Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Catholic Book Club: Chasing Francis

Happy Catholic Book Club Wednesday everyone! And this month we have a particularly fascinating title: Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. I downloaded this book for my Kindle due to a sale advertisement, and when I did so, I was under the impression that it was a spiritual memoir dealing with Franciscan spirituality from a non-Catholic Christian perspective. Want to know something interesting? It is the latter, but it is *not* the former. Confused? :) This is actually a fiction title, but written in the style of a non-fiction, spiritual memoir. Ingenious!

Frankly, I wish I had thought of this idea, I like it *that* much! ;-) I was very much looking forward to reading how the author presented this format, and the fact that he is an Episcopalian priest made the book all the more interesting to me. I think that it is valuable to read from a number of different Christian perspectives, and given that he was writing about St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality, I was intrigued. All right, off we go!

Here is our description, courtesy of Amazon:
What happens when the pastor of a mega church loses his faith? Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith in God, the Bible, evangelical Christianity, and his super-sized megachurch. When he falls apart, the church elders tell him to go away: as far away as possible. Join Chase on his life-changing journey to Italy where, with a curious group of Franciscan friars, he struggles to resolve his crisis of faith by retracing the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, a saint whose simple way of loving Jesus changed the history of the world. Read this riveting story and then begin your own life-changing journey through the pilgrim’s guide included in this powerful novel.
Great premise, yes? And overall, I really liked the book. This is the first book for this author, and indeed, it does show in some ways. There are instances of "telling" rather than "showing," especially at the end of the book where we read Chase's sermon to his congregation in word-for-word detail. My attention tends to wander in such monologue situations. As a reader, I do not enjoy them. That being said, I did not find this to be a pervasive problem, and I found myself quite engaged in the story throughout.

The beginning of the book had me hooked. Reading about Chase's crisis of faith, and how his congregation reacted to it held me at rapt attention. His trip to Italy to meet up with his Franciscan friends was absolutely delightful. There is a romantic subplot (who will he choose?!) that is very sweet. A little predictable, but hey. I read a LOT of romance novels, and every single one of them is predictable in that sense, so no judgement there. I also loved Chase's exploration of Franciscan spirituality, and journey of self discovery about his own faith. I laughed aloud at some of his scenes with the humorous Franciscan friars.

Towards the end of the book, I found that the plot lost a bit of steam. Certainly, I was interested to see what was going to happen with Chase's church and his faith. That's all good stuff. But something about the narrative lost its sense of wonder, if that makes any sense. There were more of the aforementioned monologue sequences as the book wore on, that was part of it. I enjoyed the beginning and middle of the book more than the end, I suppose is a way of summing it up. I also had one Catholic quibble with this book. :) And granted, it's written by a non-Catholic, so that is understood. But the Catholic characters in this book encourage Chase, a non-Catholic, to receive the Eucharist at Mass. I certainly don't want to make anyone feel excluded at the liturgy, I think it's wonderful that non-Catholics enjoy the Mass. Please, come! We want you. :) But there are theological differences there, and that is the reason for the doctrine surrounding the Eucharist. I'm looking at this from a Catholic perspective, and the author is approaching it from a non-Catholic viewpoint, and so it's certainly of value to try and see things from the others' perspective.

I liked this book, and I think it is well worth your time to read. Sweet anecdote: Someone who read and thoroughly enjoyed Chasing Francis found this blog when he was searching for more information on the author, since it has been on my book club reading list. He sent me a tweet saying that he is a former Catholic, and after reading this book, is, for the first time in years, thinking about the Catholic faith again. That really touched me. Books like this can move hearts and minds. That is indeed a beautiful thing.

What did you think, dear reader? I so enjoyed this foray into Franciscan spirituality that I chose another Franciscan title for October, given that it's the month of St. Francis's feast. :) Next month we will read When St. Francis Saved the Church, by Jon M. Sweeney. I have a print copy that I found when over at Ave Maria Press's web store picking up the new Sacred Reading book. So, a tip that you can get When St. Francis Saved the Church in hardcover at Ave Maria Press for a sale price of $10, if that appeals to you.

Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, September 28, 2015

A weekend of worries, dance workshops, gift knitting & parish planning, settle in with your coffee...

Happy Monday everyone! And yes, we're being generous on the "happy" part. I'm still very much mired in what I would call Challenging Time In Life In Which I Am Worried About Everything mode. Worrying comes naturally to me, if it were an Olympic sport I would have wrapped up the gold in that one DECADES ago. I think I actually burn calories due to the sheer force with which I worry. It's a gift. ;-)

But you know, press on we must, so that's what I'm doing. I had a very nice weekend, I can definitely look to that as a bright point. And my Mike? Oh my gosh, a GEM that one is. He has been nothing but comforting and supportive, which I of course greatly appreciate. But he also just has all of those Admirable Husbandly Qualities, you know? As he spearheaded an effort to clean out our attic (which was covered with a verifiable MESS of grit from the new roofing project that we had done last month), I was admiring his cute working form and thinking that of all of the decisions I have made in my life (some of which have been epically bad, for sure and for certain) I really made a charmed one when I chose him.

OK, mushiness aside, it was a good weekend. On Saturday, I spent some time with Anne, playing dress up:

Isn't she adorable? With the braids, she really does look just like Frozen's Anna. She also has the Anna winter dress option to wear for Halloween. Little fashion princess, she is.

And suddenly, Halloween doesn't seem that far away, right? Somehow it's already going to be October at the end of this week. Thus, I am hard at work on my Christmas gift list. I have begun the annual ritual of dishcloth knitting:

The yarn is sublime, right? I'm hoping to get 3 cloths out of the one hank I was lucky enough to snag. This yarn is in high demand! In the absence of more yarn (and I need more cloths) I'm thinking of securing patterns featuring other fruit-themed dishcloths. Apples? Orange slices? What's your favorite fruit? :)

On Sunday, the kids and I were at our usual 10 am Mass, and finally the Children's Liturgy of the Word program is back for the year.

*angels harmonize*

Anne gets so antsy in Mass without that. And the bulletin (read judiciously between the start of the Offertory & Anne's return to the pew) featured a boatload of interesting announcements. The Worship Committee is meeting next week, and I'm bursting with excitement about attending. We'll be discussing a Mass of Remembrance for the feast of All Souls, and Advent preparation.

*happy sigh*

The coffee & donuts with Fr. Joe shindig is also starting back up next Sunday, and I saw Henry perk up with interest when that was mentioned. It's nice to see all of the parish activities starting back up and fall settling in.

In the afternoon, I headed happily off to a dance workshop at my studio, and considered that my workout for the weekend. And it was, indeed, a workout. It was a drilling workshop of important movements within Middle Eastern dance, plus short choreographies in pop and baladi to learn some new combinations. LOVED. I got some great new ideas and my muscles felt seriously worked at the conclusion. I have a lot of dance events coming up in the next two months, and I have to admit, I'm just the hairest of nervous about them. :0 I'm certain they will provide good stories, if nothing else. I will report in as events transpire.

How was your weekend, dear reader? Start on any Christmas crafting of late? Oh, oh, and don't forget book club on Wednesday! Chasing Francis, by Ian Morgan Cron.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #17: Waiting!

Happy Thursday morning to all of you, and I hope you're looking forward to another installment of:

In coming up with a topic for the week, I had dwelled on this during my commute in to work, and spent some time contemplating the future structure of these videos. I'd love your feedback on that! I also talk about that, and other projects (the podcast! future novena planner/calendar/newsletter/something?!) as well as our prayers, in the context of...waiting. Waiting on God for resolutions to our questions.

Items mentioned in this episode:
  • We're currently praying the St. Therese novena until Oct. 1st!
  • I hope that you enjoyed the 54 day rosary novena, if you participated in that. We'll pray another one again next year!
  • New chaplets have been added to the Chaplets audio recordings page! Go check it out to pray along with me.
  • Future novena planning tool that we can share together. Link coming your way in 2016!
So. Do you have any video or audio ideas for me? Thoughts on awaiting answer to prayer? Google calendar for novenas or something else? Let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Catholic Book Club: Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag

Oohhh, what's this? A surprise edition of the Catholic Book Club, how fun, right?! I was asked to review a women's devotional, and since the topic is perfect for this blog, I happily agreed. Books are what we do, yes?

What we have here is Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag: On-the-Go Devotions, by Teresa Tomeo. This is a small book, strategically designed for you to be able to carry around in your purse. If you get the physical book, that is. It is indeed also available as an ebook, but we'll come back to that.

Verdict? This is a cute little thing! I like books that are sized like this for convenience. And the tone of this book is my very favorite - light, humorous, applies real life anecdotes to larger spiritual realities.

There are 70 devotions included, so this isn't  an "entry a day" type of devotional. It's a "whenever you need a pick-me-up, open this up to a new spot and await inspiration" type of devotional, reminiscent of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series. Each entry starts with a scripture verse, and is followed by two to three pages of reflection on how the spiritual is woven into everyday, ordinary moments. All of the reflections conclude with a short prayer to apply the spiritual lesson into our own lives.

One of my favorite entries reflects upon the following verse from Psalms:

"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." Psalm 34:17.

Teresa then recounts how at one point she was struggling with an important decision about her career. She went to Mass and prayed about this. Afterward, someone came up to her and gifted her a medal of St. Gabriel with a clear answer to her question printed on the back. Obviously, the person who gave her the medal had no idea how instrumental this was for Teresa at that moment, or that the words on the medal would be so moving to her. There are a lot more details about this story in the book itself, but just using what I've written here, I LOVE reading about moments such as these. Why? Because we've ALL had moments like this. There is a storm brewing in our hearts and minds, and then suddenly...we see something, or someone says something to us, or we hear something on television, and it just FITS. It's clear to us that God was using this other person or situation to speak to us. And when we're feeling overwhelmed or blue, we need those reminders to LISTEN, you know? God hears us. He wants to speak to us and soothe us. But we need to prayerfully await His voice.

This is a lovely and engaging little book, and if you enjoy devotionals in this style, I think you will truly like this one. It's available from Amazon for $13.50 in print, and $9.99 for Kindle. From the author's website, you have an additional option: you can purchase a print book/purse combination for $45, and there are a bunch of colors to choose from. Here's my purse, hanging out on my desk in front of my holy card collage:

Isn't it precious?! I didn't know which color I would receive (since the publisher graciously sent me one) and I have to say, they obviously know me very well, because I adore fall colors. I am in love with the yellow! But there is also pink, blue, orange (*swoons!*), mango and purple, and a few sparkle options. Great gift option for the coming holiday season? Absolutely. The purse texture reminds me of those jelly shoes that were so popular when I was in junior high. ("Tiffany, you grew up in the 80's didn't you?" "How ever did you know?!") Very sturdy and durable, and importantly for moms, cleans up super easily from leaky beverage containers or explosive poo diapers. I'm just *saying*, we all know it happens. :0 There are no pockets or anything, it has a single zipper running across the entire length and sides. But the bottom is extremely wide and hence the interior is downright spacious. You could pack a lot of stuff in this girl! It is *very* cute.

I have not read any of Teresa's other books, and so I was very excited to receive and read this one. It's perfect for this time of year, with back-to-school craziness eating away at all of our peaceful mental states. Have any of you dear readers perused this book or another work by Teresa? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. :)

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let's blearily pray the St. Therese novena together, shall we?

Last night, when I tucked Anne in bed, I had that Knowing Mother Moment, kwim? She had had a sore throat earlier in the day that I attributed to seasonal allergies. She perked up as the day wore on, and had normal energy and appetite levels, but by bedtime was looking worse for the wear. She complained about her nose, and started coughing. Ugh. I gave her a dose of her prescribed allergy medication, had her blow her nose, and got her a cup of water. I got her all soothed and tucked in, but I Knew.

Later, I went upstairs slightly ahead of Mike to prepare for bed, happily listening to a podcast with my earbuds in. When Mike came up 10 minutes later, I could see that he was trying to talk to me, so I took a bud out:

"What's up?"

"Anne's crying."

"She is?"

See? Once again, when you no longer have infants in your house, you totally turn off that Will I Ever Sleep Again?! frenzied mode, and go back to Normal Sleep, Thank You Jesus, mode. I did suspect that we would hear from Anne in the night, but my traumatized mind was still repressing that possibility.

So, we banded together for a soothe session, figuring we could get her cleaned up and comforted and back to sleep in no time. Isn't it funny that even after 10 years of parenting, we are still so naive?

"Sweetheart! We're here, what's wrong?"

*intensified crying*

"Does your head hurt, Honey? Why don't we get a tissue so you can blow your nose."

*dramatic shake of head indicating "NO"*

"How about some more water? It'll soothe your throat."

*More head shakes* Rinse And Repeat.

She refused to talk to us, yet managed to reject every single offer of comfort we suggested. It's a skill, that is.

We did what we could, and left her bedroom. 20 minutes later, we hear crying again. I go in, and we have a repeat of our earlier interaction, complete with dramatic thrashing of blanket. She still wouldn't really let me help her, but I got her to stop crying, and went back to bed. Unsurprisingly (since Anne has *always* had this skill, from the moment she was born), the INSTANT I became completely exhausted and drifted off...


*Tiffany assumes a position of denial*

*more crying!*


And I KNEW. When you're up with a newborn all the time, you pretty much can sleep anytime, anywhere, because you're so exhausted. All the time. For like, a YEAR. But when you're not in that mode anymore, you have that one perfect opportunity to fall asleep. Once that passes, it's allllllll over, friends. I was awake, and I knew I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep.

I went into Anne's room, and this time she did allow me to help her blow her nose and do other things to make her more comfortable. After that, I went back to bed beside a comfortably sleeping Mike. I didn't have the heart to wake him.

 I read for a bit, hoping to get re-tired, but all to no avail. During the next two hour stretch, one further intervention was required in Anne's room, but then I could tell she fell more deeply asleep, and she was fine for the rest of the night. Me, on the other hand, stayed awake for another hour before finally dozing off, and I really had to force it. Naturally, when 6 am rolled around, I was SOUND ASLEEP, totally incoherent, and could have slept for another five hours, easy.

*nostril flare*

That's just the way it is sometimes. But it was a long night. I suspect now that Anne has a cold and not seasonal allergy symptoms. Lots of snuggling will follow tonight.

So I was pretty bleary-eyed this morning as I got ready for work, but I'm persevering. Today is the first day of the St. Therese novena, and guess what? Pray More Novenas now has the prayers available as a podcast, so for those of you who wanted audio to keep up with the novena prayers themselves, this is a huge yay, right?! Here you are, have at it! Go forth and subscribe! If you'd like audio for St. Therese's chaplet, you can pray along with your host, little old me ;-) over here. Fun, yes?

All right, I need to plug along with my day. Mike and I are attending Henry's school open house tonight, and I have lots to do at work. I'll be talking to you again tomorrow or Thursday!

How are you all? How is the first day of the novena going for you?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Of soggy dance performances & brisk apple fetching, a fall weekend with the Catholic Librarian family...

Hi all *beams* and hope that you are surviving this fall Monday along with me. Today is the craziest day of the week for me, so I'm doing what I can to perk things up. For instance, da da DA!

Isn't it adorable? It's my new Scentsy fragrance warmer for my office. I have a cube of Coconut Pumpkin Pie wax melting in there and my office smells like a bakery. HOW did I not know about such possibilities before?! I love it. In terms of fragrances, my favorites are "foody" smells. It if smells good enough to tempt one to actually consume wax or soap, then that's the one I want. I noted with amusement that Scentsy advertises their wax as "food grade, and thus safe for pets and children." Something tells me these little cubes get nibbled on from time to time.

So, I'm happily sniffing the air in my office and preparing for class right now. Monday is my teaching day. So far so good, but I'm always relieved when that's past for another week. When I teach, I have to be "ON!" kwim? Just like when I perform dance. Or hang out with people that I genuinely like at conferences. ;-) Social interaction can be taxing for introverts. I absolutely love it when in a fun situation, but it uses up my power supply faster, that's for sure.

OK, so the weekend. On Saturday my troupe was scheduled to dance at an outdoor artisan's market. There were projections for rain, but I thought that the timing was going to work out, and that we would dodge it. We had rehearsed the group numbers, and I had a loose plan for my solo music both with or without veil, depending upon wind velocity. Saturday morning found me with makeup on and perky, ready to don my Saidi dress and head out the door, when...

...we received notification that the market had been cancelled due to storm conditions down by the water.


Major bummer. I was really looking forward to it. I love performing with my troupe. I do get very nervous still about dancing solo (working on that, but it's a glacial process :)) but with my troupe? Safety in numbers. And we always have so much fun together. So that was a drag.

When Anne went down for a nap, I put on a new performance playlist I've been working on (and it still needs work, I discovered...) and swirled around the kitchen for a bit, bringing out both Veil and Sword. They were both thrilled to be included. That was a fun workout for the day.

Oh, I should mention that although we put Anne down for a nap, she didn't actually SLEEP. Thus, when we later went to the vigil Mass, she was in such a foul mood that she refused to sit in the pew. Instead, she chose to stand, unmoving, and stare at us menacingly, looking like something out of Village of the Damned.

Mike, in whispered tones: "Is she always like this during Mass?"

Me: "No, it's usually the opposite problem."

*long suffering sigh*

On Sunday, we made our annual apple picking pilgrimage. We've found a really cute farm about 30 minutes away that we love. There is a hay maze and animals for the kids to pet:

Anne: "Mommy, look at this little turkey, she is my friend!"

Henry: "Um, I read the sign about Thanksgiving. I think the turkeys..."

Me: "...are very, very hungry, look at how they're going to town on delicious-looking pile of fruit and vegetables! Anne, did you see the goats?!"

Also lots of pumpkins for sale, of course, and tons of apple trees. In season this past weekend were Macintosh, Gala, Macoun and Cortland. We picked quite a lot of them, and have cobbler and pie plans for later in the week.

And so a good time was had by all. Unfortunately, the wine tasting guy wasn't there, which would have enhanced the fun had by Tiffany and Mike ;-) but everything went very well. We got some photos:

This pretty much sums up the story of Henry's life, right here...
...and headed contentedly home with our apples. :)

How was YOUR weekend, dear reader? Don't forget, the St. Therese novena starts tomorrow!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #16 - A few updates & St. Therese!

Happy Thursday everybody! Have your tea or coffee? I do, I do! Let's settle in for another installment of:

I've been keeping these shorter, have you noticed? ;-) Instead of 10 minutes, I've been in the 6-7 minute range the past few weeks. Once I get the podcast up and running, I'm hoping to whittle these videos back to about 5 minutes, so that they're quicker and easier for more people to watch. Working on it! At any rate, today's topic is twofold: a few updates on current life events, and my devotion to St. Therese, plus her upcoming novena!

Looks like I may be about the say the Pledge of Allegiance, but just deep in thought. ;-)

Items mentioned in this episode:

St. Therese Novena tab! Novena begins Sept. 22nd.
Pray More Novenas will send out the prayers to your email!
Archival photographs of St. Therese

Do you have a devotion to St. Therese? Are you planning to pray her novena? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Of fall socks & non-existent dance choreographies, it's a fun filled Wednesday!

Hi all! Very happy to be meeting with you at mid-week. We're getting there! And I'm in good spirits. I hope you are as well. Mike and I attended the open house at Anne's school yesterday evening. There was a big tree collage out in the hallway with all of the kids' photos on the leaves, and can I just stop for a moment and say that my kid is the cutest SO DARN CUTE?! :0 It's like when you have a baby, and when you look into the nursery, while admitting that ALL of the babies are adorable, you think to yourself, "Gosh, it's true what they say. I really DO think that my baby is the cutest one that ever was!!" She is CUTE, that kid. Henry's is next week, and I always love going to his school.

At any rate, I've been knitting, knitting away! Crafters, I'm right, right?! Fall is the BEST time for crafting. When the weather is cooler, and you're indoors more, having wool on your lap as you work is just super cozy. I'm in a fall sock knit-along, isn't that just a scream? Mike thinks it's hysterical that knit-alongs are a "thing." They even have their own adorable acronym, KAL.

"You mean, a bunch of people get together and decide to knit the exact same thing, on a deadline, and then gossip about it while they do it?"

"Yep, precisely. Doesn't it sound fun?!"

I suppose non-knitters would find this behavior odd, but it really IS fun. ;-) Our deadline is Halloween, and we're knitting patterned rib socks. I just finished sock #1!

Pattern is Petty Harbor, and is a free download!

Fantastic, yes? Of course, they're orange, how could they be any other color for a fall KAL?! Now I have to knit another one. Ugh. Do I really *need* two?

In other news, I have a bunch of dance stuff coming up, the first event of which is the outdoor artisan's market again with my troupe this Saturday afternoon. I think it's supposed to be mild, so we won't have to worry about being too cold, which is good. Shivering doesn't actually help with the shimmies like one would think. ;-) So, we're doing a bunch of group numbers, and Claire's keeping the solos in there, and want to know something funny? I have a solo in there and I haven't touched my music since the art festival in late July.


This, from the girl who, when she first started dancing, would choreograph BREATHING into my routines, lest I forget. In a sense, it's a good sign that I feel so comfortable within Middle Eastern dance that I can rely on my movement vocabulary for improvisation. But in another sense...TERRIFYING!

*bites nails*

I'm planning to run through the music a few times beforehand, but I won't know what the weather will be doing exactly until that day, and that will impact whether or not I can use my veil. SOOOOOO, it'll be a bit of a last minute decision as to whether or not I use a prop. If it's not too windy, I'll do a veil entrance. If it's windy, I'll dance prop-less. And...hopefully it'll go well! :0


We've got some other events coming up too, and, well... Let's just say it's going to be interesting. ;-) I tell myself that at the very least, it'll be good blog fodder, right? I'm just praying for the least amount of public humiliation possible. I don't even want to go into any detail ahead of time, that's how nervous I am. Which isn't exactly encouraging, but PRESS ON WE MUST! I will provide humorous details as they become available.

What's happening with YOU this fine Wednesday, dear reader?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reversion stories are always a good time on a Monday morning, right? ;-)

Happy Monday, all!!! Notice the enthusiasm? I'm not actually enthusiastic, although I'm in a good mood. ;-) I'm just trying to pep up all of our Mondays into The Happy Place, otherwise I will fall right asleep at my desk and may topple onto the floor. And the floor is *really* gross in here. :0 (note to self: place work order for a deep tile clean, pronto...)

So what's the what today, you ask? Well, a couple of fun things. First, my latest piece at Catholic Mom is up, and it's my reversion story.

*angels sing*

I don't know about you, but I love faith stories. Everyone has one, even if you've been Catholic your whole life. This is mine, for what it's worth. ;-) This is a totally new piece, not a reworked one. It was an interesting emotional experience for me to write it. I had forgotten a few of the details until the writing process brought them back to me, and it was this whole nostalgic moment. If you have the time and inclination, I would *love* for you to read it and leave me a comment over at Catholic Mom with a brief synopsis of your own faith story, and/or who your own patron saint is!

That's a happy topic for a Monday morning, yes? Aside from that, I'm just exhausted. I had a great weekend, to be sure. Chilly days, LOTS of tea drinking and knitting.


I even wore cozy handknit socks! It was the perfect knitting weather. In fact, expect a crafty post tomorrow or Wednesday, it made me THAT happy. Mike and I tackled a painting project in our living room that neither child managed to sabotage, so that's always a good thing.

Today, I dropped Anne at school, looking very cute in a new dress we procured for her during a Target run, and then made it to work with my coffee. About ten steps from my car I realized that I had left my mug inside, and BACK I WENT! Thank *goodness* I recognized my folly before I got closer to the library, it would not have been pretty otherwise. ;-)

Then I prepared for my class, and taught at 11 am. It went well. I had a nearly full classroom, with just a few students missing. This is a team teaching setup, so they only see me on Mondays. Since last Monday was Labor Day and we were off, I haven't seen them all in a few weeks, and quite a few new students had added the class since then. So, there was lots of administrative housekeeping to attend to, and I could tell that a few students find paying attention to be a real challenge. ;-) I try to keep things interesting with humorous anecdotes where applicable. Overall, the vibe in the classroom is very positive and attentive. Two classes down, ten more to go. :)

Now, I just need to make it to tonight, when I can relax over a drink with my Mike. I'm on a very challenging chat reference shift as I type (read "challenging" as "ANNOYING" :0) and then I have a few quick things to finish before I jet off to get both kids ready for their swim lessons. After those are done, I need to drag them home and fix *something* for dinner (anybody got any ideas?!) for the three of us, as Mike teaches on Monday evenings. Then get both kids settled down and in bed. THEN have aforementioned drink, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Is it 8 pm yet?

What is up with you this fine Monday, dear reader? :)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #15 - Are you doing any differently in your spiritual routine this fall?

Routine has been a theme here this week, yes? Despite the fact that I recorded this week's video a few days ago, it fits in nicely with the theme.


I just watched it so that I could gather the show notes together, and MAN, my hair is crazy in this one. :0 But my week has improved, and so I'm feeling perky today as I write this. It helps that (background discussion is in the video) this morning, despite the fact that I had to start the day with a DENTIST APPOINTMENT (is there a worse way to start one's day? I ASK YOU), when I arrived on campus at the worst *possible* time of the morning, much later than I usually arrive, as I was innocently patrolling the staff parking lot, Hark! Someone was pulling out!


But I digress. Today's topic is fall and renewed spiritual routines. You got any that you want to write in about? :)

The fall always brings a feeling of new beginning into my life, and I begin to think about Advent. In preparation for that, I generally get all excited and try out new things. What's on my mind in that regard this particular September? View on, gentle viewer!

Items mentioned in this episode (there are lots today!):
Gentle reader, how I do appreciate being able to share time with you like this. It really buoys my spirits, especially during this busy season. What are you incorporating into your spiritual life this fall? And if you've taken children to Adoration with you, please do write in with your tips!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Morning routine, why do I hate you so much right now?

Hi all. If bad mornings are rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being "eh. Not terrible, I'll live," and 10 being "well that really SUCKED," then today's morning would get a solid 7, I'm thinking.

That does make two stressful mornings in a row, doesn't it? I know I'm not alone in this. Fall means adjusting to new routines for many people, and it simply takes time to get it all worked out. I know  that rushed morning routines are small potatoes in the global scale of things, it just helps to laugh at ourselves sometimes, right? Otherwise I'll go watch the news and cry again.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday are the culprits. Mike has an 8 am class, and so he drops Henry off at school around 7:30, as Henry's school begins at 7:45. This works out, but it's a close squeeze for him, time-wise. Meanwhile,  Anne and I are back at home, and I feel like I've got ants in my pants, because I like to be on my way to work by 8 am. I have frequent 9 am reference shifts and meetings, and so I like to be settled in my office around the 8:30 mark, booting up, brewing tea, checking email. Well, that's not possible right now, because I have to drop Anne at pre-K, and the doors don't open there until 8:15. And her school is in the opposite direction of the university that I work at.


The past two mornings (Mike can usually take her Tuesdays, but I went along yesterday because it was her first day) have been misery. It's nice lounging with Anne for a half hour after Mike and Henry leave, but after that (let's examine this particular morning, shall we?), it's a cannon ball run:

"All right, Team Umizoomi is over! (God help me). Quick! Let's brush your teeth and get your shoes on! No, Anne, you can't take your (fill in the blank random toy) to school. Shoes! Where's your backpack?!"

We hustle to the car and get underway. Inevitable near occasions of sin involving other cars and garbage trucks ensue. We arrive. Anne drops her illicitly smuggled (fill in the blank random toy) and it scurries underneath my car as she disembarks. I have to climb down on my hands and knees to get it, gathering dirt and grass as I do so. Toy gets tucked back into the car. We hurry to the door, where we...wait until 8:15 for the doors to open.


8:15 comes, I hustle her to the door for a goodbye kiss, and then I jet back to my car down the street. By 8:20 I am underway to campus. I arrive around 8:42, and guess what? Yep, staff parking lot FULL. AGAIN, I might add. I drive to a further-away student lot, park, and walk. I arrive on my floor of the library, a bit sweaty and disheveled, at 8:55. I quickly unpack my lunch, boot up my computer, and race down to the reference desk, pre-packed coffee mug in hand. The day I forget that mug, dear reader...well, you're really not going to want to read the post I write THAT day.

I get down to the reference desk, and find out that the entire ground floor of the library has no power. Delightful. People are scurrying all about, creating signs to put up announcing this unfortunate state of powerless affairs. One of my colleagues, the sweetest man ever, but a *talker*, kwim?! comes to the  reference desk to create a sign. And begins talking to me. About very random things. I have a class to plan for, plus I was rather hoping to work on this post during quiet moments. No quiet moments for Tiffany this morning, no sir. SO MUCH CHATTING. And there's no polite way to make the "I couldn't *possibly* care less, can't you see this legal pad I keep stealing looks at?!" face. So I had to chat about current films and other events until he wandered off. These are the moments whereby I am *dying* for a student to come up to the reference desk demanding that I try and help them procure an imaginary, free library copy of their textbooks.

After he left, I put up the "Librarian will be right back!" sign, grabbed my legal pad, and headed into the reference stacks to grab a few encyclopedias for my class. When I returned, two officious men wearing i.d. badges were circling the reference desk in an ominous manner:

"We're here doing an inspection relating to the power outage. We see a violation relating to your power strip. You will have to power down your machine."

In all my years, I tell you, this is a first. There goes my budding lesson plan. Of course, the reference desk machine picks THAT MOMENT to install a *#@!load of updates before it will power down. I think it was giving the inspection guys the virtual finger.

What feels like many minutes later, I boot back up the reference computer and open my fledgling lesson plan. I reject my initial flock of encyclopedias and go back for others. I finally piece something coherent together.

By the end of my shift, I was feeling scattered and edgy. I could also feel my hair curling and expanding due to the humidity in the air. It wasn't the greatest of mornings, I suppose. But here I am, finishing lunch, and I'm still in one piece, so how bad could it be?

How was *your* morning, dear reader? Here's raising my cute orange water bottle to coming up with ways to improve our morning routines! :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First day of school for the munchkins... *sniffle*!

Hi all.

*super emotional*

Goodness, I knew it would be a tough morning. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well last night. I was wide awake, staring at the ceiling, at 5:30 am, while Mike snoozed contentedly next to me. I felt nervous for both kids, and tons of emotion about them both going off on their new adventures.

Mike got up for his shower about 6 am, and I climbed out of bed about 6:25, bleary eyed and feeling a little sick to my stomach. We're still experiencing a heat wave over here, and thus it was too hot and humid to straighten my hair, which did nothing to improve my mood, I assure you. Mike came upstairs to wake Henry and check on me, and found me flitting from room to room, randomly organizing things. :0

I got myself dressed and ready, and went into Anne's room. She *leapt* out of bed:

"Mommy, I am SO EXCITED to go to my school!"

No lack of enthusiasm from THAT room.

"Mommy, I want to wear my blue Elsa shirt, and my silver sandals, and..."

She was rearing to go. I really didn't want her to wear shorts, but it is SO FREAKING HOT here right now, and the school is not air conditioned, so I relented.

I got her downstairs, and she immediately strapped on her backpack and queued up at the door.

"Anne, we're not leaving for 45 minutes, Honey."


This would be when the morning took a turn for the more challenging.

"Henry is leaving in a few minutes, but his school starts before yours. You still need to eat breakfast."

For this year, Anne is attending one of the public elementary schools, in the half day Universal Pre-K program. Next year, she'll go to Catholic school with Henry.

Well, she wasn't too happy about the delay. And she also wasn't too happy about posing for a First Day of School Photo:

Looks a bit like a hostage photo
...but alas. Henry headed off for 5th grade, seeming a bit nervous. And I pacified Anne so that we could both eat breakfast and get our lunches packed.

Around 8 am, we headed out for Anne's school. Usually, that's the time I leave for work, so drops offs are now going to make for a dicey parking situation for myself, but there's nothing I can really do about it. Except ask for St. Anthony to help me find a spot, which I do, frequently. ;-) At any rate, it was the first day, so both Mike and I went, and were all excited to be walking Anne all the way into her classroom. After today, we'll be dropping her at the door, which is what the teacher requests. The doors don't open until 8:15, so we waited with her outside for the big opening moment.

"You can go now. I can walk in by myself."

My daughter? She is independent. And extremely social. And SASSY.  She wanted to go socialize with the other little girls, and she didn't want her parents cramping her style. She seemed quite irritated that we did not obey her command.

Finally, the doors opened, and we all walked into the Pre-K classroom. Super cute. I showed Anne where her cubbie was and hung up her backpack. We found her spot at one of the little tables and popped her name tag around her neck. She seemed happy:

A glowing moment, memorialized with crayons
...but quickly devolved into a Facey-Face when she realized that there was assigned seating and she couldn't just go sit with another little girl. The seats were strategically arranged boy-girl-boy-girl, to cut down on talking and distractions, I'm thinking. :)

Mike agreed to wait with her for a few extra minutes so that I could jet off to work, which I gratefully did. I waved to them both as I left the classroom, feeling emotional. Mike smiled and waved back. Anne did not. :0

4 year olds. Nothing more needs to be said, really.

I got into my car quickly, set up my podcast listening, and headed to campus for work. I would be getting in about 15 minutes later than usual, and I hoped the parking wouldn't be too ugly. Sometimes, my friends, hopes are in vain.

I arrive on campus.

"Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us. Queen of Peace, pray for us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. What the *&^!"

See? I had to go and ruin the end of a lovely rosary recitation with my temper. But one wouldn't think that 15 mere minutes would mean that all the staff parking lots were full, as well as the nearest 2 student lots, WOULD ONE?!

I had to park down one lot level, and over another one, in yet another student lot, and I was lucky to even find a spot in that lot at that point. I sat in the car stewing (and sweating, as if to add insult to injury) for a few minutes, writing a salty text message to Mike, so that he could share in my misery. He wrote back sympathetically, which buoyed my sagging spirits a bit. I gathered my stuff, and I almost forgot my travel coffee mug, and if THAT had happened, well...the expletives would have been *flying*, let me tell you. But luckily I remembered it BEFORE stomping off on the 10 minute voyage to the library.



Then I got in and porkily started up my computer. The other offices were still empty (the occupants likely still looking for parking spaces) so I seized the opportunity to record a video for Thursday. Though only after taming my hair for a few minutes, because I want you all to think that I NEVER have bad hair days.


And now here I am, typing away during quiet moments on the reference desk. Those were my morning adventures. How was YOUR morning, dear reader? :)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #14 - Teaching & the start of a new school year!

Hi all! I hope that your first week of September is off to a good start, and that you're ready with your tea for our time together today:

Back to school mania is on my mind today, so that's our topic. I started teaching this week, so I speak briefly about that, and solicit your thoughts on what the freshness of September brings into your own life.

Items mentioned in this episode:
  • St. Thomas More, pray for all students!
  • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for all librarians!
  • I'm teaching a credit bearing research methods course this semester. Eeks!
  • My kids go back to school next week. Expect teary posts and for hormone levels to be high here at Life of a Catholic Librarian. :0
What does September Welcome mean to you? Do write in!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Catholic Book Club: Near Occasions (John Paul 2 High, Book 5)

Happy Catholic Book Club Wednesday, everyone! It's been a little while, hasn't it? We skipped July, and then I didn't have the August book finished in August, so it feels like a long time. But I have to say, I'm back to thinking about the book club, and it's all exciting! It's September, fall is in the air, it feels like a good time to settle in with some books, yes? The book I'm about to discuss is a YA title, and later in the month we have a novelized spiritual memoir. I'll talk about my ideas for future titles at the end of the post, OK? And you can chime in too!

So this book is part of a larger series, John Paul 2 High. All of the books are available from Amazon in print and for Kindle. They have been reissued of late by Chesterton Press in a coordinating color and photographic scheme, and are quite lovely to behold. I have the entire print run of books, and I'm looking forward to sharing them with my kids when they get to be high school age.

The book I read this past month is the latest entry in the series, titled Near Occasions. Let me speak first about the series as a whole. I like YA books generally, and I really love this series because of the specific Catholic focus. The books chronicle a group of students at a new (and super small) upstart Catholic high school named in honor of St. John Paul the Great. The characters run the gamut from devout Catholics with possible religious vocations, to a girl from a broken and irreligious home, the class clown, an athletic guy that all the girls want to date, several shy and previously homeschooled students, and the cradle Catholics with a decided lack of enthusiasm for their faith, harboring all sorts of insecurities one would expect at that age. Each book features two of the main characters more prominently, and has new stories and challenges for the characters, as well as a storyline that persists throughout the series about an unknown assailant who is stalking one of the female characters and engineered a school shooting at the nearby public high school. By Book 5, the characters are quite well developed, and they're going into their second year at John Paul 2 High. The scene is as follows:

School's back in session at John Paul 2 High, and for students J.P. and Liz, not much could be worse. The little start-up school where both their moms teach has doubled its number of students, bringing in a gaggle of clueless freshmen, singing charismatics, and annoying personages. For Liz, the major annoyance is Mary Summers, her old rival for Brian's affection. For J.P., it's a Byzantine Catholic named Athanasius Courchraine who somehow manages to be even cooler than J.P.

With Celia pushing the gag-inducing idea of creating a Catholic "community" in the midst of formal education, both kids escape to a place where religion is off the table-- Sparrow Hills High.

Then, as Liz joins the cheer team and J.P. becomes the school mascot, they start hearing rumors about the school shooting that happened at Sparrow Hills last spring. The police say the shooter is dead... but is he? 
Unable to resist a challenge, Liz and J.P. get on the case. But the more they investigate the hazier the police evidence seems. And if the Sparrow Hills Shooter is still out there, no one is safe...

It's been well over a year since I read Books 3 and 4 (which came out in close succession), so when I picked up Near Occasions I was having a difficult time remembering some of the events that the characters were talking about. I will say, although it is obviously ideal to read these books chronologically as a series to get the most out of them, it *is* possible to read this as a stand alone book, because it felt like that is what I did given the time lapse. And I was able to follow along just fine.

I really like the characters in this book, they are quite well developed and likable. The female lead, Liz, frustrated me sometimes with her choices, but I know it's because we're remembering our own ill advised 15 year old actions, yes? :) The book started a bit slow, beginning with the start of the school year, and introducing some new characters. That's a good thing, but as I mentioned, I wasn't reading very quickly at the beginning, and it's because the story hadn't quite grabbed me yet. But midway through, that changed. I started picking the book up to read during free moments, which is always the sign that I am truly enjoying the story. The action accelerated, and I was dying to see what happened at the end. And the end was very interesting in and of itself, because my feeling about whether or not the person most of the characters now believe to be the shooter kept changing, literally, from page to page. The ending leaves a nice cliffhanger for the next book, in terms of how things will work out for the accused, and whether John Paul 2 High has a future. I loved it! I already checked the publisher's website about Book 6, but no word on a release date yet. *long suffering sigh*

Have you read any of the John Paul 2 High books? What do you think? Later in September I'll be reviewing Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale, by Ian Morgan Cron. I started this book last night, and !!! I LOVE it. It reads like a spiritual memoir, but it's a work of fiction about a megachurch pastor having a crisis of faith and turning to Franciscan spirituality. I think I got this during a sale, but it's priced at $10.99 right now for Kindle, similarly for paperback. I'd think the chances of your public library having it are pretty decent, as well. I hope that some of you read this one along with me!

A quick housekeeping item before I sign off: future titles for the book club. For October, I'm thinking of listing a children's book. Unusual, yes, but still worthwhile, in my opinion. This is something I got for Henry, so for middle readers. Thoughts on this idea? Also, do you have titles you'd like to suggest for us to read this winter? Do leave those in the comments!

*librarian beam*