Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Tea Time brainstorm!

So I've been thinking about the Tea Time podcast. Summer is quickly approaching, and I plan to have a season during the stretch of Ordinary Time leading up to the fall. My preliminary thought is that it would start after the feast of Corpus Christi, so the week of June 4th, and would air weekly in both video and audio forms.

I've experimented with a few different things on Tea Time, and have enjoyed all of them for different reasons. As you all know, Tea Time started as a weekly vlog, and then moved to an audio podcast option as well, which I think was a crucial and necessary change to involve as many community members as possible.  Everyone has their format preference, and this accommodates all of them. I tried having different segments on the show, and I think all of them were quite pleasant. Eventually, I had to move away from it being weekly, because I simply couldn't keep up with it, and that's when I came up with the seasonal idea. Although my show will never have a large listenership as a result, that wasn't going to happen anyway, so what the heck, right? :0 So now, Tea Time airs weekly during Advent, Lent, and a portion of what I call "Summer Ordinary Time."

During Advent, the shows were longer, between 20 and 30 minutes, and I incorporated in the book club. Although that worked out fine, not everybody participates in the book club, so I switched things up for Lent. I kept the podcast to under 10 minutes, and had a theme every week. Moving forward into the summer, I think that is the format I'd like to retain. The shorter shows, and with a specific theme each week, rather than any sort of segments. It worked out very well for Lent, and all of the feedback I received was positive, for both video and audio folks.

So here's where you all come in: what sort of themes should I be focusing on? For Lent, obviously I picked Lenten themes. For the summer, the world is our oyster. :) Catholic themes? Maybe specific devotions or Marian themes? Saints? They are a great interest of mine, to be sure. Or, general life themes? Family, dance, creativity and inspiration? The nice thing is, every summer can have a different focus. So all suggested ideas will get used at some point!

Please offer your suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adventures with family prayer time...

This is a topic very near and dear to my heart, and I would love all of your input on it, whether or not you have small kids in your house at present. It takes a village, right? 😎

My kids are now 12 and 7. Translation:

"I don't want to go to church! It's SO BORINNNNNGGGGG!"

"I don't want to pray the rosary in the car, can't we listen to music instead?!"

"Prayer intentions? What do you mean?"

This is all exacerbated by the fact that I am the only adult (practicing) Catholic in my household. My husband is incredibly supportive of my raising our kids Catholic, but he does not consider himself a Catholic and comes to Mass with us only occasionally. He has my back with getting the kids off to Mass despite their whining, and he is also wonderful about assuring that they pray before eating with respect and reverence, including a full, and not hurried, sign of the cross. He attends the required parent pre-sacrament meetings, and plans the baptism and First Communion parties with gusto. I am very blessed.

When it comes to the nitty gritty, though...well, as I knew when I signed up for this job, it's up to me. And God. Whoops, this is true, I can't forget Him. :0

Henry and I have read saint stories together before bed now for years. He still very much enjoys this tradition, despite me thinking that maybe he was growing out of it. I know, though, that he is at an age wherein I need to be vigilant and do more with him to instill his faith in Christ. In our diocese, children are not confirmed until *11th grade*. So we have a ways to go until he receives the grace of that sacrament.

Anne and I have no bedtime prayer routine, we read a story (non-Biblical) together, and that is our tradition. But I really feel like we should have one. Every few weeks, she receives a school assignment to pray a specific number of decades of the rosary that evening, and we always do that together. But we rarely pray the rosary together without that impetus. Whenever I try, I am met with a chorus of groans.

It's difficult. I am not at all surprised by any of this - I too am a person that many decades ago used to complain about Mass being boring. I did not pray the rosary until I became a young adult. I did occasionally pray in general, but only if a crisis of some sort hit, and I asked God for help.

I do my best to be a good example for my kids. I very much love the liturgy, and try to talk about why I find it not only soothing but fascinating, especially on specific feast days or liturgical seasons. We attend Mass every week, and I incorporate elements of faith into our family life as much as I can. During Advent and Lent, for sure, but also during other times of the year.

But am I perfect in this way? Or in any way? :0 Of course not. So I know that I could do more to make the faith real and exciting to my kids. To be a good example of a Catholic Christian living out her faith.

One of those ways is regular prayer time. I've experimented through the years with making a set aside prayer moment special with candles, new rosary beads, and a calm and lovely setting. Those things worked, but only for the short term. I want to make a permanent addition to our routine that will nurture their fledgling faith.

My kids are getting older, and I feel like we are at a crucial juncture. Henry is well into middle school (and an altar boy), and Anne will make her First Communion in two years. It's an important time for them to associate their faith with strong memories of compassion, trust and security that will aid them for the rest of their lives.

Here's where the advice village comes into play. ;-) Thoughts? Ideas? Each child may have different faith needs given their age difference, so something separate for each kid, or more of a family effort? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Writing has picked up again, and summer reading lists...

Happy Feast of the Ascension, everybody! I'm in one of the few dioceses that does not transfer this feast to the following Sunday, so I scrambled about this morning in order to make it to 8 am Mass. *halo* I felt all rushy rushy, but I have to say, it was very worth it. I felt like a million bucks when I got back into my little Honda Fit afterwards.

And speaking of good things...I'm definitely in full-out summer mode, and this year in particular, that is ALL FANTASTIC STUFF.

Is the winter finally over? Let me just check outside again, because you never know, given the way things have gone this year. It may go from sunny and mild, to complete squalling snowstorm during the time it takes me to do a spin in a dance choreography I'm practicing on my lunch break, like it did just a few weeks ago.

😳

After what we went through this year, I give you my word that I will not complain about being hot this summer. I may crack jokes about how large my hair expands in the humidity, but I will not complain, no sir.

And this summer will be LOVELY. Lots of fun dance events and gigs. A few short road trips with Mike and the kids. Visits with family and friends. Life is good.

I've also been hard at work on a long-term project! Remember, oh, sometime last year (actually maybe it was closer to 2 years ago 😢) I first mentioned that I was involved in writing a scripture study for women? Well, that is finally going to be a reality!

*trumpets blare!*

I wrote a full draft of my part of the series (focusing on the spiritual classics) last summer, and I know I talked about it then, but it had sat in it's draft form since August 2017. The editor (our beloved Allison Gingras!) was working on firming up a publisher, and I was so busy teaching I did not even look at it until my classes wrapped up this spring.

Things are finally in go-mode now, and there are three of us ready with the first installments in the series: Stay Connected: A Faith Sharing Journal Series. It will be published by Gracewatch Media, and we're optimistic that these first three books will be out this coming fall 2018! So much excitement!

We've been busily editing our own work, as well as going through the feedback we receive from additional sets of eyes. It's been intense, but a *tremendous* blessing. I have been filled with such a sense of peace since we picked this back up after my teaching was finished for the semester. I will keep you apprised of publication details as they become available to me!

Working on a writing project again, along with more room in my brain to *think* with no teaching for the next few months, has also brought my mind back to reading. Obviously, you know that I am a prolific reader. I tend, though, to read a lot of the same types of books: inspirational and/or cozy fiction. I love those books. However, every once in awhile, it's good to branch out and challenge ourselves. So, this summer, I made myself a list:

  • Historical Fiction
  • Contemporary secular fiction
  • Historical non-fiction
  • Memoir

These are all genres that I do not often read, but I want to read more often! Already, I have embarked on a memoir: Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger. This is about that United flight 1549 that lots both engines after takeoff from La Guardian airport back in 2009, and landed on the Hudson River, with all passengers and crew surviving.




I have to say, I'm *really* enjoying it! I'm reading it along with an online friend from a podcast community we're both a part of. It volleys back and forth in time from that fateful trip back into his childhood and training as a military pilot, and also his family life. It's absolutely fascinating, and I'm so glad that I branched out! We also have our Summer Book Club coming up, and that is also a memoir.  I'm thinking we'll tackle that in July, and I'll post about it more in a few weeks. Anticipation! :0

Historical fiction is pretty easy, I have several books meeting that criteria on my Kindle. Secular fiction, I'm certain I will find something to catch my fancy. I've been using the public library's ebook system more to borrow books, and it's been saving me a lot of money. πŸ˜‚ They have a ton of books in this category. The toughie is historical non-fiction. I do not do well with long, dry reads, hee! Does anybody have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them!

Also, do you have your own summer reading list? If so, please share!

    Thursday, May 3, 2018

    "Eh, no worries. Everyone will just think you're a crazy person!" Adventures in love and marriage...

    Life is an adventure, is it not? And we're often navigating it with our lifelong partner by our side. Even re-reading the title of the post makes me smile, because it brings back a happy and joyful memory from this past weekend. One that I shared with Mike. And that got me to thinking about larger life issues, as my mind is wont to do. :)

    So, this weekend I had a dance gig. It was a birthday party, and I was totally solo in terms of other dancers. I navigated the entire thing by myself, setting it up, getting the contract together, and finalizing details of what they were looking for. I haven't done this by myself in a couple of years; my gigs more recently have always involved having another dancer with me. And that other experience a few years ago, wherein I set it up by myself, was the only other one I've ever done. Thus, needless to say, my stomach was in butterflies over this one in the 2 weeks leading up to it. I wanted it to go smoothly, and for everyone to have a good experience. I felt like it was an important milestone in my little career as a pro dancer.

    Saturday arrives, and my stomach is doing flip flops all day long. As I was texting with the woman who had hired me (heretofore known as Nice Hiring Lady), I thought to confirm with her that the birthday party was in a banquet room in the restaurant. I don't know why, but I just had a sense of foreboding. πŸ˜‚She texted back that, nope! They were out in the main restaurant, but not to worry, we would figure it all out when I arrived. And what she meant by that is that my presence was a surprise for the two birthday honorees. So my surprise arrival was not going to be at ALL the way I planned. :0

    Not only that, but there was a live band there, and it was LOUD. And crowded. And loud, did I mention that already? I had a standard aux cable for my music, but when we got there we found out that it wasn't compatible with the band's sound system. We had to use my little iPod speakers, and let's just say that wasn't going to make a dent at ALL in that large crowd.

    When we arrived, Nice Hiring Lady came out to meet us, and said that I could clandestinely slip in without being seen, so that I could enter just from a tucked away spot within the restaurant. I have to admit, I was dubious: I was wearing a florescent pink costume coverup with a long orange sweater over top because it was so cold. Also because of the cold, I was wearing socks and boots, which *really* made the costume, as I'm sure you can imagine. ;-) My bag holding my music accoutrements and silk veil was covered with bright pink sequins. Mike was carrying my sword in it's sheath. Blending in, we were not. That's when Nice Hiring Lady made the comment from the title, and I knew how much I liked her. πŸ˜€I love people with a solid sense of humor!

    So we get inside and squeeze our way through the crowd to the dance floor area. I tuck myself into the servers' station, where staff members keep coming out to tell me that I can't be in there, but there's really no where else for me to go without giving away the surprise.  So I'm hopping around on one foot over there peeling off my socks and boots, while Mike struggles with the music on the other side of the dance floor. I was expecting the band to take a full break and vacate, and hopefully then the crowd would quiet down a bit, but also nope! Suddenly, they're announcing this surprise arrival (oh right, THAT'S ME), but my music cannot be heard over the din. I waited for a few beats, peeking out while shrouded by my veil like a freak, and saw Mike finagle up my iPod speakers to the band's microphone. Suddenly, my music could be heard. The first song was already WELL past my precise climactic entrance part, but by that point there was nothing to be done. I sailed out with Veil onto the small dance floor.

    Yes, everybody was surprised. Everybody was also still quite loud. :0 But luckily the microphone at least made the sound situation palatable.

    It was not at all what I expected. People quickly sealed around me on the small dance floor and there wasn't a lot of room to be flourishy. Therefore, Veil's debut was pretty short lived. This part of the situation was particularly dicey for Sword, but I will say, he did GREAT. Everybody loved him, like usual. Sword and I definitely have a new and happy understanding for gigs like this. ;-) Everything went fantastic, and I had an excellent experience, despite the unexpected circumstances. I could tell that Nice Hiring Lady was also quite ecstatic.

    So, at some point, I turn around, and there is my husband: balancing a microphone in one hand, and my sword in another, beaming at me while I belly dance in approximately 5 feet of space at a surprise birthday party, dragging willing women into the circle to dance with me like there was no tomorrow, and I thought to myself...I bet this isn't what he pictured when he married me. πŸ˜‚ That his bookish wife would become a professional belly dancer, and that we would have weekend adventures with me blinding people with my sheer volume of costume beads, and him brandishing a sword that I will balance on my head. Life does not always turn out the way we plan. But I have to say...I am SO GLAD for that!

    Our life is not perfect, and neither he nor I are perfect people. On paper: him a baptized Catholic that currently professes atheism, me a devout Catholic, it seems like an odd match, right? However, we are not only happily married, but more in love than ever. Again, that does not mean that we are without bad days and disagreements. ALL marriages have those, or else the couple is not being honest! But I look at my husband now, and think about how freaking adorable I find him, and that I'm so glad that he's the "party guest" I will be escorting home, and I know that he feels the same way. ;-) It's as we feared when we were all kids: old people really DO still think about and do *those things*, and not only that, but it's WAY BETTER than when we were younger! :0

    My marriage is a sweet gift that I do not feel worthy of. This year has had some tough moments in it for me, and Mike has never given up on me. He is always there to support and reassure me. I know that he will always be there for me. Our marriage means as much to him as it does to me. And that means THE WORLD to me.

    Someday, (hopefully, many, many decades from now) one of us will pass away, and our marriage will come to it's natural end. It's until death parts us. But until then, I want to enjoy every moment that I have with this wonderful man. I hope that we still have hundreds of adventures in our future, many memories still to be made.

    Apparently, this is a sappy post! Would you also like to sing the praises of your significant other? Have at it in the comments!

    Thursday, April 26, 2018

    Our Lady of Fatima has a hold on my heart...

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/allisonkinyon
    As May approaches, my thoughts automatically turn towards the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which we celebrate on the Church calendar May 13th. There are lots of other exciting things going on in May: May Crowning at the kids' school, Anne's birthday, Sam's birthday, confirmation season, Pentecost, my dance family returns from Egypt, the long Memorial Day weekend...all fantastic stuff that I cannot wait for. Always though, my mind turns to our Blessed Mother, and the role she is known for amongst three young Portuguese children in the early twentieth century.There is something about her that has become special to me in my adulthood, and in my role as wife and mother. That image of her is so appealing to me, so filled with tender understanding.

    The week before Holy Week, I stopped in at our parish for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been dealing with (and continue to deal with) the aftermath of a few difficult emotional situations. It's all part of life, you know? But for someone with a personality like mine: very gentle-natured, always wanting to please others, experiencing a great deal of empathy for others at all times - it's hard to climb out of a dark abyss like that. It's hard to feel like myself again, because my mind always wants to take me back to things that have hurt me and that I cannot control. It's something I've dealt with my whole life, but as an adult it has helped a bit to do some research (*pins on librarian super cape*) and realize that these qualities about myself are not only God-given (and thus, I cannot change them even if I wanted to) but they are in fact positive characteristics that I should not see as weaknesses. I should revel in being compassionate, loving and trusting, and in the resulting beautiful and lasting relationships I have in my life. It has given me a lot of peace and healing to focus on those things.

    And so, as I was leaving the confessional that recent week late in Lent, I was struck by inspiration - Our Lady of Fatima. Her feast day is in the spring, and I just felt compelled to carry her with me on a day-to-day basis. So I texted Allison to see if she would accept a custom order for a one decade, springy rosary with an Our Lady of Fatima center, and she did. It is, of course, the rosary you see featured in this post. Isn't it lovely?!

    I love one decade rosaries for the ease of being able to tuck them into your pocket. If you need a little extra courage or strength on a given day, you can easily reach for the rosary and feel the solace that it offers. I'm so thrilled with this particular rosary and the association I have with it for Our Lady in a particularly sweet, motherly role. Granted, I don't think we ever see Mary in a non-motherly role :) but this one strikes a special chord with me. I am relying heavily on Our Lady of Fatima this spring.

    Maybe we could pray her novena this year? It would start next week, on May 4th, I believe. I can dig up the prayers if anyone would like to join me!

    Thursday, April 19, 2018

    "Spring"time malaise, and ruminations on performing in our daily lives...

    Hi all! It's been an interesting week as I wrap up my grading and course-related work, and segue back into writing project mode.  It's been a refreshing change, to be sure, as I do tend to get burned out from the intensive teaching that we do for the first 10 weeks of every semester (anywhere from 8-13 sections of the same library research lab). This semester I had the lowest number I've ever had, which is 8, and while it was much more manageable in terms of preparation, grading, and email management, it still very much crushes my spirit a bit. It's draining, it's monotonous, and frankly, it can be unfulfilling. It *can* be fulfilling, depends on the class and the week, to be sure. But every semester, when we are wrapping up this portion of our duties, I breathe a sigh of relief for a break from that harried routine. It's extremely refreshing to have other tasks for a spell, to have a chance to recharge and feel inspired again to teach in the fall.

    Earlier this winter, I mentioned that I was struggling quite a bit with seasonal depression. I know, though, that it was also related to what I just discussed above. I took it hard when the spring semester started in late January, and my lovely holiday break and winter quiet time turned into chaos once again. I've been working on mitigating that with some natural remedies and prayer, and it has indeed helped. With the summer approaching, I know that the break from teaching will be the most important factor of all in helping me to recover my perkiness.

    But the weather? Let's just say that is decidedly NOT helping.


    April is not very springy in WNY. It's a factor of living on the volatile Great Lakes, it's just part of our climate. April is a transition month, very akin to November. Following the gorgeous foliage and cozy cool temperatures of September and October, November is gray, rainy, cold and gloomy, interspersed with occasional pleasant days. So is April. And that's OK. But every once in a while, you get an April like this one. And April 2018 is gray, rainy, cold and gloomy, but interspersed with high wind warnings, pelting mixed precipitation, snow squalls, hail, winter storm watches, and regular ice dams on your windshield. It has been rather miserable, and I'm getting weary of bracing myself for the walk out to my little Honda Fit every evening after work.

    Everybody has been talking about the effect this long winter has had on our emotional well-being. We're looking to bust out of this funk we've been in. :0

    In other, but related, news, I have some professional dance gigs coming up, and it's caused me to realize what a dramatic turn my life has taken over the years. We went from:

    (A) voted shyest in her high school senior class; to

    (B) gets up in front of people daily for either public speaking or dramatic Middle Eastern dancing.

    It's quite the 360, let me tell you. And the thing is, although I've gotten slightly more confident as I've aged, the reality of the situation is that both of the things mentioned in (B) still make me all:

    😳😬😳

    I need to psych myself up to both daily, and afterward, both leave me drained. My dance instructors are going to Egypt for nearly a month, and are passing on gigs to me while they're away. All I could think when they told me this was:

    "Please God. Let them hurry back!!"

    Because I may be a quivering mass of sparkles in the corner by the time they return in mid-May. Restaurants on New Year's Eve are one thing. Surprise birthday parties, with their potential for countless instances of social awkwardness, are quite another. 😱

    It's interesting, but *that* is what I worry about with teaching, too. Embarrassing myself. Saying something stupid. Tripping over my own feet and collapsing in a heap at the front of the classroom. I want to do a good job, sure. But more than anything, I fear feeling incompetent and letting myself down. The shy little girl from my K-12 years hasn't totally gone away. I tamp her down a lot better then I ever have, but I don't think a person ever completely changes inherent parts of who they are.

    Life takes lots of unexpected turns, to be sure. I'll take my life now over my younger self, any day. It does still have it's challenges, though.

    As we await summer, I've been busily knitting some baby gifts and catching up on my reading. My current reads are Lethal Licorice (Amish Candy Shop Mystery #2), and The Tomb (Living Water series, book 3). I'm thinking we can start up our summer book club (which will be apologetics themed!) in July. Sound like a plan?

    How is this spring season treating you? Has it been as spring-less for you as it has for me? ;-) Write in and regale me with details!

    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    Dancing with exhaustion, new dresses and volatile hip belts - spring dancing, 2018 edition!

    It's been awhile, right?! Since I wrote a regular, non-structured post, that is. ;-) It's Easter, so I'd say the timing is perfect! I had a jam packed dancing weekend, which is always fun fodder for humor on this blog. What do you say we dive in?

    The weekend prior to this past one was Easter, yes? The reason I bring this up is that Easter weekend meant that we couldn't rehearse our dances, since we didn't have class the week before our big show - the spring hafla. Not only is the hafla the time that our family and friends see us perform our new pieces, but we also had a guest dancer coming to town, Florence from Montreal. She is a STUNNING dancer, so talented, and you know. We wanted to not look stupid in front of her. πŸ˜‚

    This all collided into a pretty intense week of preparation leading up to last Friday, when Florence was set to arrive, and we would all be taking a veil technique workshop with her. Afterward, the troupe was staying behind to rehearse.

    I had been practicing with my solo music all week, including quite a bit on Friday, so I had a good deal of nervous energy going strong even before arriving at the studio. ;-) I've been dancing for a long time, 10 years to be precise, BUT - I still get very nervous before I perform. And in some ways, haflas are more nerve wracking for me than professional gigs. Professional gigs =

    Strangers. I don't know you people. I do want to do a really good job for you, but I'll likely never see you again, so in the grand scheme of things, you have no emotional power over me. :0

    Whereas, haflas =

    Family. Friends. Other dancers that I admire, whose opinions I seriously respect. My beloved instructors. 😬

    I put more pressure on myself, no doubt about it. Each time I dance at a hafla, I want it to be better than the last. I want it to be ethereal, the best performance I've given to date. At professional gigs, I just want to get out without slipping on my veil into a puddle of hummus, or dropping my sword onto someone's foot.

    When I dance solo, I do not choreograph. I improvise, and although it sounds counter intuitive, I do that by design because it's easier for me. I'm very comfortable with improvising, and as someone with a more reserved personality, improvising helps me to be more natural and spontaneous, and to convey that with my movements and facial expressions. So one would think that given the lack of orchestrated choreography, I wouldn't really need to practice much before a performance. However, when you're Type A Belly Dancer like yours truly, that is not the case. :0

    Going into the long workshop/rehearsal/show weekend, I had already worked daily for 2 weeks with my chosen music. I pop it on and improvise, becoming as familiar with the music as possible. I do plan out accent segments. I don't always remember them ;-) but I put some thought into them. I work on pretending that my kitchen table is an adoring audience, and on what I want to project to that audience via my face, torso and arms. The feelings, the emotion, the energy. You're probably thinking right now that I make dance very complicated. :0 And it's true, I do. Because dance is art to me. You don't just slap colors up onto a canvas and call it a masterpiece, right? ;-)

    So going into a long night on Friday, I had already whipped myself into a frenzy of non-stop improvisation. I show up for the 7 pm veil workshop all star struck to meet Florence for the first time. :0 And the studio was packed with women waving silk veils around. It's a good thing it's still freezing cold and hailing here to combat the generated heat!

    *virtual high five!*

    And Florence had *such* a beautifully refreshing style to her teaching and dance! We did one movement where we floated the veil back and forth over our heads, and she called it "painting the ceiling with the veil." Do you see why I love her so much?! And she has a DREAMY French account to boot.

    We worked hard for 90 minutes, and then as other attendees had filtered out by around 9 pm, my troupe held a quick rehearsal of our pieces. So here was the issue:

    (1) I'm the annoying dancer who always overpractices and thus always remembers the choreography. So Claire often puts me in the front to aid choreography synchronization throughout the entire group. BUT,

    (2) Apparently that doesn't fully translate to when I'm falling on my face exhausted, which I was by 9:15 pm on Friday.

    During Run Through #1, I was still OK, but by the second go-round, I was holding onto consciousness by a thread. :0 We got midway through "Leilet Hob" and I had a moment. I did an incorrect arm movement, and it threw me. I lost my place in the music. 😱

    Immediately, a bad house of cards situation erupted. The entire troupe lost focus and our choreography collapsed like so much cooked spaghetti. Claire didn't seem worried, but I was. We had morning rehearsal for the special winter choreography class dance, plus a 2 hour workshop on movement fluidity, photos at 6 pm, and THEN the hafla at 7 pm. Chances were not good that I was going to be less tired the next day.

    I woke up Saturday morning feeling a little better, but my body let me know that it was exhausted to the bone and would appreciate a little letup in the obsession-level dancing. But rest was not to be that day, that's for certain!

    I was at the studio at 10:30 for rehearsal. The workshop ran from 12-2, and it was SPECTACULAR. I headed home, where I promptly fell asleep in a fort that Anne had built on the landing of our staircase. When I woke up, I felt even more tired than I had before.

    😳

    This whole "getting older" thing is for the birds, let me tell you. Though in my defense, even dancers ten plus years younger then me were also struggling with tiredness by Saturday night. Oh good, see? I feel better now that I remembered that.

    *gold star!*

    Mike and I head to the studio for the hafla, and I was having to work hard to keep my energy level up. My first dance was the winter choreography, and I was focusing on trying not to sweat in our new, light colored, long sleeved, gowns. :0 All glamour, all the time, over here.

    Before we went out, somebody's homemade hip belt exploded into a pile of loose beads on the floor. So not only was I trying not to sweat, but I was doing so from a squatted position on the floor, scooping up tiny pink beads. Once we got that situation under control, we danced, and it went well. That's a beautiful piece.

    My solo was in the second set, and I changed into my baladi gown with trepidation. I was still ridiculously tired. But I shimmied my nerves away, and danced out to my lovely music. About a quarter of the way into the song, I started noticing that my dress felt *different* on my right leg than it had before. This was my first time dancing in this costume, and it's never a good sign to have it feel *different* right in middle of your performance. I popped in a movement wherein I could position my right hip to the back wall and then swoop over there to look at what it was doing like I had planned that all along. Gulp. The split in the gown had clearly moved from it's original location closer to my knee, and was now higher up on my leg than before. It wasn't anything scandalous, but I was paranoid for the rest of the song, because I didn't want it to move anymore!

    During the disaster. :0 It's not bad, but costumes are supposed to stay where you put them!
    I created a few movements whereby I could adjust the split a bit and just tried not to worry. When I quizzed Mike about it later, he was all surprised, and said he noticed nothing, "and I was REALLY WATCHING CLOSE." :0 So I guess all is well that ends well!

    I was happy with how it went, but my biggest worry still lay ahead: "Leilat Hob." I did *not* want to mess up that dance and let Claire down. And my troupemates were sweating it a bit as well. It's a new dance to us, and that's when the potential to forget things is at it's highest:

    "TIFFANY. You have to remember 'Leilet Hob.' If you don't, the rest of us are in big trouble."

    No pressure. 😨

    Let's just say I brought my "Leilet Hob" A game. My focus was akin to that of a surgeon prepping for the biggest operation of his career. I had gone over where my arms had gone astray, and honed the movements into my memory. The music started, and I busted out the most exact rendition of the piece I've ever done. And I enjoyed dancing it, the focus brought a refreshing intensity with it. 😁

    Everything went great, but this was one hafla I was glad to successfully navigate to the end. Naturally, as our final drum solo wrapped up, I was wide awake and couldn't fall asleep until 1 am. Because, you know, that's how these things work. :0

    I'm glad to be back to posts like these! How was your weekend?!

    A link to the magnificent Florence's YouTube channel if you'd like to see her dance!

    Thursday, April 5, 2018

    Tea Time for Lent/Easter 2018 - Episode 7! Triduum recap...

    So, we had a bit of a production delay ;-) and thus have a combined Lent/Easter edition of...

    Today I chat about my Triduum, 2018 edition, Henry and the marathon altar serving, and the poignancy of the Easter vigil mass. 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 http://www.purple-planet.com 





    Happy Easter everybody! How was your Triduum and Easter weekend? I'd love to hear from you!

    Thursday, March 29, 2018

    Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 31-36...

    😭😭😭

    Well. We knew this book would be ideally suited to Lent, did we not? I knew when I picked up this last segment over the weekend that it would be a tearjerker, and it did not disappoint. Let's dive in. I suppose.

    😭😭😭

    We pick up on Crucifixion day. UGH! Oh my gosh, I was bracing myself as I read, as I'm sure you were too. Nissa wakes up determined not to abandon Dismas during his hour of need, and she carries through. She finds the men as they are given their crosses to carry up to Golgotha, and stays by Dismas's side. Other people gather to throw stones and spit at them. I mean, really? No matter what they've done (or you think they've done) aren't they suffering enough already? I even feel bad for Gestas at this point! Nissa protects Dismas as much as she can from the cruelty of the bystanders.

    Longinus is there too, and he does what he can to straddle the fine line between doing his job, but doing it with compassion. When Jesus falls, he ropes in Simon of Cyrene to help him out.

    During all of this, I could literally FEEL the agony. We want this suffering to end for these men, this terrible burden of carrying heavy wooden crosses up a hill when they've already been physically weakened by a brutal beating. But we know that when they arrive at their destination...their worst suffering is still yet to come. I was having a difficult time sitting still while I was reading, this was all so palpable to me.

    Up on the hill, Dismas extends only forgiveness and love to all. He is at peace, and says that doing this, taking Nissas place, is the best thing he's ever done. This moment, combined with the descriptions of them all being nailed to the crosses...this is where I lost it. They hadn't even gotten to Jesus yet, and I was a sobbing basketcase. The inhumanity of death by crucifixion had never been more real to me.

    Longinus compassionately tends to Jesus. Nissa does not leave Dismas's feet. Jesus dies first, and when a priest demands proof that Jesus is dead, Longinus pierces His side with a lance. The blood and water that pour forth completely convert his heart that Jesus is the son of God. He finally does something that he couldn't bring himself to do before - he forgives Nissa. He has Marcellus hurry along the deaths of the two thieves, in order to shorten their suffering.

    Meanwhile, we learn that Gestas had betrayed both Nissa and Longinus before he died. Longinus is arrested for treason, and he urges Nissa to immediately leave Jerusalem.

    But, of course, she doesn't. She heads to Gehenna, where the bodies of Gestas and Dismas are taken. She does not want their bodies to be left for the wild animals. While she is hiding, waiting for her opportunity, she encounters the hanging body of Judas.

    Nissa gives Dismas, and even Gestas, a proper burial, and while she is doing this, it begins to rain. Her heart has been changed by Dismas and Longinus's witness, and she begs God for forgiveness, and prays for the first time in a very long time. She heads home looking for Cedron, and encounters Gilad, our other evil G person from this story. When he tries to get money from her, suggesting that she can pay "in trade," Nissa puts into practice the defense moves Longinus taught her and successfully kicks Gilad's ass. I had a very proud Girl Power moment right there.

    *virtual fist bump*

    She finally finds Cedon hiding at the Temple with his friends, and they're all confused. Jesus is dead, and thus they are all convinced this means that he's not the Messiah they were waiting for. They were ready for revolution, and He let them down. Nissa does what she can, but leaves discouraged by their attitude.

    She hustles to the prison to try and find Longinus. She finds Marcellus, and convinces him to sneak her in. Naturally, Silvanus catches them, because he is a squirrelly evil person. Her and Longinus are taken to Pilate.

    Pilate has no more sympathy for Longinus. He sentences him to death, and for Nissa to be given to the Sanhedrin. And we all know how compassionate THEY will be towards her. Suddenly, somebody rushes in with news. Jesus's guarded body has disappeared. This has a big impact on Pilate.

    He is a man devoted to the Greek gods, and fears that this mysterious God of the Jews could potentially strike him down. He releases both Nissa and Longinus.

    I was surprised by this! We actually have a happy ending for Nissa and Longinus. They have no money, but they love each other, and they have their faith, and they agree to figure out a way to share their lives together.

    They head to the tomb. There is a crowd gathered there of Jesus's followers, but also Cedron, Marcellus, and Cornelius, another Roman centurion. They are the believers of the early Church.

    So, WOW. This book had a powerful, powerful impact on me this Lent, and especially this Holy Week. The scene on Golgotha will never leave my head whenever I meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and when I attend the Good Friday liturgy. I am speechless. The author so realistically set the stage of us being bystanders on that journey and seeing the events unfold. I was SOBBING. Sobbing. Each step, each nail, each breath of agony, I was there. We were all there together.

    I may re-read this book every Lent, it had that big of an impact on me. I am SO GLAD we chose this to read for the book club this Lent, and I would absolutely love to gather *your* thoughts on the end of this book!

    We'll have another book club this summer, how does July sound? We're going apologetics this time, and we'll chat about it as the date draws closer!

    Friday, March 23, 2018

    Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 6! Contemplating the Holy Week liturgies...

    I get all into liturgy nerd mode on our late-Lent edition of:

    I wax nostalgic a bit today about my cradle Catholic years with Lent and Easter, but having never experienced the Triduum liturgies until just a few years ago. We linger over Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, and the meaning behind those liturgies. To be continued last week since I got so into this!




    **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 http://www.purple-planet.com 

    What are your experiences with the Holy Week liturgies? Did you participate in them as a child, or only as an adult like me? I would love to hear from you!