Friday, February 17, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #84 - Birthdays & Lenten planning!

It's a birthday edition of:

Today I talk about, yes , my birthday ;-), my plans for Lent, feeling re-energized for spring cleaning and scents, and a morning yoga update!





**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
How are your Lenten plans shaping up? Would you be up for another book club this summer with the format we're doing now, one chapter per week? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Live Today Well, Chapter 4...

Hi all! Having a busy, but much better, week here in my little part of the world. Reading Live Today Well with all of you has been life changing for me this winter, truly. I am SO glad that we are doing this, and the interior fruits have been outstanding! Last week in Chapter 3, we talked about prayer upon rising for our day. Today in Chapter 4 we're going to delve into properly situating our mindset for the day, so that we can remain disposed to live that day well in the Salesian tradition. Officially, we're talking about "On the Day's Preparation: Looking To Be Holy."

St. Francis sets forth 5 steps for our daily preparation after we pray our morning offering. Here they are:

(1) Invocation - We ask God for help to get us through our day. Our day will include both things that we seek out, and also things that will happen to us through no direct will of our own. We need His help to deal with all of these things in a holy and good way:

"In response to this divine goodness toward us, we put our entire day into a transcendent context and intend to spend the day faithfully with God, in and through the immanent things we have to do."

(2) Foresight - "This is simply a preview of conjecture of all that could happen during the course of the day. Thus, with the grace of Our Lord, we will wisely and prudently anticipate occasions which could take us by surprise." Right away, this quote grabbed me. I know that my downfall last semester was not properly preparing myself emotionally for the challenges teaching 15 classes could put upon me on a weekly basis. I was merely gritting my teeth to make it through the same lesson so many times without devolving to despair, but I did not anticipate all of the other issues that would crop up: the countless and overwhelming volume of email given that I had over 300 students to account for, careless and thoughtless student behavior, remembering all of my materials so many different times...the list goes on and on.

"...the responsibilities of of our personal vocation constitute the real place where we act out the devout life. But this conjecture involves more than just pondering our to-do list for the day."

So, SO true. We need to think about all of the possible threats to our patience and interior peace on a given day, and assume that we may be called upon to respond to those situations in a way consistent with out faith. Like, TODAY. :0

(3) Plan of Action - So we've anticipated the challenges to our serenity. Now we plan for how to deal with them:

"Each of these moments in our day holds the possibility of vice or virtue, which is why determining how we will respond requires careful planning on our part. The goal here is to envision these episodes ahead of time so as not to be caught off guard when they happen."

For me, I need to anticipate any number of frustrating teaching situations that can arise. Knowing exactly how I will keep my cool and continue to smile is a key part to my daily happiness.

(4) Resolution - In this step, we made a resolution, a *decision* to act in accordance with what we believe to be God's will, and in keeping with our goal of holiness in our vocation:

"This we can do cheerfully! The day will still have its challenges, to be sure. But by bringing faith into to the responsibilities we have to face this day, we can be consoled and strengthened, knowing that a loving and merciful God remains at our side."

This brings me SO MUCH SOLACE. This perspective has been incredibly enlightening to me: that even what crappy stuff happens, we can still be cheerful, simply because we choose to, and because no matter what, God loves us.

(5) Recommendation - In this step, we entrust ourselves to our Creator. And this is indeed "...the ultimate act of faith."

"We have done all that we could at this point (preparing and resolving). Now we recognize that all our concerns are best left in bigger hands..."

Following the advice in this chapter has transformed my days. Next week, we will discuss the intentionality of our days, and how every action in our day can become a supernatural experience. *heart!*

What did you all think of Chapter 4?!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Monday in the life...

"Hon, have you seen Anne's library book?

One would think that as the offspring of a librarian and a college professor, our children would have it made with regard to their library books. They would be catalogued and organized at home, read lovingly to them every single night, and then popped into their backpacks on the morning of library session so that they could procure a new book to begin the adventure again. One would think.

"I read it to her the other night." *gold star!* "I can't remember which night, though." *so typical* "I do think I brought it to her bedroom when we were done. Isn't it there?"

*why would he be asking if it was there?!* 😂

 "No. I looked in all the usual places."

Naturally, this is all transpiring as:

(a) I'm readying for work,
(b) the kids are readying for school,
(c) Mike is readying for work,
(d) Anne is obsessing about not being able to pick out a new library book, and
(e) we're all about to be late.

"Let me look. I think I put it in her bedside table drawer."

Once again thinking that somehow, someway, a different result would happen despite repeating the exact same motions, I ignore this little factoid as I plow forward and open the drawer. A gigantic messy pile of books awaited me. She really *is* the child of a librarian.

"Hum. It's not in here." Somehow, I am still surprised. "Did you look under the bed?"

"Yep. And under the crap on her dresser." Ugh. Our child is a pack rat.

"MOM! I won't be able to check out another book if I can't find The Little Penguin!" *sobbing*

*long suffering sigh*

We scour more hidey-holes, but no book. Anne is sent dejectedly in without it, as I scramble to finish getting ready. This is NOT the first time this has happened. In fact, it's not even the FIFTH time this has happened. We are failures as library parents.

So then I rush in to work. And rush in to my office. I rushedly check and answer email. I rushedly glance over the lesson plan for the week again. On Mondays, I have 3 classes in a row, and they begin at 9 am, which I think we can all agree *bites*. I rushedly pack my stuff up, since I have to walk over to our classrooms in another building, and right from there I go to the Barre class, so I need my workout clothes. Just as I'm stuffing my water bottle into my bag, my colleague comes to my door so that we can walk over together. We rushedly walk over. And we've barely dumped our ridiculous amount of stuff on the floor up by the teaching podium before students begin entering the room.

*another sigh*

Class #1 we have to really work it to get them to talk. Class #2 wouldn't stop talking. And by Class #3 I can barely keep my eyes open. Not exactly the disposition you're going for to initiate an effective teaching and learning experience for all.

I made it though. And then rushed over to the Barre class, which I was late for despite my best efforts to walk fast. *glares* By the end of the work day, you could stick a fork in me; I was done.

It wasn't a bad day by any stretch. It was just a Monday. :0 Oh, but I *did* get an email in the afternoon from Mike, letting me know that he found Anne's library book. In her clothes hamper.

😒

How was your Monday, dear reader? Book club tomorrow for Chapter 4 of Live Today Well! We'll be talking about setting yourself up each morning to be holy. Yes, I do see the irony of that given what I've just described to you above. :0

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #83 - Morning yoga & positivity...

Good morning everyone! It's a much more uplifting installment today of:

Today we talk about my yoga ineptitude, how my changed attitude has impacted my semester for the better, and adventures with new fitness classes. 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 via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
How do you deal with being "tied in knots"? Do you have any budding Lenten plans? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Live Today Well, chapter 3...

This chapter could not possibly come at a better time for me, and it's ironic that I suspected this from the time we selected this book as our winter/springtime spiritual reading. Today's chapter is entitled: "On Rising - Starting Your Day Right," and let me tell you, I need me some solidly holy rising these days. So often, I have a Grump Face, accompanied by Grump Attitude for the entirety of my work day, and then in the evenings, I adopt Grump Face's BFF, Emotionally Drained Face. What does St. Francis de Sales have to say that can help us?

"That we are alive for another day is the gift each morning brings...It may take some practice, but it will prove beneficial to make this the first thought of the day, instead of reacting with annoyance or reluctance at having been awakened."

It may take some practice, you say? Why yes, yes, that is indeed the case. :0 And of course, HELLO Annoyance and Reluctance! You have have overstayed your welcome!

"Although a seemingly benign beginning to the day, the act of getting out of bed represents for St. Francis de Sales the profound reality of the resurrection and that gift of life beyond death to which we are ultimately called."

Getting up in the morning as symbolism of the resurrection. I have to admit, this is pretty profound for something I enjoy so little. :0 And I loved one of the included Scriptures references:

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that on the last day I will rise again. My God, grant that this be to eternal glory; this hope rests in my inmost being." Job 19:25-26.

St. Francis encourages us to quickly and briefly lift our thoughts and hearts to God as we awaken:

"...sanctify these early moments of the day by means of thoughts and words already familiar to us."

I like this idea. Keep things simple! The author gives as an example prayers that we likely already have memorized, such as an Our Father or Hail Mary, or the very popular Angelus prayer (which I believe I have on a laminated prayer card on my memo board). Or, we could call on one of our friends, the saints, to pray for us as we go about our day. This has the added benefit of reminding ourselves that we are not alone as we navigate our daily challenges. In a nutshell, he's encouraging us to keep things simple so that we'll develop a *routine*. Once you develop a routine, you're much less likely to deviate from it:

"All of this is intended to turn our morning routine into a sacred one. Routines play a key role in human life. Able to be done without our giving them much thought, they are comfortable, and often, comforting, acts. Psychologically, even if not consciously, they represent a way of exercising a modicum of control over the chaos of our surroundings."

That really is key, isn't it? I may not be able to control everything that happens in my day. But I can control my happy little routine and the simple comfort and joy it gives me. If I hang on to that, I can hang on to my inner peace.

"As we begin to dress, we will make the Sign of the Cross, and say - 'Cover me Lord, with the cloak of innocence and the robe of love. My God, do not let me appear before you stripped of god works.'"

I love this idea. I know that religious have special prayers that they say as they put on each item of their Habit. Just because we're laypeople doesn't mean we can't do something similar in an effort to sanctify our days as well.

Next week in Chapter 4 we're going to be addressing mental preparation for our day. Oh boy. :0

What did you all think of Chapter 3?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

WWSFD? What Would St. Francis Do? :)

Found during a tour of the new rectory/community center at our parish yesterday
Soooooo...this St. Francis de Sales theme for 2017 has taken a really interesting turn.:0 Here we have me going through the biggest crisis in my career since I left legal practice 14 years ago, and suddenly St. Francis de Sales is sending me subliminal messages left and right about the simple devout life, and leaving me love notes, apparently. :0 I feel like it's God telling me that I can't always change my circumstances, but I can change the way I see and react to those circumstances. Case in point is the following. Grab your tea or coffee cup!

Friday afternoon, let's just say that I had a WEE bit of a breakdown bad afternoon. I had 2 classes (my 9th and 10th of the same lesson that week), OK no problem, but then was just slammed with other unexpected "Quick, you must do this NOW before you leave!!" mini emergencies that have become so typical in our teaching experience this academic year: immediate fixes that needed to be made to our online Course Management System in all 10 of my sections, tons of grading, and answering/sending emails. Regarding that last item, I needed to send out emails to both the instructors and students (2 different emails) in each of the English sections, but one of our fixes involved sending a different message to people in Monday sections (yet 2 more different emails) as opposed to other sections, and in the frantic confusion, despite my care in distinguishing the Monday emails from the others, I sent the wrong email to the wrong people.

😱

I just...I had a moment. A series of moments, actually. I just felt furious that my happy, peaceful little job has turned into this frantic situation in which we're constantly in full out Panic Mode, and putting out fires. I always feel breathless, like I can't focus on any one thing, because there are 20 other debacles needing my attention, and like I am making so many mistakes due to the omnipresent confusion and developing emergencies. It has been a nagging source of frustration to me since mid-August.

 I took the weekend to settle down and re-evaluate things a bit. My job, despite its current set of challenges, has some really wonderful aspects, and I'm incredibly grateful to have it and contribute to our household in this way.  I also read Chapter 3 of Live Today Well for our book club over the weekend, which focuses on prayer upon rising for the day. It REALLY had an impact on me.

Like St. Francis de Sales teaches, I should focus on the positives, NOT on the negatives. This is Life: it is ALWAYS going to have some negatives. And if we dwell in that negative place, EVERYTHING seems negative, it's like a line of dominoes. However, if we make the choice to be happy, even in amidst a difficult situation, it makes the entire day seem brighter.

I've been doing that this week. And it's WORKING. I feel at peace and happy, and I see lots of student smiles coming my way. And it's not like the circumstances of the week are all that much better. Let's take Monday as Exhibit A. When the last item on your to-do list reads:

"Fix Blackboard/ Group Disaster thing,"

...that gives you an indication of what my day was like yesterday. :0 But you know what? It was *fine*. I was still happy and calm, even during an in-class Crisis Moment that developed into full out Chaos when the group assignments didn't happen in our Course Management System the way that they should have.

So I'm going to try to continue on this path. St. Francis has really come through at the right time. Have you had any St. Francis moments lately? I'd love to hear about them. *heart* And don't forget, Live Today Well book club tomorrow!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #82 - An act of the will...

Hi all! This is a very cathartic edition of:


Today I talk about the beginning of my semester, and how I'm dealing with the changes in my job. If you too need to de-stress, please 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 via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
How do you deal with everyday tasks at your job that you find challenging? How do you psych yourself up for stressful situations? I'd love to hear from you! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Live Today Well, chapter 2

So, this chapter is particularly well-timed for me. Let's just say that work has me in a bit of a grumpy mood and I *really* need a pick-me-up right about now.

Chapter 2 of Live Today Well focuses on St. Francis de Sales's Spiritual Directory, which he actually wrote for a specific religious community. It is intended as a beginner's guide to certain customs in the religious life, and the author here applies it to our lives as lay people. I have to say, this is an ingenious idea, and I was intrigued from the outset. This chapter, in addition to what we read last week, form the first official segment of the book, which summarizes the life of St. Francis and Salesian spirituality. Next week we'll get into lots of nitty gritty, but more on that at the end of the post!

St. Jane de Chantal summarizes what we are about to study in the introduction to the Spiritual Directory as this:

"...that our whole life and all our works be dedicated to union with God, so that we might assist in the renewal of the Church, and the salvation of our neighbor by our prayer, works and good example, and that we might excel in every kind of virtue..."

We might assist in the renewal of the Church and the *salvation of our neighbor* via our prayer, works, and good example. Wow. I really needed to hear that today, because my sour disposition is almost certainly bringing my neighbor way, way down. :0

We are then presented with three principles that characterize the Salesian approach to the good life:

  1. The pursuit of holiness within the *everyday experience* of our lives. "In his view, the present moment of today is the only time over which we have any direct control. By focusing our energies there, we are more likely to remain at peace, neither disturbed about the past nor anxious about the future."
  2. Personal growth takes place "little by little." "He recognizes, from his own experience, that personal transformation is a lifelong process and that it does not come easy. For that reason, he often reminds people not to be overwhelmed by their desire for holiness but instead to attend to their spiritual growth gently, by taking small yet continual steps forward."
  3. Personal transformation works most effectively when it moves from "inside out."  "In this vein, the Spiritual Directory teaches us to act in such a way that we become, through practice, ever more conscious of the divine presence in our midst and ever more intentional in the human choices we make in response to that presence."
*deep sigh* This week, I started out trying so hard to stay optimistic and be grateful for things, thus creating a positive place for my mind, heart and soul to dwell.  Like I talked about yesterday. And what happened? 

"Over the edge!" as my colleague Cindy so aptly put it this morning. I feel cranky and overworked, and thus I am deliberately not trying to feel better. I feel justified in my misery. But who is this helping?

Sometimes, I suppose, it's all just an act of the will. Right now, at this moment (by which I mean that in 30 minutes I have to go and yet again teach the exact same lesson I've already taught 5 times this week, and somehow manage to do it displaying an attitude of something resembling enthusiasm) I can choose to be and act happy anyway. And indeed, the chapter sums up in related fashion:

"We too, can actually be happy-when our lives and work are grounded in an experience of holiness, as the exercises of the Spiritual Directory will demonstrate. Thus, with St. Francis de Sales as our guide, we are invited to discover everything that can be sacred in our life...Live today well, and the 'grace, peace and consolation of the Holy Spirit' will be yours!"

So I'm going to try again. It's very easy to be warm and kind to the students, that comes naturally to me, even when I'm in a bad mood. But it's not so easy to be enthusiastic about teaching material again and again that I'm so bored with. Gosh. It feels good to say that and be honest about it. :0 But at the same time, I don't need to dwell in that negative place. Despite my frustrating situation, I can choose to dwell in a positive place, and see the negative situation as a way of growing in holiness. Stick a halo over my head, I'm done! :0 That's as positive as I can get right now, take it or leave it! ;-)

Next week we move onto the largest and meatiest part of the book, entitled "Our Daily Routine." Each week from here on out, we'll look at a specific aspect of the Spiritual Directory, such as our approaches to things like rising for the day, preparing and eating meals, and working. I am completely in love with this idea, and cannot wait to dive into the details! We begin with chapter 3 next week: "On Rising: Starting Your Day Right."

What were your thoughts on chapter 2?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AND the frenetic pace begins again...

*long suffering sigh*

Well, I had my first day of teaching for the spring semester yesterday. I think that overall I can sum it up in two words:

It sucked. 😱

I had student emails out the wazoo, excuses for not coming to class and confusion about other things, another Course Management System crisis that consumed my afternoon, and general administrative nightmares. There were English Teaching Assistants including incorrect information in their syllabi that was the cause of half the confusion, and general flurried activity amongst my team that had my anxiety in high gear.

BUT, that being said, there were a lot of positives during the day, and a lot of positives that I'm still looking forward to coming up this week. So let's focus on those. We have:

  • Support - I have tons of emotional support from my family and friends. I've been leaning on them a lot lately, and their warmth and words of wisdom have been invaluable.
  • The students - actually, the students were GREAT. The ones who came to class. ;-) But that was most of them! I had three really good classes yesterday.
  • Barre class - After my classes, I was able to go to the Barre fitness class here at the athletic center, and it was wonderful. Working out gives me an endorphin high that really gets me through the rest of the work day.
  • Catholic school - As I drove home yesterday, I passed the kids' school. It's Catholic Schools Week, and they're both all excited about the activities and special lunches that are planned out. I am so grateful that we are able to send them there.
  • Dinner with Mike and kids - Yesterday evening, we all went out for dinner, and despite some initial Anne surliness due to being overtired, everyone had a great time, and it ended up being incredibly relaxing and comforting.
  • Feast of St. Blaise is Friday - This, and the accompanying throat blessing, is one of my favorites of the entire year. Our parish is having a special Mass for it Thursday evening, and I'm planning to go. It's gotten me thinking about Lenten preparation, which REALLY brings out the Catholic Nerd in me.
  • Super Bowl- We're having friends over to watch with us, and the food planning process is providing a delightful distraction right now. 

So, I'm trying, I really am. I've been channeling the wisdom of St. Francis de Sales like there's no tomorrow, and I'm anxious to talk about him again tomorrow. Have you gotten chapter 2 done?! Post will be up tomorrow afternoon sometime. *heart*

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #81 - Dealing with dread...

A real uplifter ;-) for today's installment of:

Yes, I'm talking about dread, we all deal with it sometimes. BUT, we put a positive spin on things, in a real What Would St. Francis de Sales Do?! kind of style.





**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
I very much need YOUR input this week! What do you do to stave away that negative feeling of anticipation, and/or to lift your spirits during a difficult day?