Friday, February 24, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #85 - "Why is everybody looking at me funny? Aren't I supposed to be on this side?!" Birthday dancing & foibles...

It's a post-birthday weekend edition of:

Today I talk about dancing bloopers, my birthday weekend, and continuing to work on interior peace in my new teaching role. 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:
It's our last weekend before Lent begins! How are you preparing? I'd love to hear from you!  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Live Today Well, Chapter 5...

Well. Things had been going so good. :0 Let's just say that my euphoric little St. Francis-along got put to the test this past week. All of that business about praying upon rising, setting up a positive mindset for the day, and anticipating challenges and solutions before the fact so as to retain interior peace? All tested this week, for sure.

I didn't despair, and I didn't give up. And I didn't totally fail, which I call and out-and-out win. But it was harder. It started with apathy late last week. It was simply more difficult to feel joyful and enthusiastic in my classes. But I powered through it. I paused for a lovely birthday weekend, which I figured would recharge me. For all of its loveliness, I came in Monday morning feeling just as unjoyful and unenthusiastic about my classes as I had on Friday. I powered through it again, but much more weakly this time. And yesterday?

*shudders*

It was another of those: "Quick! We have to make these changes ASAP, so you need to do these 500 things in all 10 of your online course modules! Quick, before tomorrow!!" Next thing I knew, I was changing Week 5 documents to Week 6 documents, and vice versa, and clicking my mouse approximately 2,200 times per section, and I had myself all confused as to what went in what week, and what the heck I was doing:

"OK, This is the Week 5 quiz. I need to delete that one." *hits delete* "Wait. Was that actually *Week 6's* quiz but I changed the title too early?!" *CENSORED*

I made it. It was hard to stay positive amongst that nonsense again, but I didn't give in to the frustration that I have in the past. I pictured sweet tempered, uber positive Unikitty from the Lego Movie in my head, finally submitting to her signalling itchy horn and the fact that it IS possible for her to get upset and angry:

"THAT DOES IT! YOU ALL NEED TO BE *MORE FRIENDLY*!!!!!!!!"

And that satiated me. I was able to continue my mindless clicking in interior peace. 😇

And so here we are at Chapter 5: "On the Direction of Intention: The Key to Spiritual Perfection," and once again, this is perfect timing. This, all of this crap that I mentioned above? :-) I can resolve my intention to act in a certain way. I've improved, but I still have a long way to go. Let's see what St. Francis de Sales and Fr. Dailey have to offer us by way of wisdom on this issue:

"...the Direction of Intention is a simple prayer, uttered briefly at the outset of whatever we are about to do...creating in us a new spiritual habit - the habit of asking and offering and accepting before doing. By first directing the intention with which we act, we address what we do to God, whom we love. By fashioning our deeds in this way, we render indifferent acts good (rather than merely circumstantial) and good deeds even better (by adding a positive motivation)."

So, as we go about our day, we utter a simple prayer before embarking on something that does 3 things: asks, offers, and accepts. This is called "directing our intentions," and it means that we can transform our indifferent, circumstantial acts into good ones (like walking from one place to another, or attending a meeting), and our good deeds to even better ones (like when we interact with our colleagues or students). How does this prayer actually work?

(1) Ask for God's grace. "Asking shifts our focus of our attention away from ourselves and our natural self-centeredness."

(2) Offer to God all the good we will do. "...by intending to do what we do, not for our sake, but for God's, we trade the pleasure principle (acting out of self-interest) for a generosity principle (acting for the good of another). When we adopt this principle and direct what we are to do toward God, something natural becomes supernatural."

(3) Promise to accept whatever may come and bear with whatever may happen, even if this entails pain and suffering. "This act of abandonment puts into practice a 'providential' view of the world."

Asking, offering and accepting. "For St. Francis de Sales, living well depends not on positive circumstances or successful outcomes but only on the grace-filled transformation that occurs 'from the inside out.'"

On this, I need to be more consistent. So this isn't just in the morning after we pray our morning prayer, and set our mind to a positive attitude, planning for the challenges that may lie ahead. This goes for everything that occurs in our day. We offer this three-fold prayer (asking, offering, accepting) again and again and again. This could be a Lenten goal, for sure.

What are your thoughts on Chapter 5? Next week we turn to meals! Holy eating? How perfect for Ash Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Adventures in orthodontics...

Orthodontics. The very word strikes anxiety in my heart and brings back childhood memories I'd rather repress. :0 That being said it, although I loathe any and all dental work (but suck it up for the greater good), I currently and previously have had excellent, kind dental providers. So, I wasn't *traumatized* by having braces, and am extremely grateful to have straight teeth today, but all things being equal, I really wish God would change our DNA such that no dental work beyond regular cleanings was ever necessary. I really don't think this is that much to ask. 😇

Our Henry has been in for orthodontic consults annually for several years now, so we knew that this day was coming. He's 11, has all of his adult teeth, and he needs braces. For his sake, I wish that he didn't, but this is a fact of life for many children. No big deal, I figured. He won't stick out or anything, over half the school has braces from grades 6-8. At the forefront of my mind was how we would budget for it, and that was pretty much it.

Well. Then I accompanied Mike and Henry to the orthodontist yesterday wherein Henry had x-rays, and we sat down to seriously look at what needs to be done for him and discuss a timeline. And I just...

You know how sometimes, with your kids, something  just strikes you in a soft spot and you can hardly control the urge to just burst into tears right then and there? I had that moment yesterday. At the orthodontist. Looking at ceramic teeth.

I am so averse to all dental work. Like I said, I do it because it's the right thing to do, but I HATE it. I swear, I'd rather go through labor and delivery. :0 There's something about it that makes me so fearful. But with my kids, it hasn't been a big deal because all they've had so far is just cleanings. And our dentist is sweet and wonderful.

But this braces thing? Henry needs his jaw moved forward. Which means he doesn't just need braces to straighten the teeth. He also needs something to move his jaw forward to correct his overbite. And that's a little bit more involved. There are 2 possible ways of doing it, and I'm not wild about either one. The first one is a retainer, which sounds easy, but it's a 24/7 retainer and will impact speech. My Henry already struggles a bit with speech issues, and the thought of burdening him with all of this extra plastic in his mouth made me want to weep anew. The other option is a device that attaches at the sides of the mouth to the braces. On the upside, you can't see it, and it won't impact his speech, but on the negative end of things it doesn't look terribly comfortable, and it will impact your ability to open your mouth very wide. Cue the sobbing.

I don't want him to have to go through this. Maybe he can just have crooked teeth? I'll be honest, that seems like a very rational possibility to me right now.

*Insert about a thousand weeping emojis here*

I feel all vulnerable and on the verge of clutching Henry to my chest and not letting him leave the house. And he's 11, he would hate that. :0

Are any of you scarred by the threat of orthodontics or is it just me? ;-)

Tomorrow is book club day for Chapter 5 of Live Today Well. And Tea Time this week will be an amusing dance troupe edition!

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!