Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #22 - Halloween & the month of All Souls!

Morning everyone, and welcome to a special Halloween-themed edition of:

Today I fix my web cam issues (yay! the power of Google :)) and talk about our plans for Halloween, and celebrating the month of All Souls. I also mention how I'm getting sick (yucky :-\) and my new Dia de los Muertos rosary!

Items mentioned in this episode:
How do you celebrate Halloween, dear reader? Do you do any special praying for the feast of All Souls/November generally? Do write in with your experiences!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Catholic Book Club: When Saint Francis Saved the Church

Hello all, and welcome to October's installment of the Catholic Book Club! After taking a small sabbatical from an official reading list over the summer, I'm enjoying the renewed structure that we set up this fall. I hope that you are as well. I've been on a real St. Francis kick lately (I even named my new Kindle Paperwhite after him :0) and today's book follows on that theme. This month I read When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages by Jon M. Sweeney. A mouthful of a title, yes it is true. :) And so what did I think? Let's start with the structure and content of the book, and then move more into an analysis. Here is the summary, from Amazon:
Jon M. Sweeney, author of numerous popular books on St. Francis as well as the recent bestseller The Pope Who Quit, offers a surprising new look at the world's most popular saint, showing how this beloved, but often-mythologized character created a spiritual vision for the ages and may very well have rescued the Christian faith.

In When Saint Francis Saved the Church, popular historian Jon Sweeney presents an intriguing portrait of Francis beyond the readily familiar stories and images. In the tradition of Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, Sweeney reveals how the saint became a hinge in the history of the Christian faith and shows how in just fourteen years--from 1205 to 1219--the unconventional and stumbling wisdom of a converted troubadour changed the Church. Sweeney outlines Francis's revolutionary approach to friendship, "the other" (people at the margins), poverty, spirituality, care (for people, creatures, and the natural world), and death. This vibrant book presents the unsullied life and message of Francis in its essential details, offering a sweeping, informative, remarkable look at how Francis and his movement quite literally saved the Christian faith--and continues to offer a spiritual vision with contemporary relevance.
OK, so interesting topic, yes? And certainly very timely. Pope Francis comes up quite a few times in the course of this book, with the author noting that we're seeing a bit of a Franciscan resurgence in recent years. It's certainly a beautiful thing, as the author mentions, that someone who lived so many centuries ago can still have such an impact on others and their relationship with God.

So, my observations. I thought this book was very well-written, and the author brings a lot of history and knowledge to the table. He is obviously a huge fan of St. Francis and the Franciscan order, and his passion really shines through. In fact, his love for the Franciscans causes him to contrast other religious orders, such as the Dominicans, in a somewhat unfavorable light. I don't think this was his intent, but as a Dominican I picked up on it a bit. ;-) For instance: 
"Francis watched his contemporaries in religious life, the Dominicans, focus their ministry on teaching right belief, and in stark contrast he focused entirely on right action." 
That sort of thing, nothing major. And I'm certain that others may have a different interpretation of these instances in the book. I simply noticed it as it came up multiple times.

I thought that this was a well-researched, informative book. It is structured around the major tenets of Franciscan spirituality (personal poverty, embracing all other people, caring for animals, etc.), which I thought presented the material in a comprehensive fashion, and I learned quite a lot about the Franciscan view of the world based upon this.

All of that being said, I did find the book a tad dry. I'm tough though when it comes to non-fiction. I have a short attention span and need to be entertained constantly. :) So when it comes to titles that read more in a text book style, I become easily distracted and bored. Thus, this is not a book that I would re-read. However, I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone wishing to read a book about the history of the Franciscans and the major themes of St. Francis's life.

Who else read this book, or perhaps another book by this author? Please chime in with your thoughts!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Of dancing in itty bitty spaces & hauntings while drinking a vodka tonic, a lovely autumn weekend...

My very favorite tree in autumn, 2015 edition...
Hello all! The fact that I can be this perky while in the midst of a day that I can only characterize as crappy is a testament to the power of this community. :0 Today is JAMMED with tasky things, none of which are pleasant, but hey, life is good, right?! Right. My worry strategy game plan is still carrying over from two weeks ago. I'm telling you, it works! One thing at a time. Things are going to ease a bit as the week wears on, and especially after this work week is completed.

The weekend, though, was perfectly delightful. We had dancing, scary movie watching, Mass attending, and baking with my bunnies. Bliss. So, let's get started, yes? Grab your tea or coffee and settle in.

Saturday dawned as another dancing day, this time with my troupe. After the anxiety last weekend's performance brought, it was a happy relief to be headed off to dance with my girls. Our gig was at a benefit dinner for a local anti-domestic violence initiative. Well, I should clarify that that's what we *thought* the gig was for. It was actually for the same organization, but for an after party following the benefit dinner. So, instead of performing in some large banquet room, we discovered upon our arrival, that we would be dancing in someone's living room. And there are 7 of us. :0

We had a bit of an ominous feeling when we drove up, right from the outset. We had all piled out, hot pink coverups all aglow, and were frowning at the nearby structures trying to figure out where to go, when we heard a squeal:

"Oh look. It's THE BELLY DANCERS!"

Yep. That's us.

"You guys look AMAZING! Can I take your photo?!"

If she liked our coverups that much, I had high hopes for her opinion of our actual costumes, but the fact remained that an odd vibe was permeating our evening. After taking our picture, our enthusiastic new fan guided us into the party. Or rather, "party." :0

We get inside. Five people are standing around a small table with chips and Halloween candy set atop it in bowls. Importantly, the people were all SUPER nice. Wonderful audience, truly. But, you know. There were *5* of them. WE outnumbered them!

We stuffed ourselves into a corner and had a quick belly dancer meeting:

"All right, we're scrapping the veil. There's no way that there is enough room."

I should clarify at this juncture that our dance space was, literally, a living room. With furniture and a fireplace and stuff in it. :0

"We'll do the Shaabi. Then Habibi ya Eini and the drum solo. Just squish yourselves in as best you can. Maybe modify your arms like we have to do with our wings a lot."

Translation: you will inadvertently hit each other, hopefully not resulting in loss of an eye. But everyone just pretend that nothing has happened and we never speak of it again. Nothing to see here. Next!

As we were talking, a little boy kept rolling a giant stuffed ottoman through our hallway meeting space, adding to the surreal nature of the moment. He kept calling us "princesses" though, and thus was given a gold star. :)

We quickly got ourselves ready, anxious to get this one over with. And so this was the first performance in which I:

(a) was nearly tripped by a troupemate,

(b) had to dance right up next to an audience member for lack of anywhere else to go, and

(c) was backed directly into a folding table.

Oh, and during the drum we nearly caused a vase to vibrate off of the fireplace mantle and onto the floor. But we made it! After we were done dancing, we packed up our stuff in record time and high tailed it out of there. Right into the pouring rain. But we were in good spirits. It's always an adventure, that is for certain.

After I got back home and got Anne in bed, Mike, Henry and I watched The Haunting, which we had recorded from TCM. Every October, we watch as many scary movies as we possibly can. Some (where appropriate) with Henry, though mostly by ourselves. We really enjoy this tradition each year, complete with complimentary cocktails depending upon the movie. The Haunting just seemed like a free-for-all, so I prepared a vodka tonic with flavored vodka, because why not? And can I just say that if you want to make your house look super duper, extra scary and creepy, design it with lots of turrets and gargoyles in every corner. This will guarantee that, for all of time, people will think that your house is haunted. ;-)

Sunday morning brought our usual 10 am Mass, this time incorporating in a 50th wedding anniversary celebration of our favorite usher and his wife, so sweet! No Children's Liturgy of the Word for some reason, but thankfully Anne seemed pretty content to stay in the pew with us. She was sleepy and kept laying on me, so that helped with behavior management. ;-) After we got back home and finished lunch, she and I embarked on a baking expedition:

My cute little helper...
Our goal? Chocolate cupcakes with fixins' on top to make them look like flying bats. I got the idea from a cooking magazine, because goodness knows I never would have been able to come up with this idea by myself. :0 The cupcake mix was out of a box, so it's not like I can screw that up. Very easily. Mind you, I HAVE done that in the past. There are red velvet incidents of which we will not speak. But *usually* I do fine with baking mixes. So we whipped those up while Mike pre-prepared our dinner of sausage lasagna. Isn't he wonderful?

After the cupcakes cooled, we frosted them and added the bat decor. Ta DA!

Do you see the bats? Kinda?
See, in the magazine they have eyes. But eyes involved icing piping, and Tiffany just doesn't roll like that. :0 Give me a pastry bag and be prepared to be scrubbing icing off of the floor and the upholstery approximately 30 minutes hence. So we forewent the eyes. But they have Hershey Kiss bodies and halved stripe cookies for their wings. See how they're kind of flapping? Kinda sorta?

Anne was thrilled with them, and I was rather proud of them myself. ;-) So it all worked out well.

How was your weekend, dear reader? Do you have any favorite Halloween baking recipes? Do tell!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #21 - Appreciation of the simple things!

Happy Thursday, everyone, and welcome to our next installment of:

Today I'm talking about the simple joys in life, and how we should revel in our appreciation of them. A couple of anecdotes are thrown in there, of course, and I want to know about what you find joy in during your day-to day tasks! A warning that my web cam is STILL being so BAD, and I'm noticing that lighting problem again (darker. lighter. darker.lighter. DARKERLIGHTER!). So sorry about that. But no time to re-record this week. :) I have, however, played with the settings a bit, and I think I may have found the problem. So hopefully, all will be well for next week's video.

Items mentioned in this episode:

Happy feast of St. John Paul II!
St. Jude novena currently ongoing with Pray More Novenas
The Nutcracker and other seasonal arts traditions
Enjoying the small, meaningful things that permeate our days

What are the small, simple things that YOU most enjoy, dear reader?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Of airborne veils & balanced swords under STRICT instructions to behave - it's a belly dance post, part 2!

Hello to you all, and welcome to part 2 of our dance-fest this week (for those of you who care about such frivolity ;-)). And thank you to those who do! I certainly enjoy writing about this subject, it's very fun for me. Part 1 is here, so let's get on with the dancing!

I think I left off with the fact that on Saturday I was nervous. ;-) Yes, yes I definitely was. And so I did what I could in the morning and early afternoon to stave that off by thinking positive thoughts. Sword and I practiced one last time. Anne helped me get my costume ready and my veil steamed free of wrinkles. I made sure my iPod and speakers were all charged up. I distracted myself well and good by raking leaves with Mike and the kids.

Around mid-afternoon, the kids went over to their grandparents' house to help them with a basement painting project and to order pizza. I made my final preparations, and then tried to put it all out of my mind. By that point, there was nothing else I could do. I had put myself in as good a position as I could to succeed. I had to just hope and pray for the best.

And this time, I did in fact remember to pray. Mike was coming along with me, and had to stop to put gas in his car on our way. While he was outside taking care of that, I said a quick, but heartfelt, prayer that God soothe my nerves and help me to perform to the best of my ability.

As we continued our drive, I felt calm, but a tad sick to my stomach. :) I was really glad that I had taken this opportunity not only to gain more performance experience, but to dance and have fun, because dancing IS fun for me. Usually. ;-) But I couldn't help but feel like I'd rather be going in for a surgical procedure rather than the social situation I was about to face.


In fact, my legs were trembling a little bit and my hands were FREEZING:

"Honey, could you turn up the heat? I'm *super* cold."

"You are? Oh. OK."

*Mike blasts heat* *discreetly rolls up the sleeves of his shirt and wipes a bead of sweat from his brow*

Car selfie:

putting on my brave smiley face...

And so, we arrived, and I could see someone waiting for me in the back. We gathered up our stuff and trooped over, my pink cover-up leading the way. As I suspected, it was the woman that I'd spoken with on the phone, and we did the usual polite greeting stuff. She said that the initial surprise of the party had gone very well, and she was very excited to surprise her husband with the dancing component. I asked if the other guests knew that I was coming, and she said yes, which made me feel a LOT better. MUCH less awkward that way.

We arranged ourselves in the hallway outside of the banquet room that the party was in. She said to just start whenever I was ready. She went into the room, and left Mike and me out there to do whatever we needed. Mike had instructions on the music and how and when to hand me Sword. I got my dance shoes on, cover up off, and veil out, and I was ready. I couldn't think of a better way to do the music aside from sending Mike in ahead of me to start it. He tried to be discreet and headed to a corner of the room. He peeked out to let me know that he was about to start, and then I heard the music begin.

This was the moment I was dreading :0 but I gathered my courage and entered the room, Veil putting on a lovely airborne performance. The husband seemed appropriately surprised, and was a very good sport about the whole thing. I wished him a happy birthday, and then tried to smile my heart out, dancing away on the small cleared space in front of all the tables.

He, his wife and another few couples were standing next to the bar to the side of the dance floor, and everyone else was at the tables, so I tried to divide my time a bit. I spent more time near the bar, but I went over the tables as well. A little toddler came out to dance with me, which I LOVED. Kids are THE BEST audience at dance events. So I discarded my veil to dance with her for a minute (Veil didn't like this one bit, and I had to pretend that I *meant* for him to engulf me for a few moments :0), and she tried to mimic my hip circles. I also scooped down to her level and showed her a few shoulder movements. That was a real crowd-pleaser.

After that, I had my longer first song to finish out and I was just in the moment, dancing away. And smiling. I smiled and smiled as much as I could. The song ended, and it was time for Sword to make his big debut. I could feel him simpering with energy over in the corner with Mike.

This is also the moment I was dreading. :0 Mike brought Sword over, and I danced around with it for a bit, just building anticipation. I balanced it on my hand and swirled it around for about half the song. The audience had been very attentive throughout, but with the addition of Sword, gazes were now raptly on me.


The balancing cue in the music that I had picked came, and I carefully set Sword on my head. He's been contrite ever since the art festival, and held on firmly. I started dancing, and received a nice round of applause. Naturally, Sword assumed the applause was for HIM, I could feel him preening away up there. ;-) As is always the case with balancing, I now had a more limited range of movements to pick from, and I beamed as much as I could while I danced. Here is a true statement for you: balancing a prop in practice is ALWAYS easier and more comfortable than it is in performance. It should be the same, right? But it isn't. Everyone is watching you, and it always feels more precarious. However, this time, I could tell that Sword was anchored well, I just needed to be more delicate in my movements, and that's the case in balancing regardless. So, Sword was a good boy, and we finished out the song without incident. That was also a crowd-pleaser. After Sword and I struck our final pose, it was time to hand him back to Mike and dance a drum solo.

I love drum solos, they may be my very favorite part of Middle Eastern dance. And I knew this was my final song in the set, so I was feeling excited. :) I accented away, and before I knew it, the song was over. When I danced at a restaurant a few years back, in a 15 minute set, it felt like FOREVER, and I was physically and emotionally drained afterward. This was a full 13 minutes, but it went by in a flash, and I felt happy and energized afterward. I posed for a few requested photographs, and then we were done. I spoke with the happy couple for a minute and wished them well. They thanked me profusely, and on our way out, the party guests were all very sweet and kind.

So that was that, and can I tell you? SO MUCH RELIEF. :0 I was very glad for the opportunity, I think it was good for me to challenge myself like that, but I am SO GLAD that that one is in my rear view mirror.

Do I have any other performers in my reading audience? Singers, dancers, actors? Do write in with your experiences. :)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Performance jitters - it's a belly dance post, part 1!

All! I'm so happy to be with you today! :0 In the midst of a super stressful season, this past weekend was a welcome, and delightful respite. I'll get to the fun dance stuff in a moment, but the weekend began with a sick day on Friday, as Anne was up coughing overnight and neither of us felt well in the morning. I called in sick and kept her home from school. I also called the pediatrician and got her an appointment, just in case her persistent sore throat was the sign of something more serious, but nope! Just the common cold. :) The peace of mind is good to have though, I'd rather know what I'm dealing with. As the day wore on, it was quite apparent that Anne was beginning to feel a lot better:

Jumping in leaf piles certainly seems to me to indicate that a child is feeling more like their usual energetic self, no? But it was a nice, and needed, day of rest for both of us. We even took a nap together. *heart*

I've also been working on some winter-themed jewelry now that the temperatures around here are more commiserate with autumn, and came up with these delightful snowflakes:

I love them, don't you? :) Yes, in fact I WAS distracting myself quite a bit on Friday, because I had THE THING on Saturday, and occupying my mind is one of my coping mechanisms for managing stress. OK, long story, and a couple of soap boxes to follow. This actually got so long as I was writing that I'm dividing it up into two posts. Today's installment contains some background information on my big night Saturday. Tomorrow I'll let you know how it went, so make sure to stick around for part 2!

OK, let's get started. You have your tea? Good. Saturday morning dawned an absolutely spectacular fall day here in WNY, and I was in full-on crisis mode, in a positive sense. I knew that I had to be at my best, and that I couldn't allow myself to panic. See, here's the thing: I'm SHY. People scoff at this sometimes when I say that, because, you know, I teach. I'm a belly dancer. How could I be shy?! I knowingly put myself into situations in which I'll be up in front of a group of people, and they'll be watching me, and shy people don't do that, right?

Shy people generally want to avoid such situations, yes. :) I'm certain you can feel the "but" that is about to come. BUT, that's not to say that shy people don't want to challenge themselves sometimes when it comes to things that they love. I love dancing, and I love helping people, and that's where the performing and teaching come into play. I think that it's important to understand deeply rooted parts of ones' personality, such as being shy. And in contrast to comments I sometimes hear, I don't see shyness as a bad thing at all. It is what it is, you know? You can't make someone NOT be shy, it's who they are. On the other hand, you can encourage them to come out of their shell sometimes, because life can surprise you and be glorious when you do. And so that's how I got caught up in this whole belly dancing thing. ;-)

And so here was the situation, which I didn't detail beforehand out of fear that it would make me even *more* nervous than I already was. Last month, my instructor, Claire, contacted me about a professional gig that she could not take due to being out of town on the weekend in question. It was for a dancer to perform at a surprise birthday party. VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: I know that belly dance sometimes holds a negative association for people who think that this dance form is inherently (I'll just say it, we're all grown ups here) sexual, and thus inappropriate for most audiences. I am here to assure that it is NOT. Does the history of belly dance have some unsavory moments, and do some dancers portray it in an unflattering (even scandalous) light? Yes. But that applies to MANY other dance forms besides just Middle Eastern dance, including ballet. There are *plenty* of dancers out there who simply love the foundational dance form and aim to portray it in a beautiful and elegant way. A professional belly dancer *should* (I know there are exceptions, unfortunately, but this is the standard):

(1) interpret the art form as best she can in it's proper cultural context.

(2) present the art form in a tasteful and graceful fashion that is, without exception, family-friendly and appropriate for all audiences.

(3) wear a professionally designed, properly fitting, costume during performance. This may or may not reveal her belly, depending upon the decision of the dancer and the audience for whom she will be performing. When not performing, the dancer will wear a drapey cover up over their costume to preserve the unique drama that performance brings.

(4) act in a professional manner throughout the planning process leading up to the event, and the event itself.

(5) NEVER embarrass someone by coercing them up to dance when they clearly do not want to, or otherwise make a person ill at ease in front of their guests.

(6) ALWAYS refuse to dance at an all-male event. Belly dancers are paid entertainers for family parties and weddings.

All right, I feel better now. Do you?! :0 I just think that it's important to be candid with what I'm talking about when it comes to my love of Middle Eastern dance. I get a lot of side eyes about the whole Catholic belly dancer thing, and I feel that it is my responsibility to let people know that these things are not mutually exclusive from either a moral or modesty standpoint.

OK good, we've covered that part. :) So, the birthday party gig. Claire couldn't do it, and asked if I would. She said I was ready for this, and that she had every confidence I would do a great job. Her confidence meant the world to me, but, to put it mildly, I was very trepidatious. :) A few years ago, I split a professional gig with Claire at a restaurant, and found the experience rather draining emotionally. Besides troupe gigs for which we sometimes get paid (charitable events and festivals excluded), that was my only other professional experience. And to boot, I would be the only dancer there. These are totally solo gigs.

All of this added up to the experience feeling rather intimidating to me.  But I thought it over, and realized that if I didn't take it, I would be disappointed with myself. I don't want Shy Tiffany to always win, you know? Although hiding out over at Shy Tiffany's place is certainly more comfortable, it's a lot less exciting. ;-) Claire assured me that the woman who had called her to book the gig was extremely nice and that the gig would be super easy for me. 12-15 minutes of dancing: swirl in with your veil, see if they want you to balance a prop, dance to a fun, upbeat pop song and a drum piece, and that's it, you're done. The fact that it was a surprise party made me a little nervous, because it seems to me that the potential for it to be awkward is a bit higher :0 and introverts avoid awkward social situations like flesh-eating bacteria. But all in all, everything seemed positive about this gig, and when I took a step back, I realized that I've been studying Middle Eastern dance for nearly 8 years. I could handle this, if I just gave myself a chance. Meaning, if I could manage to stifle Shy Tiffany and lock her away for a little while.

I spoke with the woman booking the gig, who was, as promised, extremely kind and pleasant to work with. With their family and friends, she was planning a surprise birthday party for her husband. She could not have been easier to deal with, just asking me to come and dance at the party and to balance my sword, because that sounded really cool to her. We got all of the details worked out, with a contract and all of that good stuff, and then I had to wait and prepare. With a knot in my stomach. For the past 5 weeks. :0

And prepare I certainly did. I carefully curated a playlist of fun music that incorporated different tempos and rhythms, and with which I was very familiar, to make for easier improvising. I planned a veil entrance, an upbeat but traditional Middle Eastern piece, an even balady for the sword, and then a drum solo.

I practiced A LOT. I ran though the music, improvising my little heart out. I worked with Sword quite a bit, and developed a new way of getting him balanced on my head that was working much better. Sword has been on probation since our little incident at the art festival this summer. :0 I really didn't want to bring him, but it was a special request, so I couldn't exactly refuse.

Practice went great, and the big day quickly approached. Let's circle back to Saturday morning. I was feeling ready, but NERVOUS. I projected calm into my brain as best I could and faced the day. How did it work out? Come back tomorrow for part 2 and all the fun details! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Don't forget, I need those worry strategies! :0

Happy Thursday everybody! I'm having a good day, but to the surprise of absolutely no one, I remain very worried about many things. ;-) And as the title of this post indicates, I would love your suggestions for managing worry. I can use all the help I can get!

I promised in the video that I would elaborate a bit more today, and so here I am, reporting in for duty. :) This blog has always been, and remains, an online journal of sorts for me. It's also a creative outlet for my love of writing, but mostly it's a journal of the things in my life that are most important to me. As all bloggers know, that does not mean that I discuss absolutely everything on here. I remain a cagey woman of mystery behind the scenes. ;-) But to the extent that I'm comfortable sharing things, I go to town here on this blog.

So, what's going on with me, you are probably wondering? Well, lots of things. :) I've mentioned a health situation with someone in my family, and it appears that I will have to remain cagey about that, because the person in question wants it to remain private. Obviously, I am respecting that, but I can say this: it's not a pleasant thing, nor an entirely easy course of treatment, but things are looking good. In fact, the long term prognosis is extremely good, and we're all very grateful for that. Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers in this regard. Keep them coming.

In other, much less important, matters, there is a smattering of little things. Work has been very busy for me this semester. I'm teaching a credit-bearing course, and thus the preparatory work is a lot greater than usual as compared to the type of teaching I usually do. It's going very well, thankfully, but it's more work. As well, a short article that I wrote and submitted to a Catholic library journal has been accepted, pending revisions. Good news, yes? But I have a deadline that is, well, SOON :0 and that has me feeling just the weensiest bit stressed out.

All of this has meant that in the midst of fun and productive podcast planning, I had to put the brakes on that for a few weeks. Bummer? Yes, bummer. And when it comes to podcasting, I don't exactly know what I'm doing, so the process isn't a short one. ;-) The Chaplets audio endeavor has given me a great head start, but there's still all kinds of stuff about adding in intros and sound effects and hosting that I'm figuring out. The article revisions will be done by the end of October, and after that I should be able to go back to podcast stuff, so here's hoping.

And then there's the dance thing. :0 I'll go into more detail next week when the scariest of these upcoming performances is behind me (I'm certain that amusement will abound), but to sum up, I have a gig this weekend that is just a hair intimidating to me because I've never danced in this setting before. It'll be fine, Claire assures me that I'm ready and that I'll do great, but you know, SCARY. After all these years, performing is still incredibly intimidating to me. Performing generally, whether it be dancing or another one of the arts, means really putting yourself out there and making yourself vulnerable. That is never an easy thing. You leave yourself open to criticism, and when you care about something very deeply, this can lead to very wounded feelings. When you have an ambivalent, or worse, audience, that can feel downright lousy.

In terms of ethnic dance, this usually comes into play more at public performances in which people were not necessarily expecting to see dancing. What I mean is that at haflas (recitals) or festivals, people expect dancing and seek it out specifically because they know one of the performers, or are very interested in watching dance. These are friendly audiences. :) In contrast, let's say a dancer is at a restaurant or at a birthday party; the attendees did not come to see dancing. They came to eat and socialize. If a dancer(s) is there as a hired entertainer, the crowd may or may not be receptive and/or kind. This can be tough to deal with, especially for those of us with meeker personalities. :) I have danced at public events like these before, but I don't have an abundance of experience in this regard.  And I'm usually with other dancers. This weekend, I'll be by myself and I'm, well, terrified. :0 Granted, important clarification: I won't be alone, because Mike is coming with me for technical and moral support. I do so love that man. But I won't have any of my troupemates with me. For those present who want to watch the dancing, they'll have no one to watch but me. This is an introvert's worst nightmare. Why did I sign up for this dancing thing again?! Please God that I do not accidentally flick my veil into somebody's plate of hummus or injure myself with Sword. Oh yeah, he's coming along too, by special request. Joy.

I will report in early next week with the amusing details. In the mean time, write in and instruct me in how to not freak out so much about things, K?! :0 Life is short, we need to seek enjoyment wherever we can, right? Right.

I am awaiting your suggestions with much happy expectation. ;-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #20 - Nervous Nellies, unite!

What's this? It's Wednesday but there's a video? I like to keep things interesting and unpredictable around here ;-) (plus the video was ready, and I'm feeling lazy), and so today is our next installment of:

Today, I'm talking about anxiety and worrying, because, well, I'm *worried* about a lot of things right now. :0 I mention several of them, and relate a tie-in to a catastrophic morning coffee mug situation. How do I manage my worries (and this from a chronic worrier)? View on, dear viewer. :)

Items mentioned in this episode:
  • St. John Paul II novena
  • Ridiculous anecdote about all the junk I'm currently worrying about. No link for this. ;-)
  • Papal keyring. Lots of Catholic tchotchke keychain options here.  :0
So, do tell. How do YOU manage the worries that creep up in your life? I'd love to hear your plan of attack. I need all the worry assuaging I can get! Leave your wisdom in the comments. :)

I'll be posting again tomorrow, likely providing more detail about a few of things I mentioned today. Prepare yourselves for amusing dance anecdotes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Moose sightings, lighthouse visits & cake frosting debacles: Adventures in Maine...

Hello all, and I'm so happy to be back with you! Before I get into trip fodder, I have a few housekeeping announcements. First, today is Day 1 of the St. John Paul II novena! If you'd like to join in, now is the perfect time to get started. :)

Also, this is my week of being featured on Catholic Mom, and my new piece is a favorite of mine, that I updated and reworked. It's in my favored, humorous style of writing, and involves knitting (perfect seasonal topic!) so go check it out if you haven't already! And if you want to leave me a comment over at Catholic Mom, you know, I'd love that. ;-)

OK, so THE TRIP! I had a great time, it went real well. My flights were good, I did a little praying and no panicking, you would have been really proud of me. Of course, the complimentary drink coupons helped with that, I'll be the first to admit it, but you know, whatever works. ;-)

It was quite foggy and rainy when we landed in Portland, but we had a happy reunion with my sister Shauna'h, her husband, and my adorable twin nephews. Pizza and merrymaking abounded.

Saturday dawned an absolutely gorgeous fall day in New England:

The red and orange are my very favorite

Like us, their foliage is behind this year due to the weather, but they still have far more color than we do in WNY right now. I did LOTS of cuddling with both my human nephews, and my dog and cat nephews:

Cat on lap, dog at feet, a common occurrence this past weekend...
I get along well with Molson, the cat pictured here, and I like cats, I do. I have to say though that I do prefer dogs, and here is why:

So much love...
Dogs love you unconditionally. They are not cagey about it, or in any way withholding of their affections. Cats may be affectionate with you one moment, but the next stalk away as if you have offended them in some way, and likely, you have. Dogs? Here was the scene Saturday morning as I woke up:

*Tiffany puts away her bedding*

*nails click up the staircase*

*black and tan head peeks around the corner*

Tiffany: "Oh, hi Roscoe! How are you, muffin?"

Roscoe's thought bubble: "Oh! You're here! I was SO HOPING that you were awake! Can I, I mean, CAN I COME OVER?! If you want me to, I WILL TOTALLY COME OVER!!"

Tiffany: "Do you want to..."

*big black body gallops over*

So precious. I miss having a dog.

Later that day, we all made a pilgrimage to Portland Head Light, which I've been wanting to do for years, and finally got my opportunity:

I absolutely love lighthouses, and was so excited to see one up close. I went through the whole museum, and lurked long enough in the gift shop to pick up a lighthouse magnet (I've developed a tradition of bringing home a Maine-themed magnet each year) and a book on the history of all Maine lighthouses, complete with photographs and author signature. The librarian was in heaven.

We lunched at a brewery, and then retired home for some rest. After the twins went to bed, we leapt into party prep mode. And see? Anytime there is baking, and *I* am involved, the results turn out rather unseemly. Shauna'h and I took on the task of baking the cakes, and I took the liberty of live tweeting:

I'll give you a spoiler: the cake actually turned out well. But the frosting? Well, we ran low on powdered sugar, and it was already late, and we were drinking wine, and so...let's just say that the chocolate fudge frosting turned into ACTUAL FUDGE. Rather...gritty, actual fudge. It went from liquidy, non-frosting consistency, to a full stop SOLID. An interesting chemistry experiment, but frosting it was *not*. My brother-in-law had to make an emergency frosting run to the grocery store in the morning, but the cakes did turn out well:

Twin cakes with a camping theme...

...and they coordinated perfectly with the outdoorsy theme of the party. We were at a wildlife park:

Henry and I posing at the entrance

...and a great time was had by all, especially the kids.

Henry suddenly becomes alarmed by the duck flying overhead...
We took the twins around to see some of the animals, all native to Maine, including my first ever moose sighting!

He was very large
And wait for it, wait for it! This is the daddy moose, and his significant other was also present, although being shyer in the back. Thus, yes, THERE WAS A BABY MOOSE!! Or, at least a child-like moose, likely born last season. He or she was tucked away in a corner, so no good photo opportunity, but rest assured that much squealing occurred.

After that we ate and opened presents, and brought two very exhausted 3-year olds home for a nap. The rest of us drank beer and watched football. :) Later in the evening, we made it to Sunday Mass, and a beautiful day was complete.

I packed up yesterday, a forlorn Henry and Roscoe by my side. Roscoe saw our bags and looked like someone had just shot his best friend, poor pumpkin. We sadly said goodbye to everyone and headed out for our flight. Anne and Mike were there to greet us when we landed, and Anne was SO HAPPY to see me:

"Mommy, I carried a picture of you and Henry with me for when I missed you. And I missed you. A LOT."

No guilt imposed there, yes? ;-) And so, although sad, I'm happy to be home. Work is a little overwhelming right now, but I'm trying not to dwell on that too much. I'm just making to-do lists for each day and working my way through them. That's all one can really do, right?

And so, how was YOUR weekend, dear reader? How has your autumn been so far? Have you participated in any fun fall activities? Do write in to tell me all about it. :)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #19 - An upcoming trip & traveling by air with the Catholic Librarian!

Hi all! It's Thursday, and the end of the week is approaching (thank goodness). This semester has taken on an arduous quality, to be sure. Not relating to the semester per se, ironically, but in many ways I'll be glad to see Thanksgiving come and things settle down a bit. We're getting there, but in the mean time I'm doing my best to take things one at a time (translation: not borrow worry), and to savor joy in everything that I can. One of those things is my trip coming up on Friday to visit my sister, which I discuss in our next installment of:

This particular trip entails me getting onto one of those ominous tubes we call airplanes. ;-) I'm an anxious flyer, and so what do I do to soothe myself in such situations? View on, dear viewer...

Items mentioned in this episode:
What do you all do to calm yourself down with you're anxious about something (like flying)? I'd love to hear your experiences. I look forward to your responses, and just an FYI that I won't be posting again until after I return from Maine on Tuesday. But Tuesday afternoon look for a lengthy recap post!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Mommy, Henry LOOKED AT ME FUNNY!!" Good times on sick days. Oh, and a new novena is brewing. :)

Happy Wednesday everyone! :) I'm back at work following a day at home nurturing my offspring. Henry has been coughing, and given that we have a trip coming up this weekend, I didn't want him to be miserable and sick for it. Plus, I knew that Henry and I would be sharing a room, and I really didn't want his cough keeping ME awake. :0

So, this entailed a decision Tuesday morning to keep him home from school to rest, and then me ferrying Anne to and from Pre-K so that Mike could get some grading and lesson planning done. Henry laid around a bit, but quickly perked up and I could tell that his cough was now productive and breaking up. This meant that he was on the mend *just* in time to start fighting with Anne when she got home from Pre-K. My afternoon was filled with:

"MOOOOOOOMMM! Anne just (fill in the blank with various and sundry nefarious and dramatic deeds)!"

"Mommy! Henry just (fill in the blank with any number of annoying behaviors that he knows Anne hates)!"

SO much whining and bickering. No fun for anybody. And then Anne pitched a fit about something that I cannot recall and stomped upstairs. Next thing I knew, it was quiet, which is a bad sign 99.9% of the time. I went upstairs to check on her, and found her face down on the hallway floor, sound asleep. Well. See, that's the .1% of the time when the quiet is GOOD. ;-) She slept for over an hour, and then was considerably less saucy when she woke up, thank the good Lord.

This morning, both were back to normal and at school, thankfully. Mommy needed a break from that "respite" at home. ;-)

In other news, I'm plotting a new novena. Details are now up on the official St. John Paul II novena tab! The novena starts next Tuesday, October 13th, and goes through October 21st. I have links to a few different versions of the prayers, and I created an audio file of the novena prayer that I chose plus his chaplet prayers. The chaplet (pictured above) is super short, only about three and a half minutes, so download and pray along in your car if you like! I have a short video explaining the chaplet a bit more and the prayer configuration down at the bottom of the Chaplets page. The link to the audio is there as well. I hope that you'll join in!

All right, I'd better go. *feels beleaguered* I have a lot going on at work lately, October is always a busy month here. I have a video for you tomorrow discussing my trip and my anxiety about traveling by air generally, so if that resonates with you, come on back in the morning! In the mean time, are you going to pray the St. John Paul II novena? Write in and let me know. :)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trips to the movies and preparation for another kind of trip, a busy autumn weekend...

Hi all! Here with you on a dreary Monday afternoon, amidst a valiant attempt to keep my spirits high. That's no easy feat on Mondays this semester, but we're persevering and doing just fine.


*halo* ;-)

And so today, I have my usual menagerie of teaching, reference shifts, dueling swim lessons for the kids, and finagling a dinner for them after we get home. Actually, that doesn't look that bad, what am I complaining about? It's not that bad, it's just a little tiring. And Monday is Mike's long teaching day too, so it's a family-wide tiring day. :)

But the weekend? The weekend was lovely. Gorgeous fall weather here. Getting cooler, leaves starting to change. The warm September that we had seems to be impacting the foliage in a negative manner, which is unfortunate, but I still have hope for a glorious second half of October. Saturday morning, Mike and Henry took on grocery store duty, and Anne and I headed to Carter's to get her some warm winter pj's since she had outgrown all of hers. Can I say that I just adore warm winter pajama shopping for young children? ADORABLE.

Those footed sleepers? *swoons* Gingerbread men and women abounded, along with cupcakes, princesses, foxes and owls. I got her a slew of jammies, along with some long sleeved tops, and because Mommy is a soft touch and Anne knows this, she also managed to procure a new stuffed animal. Here she is modeling one of the new sleepers, and showing off her new friend:

What do you think he is? An owl, right? A snowy owl? But with a pink beak and feet? That's what I think he is. Anne insists that he is "a chickie!" But I'm not convinced. ;-)

At any rate, after our little clothing adventure, I took both kids to the movie theater, my mom in tow, to see Hotel Transylvania 2. I have to say, I love this series. VERY cute and funny, for both kids and adults. I loved the first movie, and so was excited to take the kids to see the sequel. And the verdict is... I would recommend, once again. Just as cute and funny as the first one. All four of us had a great time.

My mom wanted to take the kids to see the 3D version as a treat, and although I usually don't see movies in 3D (it's a waste of money for me, since I have a vision impairment that impacts my ability to see 3D images on a screen. I know, lame, right?!) I agreed that it would be fun for the kids, so why not?

Well, Henry enjoyed the 3D. He popped his glasses on, and sat back happily munching popcorn for the entirety of the movie. My mom enjoyed the 3D. As for me, 3D means that the screen looks fuzzy, I pop the glasses on, and then it looks super clear, but nothing else. A little anti-climactic, to be sure. ;-) Anne?

"Mommy, I do not like these MOVIE THEATER SUNGLASSES!"

Of course, it makes the experience less than enjoyable when you muck around with the glasses while you're eating your buttery popcorn, and quickly, your glasses become coated with layers of gunk. Multiple times. And then Mommy has to put down her beloved popcorn and Diet Coke to *clean plastic glasses 3 times*. But overall, Anne did not want to be bothered with the perching of glasses on her tiny nose in order to watch the movie, so I don't think she'd vote for 3D a second time.

On Sunday, we went to our favorite 10 am Mass *blissful sigh* followed by the monthly parish coffee/donuts social. We kibitzed. Then we went home and drank beer and watched football. Or, at least that's what Mike and I did. ;-)

In other exciting news, in preparation for a trip I'm taking this weekend (more details about that below) I upgraded my e-reader to a Kindle Paperwhite, da da DA!

An autumn scene, because I would have it be autumn year round ;-)
Isn't he handsome with all of his customized collections?
I had a Kindle Basic (that I coined "Patrick") which I loved, but which I was starting to have a difficult time seeing the screen in certain light conditions. I gave Patrick to Henry (who happily received him) and ordered this new Kindle Paperwhite, whose name, if you were wondering, is Francis. :0 And oh my goodness - SO MUCH BETTER! It's not just in dimly lit situations that I can see the screen more clearly now. I love it.

The reason this was on my mind is because I'm traveling on Friday, and when I travel, I read a lot on my Kindle. Traveling? Doesn't Tiffany not like hurtling through the sky on an airplane? Yes, yes, you would be correct, my friend. :) I don't really like doing that. BUT there are people that I love who do not live near me, and so I sometimes suck it up and force myself onto one of those tubes so that I can visit them. This time, I'm going to Maine (with Henry in tow) to visit my younger sister, brother-in-law, and twin nephews. I'm very excited, but you know, FLYING. And I'm going to miss Mike and Anne, who will be home enjoying a Daddy/Daughter weekend. *sad* But four airline tickets just wasn't in our budget right now.

I'll talk more about my trip likely in my video post for this week. In the meantime, how was your weekend? Did you go to a movie? Do tell. Have a Kindle Paperwhite? How do you like? :) Write all about it in the comments!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #18 - Confession!

Hi all! It's the feast of St. Therese, so I hope you're wearing pink or red today! :0 And leading up to her feast, I was in bad need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I stopped earlier this week, providing me with perfect fodder for:

In this episode, I talk confession, and why I find it so difficult to go sometimes. I also relate my experience this week, and the story involves a guardian angel lady and a very sweet ending, so I hope that you'll tune in! Caveat: something WONKY was going on with my web cam in this video, and can I be honest? I don't have the energy to re-record. :0 I am imperfect, and so are my videos. That's right, I MEANT to do this to further bring home my point about the need for confession. ;-) But my blue cowl takes on a mystical quality throughout and changes hues from light to darker. It's really quite distracting, my apologies. We'll just call it the Holy Spirit coming down to enlighten us and call it a day, yes?

Items mentioned in this episode:
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation! It's good for our souls. :)
  • Confession app for Android. I'm not necessarily recommending it, since I've had technical difficulties with it, but it's a good concept. Then again, this is me. I have technical difficulties with *everything*, so maybe the problem is me?! :0 But I do love the included Examination of Conscience, it's very helpful.
  • Happy feast of St. Therese
Do you have any confession experiences or tips to relate? Any upcoming novenas that you're looking to pray? Chime in!