle Eastern song of all time, Shik Shak Shok.

Now, you see, Claire warned me about this. Before I ever did my first professional gig, she wisely told me:

"Always pace yourself. Have a slower song in each set so that you don't tire out before the end of the evening!"

And what did I do this past New Year's Eve? I put together a set with Sword (slower song, but still high intensity nerves given the balancing prop), the high energy Shik Shak Shok which I loooovvveeeeee, and a drum solo.

Shik Shak Shok starts. Let's just say that I got very into it. :0 I've never performed to that song before, and I danced HARD, circling the restaurant like it was going out of style. I mean, I love it, I couldn't help it. I don't think I've ever shimmied so much to a single song in my entire career, and this song is over 5 minutes long.

As it was wrapping up, I thought to myself:

"Oh boy. I'm *tired*."


I pounded out the drum solo, but Great Googly Moogly. You could have scraped me up off of the floor with Sword by time that set was done. And then I had to wrench on yet a third costume and perform another set. And it was quickly approaching 8:45 pm, so I had to hustle.

I think part of the extra exhaustion factor was the quick costume changes, plus all of the new adrenaline rushes every time a set starts, all within a condensed period of time. Luckily, Set #3 didn't involve any props, and was much easier than the others. A fun pop song, a slower but upbeat baladi, and a very familiar drum solo. I got some people up to dance with me and all went well. After that, I changed, said goodbye to the owners, who seemed very pleased with how the evening went, and Brandy and I rushed off to Indian restaurant #2. Well. :0

This was a larger restaurant, and it had a nice crowd there. Claire was dancing when I arrived to a very lively audience, and I hurriedly changed and readied Sword (yes, AGAIN, *sob*!). To make things even more challenging, I had also put Shik Shak Shok into this set. WHY GOD, WHY?! I told myself that I could do this. I was tired, but it was just one more set. Granted, a 20 minute one, but that's cake. Usually. I hope.

Claire came back to the dressing area, breathless, and we looked at our watches. It was 9:35, and dancing was scheduled to go until 10. The time was nigh.

She set up my music while Sword and I got ready, and we came out with all of Sword's dramatic flair. The crowd was LOUD and somewhat raucous. But in a really good way. :0

Sword and I swooped our way around. There was a table of little boys who seemed particularly taken with this part of the program. We did our thing, it went well, I handed Sword to Claire. And that's when things got interesting.

I was making my way around the restaurant when I noticed that a group of people had come out into the center of the room and were dancing, beckoning me over. So I danced over. Quickly, a circle formed around me. This was a first, but OK. I got this.

Next thing I know, I notice things flying out of the corner of my eye. That seemed somewhat alarming, so I made a circular movement thus that I could inspect further. It was MONEY. This was another first. :0 It is a Middle Eastern custom and sign of appreciation to shower performers with money as tips. I kept dancing, and the money kept flying over my head. I tried to keep my face not showing the surprise I felt that anybody liked my dancing that much. :0

There were lots of kids there, and they ALL came out to dance with me. By the time Shik Shak Shok queued up, I was having the time of my life, and flew around the restaurant with ease. I wasn't tired anymore, and this was the most enjoyable set of my career. I was starting to feel it a bit as my final drum solo started up, but I made it through no problem. That was FUN.

Afterward, Claire and I kibbitzed about what a great gig that was. The owner was very happy with how things went, and we left, aglow.

Then I got home, was all wired on adrenaline, and couldn't fall asleep until after 1 am. Happy New Year! :0

So, after all of that excitement, I am here thinking about the year ahead. I used Jennifer Fulwiler's new Word of the Year generator, and this is what I received:


I like that! 2018 is the year of making things counts. :) I have always endeavored to do the things that I love, and to do them well, to the best of my ability. Vivid. I think it really fits.

So let's plan! Lent is approaching, and begins on Valentine's Day this year. Shall we do a book club? If I do one (likely historical/scriptural-based fiction from the Living Water series) who would be in? I'm thinking we could do a combo here on the blog and also at the Facebook group thing, and we could add in a devotional component. Like, each week we set some sort of spiritual theme or goal for ourselves. Maybe we could all take turns coming up with the themes for the upcoming week? I'd love a show of hands of who would like to participate, and then we could go from there!