Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lenten progress...

I know, it's only been a day. But I'm already falling short :) My meat-less and soda-less (oh Diet Coke, how I miss you!) are going splendidly *halo* but the prayerful resolutions are a bit rougher. Already, I've barely opened my Lent/Easter Season Liturgy of the Hours volume. I forgot yesterday morning, slammed in Evening Prayer before I left work, and then once again forgor Morning Prayer today. I have been reading my devotional each day, which is a yay. But I got so absorbed in my podcast yesterday in the car, I forgot to pray my rosary. I'm hopeless.

But overall it was a pretty good Ash Wednesday. I did get to Mass and receive ashes, even despite having an unruly toddler attached to my hip, and I fasted like a champ. I even lost a pound, bonus.

So far, I've garnered several meat-less recipes that I'm happy with. Last night, I made a multigrain pasta casserole with cheese and broccoli, which came out well. I have a black bean chili recipe I'm going to try in a few weeks. If anyone has any good recipes involving shrimp, let me know :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday...

Well, last night was my last opportunity for meat and diet soda for over 40 days, and like a true addict I was guzzling Coke Zero until 9 pm last night. I really miss my Diet Coke during Lent...

In the true spirit of martyrdom, I suited up to get ashes this morning with my 3 year old Henry in tow. Hank is a good boy, and he genuinely likes church, but, well, he's 3. I haven't been taking him to Mass with me on Sundays because it's so excruciating to bring him along.

Hank: "MOMMY. I want to read I Spy."
CL: "Honey, ssshhhhhhhhh. You have to whisper in church."

Pretty soon, my mood is decidedly not one of Christian charity. He's whining, pulling my hair, and generally being disruptive. Soon, he has to be extracted from the sanctuary. It was just one of those mornings.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lent is approaching :)

So, before I get to the main topic of his post, I wanted to furrow my brow a bit about the lack of blogging opportunities lately, which has been making me most unhappy. It's not good when work is so busy you don't have time to check your message boards, IM, write frivolous emails, and blog :) I'm hoping that things are starting to wind down. In my free time, I've been reading the Twilight series. Has anybody else read those? Well. I have a lot to say about them. I'm saving that for it's very own post, so stay tuned :) I'll just give a teaser to say that the stories are very engaging; however, when you want to continually slap the face of the heroine, this is a sign that the author has gone awry somehow.

Anyway, the beginning of Lent in the Western Church is Ash Wednesday, which is coming right up on our calendars this week. I know it sounds odd, but I like Lent. I enjoy all the traditional devotions, like the Stations of the Cross, and all of the fish dinners you suddenly see advertised. Giving things up is good for us, and each year I look forward to a nice, regimented (Type A personality...) way to tighten myself up spiritually. This year, I have resolved to do the following:

(1) Give up meat for all of Lent.
(2) Give up diet soda. This sounds trivial, but I love Cherry Coke Zero like nobody's business, so this is a true sacrifice.
(3)Pray morning and evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours daily.
(4)Pray a daily rosary for larger personal intentions.
(5)Follow the Lenten devotional that I bought which has daily readings.

One of the truly fascinating aspects of Lent to me is fasting. The Holy Father's Lenten Message for 2009 actually addresses fasting as a spiritual discipline, and is quite good. In the Western Rite, the Church asks that we do the following:

Abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by eating only 1 full meal and at most, 2 smaller meals.

Things are more intriguing in the Eastern Church. During what they term Great Lent, Eastern Catholics and Orthodox abstain from all meat products for the duration of Lent, as well as all dairy products, eggs, fish, wine and olive oil. Jinkies. Eastern Christians also fast during the liturgical season of Advent, termed "Little Lent," hence the cool names. In the weeks leading up to Great Lent, the Eastern Church celebrates "Meatfare Sunday" and then "Cheesefare Sunday," which serve as the last time those items are consumed until Easter Sunday. They would call it Pascha :) I like this - meat and dairy products' last big bang before Great Lent actually begins - sort of an Orthodox Mardi Gras.

Overall, Lent isn't just about giving something(s) up. It's about a call to sacrifice, prayer and increased charity. I love the opportunity to have a sharp focus on these things each year, and re-evaluate how one is doing in each category. A period of self-reflection is needed by all of us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm officially old

Well, not really, but you know what I mean. It's my birthday, and I wish I could say that I was happy about it. I'm at an age when birthdays aren't really exciting anymore; they just make you a year older. I've been dreading this birthday for a while. It's a little too close to another age that I will not mention for comfort. That unmentionable age is one that will put me into another box when I fill out surveys; you know what I'm talking about. *shudders* I'm so not ready to go there yet. But I feel older. All of a sudden I'm noticing heretofore unseen lines around my eyes. I'm most displeased about this. But it's not like I'm going to start buying expensive Oil of Olay products to try to prevent any of this, so alas. I'll survive. But I'm ignoring those survey boxes; we shouldn't have to box ourselves in anyways :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rampant paranoia, check. Throbbing headache, check...

It's been a rather intense couple of weeks at work. I'm feeling decidedly anxious about my re-appointment dossier; I'm sure I will get reappointed, I do a good job *halo* but it's still nerve-wracking having your work and writing being discussed at a meeting of your peers, and pored over by a committee.

So, I have all that on my mind. As well, I've had some teaching to do this week, and I've been less than enthusiastic about it. I've had a lot on my mind, and my always present anxiety about, you know, talking to people and having them look at me, grows exponentially when I have other worries crowding each other for space. I've been madly lesson planning in preparation. Class number one I had this afternoon, English Composition. The instructor asked her students to choose an issue out of Michael Moore's work and write a position paper on it, citing at least two scholarly journal articles. Well, I get an email from her this morning, panic-stricken that all copies of Michael Moore's books are already checked out of the library. Wouldn't you think that based on the assignment, his books were either on course reserve or otherwise used as texts in the class? I mean, there are lots of students in the class. *Sighs* I spent the majority of the class reassuring upset students that they could find the books in other ways, and showing them how to use the public library catalog.

I'm a nurturer, so I can handle this. Well, get a load of class number two, also an English Composition, scheduled for tomorrow. The instructor actually sent me a full copy of the assignment and the course syllabus, which I greatly appreciated. I took a look at it for the first time today. At first, I thought maybe the stress was getting to me, rendering me daft. I flipped through the documents about a half dozen times without being able to report a single concrete item that I'd gleaned. After further study, I realized that the reason for this might be that the syllabus alone was approximately 15 pages long, and contained an absolute ton of confusing, nit-picky details about assignments. At one point, I kid you not, the syllabus contained a discussion of the proper way to turn in assignments, which included creation of a cover letter *on letterhead* addressing the writing process for that particular essay, multiple drafts and peer reviews, placement of all essay materials in a folder, with pockets, and exactly how to arrange the items in each pocket. My head hurt after reading it. Pockets? I ask you. I've never been so bewildered over a syllabus in my life. It took me twenty minutes to ascertain which assignment I was being asked to address, when it was due, and what it entailed.

I need to go home now, and drink wine. I have a box of Franzia Crisp White chilled in my refrigerator, and I assure you it will help me. I may need a flask for this class tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Selective Memory...

After a long, long week, I was pleased as punch to attend my bellydance class as usual Friday night. When we started practicing our routine, our instructor, Claire, furrowed her brow for a moment, trying to remember a newish move. She looked to me and declared "Tiffany will remember! She's the official choreographer-keeper. There's one in every class. *beam*" In fact, I *did* remember, which I sheepishly admitted. I can forget my lunch, to write several important outgoing emails, and to bring other essential items to work, but somehow I retain bellydance choreography from week-to-week. Baffling, but fascinating.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's been a long week...

My re-appointment statements are done, and all of the creative energy is completely sucked out of me, hence the reason I haven't done much blogging this week. I have two classes next week, for which I at the moment have zero lesson plans. I was busily compiling stuff for my "supplemental materials" to my re-appointment dossier today, which together with a committee meeting, pretty much consumed the entire day. It's been a bit of an exhausting week.

I met with my directors yesterday to discuss my re-appointment. They were very sweetly enthusiastic with my statements and CV (please God tell me I don't have to revise them). They want me to take on an academic department responsibility, as a library liaison, so that I can foster some faculty relationships, since I need faculty letters for my tenure dossier in a few years. They suggested American Studies, which I have to say, I'm kind of excited about. I'm too tired to examine anything too closely right now, but I think this will be a good fit, and I'm looking forward to pursuing it.

I somehow have to manage to cook dinner, clean up, and get to bellydance class by 6:30, which isn't going to be easy. I'll try to scrape myself up off the floor and manage.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Service to the Profession...

Oh sigh. I'm currently undergoing something that I dread every two years - reappointment as part of the tenure process. This year is my "penultamate" appointment, meaning the last prior to submission of one's bid for tenure. It is a three year reappointment, yet somehow we need to begin preparing the tenure dossier next year. This is one of those things in academic librarianship that is routine, odd, yet nobody questions.

For each of these reappointments, one needs to carefully craft a Curriculum Vitae touting all their magnificant and scholarly accomplishments as well as a "Statement of Service" and a "Statement of Research Interests." Allow me to assure you that writing these babies is absolutely, positively *excruciating*. I'd rather have someone come pull all my fingernails out. Oh wait. That's right, I'd rather have the fingernails thing than have to sit through the bar review section on New York Practice. I thought that sounded familiar. So, I guess I'd rather have something else very painful happen to me than write service and research statements.

I have a hard time talking about myself generally, but add in the request by the committee overseeing promotion and tenure appointments that the service statement be an extrapolation of one's "philosophy of librarianship" and I just want to kill myself right now.

I like my job, even love my job. I enjoy what I do, and I wanted to be a librarian because I like to be near books and want to help people. Unfortunately, that does not qualify as one's statement of service. One needs to write a multi-paged statement touting all kinds of incomprehensible jargon about what it means to be a librarian and how the profession serves others.

This is tough for me. I like clear, concise writing. Not wordy, flowery crap that you read multiple times and cannot for the life of you figure out what it actually *means*. You know what I'm talking about. That "scholarly" writing that you would gladly pay someone $50 to translate for you. My friend Chris and I have an article, published in the library literature mind you, that we make fun of regularly that is guilty of this sort of writing. The author used the word "amelioration" in the title, as well as a half dozen times in the abstract alone. If you can use the word "amelioration" in a regular sentence, AND keep a straight face, I will happily buy you lunch.

I managed to pound out my Statement of Service by popping Motrin and transforming myself such that flowery prose poured forth from my consciousness like so much Wild Turkey (reserve bottle in my desk for just such occasions; just one of those baby airplane bottles, don't panic :). It was quite astounding, actually. I blathered on about integrating library instruction into the curriculum and fostering a teaching and learning collaboration amongst faculty, students and librarians. I discussed my philosophy of teaching, and how it can ease student library anxiety and instill a confidence with library resources that will last throughout their academic careers. I even mentioned my contributions to scholarly communication in furtherance of the desired professional goal of improving student learning and scholarship. I should win the Caldecott Medal for Excellence in Bullshit Writing.

I still have the Statement of Research Interests looming before me, and I want to cry just looking at my outline. I'm officially bullshitt-ed out. There's a little voice in my head, whispering "you're at 95 perceeennntt..." just like an email storage space quota or something. It's hard to manufacture this level of bullshit at such a rapid clip. I wish I could open up a Word document, and undernearth my title write about how my research interests include effective romance novels, the mythology and mystery behind Lost, and how to write an interesting spiritual memoir. I'm thinking this won't be what the committee wants to see.

Friday, February 6, 2009

American Idol starts up...

So, this is the time of year my husband dreads the most. Maybe this is why he dislikes January so much. The start-up of American Idol. I feel less enchanted with it every year, but yet I get sucked into the vortex every single time. I don't pay much attention to auditions; those are just painful. But I like the Hollywood round. This is when it is down to below 200 contestants, and then the real action begins.

The second show every year during the Hollywood round is the infamous "group night." This is when the contestants bunch up into small groups to perform a song, and make each other miserable with their childish, atrocious antics. I am always watching eagerly, chilled box of Franzia at the ready.

So at this juncture, there are always a few special stand-out contestants; no, not those that can sing well, though there are those too, thankfully. These are the contestants that have personalities so awful we wish we could tuck them away in a corner and not deal with them until they start to stink. You know, personalities that are as appealing as ripe formaldehyde. Here are my top three:

(1) Bikini Girl. You have have heard of her already, unfortunately. She auditioned in Phoenix, yes, in a bikini. Randy and Simon could barely contain themselves at the judges table. The female judges, predictably, and understandably, despised her on sight. Her Hollywood run, though she is wearing more clothes, has not exactly added more content. This is a girl that thinks that she is really, REALLY hot stuff. It grates on your nerves like that awful cheese that smells like feet. She abandons her group early to go to bed, sleeps in, declares that she is too tired to possibly perform, and then re-shows up right before performance time wanting to know "what she's missed." A real winner here.

(2) Laughing Girl. No, not the cute gulls off the eastern coast of Florida. This is a person, and her laugh makes you want to slit your wrists with your broken wine glass. Usually, she applies aforementioned laugh after some annoying and/or lazy action, like switching groups whenever she darn well pleases and pissing people off at every turn, all the while expressing bewilderment at why everything is being blamed on her. We last saw her in a dress the color of snake skin, declaring "When you look this good on 2 hours sleep, you know you're good. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH." I wish the camera guy had tripped her in her pointy shoes as she walked away.

(3) Effeminate Guy. I don't care that he is effeminate. But I have never seen someone more dramatic, male or female. He cries all the time and stomps away whenever his group disagrees about something (which is frequent). It makes me tired just watching him. That combined with his comment about his desire for music success "bursting out of his skin" really skeeves me out.

Annoying people aside, I will be watching Tuesday, wine glass clutched happily in my hand. I live for this stuff.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bellydance Costume

Depending on the availability of of entertainment budget, such that it is these days, I may purchase a bellydance costume that would match the rest of my intermediate class and the advanced class. I'm cautiously excited about it, because I'd really like one, but I don't know if we can swing it this year. We'll see. But at any rate, Claire mentioned it to us, if we'd like to do it so as to perform with the group at spring and summer events. The costumes consist of a flowy skirt, what is called a "choli" top - a half top, usually with short sleeves - and a veil. Hip scarves are also used, but not included in the costume. They come in a multitude of colors, and since I already own a hunter green chiffon hip scarf, and one of the costume colors is dark green, I'd likely go with that to conserve a bit. I'm very much a "green girl", so this works. I'm hoping it will work out, because they're terribly pretty and exotic looking. I imagine a definitely princess-feeling would ensue, which I'm absolutely all about.

According to an article that I read in Self magazine recently - one of my many, happy, periodical subscriptions - dancing has a positive correlation with reducing the potential for dementia onset later in life. It's healthy to dance - we should all do it :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Feast of St. Blaise

Today is the feast of St. Blaise, venerated in both the eastern and western Church, and one of my favorites of the year. St. Blaise is patron of illnesses and afflictions of the throat, and so on his feast day each year, you can get your throat blessed at daily Masses. The priest holds a crossed pair of candles in front of your throat and says a little prayer, asking for the intercession of St. Blaise. It admittedly sounds a bit odd, but then, so do most things involving saints. Remember what I said about saints having strange back stories and hideously torturesome deaths? Right, this is no exception.

Apparently St. Blaise was a bishop in Armenia and a known healer - ok, not so odd. But he also tended to wild animals and regularly spoke to them, trying to convince them not to harm each other - odd. He was martyred by beheading, which came only after he was tortured with "iron carding combs." ?! I don't even want to know what that means. All I can say is - poor St. Blaise.

This morning I got up and duitifully prayed Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours while Hank watched a show on Noggin. Already, I managed to screw up. I read the regular Tuesday morning prayer for this week in the psalter, not the good stuff about St. Blaise from the Proper of Saints. I'm trying, I really am.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Liturgy of the Hours

So, I've been thinking a lot about Lent lately, and the spiritual practices that I'd like to make as goals for that time period. One spiritual practice that I've kept to only off and on through the years is reciting at least part of the the official prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Liturgy of the Hours is an ancient devotion that organizes Scripture, hymns and prayers into units to be prayed at seven specific times of the day. The point is to sanctify ones entire day and work to God, and to remind ourselves at regular intervals what our lives are actually directed towards. Priests and other religious are obliged to pray the Hours every day of their lives as part of their vows. Laity are encouraged to pray the Hours, but of course, this has to be modified to fit into the realistic parameters of ones non-religious vocation. Many monastic communities pray the Hours at the traditional times, one of which is at 3 am; obviously, this is not practical for everyone unless one has a newborn that happens to also wake up at that time. Most people latch onto Lauds and Vespers, otherwise known as Morning and Evening Prayer, two of the major hours of the day. Each installment begins with an opening prayer and hymn, and then launches into the psalter.

I should pause here, right at the point at which my vocabulary starts to look beyond bizarre, to say that it is no small feat to learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. There are whole manuals of varying degrees of complexity designed to teach a person how to do this, should they desire to be Type A enough to do so. I am one of those people.

What we learn is that the psalter is a 4-week cycle through the entire book of Psalms. There are antiphons involved - short phrases from other parts of the Bible - repeated at the beginning and end of each Psalm. There are a few additional Scripture readings, intercessory prayers, and a concluding prayer, with antiphons tossed around in there willy-nilly. What makes this complicated is that the readings, prayers and antiphons are designed to complement the Church's liturgical calendar. So, when a day happens to be a Saint's feast day, which happens a lot, well... all hell breaks loose within one's personal copy of the Hours. Saints usually have their own prayers and antiphons, to be used in tandem with the psalter as well as a "Common" devoted to their cause; I won't even go there, just trust me on this one. Real important saints may even have their own set of readings just for their day. This is called the "Proper of Saints" and it has added no small amount of frustration to my daily prayer life. There is also a "Proper of Seasons" for special prayers on Sundays (Sundays are always special solemnities) and other days during the seasons of Advent and Lent. All of this requires repeated flipping to different parts of your book with those handy little ribbons you see hanging out.

You will also notice from the photograph that this baby is 4 volumes. There is a 1 volume version of the Liturgy of the Hours called Christian Prayer. It requires flippage multiplied by *a million* but it does condense Morning and Evening Prayer for the entire year into a single book. Otherwise, the 4 volume set has all of the other hours (The Office of Readings, Daytime Prayer and Night Prayer), plus has things organized in such a way as to reduce flipping to a non-obnoxious minimum. It's obviously more expensive to obtain the 4 volume set, but I think that it is worth it. I bought the volumes one at a time to reduce the expense in a given season. Two of them are for the weeks in Ordinary Time, one volume is for Advent/Christmas season, and the other for Lent/Easter season. I have the set in the photograph, and I like the different colored covers, because I'm superficial that way :) The covers are vinyl. You can also get a leather set, which are obviously pricier. But I hear that they stay open nicely unassisted and are of a much higher quality.

I aim for Morning and Evening Prayer where possible, and the spiritual reading from the Office of Readings. The Office of Readings, traditionally called Matins, is that hard-core middle of the night hour that I mentioned above. Obviously, I don't read it in the middle of the night. Nor have I been able to stick with praying the entire Office of Readings. But it highlights 2 long readings - one from Scripture (I'm doing larger Scripture readings separately, in my new adorable Bible, see previous post :) so I've been reading the second highlighted reading. It's always interesting; it will be a writing from the works of the early Church fathers, or a document from a Church council, or a writing from the featured Saint of the day. Cool stuff.

I find that it takes me 10-15 minutes to pray Morning, and later, Evening Prayer. I'm certain it would take longer if I was more prayerful and actually sung the hymns, but I don't sing. It's just better this way, and God understands. I also have a short attention span, so I do what I can. But I enjoy the challenge that the Liturgy of the Hours poses for me. You need to keep up and know your stuff, but the organized, and seasonally relevant, prayers and readings are very, very worth it, especially when you consider that other believers around the world are doing the exact same readings and prayers. There is a universality to the Hours that I love striving to be a part of.