Tuesday, August 30, 2016

*BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!!* And so the fall semester begins...


Wow, so...I don't really know where to start. The beginning would be good, but I'm so tired that I can't remember what that was. Let's see...

On Saturday I had a picnic at my friend and colleague Cindy's house. While out in her back garden, I started suffering from seasonal allergies so badly my sneezes were frightening local wildlife. My eyes were watering, my nose was itchy, and my entire face felt miserable. I ended up having to leave early, with a curmudgeonly Anne, who decidedly did NOT want to leave early. I had her walking beside me sullenly out to the car after we said our goodbyes, I toss her in there, and away we went.

Between Cindy's house and mine, which is maybe a 5 minute car ride, I sneezed what felt like 100,000 times. When I got home, I immediately took a shower, and I sneezed in there too. After the shower, I drank tea and laid around taking it easy and knitting in my pajamas, and sneezed some more. I ended up going to bed at 9 pm just to stave off the misery, taking a Zyrtec on my way up.

Sunday dawned with my nose finally feeling non-itchy, but I was decidedly operating at less than 100% capacity. We made it to Mass, we made it out to get the kids school shoes and a few final supplies, and to my in-laws for dinner. After that more knitting in my pajamas ensued.

Right before we settled into bed Sunday night, I nervously showed Mike my new travel alarm clock, that I bought especially because I have two 8 am classes this semester:

"It's supposed to have a 'gentle' alarm sound. I'm nervous about it working right and going off, because I hate being jarred awake by alarm clocks. But I have to make sure that I'll be up by 6."

This one can sit right on my bedside table and lives on my side of the bed for quick turn-off when the "gentle" tone unfolds.

"Why don't you test it out now?"


"Oh. That's a really good idea."


I set the alarm for a minute hence, and wait nervously. One minute later:

*gentle beeping noise*

"Oh good, that's not bad at all!"

"No, it really isn't."

I happily set it for 6 am, and read myself to sleep. I turned my bedside lamp off before Mike, closed my eyes, and attempted to fall asleep. Except I was so keyed up about classes starting, and about how nervous I am about all of the teaching I'll be doing this semester, that I couldn't settle my mind down and actually sleep. But I laid with my eyes shut and tried to settle myself.

I did what I could, and soon Mike turned his light off. The instant he did so, a searing blue light permeated my eyeballs.

*eyes fly open*

"What the!"

My new gentle alarm clock has a "soft glow" that lights up the entire face when it senses darkness. I will grant, one DOES want to see what time it is overnight, but this is decidedly Too Much Glow. However, at that moment, I didn't exactly want to turn the lights back on to figure out how to dim it.  I quietly angled the clock to minimize the blue glow on our faces. I could see Mike discreetly turned over on his side so that the light wasn't shining on him. He didn't want to squash my gentle alarm clock dreams.

That all settled, I tucked back in and prayed to fall asleep. I tossed and turned. Tossed and turned. TOSSED AND TURNED. Until I finally drifted off into a fitful slumber. And then...

*BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

*bolt upright*

Why is it that the gentlest of beeps sounds positively PIERCING in the middle of the night?! And gosh, didn't it seem like I JUST fell asleep?! Wait. I DID.

*looks at glowing clock face*

*clock reads...* Wait for it... MIDNIGHT.

*insert emoji of screaming face here*

I set the alarm for 6 am, but apparently there are multiple alarm settings (why God, why?!) and my 6 am setting got pushed to 2nd. And the first setting defaulted to midnight. Well, I figured this all out the next day, when I was calm and coherent, rather than incredulous and ragey. In the moment, I turned the alarm off, and tossed the entire thing under the bed, relying solely on the other, non-alarm clock, in our room. Thus, I had no guaranteed alarm. Thus, I woke up automatically EVERY 20 MINUTES, my mind needing reassurance that I would not oversleep.


It was a LONG night. When 6 am rolled around, it was, needless to say, extremely difficult to get out of bed. And I was DRAGGING for the entire day. I was already downtrodden from the allergies, and the lack of sleep just made everything exponentially worse.

And the students? I had three classes yesterday, two more this morning, with one this afternoon. Very sweet, very respectful. But super quiet, and with a perpetual deer in headlights stare back at me whenever I pointed the Beatific Beam of a smile out at them:

"And if you ever need help with anything, that is what I am here for! I have tea waiting for you in my office."


In response, I get:

*blink blink*

I did get some smiles, I will grant, as I wove my always anecdote-heavy way through the first day of material. And nobody fell asleep, even in the 8 am section.


So I'm getting there, but let me tell you, I feel overwhelmed. And tired. So, so tired. Today it was a little better because I didn't have class until 9:20, but tomorrow it's back to 8 am. Offering it up for all of you. :0

What is going on with YOU, dear reader? I would love to hear all about it. :)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #63 - Divine Mercy in time of stress...

Good morning to you all! This week's edition definitely falls into the "stressed out" category, but the tea always helps, right?

Today I talk about STRESS, managing stress, and praying to manage stress. ;-) I also talk about my upcoming teaching load, and my schedule plans for the blog this summer. Join me!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
How do you manage stress? Are you changing up your prayer routine this fall? What's coming up on your schedule this fall? Do write in!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Real jeans, anxiety flareups, and surprise! It's a baby jacket...

 This is very unusual, but I'm writing this blog post in the evening. Anne is upstairs asleep, after being comforted for an hour by yours truly following a sobbing spell (Anne's, not mine, though based upon how my day went, it could have easily have been me :0), Mike is at rehearsal, and Henry is at an audition for a kids part in the December play. I am drinking wine. A BIG GLASS of wine, and it's not working fast enough. This was one of the most difficult days I've ever had as a librarian, and I'm thinking that it's going to take some time for me to normalize afterward. Let's circle round, though, shall we?

Over the weekend, I experienced more This Back To School Thing Is Really Happening sentiment. I took Anne shopping for school clothes, just her and I:

"I like girl time, Mommy. I do NOT like *boy* time."

Something tells me that will change, but for the time being, there you have it. We arrive at JC Penney, and Anne makes a beeline into the girls section. She comes out carrying a jean jacket. And jeans. REAL jeans, with sparkly pockets.

"Mommy. I love these. Can I get them?"

When, oh when, did my little baby get so big?!

Now I may cry again. This was not a good idea. :0

We also procured many tops, both long-sleeved and short, some comfortable cotton pants, a back pack, lunchbox and new matching water bottle. And declared her ready for Kindergarten.

She went to Pre-K last year, so its not like this is her first time going to school. But this year she'll be going a full day. And she'll be at the same school as Henry. It just feels very official.

A new chapter of my life has begun. And now I really am crying.

It's the Anne/baby thing. But it's also work. I had an incredibly long day today, so I'm feeling a wee bit vulnerable.

Nothing truly bad happened today. It's just that I've felt all summer like I was always super distracted, much more busy than anticipated, and hanging on by a mere brain cell. As the summer progressed, it got worse. A LOT worse. 

And in the last week I have felt nearly suffocated by anxiety. With the fall semester officially beginning next Monday, the pace of our lesson planning and last-minute logistical nightmares has grown frenetic. Today was BAD. The lower half of my body actually ached from sitting so much (which I HATE) due to hours of training on new citation management and ePortfolio software, and then panicky time-sensitive things that HAD to get done before our appearance at the new instructor orientation later in the afternoon. I could barely eat, frantically shuffling food across my desk as I worked, my stomach in such turmoil over worrying about everything. By the end of the work day, I felt like a wrung out dishrag, both physically and emotionally.

The way that we're going to be teaching in the fall is totally new; new for us, new for the university, since the curriculum is dramatically changing as of this semester. So everyone is scrambling, no one knows exactly how this is all going to work, and there is a lot of anxious tension in the air. I'm going to be responsible for providing a 1 credit hour Library Lab for 15 sections of English Composition. That's a lot more teaching than I've ever done before. There may be other instruction requests that come up as the semester progresses too, and we'll have to squeeze those in where we can. I'll also be meeting with students, grading over 300 assignments, and somehow writing a book. Taking a day off until Thanksgiving week is pretty much not a possibility. Needless to say, I haven't been sleeping well. And on Monday and Wednesday mornings, my first class is at 8 am.



I don't mean this as a litany of "Look how crappy my life is!!" Because it isn't. I know it isn't. I have a fantastic life. I have a beautiful, loving family, fantastic friends that I love as if they were family, and I work with people that I genuinely like and care about. I'll be busy, but my situation is a good one. But anxiety? She is there, my friends. This has always been a personal demon of mine, and I'm just trying to deal with it as best I can.

When I got home, Mike had dinner ready and on the table, and a wine glass chilling in the freezer. Is it any wonder that I married him?! Afterward, Anne burst into tears about something she saw on TV, and I spent the early part of the evening comforting her and cuddling. But truth be told, I really needed that too.

*group hug*

I'm doing what I can to try and keep my spirits up. In the meantime, I've been knitting. And JUST under the wire on Sunday afternoon, I finished my Olympic/Ravellenic Games project!

*drum roll*

I knit Elizabeth Zimmerman's famous Baby Surprise Jacket for Sam's niece. I mentioned in a recent Tea Time that you knit it flat, in a blob-like configuration, but when you are done, it miraculously seams into a perfect baby cardigan. Here is the before photo, with sweater fully knit, but still on the needles and waiting to be bound off:

It seems to be begging for help and TLC.

And here it is bound off, with 2 small seams:

This is a very happy baby sweater!
I mean, did you ever?! I love the pattern. And I finished it within the timeframe of the Olympics, and so this means that I won Ravelry's version of a gold medal:


So that's a brightener, to be sure. I'm about to embark on fall socks and scarves.


How are you doing, dear reader? Come commiserate and join the group hug. :)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #62 - Out of control school supply lists, & being a scent fairy...

Hi all! I managed to catch my breath in time to record another happy edition of:

In between when I recorded this and when I am putting it out, I was assigned a 16th section of a library lab for English Composition to teach. Given that I immediately wanted to cry, I figured it was better to focus on post-production of Tea Time. ;-) Today I talk about the evolving monster that is modern school supply lists, the St. Monica novena, and my happiness at being the designated scent fairy of my library.

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

What's going on with YOU dear reader and listener? What back-to-school monstrosities are you dealing with? ;-) I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hills, malfunctioning showers, and lots of family picnicking, on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time...


Well hello there, dear reader! It's been a bit of a busy stretch over here in Catholic Librarian-Land, and you'll notice that it's been nearly a week since I last posted. I don't like doing that, but life is like a box of chocolates, is it not? ;-) It can be unpredictable, for sure. The start of the fall semester is nearly nigh, and thus I am drawing closeer and closer to full blown Panic Mode. I'm certain that I will be tornadoing around the library next week, but I'm trying not to worry about that now. :0

For the time being, I prefer to panic quietly in the privacy of my office. And *finally* I had a few moments to sit and chat with you all.

This past weekend Mike, the kids and I traveled about 4 hours south into Pennsylvania for a family picnic. This is on Mike's dad's side of the family, and the people are all perfectly lovely and kind. The only problem is that I find it incredibly awkward to socialize with family that I see very rarely. Is it just me? I actually find it EONS easier to converse with total strangers than I do in the family picnic scenario. I cannot explain this phenomena, but there you have it.

It's interesting, because I think that over the course of the past 3-5 years, I have become a LOT more social than I used to be. When I was a young child, I was downright painfully shy. Talking to anybody outside of my close circle of family and friends created a tremendous amount of anxiety within me. In high school, I was voted "Shyest" female in my senior class. The guy who was voted "Shyest"? Had never spoken with him before. Because, you know, we were both SHY. ;-)

Now? Quick anecdote. This past Friday, I had dance troupe rehearsal, like usual. We're currently a group of 7, and we haven't had any new members for a few years. We've remained mostly consistent, but lost a few members about a year ago who decided not to continue. Well now, finally, there are a few dancers from the mixed level class that Claire is going to ask to move up. She was telling us a little about each of them, and regarding one woman in particular, she said:

"She's real quiet, doesn't say a lot. You know, how Tiffany used to be."


This really made me feel happy. Indeed, dancing has helped me to gain confidence and come out of my shell quite a bit. I talk readily to people now, and happily join in the social revelry that is our troupe class on Friday evenings. There is nothing wrong with being shy, but in my case I know that I was that way based upon fear. Now, I don't feel afraid anymore, and enjoy my life so much more. I just occasionally feel awkward when conversing with out-of-town family. ;-)

At any rate, back to our trip. The picnic went well, and the kids had an absolute blast playing with their second cousins twice removed, or however you term such distant cousin relationships. ;-) The kids also LOVE staying in a hotel, in contrast to Mike and I, who, when accompanied by our offspring, brace ourselves for this very same eventuality. There is the inevitable bouncing on the bed. The racing around a tiny space. The constant flushing of the "new" toilet and experimenting with the water flow in the sink. The 6:30 am wake up (while on vacation, mind you), wanting to go down to the breakfast area in the lobby. I suppose there are SOME things in life that are in fact predictable. ;-)

As for me? I love my romantic hotel getaways with Mike each year for our anniversary, but this family adventure to the nearest Holiday Inn Express?

*children bouncing off walls*

*shouts over din*  "Honey, I'm going to go grab my shower, OK?"

God bless that man.

*Tiffany examines shower dial*

"Easy peasy, I like my water really warm."

*turns dial*

*presses shower button*

"What the! CENSORED!"

*turns dial a fraction of an inch in the opposite direction*

"Oh gosh!! CENSORED!"

Let's just say the shower appeared to have 2 settings:

(1) Roasting Hot Dogs With Satan, or

(2) Your Own Personal Penguin Will Be Joining You Shortly

And so it seems to go on such hotel-laden trips. ;-)

We did make it to Mass on Sunday morning, which was lovely. The church was super close to our hotel, but given that we were in Pittsburgh, this was no easy trek. I'm from Western New York, and unused to hilly terrain, OK? :0 I struggle whenever we go to Pittsburgh to get over: (a) not having any sidewalks to walk on, because I love getting my exercise that way, and (b) having the roadways be so steeply inclining or declining. How do people make it out of their driveways in the wintertime?! At any rate, the church was close to the hotel, but it was DOWN, and a large shopping center which contained the only access point to the hill on which the hotel sat (I am not making this up) stood in the way, so drive we must!

We arrived, and Henry immediately commented on the stained glass windows, which he liked. He commented on them because they are much different from what we usually see, in that they were of the abstract variety. I prefer non-abstract stained glass, but to each their own. Mike glanced around as we planted ourselves in the padded pew, and whispered:

"Is this kind of...modern?"

Why yes, yes it was. :) But it was a nice parish, and I will say that they had tremendous bathrooms, which I of course toured with Anne, who very predictably had to make use of them during the recitation of the Creed.

So there you have it, our weekend. I will be with you tomorrow for Tea Time, which I'm looking forward to. How was YOUR weekend, dear reader? What's going on with you this late August?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #61 - Back to school, novenas, & Olympic knitting...

Happy Tea Day everyone! It's a hot and muggy August edition of:

Today I talk Back-to-School frenzy, upcoming novenas, and Olympic knitting. What on EARTH is that, you reasonably ask? Tune in to find out. :)

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
How is your August going, dear reader? Do you have any fall novena or book suggestions? Write in and tell me all about it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bane's Eyes, a Catholic YA book review...

Hello all! I hope that this Wednesday is treating you well. I have a book review to share with you today, and it's one that I am very excited about. If YA, and dystopian fiction, are your thing, settle in with your tea, because you're going to want ALL the deets on this one!

A few years ago, I became obsessed with a Catholic YA series authored by Corinna Turner called "I Am Margaret." :0 This is a four book series that just wrapped up with the final installment a few months ago. On this humble blog I thoroughly reviewed book 1, "I Am Margaret," as well as book 2, "The Three Most Wanted."  OK, *seriouisly*...these books GRIP me. They are *phenomenal.* I have had book 3, "Liberation," queued up on my Kindle for some time, wanting to savor it, as I didn't want the series to end. Then I heard that the final book, "Bane's Eyes," had come out, and the publisher graciously asked me to review it. Thus, over the course of the past month I have been nonstop reading books 3 and 4. Unable.To.Put.Down.

Let's start with a little background information if you're as yet unfamiliar with the series. You won't be for long, I have a feelilng ;-), but until then, here is how things start out in book 1:
Look, if you don’t pass...” said Bane, “I’ll have to see what I can do about it. Because... well… I’ve been counting on marrying you for a very long time, now, and I’ve no intention of letting anything stop me!”


Margaret Verrall dreams of marrying the boy she loves and spending her life with him. But she’s part of the underground network of Believers – and that carries the death penalty.
And there’s just one other problem.

She’s going to fail her Sorting.

But a chance to take on the system ups the stakes beyond mere survival. Now she has to break out of the Facility - or face the worst punishment of all: Conscious Dismantlement.
Go back and read the reviews of the first two books that I linked above, and you'll have a really good sense of the main characters and plot at play here. By the time book 4 rolls around, quite a bit has happened, and I don't want to give any spoilers!! So I'm not going to summarize the plot any further, except to say that our hero and heroine are in their Vatican sanctuary awaiting a global vote that will determine whether or not religious faith will continue to be suppressed, and whether Sorting (the harvesting of organs from the "imperfect" members of society for the benefit of the others) will be abolished.

Like I mentioned, no spoilers! I could talk to you for hours about the intricacies of the plot and character development, but I won't, because these books are SO GOOD that I want you to read them and discover these happenings for yourself. Samantha is reading them and so I have had her to text with nonstop as she progresses through the books. :0 (this could be you too if you decide to read them! Send me a message, we can coordinate ;-)) I do have some thoughts to share that won't spoil anything, so I'll have at it!

Both books 3 and 4 take us to a more mature part of Margaret and Bane's lives and relationship, and thus the content changes accordingly. A very natural discussion of fertility and sexuality within marriage is woven into the plot, in a way that is both appropriate and thought-provoking. As well, Margaret experiences more grown up relationship intricacies with her brother, as well as others within their core group of friends. The situation that they are living under is incredibly stressful, and this takes a toll on the way they all see and interact with each other.

At times, both Bane and Margaret got on my nerves in book 4. ;-) Indeed, they are 19 years old, and their behavior and reactions are quite normal for young adults of that age! That's what makes these books so very compelling. There is action, there is heart-pounding suspense, but in the end they are GENUINE.

Some of the more mature content of books 3 and 4 lend an excellent opportunity for discussion with your very own young adult if your child reads these books. I mentioned the sexuality issue above, which is handled perfectly in the books, and there is also a plot element that involves the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is not termed as such in the book, but it is definitely there. That part of the story also warrants thoughtful discussion.

As I got further and further along in book 4, I could feel my emotions coming quite close to the surface. This entire series gets into one's head and heart, to be sure, but as the story was winding towards it's conclusion, I could feel myself bracing for the knowledge of what would become of our beloved characters. Because I, and I would imagine you as well once you read these books, became very invested in the characters and the world that they inhabit.

I can wrap it up by saying this: the entire series, but book 4 in particular, is a story of redemption. And it is NOT in the way that I expected when the series began. At all.

When book 4 reached its climax, I started sobbing. They were both sad and happy tears, and I was powerless to stop them. The book moved me THAT MUCH.

The depth of my evoked emotion, as well as the highly unusual fact that I plan to re-read these books in the future, should lend this series my highest endorsement. All 4 books are now available through Amazon, as well as Chesterton Press. Via Chesterton, the print copies are around $20 each, and the ebook versions are $5, all slightly less expensive than on Amazon.

If you've read any of the books in this series, or plan to read them, please do write in with your thoughts!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A world dance showcase, & God in the small things...

Happy new week to you all! I hope that you had as fantastic a weekend as I did. I still had dance stuff going on, but it wasn't *quite* so crazy as it's been. And our last official summer performance is this coming Saturday, with a much-needed break after that, so things are feeling pretty good right now!

This past Saturday night we performed at a world dance showcase. I was all relieved that it was inside rather outside in the summer heat, but come to find out that indoor venues can be just as grossness-inducing as the outdoor ones. No air conditioning + stage lighting = HELLO STIFLING SWEAT, I HADN'T MISSED YOU, BUT THERE YOU ARE!! Alas. It was fun though, and I saw a ton of interesting dancing. Irish, Salsa, West African, Burmese, Bollywood, American Tribal Style and tribal fusion belly dance, Lindy Hop...and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head! It was awesome. Given that there were so many other dancers there, we were NERVOUS performing as a troupe for the first time in a long time. And the stage was slippery. I didn't exactly want our set to end with me sliding off the stage and out into the audience, so I was being extra careful.


No sliding, thankfully, and it was a lovely evening, to be sure.

On Sunday we were back at our regular 11 am Mass after having to move around for the past few weeks due to dance events. Excitingly, I can feel the coming fall parish activity schedule beginning to come to life. Henry inquired about altar serving (!) and that training will take place in the fall, as well as a bunch of other parish events.OOhh la la!

Speaking of the busy changes that this upcoming fall/back-to-school season usually brings, my piece for August for Catholic Mom highlights this very issue:


If you listened to Tea Time last week, you may remember that I mentioned the eclectic mix of Catholic Mom and scented wax that I wove together this month. One wouldn't think those two things related to each other very much, but your Catholic Librarian found a way! As the busy fall season ramps up, if you have anecdotes for how you see God in the small joys throughout your day, I would LOVE for you to leave a comment over at Catholic Mom! I just feel pleased as punch when I get commenters over there. ;-)

Tomorrow I have a book review for you! A dystopian YA series that I have  been obsessed with for YEARS, and the final book just came out. I mean...:0 Tune back in then for the recommendation!

How was your weekend, dear reader?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #60 - Novenas, writing progress & aromatic wax...

Always an eclectic mix here at Life of a Catholic Librarian, no?

Today I discuss the new novena for August, my writing progress, a new endeavor with Catholic Mom, and my love of scented candles and wax.

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from PlayonLoop.com

Items mentioned in this episode:
What's going on with you, dear listener? Are you praying the novena? Do you have a novena suggestion for September? Going to participate in the Catholic Mom fall book club? Do you love fragranced wax as much as I do? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A new novena to add to our arsenal...

St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Happy Wednesday everybody! And happy start to a new novena!

St. Jane Frances is a patron for women, especially widows (the religious community she founded accepted women who were rejected by other orders due to their age), and mothers. She is also the patron of in-law problems (!), and those who have lost their parents.

If you'd like to join us in the novena, I am linking to the prayer here, as well as including the text below:

Novena to St. Jane Frances de Chantal

O Glorious Saint, Blessed Jane Frances, who by thy fervent prayer, attention to the divine Presence, and purity of intention in thy actions, didst attain on earth an intimate union withGod, be now our advocate , our mother, our guide in the path of virtue and perfection.  Plead our cause near Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to whom thou wast so tenderly devoted, and whose holy virtues thou didst so closely imitate.  Obtain for us, O amiable and compassionate saint the virtues thou seest most necessary for us; an ardent love of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, a tender and filial confidence in His blessed Mother, and like thee, a constant remembrance of His sacred passion and death.  Obtain also, we pray thee, that our particular intention in this novena may be fulfilled.
V.     St. Jane Frances, pray for us.
R.     That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty and merciful God, who didst grant blessed Saint Jane Frances, so inflamed with the love of Thee, a wonderful degree of fortitude through all the paths of life, and wast pleased through her to adorn Thy Church with a new Religious order; grant, by her merits and prayers, that we, who sensible of our weakness confide in Thy strength, may overcome all adversities with the help of Thy heavenly grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

O great Saint Jane Frances! who, to follow the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, when thou wert called to the religious state, didst despise all the ties of nature and of blood; obtain for us also the grace to correspond faithfully with all divine impulses, and to sacrifice to God whatever is most dear and precious to us.  Amen.

* Source:  Blessed Sacrament Book by Francis Xavier Lasance

Are you praying the novena along with us this month? Write in and let me know!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Wait. What dance are we doing?!" A tale of many confused brain cells. Festival dancing 2016 edition...

ALL! I'm back with you and still on a dance high. LOTS of dancing talk for today, for those who enjoy such frivolity. Are you settled in with your beverage?

Ahhhhhh, OK good. Going into the weekend, I have to admit that I while I knew I'd have a great time, I wasn't 100% excited about it this year. This is our 4th year with this particular festival, and based upon experience I know that it's a long haul. My troupe had multiple different pieces, some combined together, in all 4 sets, and in different combinations on each day. Costuming was different on both days as well. As you can imagine, this all took a toll on She Who Cannot Remember Her Coffee Mug Two Days Running. I carefully packed up all necessary costume pieces (tops, belts, skirts, pants), other important dance equipment (shoes, Sword, veil), as well as randomly important other things (makeup, hair brush, hair clips, jewelry, towels. Don't ask. :0). I printed out the set list and highlighted the pieces I was in. We rehearsed our (what feels like) zillion numbers for a last time on Friday, and we were ready. We hoped.

Saturday dawned with temperatures in the low 80's rather than 90's, and so were feeling quite grateful. Meaning that not only the outdoor performance space, but also our makeshift dressing room, was somewhat less stifling. All wins, right there. ;-)

I was incredibly proud to be a part of our component of the festival entertainment. Our little collaborative represents a slew of world dance forms around WNY. Within our sets, we had:
  • Modern and folkloric Egyptian dance (that's us! *beams*).
  • Ballroom dance, performing Cha Cha, Blues, Argentine Tango, African fusion, and Swing/Charleston.
  • Indian dance.
  • Colombian dance, performing Merengue and Salsa.
All with authentic costuming. I mean, awesome, right?! I love being a part of it. And not to toot our own horn (which means I'm about to ;-)) but the dancing is a crowd favorite amongst the entertainment options. As soon as the beautiful music starts and the colorful costumes start to swirl, people flock over. The festival organizers grudgingly told us this when they relented and got the more stable stage that Claire requested. :0

Saturday our first set included the new instrumental choreography, plus the sword piece combined with our drum. Everything started out great, and then I was feeling the sweat leading up to dancing with Sword again. As he waited for his turn, safely tucked into his sheath, I sent him positive, soothing messages via mental telepathy. We were all decked out in our new dance pants, which are so stretchy I had the waistband drawn up in the vicinity of my armpits to assure that they stayed in place.


I have to admit, when our sword music started, my palms were more than a bit damp. Not exactly a winning combination while wielding a weapon. I will say though, that while he made me incredibly nervous, Sword was a good boy, and he stayed in place when I balanced him on my head. He and I even had a star moment coming through the troupe line:

Sword likes to be the star of the show

When we all balanced at the end, nobody lost their sword, and so we called that a successful debut performance. Whew!

The second set had four troupe numbers in it (!) plus my solo. Everything went great, including the dreaded solo. Although I still get incredibly nervous beforehand, I have trained myself to smile much more when I dance, and it makes me so happy to see smiling photos. This means that I have at least somewhat conveyed the joy and fun that dancing at this stage of my life has brought to me.

It truly means SO MUCH.
After the solo, as you can imagine, I was a bit of a sweaty mess, and barely managed to yank on my Saidi gown for our final pieces at the end of the set. I also a bit tired by that point. Going out on stage for the Baladi, half of us lined up for a totally different dance. Or maybe it was just me. :0 At any rate, we were pretty much at the point of congregating on the stage in a vague manner, hearing the music start up, and then snapping into the correct choreography.

But we made it work. Nothing feels too difficult to take on when I'm with my girls.

Another star moment (we each get one in the Baladi), thankfully Sword-less. He was super jealous ;-)
Sunday dawned with...rain. Lots of it. The stage is covered, but there was still some blowing water and PLENTY of mud. We started late as a result of the cleanup, but dance we did! And miraculously, even in the rain, people came from seemingly nowhere to watch us from under umbrellas and the surrounding tree cover. About halfway through the set the rain tapered, but we ran very long as a result. Everything took longer with the mud to deal with on our shoes.

At the start of the second set, the rain had completely stopped, but unsurprisingly, humidity was now a factor. Over in the dressing room, my hair was beginning to take up the entire zip code. You know how ballet dancers that vats of that powdery resin stuff backstage to put on their shoes so that they won't slip? Belly dancers (who frequently perform outside) need a vat of pomade next to the stage:

"*thwack!* Let me just smooth this down a bit..."

During our drum piece, I used the choreographed arm movements to discreetly tamp down on the halo of frizz that I could feel growing by the nanosecond.

"Let me just *press* on this a little...Oh good, I THINK IT'S HELPING!!"

By the time the sword piece rolled around, I gave up and figured the frizz could only aid in the balancing grip process. Sword was probably being smothered to death up there, but what do I care? He stayed put, that's all that matters. Can I also say that I love dancing in pants? SO COMFORTABLE. And so much better than dealing with my heavy pink belt rotating 360 degrees around my body during the drum solo.

We had to quite drastically cut the second set due to the rain delay. By then I was actually feeling fairly high energy from all the adrenaline :0 but it's all good. I was relieved not only that it was done, but that I did my best and it went well. My hair was a giant puffball, but my dignity was intact.

*sniffs daintily* ;-)

I'm feeling energized and inspired by all things dance right now. And good thing, given that we still have two August performances coming up. Those girls in my troupe...they really have a firm place in my heart. My life would really be lacking something without them.

*warm and fuzzies!*

How was YOUR weekend, dear reader? Hot and sticky? Please commiserate. :-)