Friday, October 23, 2020

In a sea of online classes, a bit of happiness emerges...

Happy Friday everyone! This is the end of my busy stretch of teaching, and I have to say the result is a bit different than I expected. And shockingly...it's in a good way!


As I've mentioned before, working from home, and the way that the pandemic has oblitered my former happy life and routine has wrecked a bit of havoc on my mental health. I know that I'm not the only one in this boat, and so we've all just been coping as best we can. In terms of work, I miss my colleagues, I miss the students, I miss my office, I miss the contened hustle and bustle of the campus and the library.  I was not looking foward to teaching solely online.

BUT, I will say that I'm pleasantly surprised by how it all went now that I'm nearly at the end of this very busy two week stretch. The format does have some challenges, to be sure, and I maintain that it is incredibly difficult to connect with people via a screen, and impossible when they do not turn on their cameras (which is their right to do, to be sure). Overall though, despite expecting to feel overwhelmed and stiff from sitting in front of my laptop and teaching all of these assumedly demoralizing classes online, I found that I was...happy. Tired, but energized. I felt busy, but useful. This is the most like my old self I have felt since March. I'd still rather teach in person, but this exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly low, LOL!). And I got to watch Hallmark Channel during my short breaks between sessions, so win/win/

Going into the winter, at least where I live, which has a cold climate, I'm not dreading the long term work from home model like I was before. It feels a bit cozier to be inside and spending less time by myself with the weather turning. I'll take any little bit of hopefulness that I can get, so I'm pleased with this!

In novena news, I finished up the John Paul II novena (and I'm actually sneaking in St. Jude, I just can't help myself!), and tomorrow we will begin the Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory! If you'd like to join in, I created a page for it on the blog. :-)

How are you doing this week, dear reader? Are you looking forward to Halloween and the feasts of All Saints/All Souls? Also, feel free to leave novena intentions in the comments!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Morning routines and LOTS of teaching...

*waves*

Short post today, friends, as I am in my annual fall teaching frenzy, which lasts through next week. Doesn't afford a lot of time for other things during the day, unfortunately! BUT, I mentioned my my Catholic Mom piece for October last week, and it is in fact up and on the site! This month, I chose to write about my attempts to construct a morning routine for myself despite having lost all of my normal pathways due to the pandemic, which has been instrumental to turning my emotional malaise around. 

In other news, my teaching is...going. :-0 It's actually going pretty well, but I'm about to embark on class #18 of the week, if that's any indication of my level of punchy exhaustion. They're all on Zoom, which isn't exactly the funnest thing, but it's what it is. Next week I think I have...11 or 12? It's a bit less bad, but still fairly intense towards the end of the week. I'm planning some fun stuff for after these two weeks are fully over, which I'm excited to write about when I have brain cells back again. I do miss those dear brain cells! They involve dancing, the Nutcracker, and seasonal coffee blends. I bet you're intrigued. 😁

How are you doing, dear reader? Any new books to recommend or fun weekend plans?

Friday, October 9, 2020

New routines, prayer, and identity during the pandemic...


 As I was reflecting on what to write about this week, I realized that on this blog I have barely mentioned the word 'pandemic.' I have alluded to it, obviously, because how could one not? But it's as if speaking the word brings fresh pain into my already battered being. I haven't even created a topical label for it on the blog, because I honestly don't want to be able to go back and filter posts for this topic in the future! Sometimes, I wish that I could erase this entire year from my memory.

Every person on the planet has been affected by the pandemic in different ways, and I am no exception. I'm very grateful that no one I know has become sick, but that definitely does not mean that one has been left unscathed by this global tragedy. For me, the biggest toll has been my emotional and mental health from the isolation, and my concern for my kids, who both showed signs of depression before going back to school this fall. I'm happy to say that they're both doing a lot better, and I'm doing a bit better too, although no where near my usual happy self. But it's improving!

One thing that has been absolutely debilitating to me with my personality is losing my daily routine, in which I found so much comfort. And it's not coming back anytime soon, as I mentioned last week. It may be close to a year before I'm back on campus and in my office. But what I've been trying to do of late is to carve out a new routine for myself for the time being, and that's been a bit easier with my kids being back in school. This is actually my topic in my Catholic Mom piece for October, which will come out early next week, so keep your eyes peeled! :)

One of the ways that I've been trying to carve new rituals is with prayer. I used to always pray the rosary in the car on my commute into work (half on the way in, and finishing up on the ride home), and now I'm working in my kitchen. I could pray the rosary on my lunch break while I sit on the couch, but that just doesn't hold the same appeal to me. Now that I'm working from home, I'm driving my son into school at 8 every morning. With the weather getting cooler, I've taken to going out a few minutes early to warm the car in the driveway for a few minutes before he's going to be ready to come out. One morning, I took my rosary out of it's case and started praying one as I backed the car down out of the garage and waited for Henry. Then I continued as I drove home after dropping him off. It's not a long ride, but I still got though the opening prayers and a full decade by time I pulled back into our driveway. Getting started like this then motivates me to seek out other opportunities during the day to sneak in decades, like if I have to drive to dance later (we're back in person, horray!). I may or may not finish an entire rosary, but I still count this as a huge win, and it's doing wonders for my contentedness level. 

The other prayer routine I've developed lately is novenas using the Pray app, and as I'm sure you've noticed, I've been praying a lot more novenas than usual! But the push notifications from the app are lending a serene feel to my mornings when I see that little cross icon come up and I pray the daily prayers. It's giving some much needed structure to my prayer life, and solace to my days. Right now, I'm praying the St. Teresa of Avila novena, and St. John Paul II starts Tuesday with the page up and ready on the blog!

My intentions for the St. Teresa novena relate to peace and patience with work for the next two weeks, as I'm entering our busy teaching season, and it's all virtual this semester, which I find very challenging. So I'm just going to take it one day at a time! Teaching, in my experience, is a bit like performing, and I love performing. All of that, for the time being, is online only, and this has definitely contributed to my malaise these long seven months. There is no energy, no connection with your audience, when you're online. But it's temporary, and I'm just trying to get through it while doing the best I can with it. 

After my teachinig is done, I'm going to focus back on dance more, which I'm excited about. I feel like the changes that the pandemic has wrought has made me feel like some alternate version of Tiffany, and not my real self. I'm certain a lot of you feel that way, too. I miss my old life, my old self. The older I've gotten, I've actually enjoyed my life more, and have more confidence in myself. Since March though, that has all been missing, and I've been struggling big time. I'm trying to climb back into my old identity, but it hasn't been easy. Starting a new dance project will definitely help out with that, and I'll devote an entire post to that in a few weeks. :)

How is everyone's novenas going? Have you struggled with lack of routine since the pandemic started? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. *heart*

Friday, October 2, 2020

Next novena upcoming! And more cozy fiction...

Hello all, and TGIF! I was going to start a St. Therese novena on her feast day, but decided instead to forge ahead into upcoming October feast days. There are a couple of great ones this month, and I thought we could pray them together, and we'll only overlap on a day or two, hee hee! Our next novena will start on Tuesday, and will be praying along with St. Teresa of Avila!


She is officially the patron of headache sufferers, and of writers, and can also be an asset for intentions regarding faith and contemplative spirituality. The novena begins on Tuesday, and like before, I have the prayers listed on a page within the blog found on the main navigation menu for both desktop and mobile. :)

Beginning October 13th, I'm going to be praying the novena to St. John Paul II. I'll create a page for that one too next week, we'll still be finishing up with St. Teresa, but I don't think this will be too onerous. Two days of double novena prayers! For those with the Pray app, both of these are on there, though St. Teresa is premium. :-0 I think I'm going to actually become one of their patrons so that I have acces to all of their novenas. It's only $15 a year to support their work, which I do truly love!

By time we finish up with JPII, it'll be later October, and then we can plan for November. I feel a St. Cecilia situation coming on! And maybe Holy Souls in Purgatory! 

*virtual high five*

As it's been a bit of a stressful week, planning for these novenas has been a happy distraction. Also a happy distraction is my current cozy mystery:


This is book 1 in the Amish Matchmaker series, and book 2 comes out December 1st, so it's a perfect time to dive into this one! I've had it on my Kindle for awhile, and am so glad that I'm finally getting to it, it's delightful! You all know how much I love Amish fiction, and this one also features quilting and 2 goats, what could be better?! :-0

Between minding a pair of rambunctious goats, meetings with her quilting circle, and matchmaking, Millie Fisher has plenty to keep her busy through her golden years. But the witty widow always makes time to solve the odd murder . . .
 
Some Amish men don’t know what’s good for them. That’s what Millie Fisher told herself when young Ben Baughman set his heart on marrying Tess Lieb. With Tess’s father refusing to give his blessing and Tess’s ex-boyfriend being a wet blanket, the hapless couple was bound to butt heads more than Millie’s Boer goats. But when Ben tragically dies in a mysterious fire, Millie wonders if someone in her hometown of Harvest, Ohio, wanted Ben out of the wedding picture altogether . . . 
With the help of her quilting buddies, and her outspoken Englischer friend Lois, Millie is determined to patch together all the clues without even dropping a stitch. She only hopes it won’t be the death of her . . .

What are you reading these days? Are you planning to join in the upcoming October novenas? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, September 25, 2020

A perpetual novena? And misadventures with Zoom...

Hello all, and I hope that your week is wrapping up nicely. 🤗 I feel stressed, no big surprise, but hanging in. Things at both schools are still going well, and I guess (?) I've adjusted to working from home. It helps not having the kids here to entertain at the same time, to be sure. But the other side of the coin is that I'm lonely. I like going to my office, and seeing my colleagues. I miss them, and I miss the students. But we've been told to be prepared to not be back on campus for another year. I have to admit that I didn't take that news so well. I've felt down all week. This is all just so unnatural. I'm doing the best I can.

To top it all off, I started my teaching this week, and this year it's all on Zoom. Nothing like demoralizing bouts of screenshare fails and non-responsive audio to make a girl feel special. :-0 I did not enjoy it, to be sure. I will say that the second class went much better than the first. I got the sound issue fixed, and I experimented more with the screensharing ahead of time to troubleshoot the problems I was having and became much more adept with it. It still feels weird to only communicate with people through a screen, but it was a bit less bad. For now, I think that's as good as it's going to get.

To cheer me, I've been novena'ing up a storm. My piece over at Catholic Mom this month is about potential novenas for fall/winter 2020 (feast days that don't fall on Sundays being my criteria), and I'm pretty much planning to start a new one anytime I finish one up. I'm currently praying the St. Jerome novena, and I ended up adding in the archangels. I have the Pray novena app on my phone, and it sent me a notification about that one, so I figured, what the heck? It pushes the prayers to me every day, so it makes that one incredibly easy. If you do not already have that app, I highly recommend it! After we wrap up St. Jerome/archangels, I will be wanting to start a new one. I'll let you know which one I decide on! If you have a recommendation for early October, please let me know!

 I wanted to pray the St. Therese novena, and maybe *start* on her feast day rather than conclude on it. Thoughts? Or maybe we could select another from the list. Let me know what you think, along with how you're doing, in the comments!

Friday, September 18, 2020

St. Jerome novena starts Monday! And a few other prayerful life musings...

 


Hello friends and happy Friday! I'm so excited that we're starting our first community novena of the fall/winter season this year with St. Jerome on Monday! All of the deets and prayers are in the special page that I created for the novena, also linked at the top of the blog (desktop) or as an option on the drop down menu (mobile). St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians and biblical scholars, and is also a great patron for students. If you have any special intentions that you would like the community to pray for, please leave them in the comments! :-)

For my part, I've been doing a lot of praying for my kids as their first full week of school wraps up. So far so good, but it's early days yet, for sure. Anne, in particular, seems SO HAPPY to be back to school, and she really loves her teacher and classroom this year. I don't even know how she's in 4th grade, as she still seems like my little baby to me. 😢 But during the spring and summer after everything shut down, I have never seen Anne so distressed and downright lethargic. And for a 9 year old, that is very worrying. Now, she gets up in the mornings very content and ready to get on with her day, whereas before she was sleeping way too much, and just languishing on the couch in her free time. With both Mike and I working from home, it was difficult to divide our time between attending to those reponsibilities, and also trying to keep the kids engaged and off of their electronic devices. It was such a nightmare, it's hard for me to even think back on it now. Needless to say, I'm so happy to see her thriving again! And Henry seems content, too, albeit in a quieter way, as teenagers are wont to do. He had an easier time adjusting to remote school back in the spring, as would be expected given the difference in their ages. But still, he's up and ready to head to school in the mornings now, in a good mood. It's heartwarming to see. 

In other big news, I am back to IN PERSON dance class again, after 6 months of online only, and I cannot fully express how good it feels. I'm grateful that I got to continue my training and learning in the midst of the nightmare that was the lockdown, plus I got to study with some internationally known instructors that I normally would not have been able to access due to geographic location. So those things were good, but still, it was *not the same* and there can be no meaningful level of correction in a group online-only setting. Not to mention how much I missed my troupemates and dancey friends. The disruption to normal socializing that this virus has wrought has been brutal for my mental and emotional health, as I'm sure it has for everyone. So I'm very, very happy to be getting back into a dance routine that involves rehearsing in the physical studio! 

Performing is still pretty unknown right now, which is an enormous bummer. As I've gotten older, I have come to treasure performing as an important part of my identity. I've been in some online shows, and while I'm SO grateful for those opportunities, those are also not the same as performing in front of a live audience. There is no energy to feed off of, no connection to make with other humans while you dance. I'm hoping small parties will be happening again soon, but the restaurant scene has just been hit so hard by all of this, I don't know when that will come back. The capacity limits plus the money they have lost make that unlikely for quite some time. We'll see, I suppose, I'm just trying to think positive. And we support our local restaurants with takeout orders every single week!

How is everyone else doing this week? It does actually feel like a new leaf is turning over this fall, yes, even in the midst of our larger global situation. What new things are you embarking on this September? :-) And don't forget to leave prayer intentions in the comments! 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Planning seasonal novenas...

Well, my kids are both at school as I write this. And I'm feeling pretty weepy. 

😭

They're both happy and secure. It's going very well. I was afraid that the adjustment this year would be much more daunting than usual because of the way things so abruptly closed back in March. But this is the best start to the school year we have ever had. Both seem happy to be back to a routine, and like their teachers. One day at a time, but I'll take it. I'm still feeling emotional, but that's just me. :-0

Given all of this, our novena chat (that I mentioned last week) couldn't possibly be better timed. 

   

What I'm going to do this year is pray 1-2 novenas every month this fall and winter. I'm going to start listing them in a separate page on the blog again, so that anyone who would like can see which one I'm planning to pray, and can join in if they like! It will be the tab listed on the far right if you're using a larger computer or laptop, or will be the last item on the drop down menu list via mobile. For September, I am planning to pray the St. Jerome novena. This will begin on Monday September 21st, and finish up on his feast day of September 30th. St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians, biblical scholars and students! All of the information and prayers will be up on the St. Jerome page.


After we finsh that one, I think I will pray the St. Therese novena, beginning *on* her feast day of October 1st, to break things up a bit. ;-) And I'll post a new page with her information on it as soon as we finish up St. Jerome! Sound like a plan?

Are you joining in the St. Jerome novena? Or have other novena plans this fall? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, September 4, 2020

A reading list as we head into Labor Day weekend...

Happy early September all, and somehow we are moving into the weekend that heralds the unofficial end of summer. I will grant, this was the most emotionally exhausting summer of my life, and I'm thinking you all feel the same. I will admit to feeling a bit discouraged at this time. I'm trying not to dwell on it too much because there is literally nothing I can do about it that I'm not already doing. And getting myself re-upset is not helping me or anybody else. So I'm trying. 

I've been reading more, and as a librarian and lifetime lover of books, I realized how much I had gotten away from it since the pandemic started, yet how valuable it is for my mental health. It's like my brain has a harder time shutting real life down now so that I can escape to my happy cozy fiction worlds. I've been making more of an effort to do that, and keeping up with these little reading lists here on the blog is motivating me to keep moving through my Kindle queue (which is CONSIDERABLE :-0). 

So this week I finished Botched Butterscotch (which was a novella, so super short! Very cute too, involved a theft, not a murder), and embarked on the next book in the series (the newest installment!), which is Marshmallow Malice:


Caught in a sticky situation . . . 

With Juliet Brody and Reverend Brook tying the knot in Ohio’s Amish Country’s most anticipated nuptials of the year, Bailey King is determined to do everything in her power to make the event a sweet success. Except midsummer heat waves and outdoor ceremonies don’t mix, and an exasperated Bailey soon finds herself struggling to fulfill bridesmaid duties and keep her stunning marshmallow-frosted wedding cake from becoming a gooey disaster. Then much to everyone’s shock, the entire ceremony crumbles when a guest drops dead, and the cause isn’t sunstroke . . . 

Turns out, the uninvited victim came equipped with lots of dirt on the devout reverend’s hidden past. As Reverend Brook tops the murder suspect list on what should have been the happiest day of his life, Bailey and her sheriff’s deputy boyfriend vow to clear his name. Can the duo boil down a series of baffling clues before Juliet considers her marriage a bad mistake—or the killer whips up another deadly surprise? 

Recipe Included!

This book is just delightful. I love the setting and the characters. I'm already about 25% of the way through! 

Also this week, I have a new download, which is Grilled for Murder (a Country Store Mystery)


Robbie Jordan may have had reservations about the murder victim, but she still needs to turn up the heat on a killer if she wants to keep her new restaurant open for business . . .

In the charming small town of South Lick, Indiana, Robbie has transformed a rundown country store into the runaway hit Pans ’N Pancakes. But the most popular destination for miles around can also invite trouble. Erica Shermer may be the widow of handsome local lawyer Jim Shermer’s brother, but she doesn’t appear to be in mourning. At a homecoming party held in Robbie’s store, Erica is alternately obnoxious and flirtatious—even batting her eyelashes at Jim. When Erica turns up dead in the store the next morning, apparently clobbered with cookware, the police suspect Robbie’s friend Phil, who closed up after the party. To clear Phil and calm her customers, Robbie needs to step out from behind the counter and find the real killer in short order . . .

This is just $1.99 right now for Kindle, and I found out about it via the Kindle Daily Deals newsletter, so if you're not signed up for those already, you may want to consider doing so. ;-) I love finding new books for less than $2!

Are you reading anything new this week? Have any plans for Labor Day weekend? I'm planning to plot our fall community novenas next week, so stay tuned for next Friday's post on that topic! :-)

Friday, August 28, 2020

Cozy wraps and cozy mysteries as we move towards fall...

Happy Friday everyone, it's hard to believe that it's the end of August, but here we are. I wish I could say that I felt like September will be better, but I don't think that it will, and all we can do at this point is keep up our spirits and sense of humor about it! :-0 The semester starts at the university for which I work on Monday, but all of my classes will be totally online. I'm actually rather sad about it, but it is what it is. I miss my colleagues so much, and I'll miss the students. At least I'll be home (working, but still home) if the kids need to be home from school. We'll try focusing on the positives!

I've definitely been working on lots of happy distractions lately, and I hope you have as well! My autumn quilted bird bag from Bradford Exchange arrived this week, and looking at it immediately lifts my spirits:

Just look at those cute blue jay crests!

And, as ever, I've been crafting. This week, I finished a wrap for my good friend Emily, and this pattern is just super cozy!

Pattern is Perfect Pockets Shawl

Unfortunately, it's been so humid that I was sweltering when I took this photo :-0 but soon it'll be time for cozy wraps, and now Emily will be all set! If you crochet, even if you're a beginner, you'll be able to make this wrap! YouTube is our friend, and I had to watch a video on the wrapped stitch that appears in this pattern, but after that I was good to go. :)

I'm also back to my cozy mysteries, and becoming absorbed in the universe of the Amish Candy Shop series by Amanda Flower is exactly what the doctor ordered right about now. There are a number of books in the series, and my current position is with this Mother's Day themed installment:


After this is the very newest book, "Marshmallow Malice," so let the candy shop antics reign on! 

This week I was also chatting with my friend Irena, who mentioned this book:

...which immediately went onto my Amazon wish list for Christmas, hee hee. Book recommendations always stimulate my mind and creativity! Do you have any new books that you've read recently, or that are in your queue, to add to our list? Pop them into the comments! :-)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Early fall novenas, and knitted gnomes and garments that are no longer a mystery!

Hello all, and I hope that you are having a wonderful week! It's a week of novenas on my end, and I have to say that I am enjoying it so, so much. I finished up Our Lady Undoer of Knots on Sunday, and I think I already have the answers to the questions I was praying about (not necessarily the ones I was hoping for in all cases, but answers are answers, yes?). I also started St. Monica on Tuesday. I had forgotten that her feast is in late August, and I absolutely love this one! I pray for conversions of heart back to faith, and it always gives me so much solace. Coming up in the early part of autumn, we have the archangels (Sept. 29th), St. Jerome (patron saint of librarians, Sept. 30th), St. Therese (Oct. 1st), and guardian angels (October 2nd). It's a wealth of riches! I think I'm going to start updating and publishing the novenas tab on the blog again, with what novena I'm currently praying and the link to the relevant prayers. Look for that to start again in September if you'd like to follow along. :-)

Speaking of prayer, both of my kids are slated to go back to school full time in early September. Since they go to Catholic schools, the lower numbers of enrolled kids means that they can accommodate the health mandates more easily. My kids really miss their school environments, and so I'm happy it worked out this way, although I'm worried about how it will go and if it will last. All we can do at this point is pray for the best! My teaching this semester will be mostly, if not all, online, which I'm a little sad about, but we'll get there.

To distract myself, I've been crafting, as per my pandemic usual. ;-) The mystery gnome that I was knitting is no longer a mystery, so meet the new member of the family!

Pattern is Nice to Gnome You

He is currently frolicking with our house plants, and I'm just so pleased with how he came out! This is my first gnome, and apparently there is a whole gnome crafting universe out there, WHO KNEW?! I am totally into this now. This designer specializes in knitted gnomes. Did you ever? And her next gnome MKAL (mystery knit-along) will take place during Advent.

😱

I literally cannot wait! I'm so excited for this!

I also finished the red cotton top that I was knitting for my mother-in-law:

Pattern is Kelda Tee

I kinda wanted to keep it :-0, but I managed to resist. But not before purchasing yarn to make one for myself in another colorway. ;-)

I'm also hard at work on my Advent doily:

Pattern is Wispweave Oval

This one is just SO PRETTY. The pattern is definitely a bit challenging for a beginning doily crocheter like myself, but so far the progress is good, albeit slow. I just love the different textures that this design is forming! I'm thinking I can use it for under our Advent wreath. The border is going to be silver. 😍

Do you have any novena plans coming up this fall? What is your September looking like? I know it doesn't look like it usually does for any of us! I'd love to hear from you in the comments!