Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The power of friendship in the face of anxiety...

Hello ALL! So nice to be with you again. It's been quite a month, hasn't it? :-) I have some more updates on that front, plus general musings on stress and anxiety in general. Have your coffee or tea? Let's chat!

I do miss our official Tea Time together on the podcast. But rest assured that it was the right decision to go on hiatus. :0 No time, right now, my friends, no time. Work has been crazy. Lots of teaching, lots of emails, lots of grading, and lots of the dreaded Course Management System changes in all 90 sections of the library lab we are teaching.

😱

You know, it's going. But it's all fairly monotonous, uninteresting, uninspiring, yet time consuming. In the midst of all of that, both kids are going through growth spurts, and Anne in particular seems to still be very much adjusting to her new school year. I've been worried about her. Henry is wanting to tour high schools, which is FREAKING ME THE HECK OUT. I finally know how to drive my new car (the whole stick shift saga), but I had some setbacks last week in the form of loss of confidence and general panic at making mistakes while out in traffic. It all took a definite toll.

Last Thursday, I had...just a terrible time of things. I couldn't control my anxiety. I was in tears, and I couldn't make myself feel better. I needed help.

And I got it. From Mike. From my close cadre of friends. Everyone rushed in to support me emotionally, and to encourage me. I took a much needed sick day from work. I slept a lot, a sure sign that my body was at far less than 100%. I prayed, and did some self-evaluating.

It helped. It really did. I realized that I had been feeling like my life was spiraling out of control, and the new car was just the tip of the ice berg: the kids are growing, my life is changing, and I felt like I couldn't get a good handle on ANYTHING. I have always had a difficult time with change, and things are changing now in ways that I just never really thought about when I was younger. I think that generally speaking, people envision their lives up to certain milestones. After that...you just think you'll never get there, you'll never be dealing with those things. It's a privilege to be sharing this part of my life with Mike, experiencing this all with him. I just never foresaw us getting older than 40, as ridiculous as that sounds. :0

This all made me realize that I was avoiding dealing with certain things in my life: that my kids are going to grow up, that Mike and I are going to get older, that my job is my job and is likely not going to change much before until I retire, that sometimes I will still make mistakes and do things poorly. It's not easy to accept change, but I must do it. Not only that, there is joy in it, if only I allow myself to experience it.

Ever since this all unfolded last Thursday, I have felt calmer and more myself. Driving has been going great. The problem was never the car. It was ME. I allowed anxiety and fear to take root and begin to take over my life. In a way, I'm grateful to the car for helping me to realize how much I was avoiding dealing with my much more generalized problem with anxiety.

So, I'm thinking this is a God thing. :) God speaks to us in many different ways, and in this instance, he spoke to me via my Honda Fit.

πŸ˜€

Last Thursday was a turning point. Since then, I'm seeing things in a fresh new light. And in that vein, I'm going to be praying the St. Jude novena, which starts October 19th. Would you like to join in? I'm going to be praying for interior peace, and St. Jude can really come through for us for pretty much any intention. He is, after all, patron saint of impossible causes!

How has your week been, dear readers? Will you be praying along with the St. Jude novena? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Embracing the butterflies - When you deliberately make your life scary, & how to learn from it :0

All! I've been so anxious to be back with you again after last week's somewhat epic and lengthy post about me buying a car with a manual transmission without actually knowing how to drive it.

Yeeeaaaaaaahhhhh. That was really stressful.

But I've gotten some things out of this process, and not just the ability to now drive the car. Let's settle in and chat!

Friends...last week was LONG. There were swear words (real bad ones, too :0). There were tears. There were so many setbacks. There was an overwhelming feeling that I would never get it right and learn how to drive this car. I barely slept. I lost 2 lbs. This was FOR SERIOUS.

On Saturday, I gave long suffering Mike a much needed break, and went out with my mother-in-law to a big, empty parking lot for about 2 hours, just practicing getting the car going from a dead stop. That was the foundational skill I was struggling with the most, and indeed, the one most people struggle with when they're learning to drive a stick shift. She observed that I was releasing the clutch pedal too quickly, thereby causing the car to buck around violently even if it did manage to get it going, or stall if I didn't simultaneously give the car enough gas. Once we honed in on that, and fine tuned a few other things (I wasn't waiting for the clutch and gas to "catch" together before releasing the clutch slowly and easing on more gas) I noticed that I was getting the car going smoothly. Once I was getting the car going smoothly with some consistency, I began to realize that my feet were doing A Thing and that what they were doing could be duplicated again and again and again. Each time I did The Thing, I did not stall, or buck, or generally cause the car considerable angst.

Suddenly, I felt that magical moment deep down in my feet when the clutch and gas pedal met in perfect symphony, and the car would begin to move forward. If I then eased my left foot off the clutch, rather than rushing it, like I *had* been doing, I was GOLDEN. It truly was a matter of feel, and once I felt it, I committed it to my muscle memory. I practiced it another 300 times just to be safe ;-) but I knew a breakthrough had been made: I had learned how to get a manual transmission car going from a dead stop into 1st gear, and I had learned how to do it consistently. THAT is the key. Not really understanding what works and what doesn't on a consistent basis, not having The Thing going on with your feet, causes you to lurch and stall. Lurching and stalling causes you to become frustrated and anxious. Becoming frustrated and anxious causes you to lurch and stall even MORE. It's like learning to drive while on a continual, evil loop down in Satan's School of Driving and Minion Training. You know. In HELL.

After what felt like the 90th loop around the parking lot, I drove confidently to the exit and put on my right blinker. I was ready to drive out in traffic, and I knew it.

We drove around for about 30 minutes, coming to tons of stop signs. Each time I got the car going with ease, and upshifted from 1st through 5th gears with no problems. I had it, and an enormous weight had been lifted from my chest.

Granted, my downshifting into turns still needs some work, and I still have never driven on the highway. Being on an incline and rolling back before moving forward again makes my heart stop beating. I'm certain that I'll still go through some small setbacks along the way until I have a lot more experience under my belt. BUT. I've come a long way, baby. I can drive myself places now, and I've been doing so ever since. It's going to take a lot of experience before I can get in the car without butterflies, but I can officially say that I have learned how to drive a stick shift.

So, on our progress chart, we have this:

Week 1 - F bombs. Sobs. Throwing of self onto steering wheel in despair. Stalls, stalls, stalls.
Week 2 - Butterflies. Pep Talks:

"You can do this, girl. You can totally do this!"

"Go little Fit, Go! That was a good one!"

Hopefully, people think I'm simply using the Bluetooth to talk on my phone. :0

Surges of hope. Feelings of accomplishment. The joy of knowing that I truly am not too old to learn new and challenging skills.

I know it's just a car. But it feels like a really big deal to me. I took something that I'd always wanted to learn, something that did not come very easily to me at all, and I worked at it until I could do it. This is something that could apply to so many things in life, yes?

Sunday I went to Piercing Pagoda with my friend Brandy to get her ears pierced. Brandy had never had her ears pierced because of a very deep seated fear from her childhood. She had always wanted to do this, but thought she wouldn't be able to because the anxiety felt so debilitating, like something she could not overcome. I relate very much to debilitating anxiety, and so this weekend we took on some scary new things together. Brandy got her ears pierced. Afterward, I got very emotional and cried, telling her how much I loved her and how much it has meant to me to have met her and become her friend. How much she inspires me to try new things, things that I am afraid of, things that make me learn and grow as a person. Yep, right there in the middle of the mall. :0

I felt God's hand in all of this. Maybe I needed to get Fit so that I could challenge myself in this new way, and become a stronger person, a lifelong learner. Perhaps it'll inspire courage in me at some future point in which someone really needs me to be brave. Perhaps it was so that I could be there for Brandy, so that we could face fears together and grow from that. Perhaps it's so that I will continue to grow in empathy and charity towards others. I suspect that it is ALL of these things.

It was a good weekend, a really good one, filled with faith, family and friends. We went out to dinner with my in-laws on Saturday following the 5 pm vigil Mass at our parish, in which Henry served on the altar (I drove us!). It occurred to me that this truly is the good life.

That's my week in review. Work is pretty intense right now, but it's going well. Our teaching for the semester will be done in early November, and I'm really looking forward to that. I'm headed to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival next weekend, and I'm REALLY looking forward to *that*!

I miss chatting with you all in Tea Time. We'll be back to that soon enough!

How are you all doing? Do you have any stories to relay about learning things that actually apply in multiple ways? Let's hear them!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"WHY have I never learned to think things through more?!" *tears!* Adventures in ill advised life decisions :0

It's been quite a week since the last time we talked. Remember how I mentioned the stressful car repair situation? Well, that took a somewhat surprising turn. The past 6 days or so have been a blur of emotions and prayer, let me tell you. You got time to chat? I need it. Let's get our beverages!

So, last Thursday, right after I last posted, I got a call from my mechanic about the part my aging Honda Civic needed. I had been feeling anxious about hearing from him, because the car was really in bad shape, and I didn't feel totally safe driving it. I get a message from him, and call him back between classes. When he hears that it's me, he says:

"Oh yes. Well. This isn't going to be cheap."

This from the man whom I regularly pay $600 at a time for various and sundry car-related reasons.

I braced myself for the total, now that he had the part actually lined up: $1700.

😱

My car is nearly 18 years old. Now that the number was concrete, Mike and I agreed that it just wasn't worth it to get it fixed. We fretted about coming up with the money for the down payment, but we have savings for this very reason. We'd look for a lease we could afford and hope for the best.

I suppose that's where the worrying process began, but ironically, money turned out not to be the main concern at all. :0

I had my heart set on a Honda Fit. When I bought my Civic back in 2000, they didn't yet have the Fit in their fleet. The Fit is the perfect size for me, and I ADORE hatchbacks. I had one in my very first car, a Nissan Sentra from the 80's, and the thought of having one again really appealed to me. I can put the seats down, get my dance paraphernalia in there, giant Scentsy boxes, the Christmas tree... ;-) They also get great fuel mileage, and are incredibly adorable. Plus, they're less expensive than Civic. Win/win, right?

Well. It's the end of the model year. The great leasing deals are on the 2017 vehicles, not the new 2018 ones. There aren't many 2017 Fits left to be had anywhere, and throughout Central and Western New York, all the way down to Erie, the only vehicles remaining all had manual transmissions.

"Do you know how to drive a manual, Tiffany?" you reasonably ask. Not exactly. But yet, what is sitting in my driveway at home right now?



YEAH. What can I say? I had a bold moment. I suppose some people would just say that I've lost my mind.

In fact, at this moment, *I* think that I have lost my mind. But Mike drives a manual and loves it, and is SO EXCITED to teach me. I suppose true love made me do it?

"Hon. This bold side of you is really...NICE."

*meaningful look*

Is this a guy thing? 😳

Pretty sure it is, but right now, I have LOTS of other things occupying my little brain.

I have been driving for 25 years. Until Saturday, I had never driven a car with a manual transmission. But guess what? I now have no choice. This not-quite-middle-aged mom, librarian and belly dancer has to learn how to drive a stick shift. And let's just say that it's going a tad rough:

"OK, what the *%;#! with this clutch/acceleration thing to get started?! How did cars even evolve like this? WHO ever thought this was a feasible long term model?!"

"All right. I got it that time. I'm doing better, right? Now...Wait, what just happened? CRAP!!"

"I'm not going to stall this time. I'm determined not to. We'll just give it a little more gas..."

*SCREECH SQUEAL JERK!*

*delicate clearing of throat*

"See? That was...'better.'"

"Look! It's moving! Oh God. There's another car! I don't want him to come near me!!"

My poor, poor husband. But he, and everyone else who drives a stick shift, tell me that I'm:

"...already 80% of the way there since you already know how to drive!"

Um, NO. I don't feel like I'm 80% of the way there. In fact, I feel like I'm 16 years old and that I'm learning how to drive all over again.  I am here to tell you, good and gentle readers, that this is NOT a very pleasant feeling.

Sunday night, after an outing with more stalls and jerks back to a start than I could possibly count, I was in tears. Mike keept reassuring me that I'm coming along fine, that it takes WEEKS to get comfortable with a stick shift, and that this is all a very normal part of the learning process. But I tell you, dear readers...this is HARD. I mean, I'm certain not everyone finds it all that difficult to learn how to drive a stick shift, but this is hard *emotionally*. It is a humbling, humbling experience to take something for granted, something that you've been able to do for decades, and suddenly be thrust back into Beginner Land, complete with honking horns, angry faces, and overall truculent nostril flares by others who do not realize what you are going through.

I haven't been able to sleep, and in the evenings, I cannot knit or otherwise relax the way that I used to. My mind is constantly racing with my fears that I will never master this skill, that I will continue to embarrass myself in public, that I made a huge mistake which I will regret every single day for the next 3 years, and that I'll never regain the independence I once enjoyed when I felt comfortable driving.

Monday morning I woke up emotionally fragile. I felt like a loser, a Manual Transmission School Drop Out.  I drove my in-laws' automatic to work, fearful that I wasn't ready yet for longer journeys. I felt shaky and apprehensive about everything I was going to face that day. I had moved office spaces on Friday, and so Monday morning before my 9 am class I opened the door to my new office for the very first time, feeling a surge of hope that the clean, refreshed space would lift my spirits.

There was a man standing in my window.

People, I could not make this stuff up. :0

*SPLAT!*

While I watched incredulously, he schlacked some goo from the metal tool he was holding onto the bricks on the outside of the library. This was actually happening. I had a brick mason over my shoulder, in my window, for the entire day. While I lesson planned. Ate lunch. Graded student work. My buddy was there. A guardian angel of sorts? Likely not, the entire thing felt incredibly awkward. An omen of things to come?

😨

Even worse, I knew that I had to get back on the horse. The paperwork is signed, the deal is done. I'm stuck with the car. I love her, she's adorable and precious, she just scares the s*%! out of me right now.

I left for the day braced for my evening practice session.

I did not want to get back in that car. But I knew that I had to. The fear was only going to fester the longer I let it go.

After dinner, Mike and I headed out. I was still stalling the car, but somewhat less often. Unfortunately, this meant that I was overcompensating on the gas pedal and jerking the car forward with a squeal quite a bit. But not stalling boosted my confidence, and I needed that VERY badly. We made it out onto slightly busier roads than the side streets we had stuck to before, and I managed all right. I kept it together and didn't stall. Mike said that I was ready to drive myself to my fitness class later that evening.

I want my Mommy.

I didn't want to, but I knew that I had to. Fit and I headed out to the dance studio.

I stalled backing out onto the street. But I got her restarted like a champ, and bumped my way along. The rest of the way there, I did some jerking and squealing, but I did not stall. I made it to the studio alive, and I call that a huge win given the circumstances. The way home was even better. I was freaking out because the house I parked in front of had people outside, and I knew that if I stalled or squealed my tires they would see me. But I didn't. I got it going well and even eased into a left turn in 2nd gear with no problems. No stalls at all on that trip. Things were still fragile, but they were improving.

Yesterday, I had my best trip yet (relatively speaking :0). We went out on busier roads, and I didn't stall AT ALL. Well, unless you count that crazy situation with the Bobcat digger thing pulling unexpectedly out into traffic, which I do NOT. 😎And my jerking starts are getting decidedly less bad. Suddenly, I can feel a difference on the pedals. I've realized a few things about how to let up on the clutch and depress the gas pedal, and it's showing. It's still not anywhere near 100% smooth starts, but I've clearly improved. For the first time, I feel hope that I actually will learn how to drive this car.

I'm still not driving it to work yet. Yes, I know that I need to just do this and that's how my learning process will reach it's zenith, but I'm being kind to myself. I'm getting there, I really am. I want to nurture my confidence for a few more days. We're going to do a practice run tonight.

I know that I may experience a setback at some point. After steadily improving, you may stall again at a very inopportune time. It happens. But my motivation and determination are high. I want to learn this. I can do this.

Jesus, please take the wheel. :0

This has all reminded me of something very important. When I was in library school, I had an instructor for my Reference and User Services course who was very serious about professional librarianship. She did not like shortcuts and lazy librarians. I remember very clearly her saying to us once:

"Always bear in mind that not all answers can be found THE EASY WAY."

*stern look*

Sometimes, challenges are good for us. Granted, learning to drive a stick shift is hardly some important act of public service, or a larger spiritual goal. But allowing ourselves to be lifelong learners, and not always making the comfortable choice, makes us better people beneath the surface. This can then lead us to step forward in situations that DO have a larger spiritual or charitable component.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday morning, in which Fr. Roderick mentioned that:

"Fear stifles exploration. And exploration is a GOOD."

It is, it really is! I certainly have moments when I wish I had just gotten a different car, so that I could have just gotten an automatic transmission, and I wouldn't be going through this stress right now. But this has been good for me. It has made me realize that I'm not too old to try new things, to have confidence that I can master an unfamiliar skill. I still have a long way to go, but I have faith that it's going to work out just fine.

All right. Let me hear from you. Who thinks I have lost my mind?! :0 More importantly, who here drives a stick shift?! I need some words of commiseration!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When good weeks turn bad...

I'd been having a really good week. And then...well, you know how it is. :0

Monday: I am all aglow from outstanding weekend of dance workshops and performances. My friends came to see me dance, and I feel super confident, happy and floaty. I come to class Monday, and the students who couldn't read the words "My Groups" last week are suddenly rock stars, formulating dreamy research questions and finding solid peer reviewed articles on their topics. I end the day dreaming of choreographing a solo with a vintage Golden Era theme for the winter hafla, and feeling like Super Librarian.

*attaches cape*

Tuesday: I wake up stuffy.

*ominous music cues up in the background*

Classes still go good, and additional classes who struggled last week really shined this week. But I feel worse and worse physically as the day wears on. As well, I had dropped my car off at the mechanic. It was making "a noise" and I was thinking that something was going on with the front brakes. I wasn't exactly looking forward to the bill, but it needed to be done. Well.

πŸ˜’

It's something else. Something about an arm in the wheel well? Actually, that sounds even WORSE than I intend it to, but needless to say that it's a much more involved fix than the brakes, in both time and expense. The mechanic doesn't even know for sure that he can find the part, because my car is so old.

Don't laugh at her. She's a good old car. :0

So I need to hope that (a) the mechanic finds the part so that he can charge me $1500 to fix this involved and complicated thing, or (b) that he can't find the part and I have to get a new car. Which sounds good, but we really can't afford that right now. So (a) is somehow the better option?

😭

I get home and feel uber cranky. My cold and voice worsen as the night wears on and I go to bed at 8 pm. And did I mention that it's been like 90 freaking degrees here for nearly the past week, and we can't sleep because it's so sticky and uncomfortable? Good Grief.

#IT'SSEPTEMBER! #whattheheck?!

Mike then coughs the entire night and I glare over at his side of the bed, although it is clearly not his fault.


Wednesday: I wake up exhausted after tossing and turning the entire night. I am even stuffier and beginning to cough. There is still no word from the mechanic on the part he's trying to find.

#Grand

I can barely talk during my classes. Oh, and now I'm developing a fever rash.

THIS, my friends, is a good week gone bad. :0 It could be worse, it is true. I'm actually feeling positive overall, just wishing that the suck factor would ease a hair. I'm praying the St. Therese novena, so things can't be all bad, right? ;-)

How is your week going, gentle reader? I hope that it's going better than mine!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tea Time #113 - Good changes afoot!

It's an important transitory edition of:

It's no mystery, I just discuss it in a lot more depth in the podcast itself: Tea Time is moving to a seasonal format. I will need to take short hiatuses throughout the year, and this made sense to me to break it up into seasons such that the podcast will STAY a weekly podcast when it is running. The alternative was to have it go to bimonthly or monthly, which just didn't seem to fit with the theme of the show very well. The show will return for a late Ordinary Time/Advent season in early November. Until then, I chat about all of the changes, and my fun plans for the blog AND podcast in this new seasonal structure. Join me, and chime in with your ideas!





**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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

New Facebook group 

I would REALLY love for you all to join us over at the Facebook group! There are 15 of us in there now, and I am finding it such a solace. So, do tell: what do you think of the seasonal format? What do you think about the Advent book club being a part of the podcast? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Because we all need more saints in our lives :0

I don't know about you, but I need a LOT of them. Like an entire army helping out my guardian angel in the background. I forgot to link over to my Catholic Mom piece for September which talks about our own personal list of saints. Baptismal saints, confirmation saints, saints who lift you up, saints who have your back. ;-) If you have your own list of saints, I'd love to see it!

Because seriously. This is my life right now:

"Please log in and check your group assignment. It is listed on the left navigation menu, in the blue section, as 'My Groups.' Select that link, and then you'll see the name."

*distracted silence*

"Wait, what? Where do we go?"

"Log in. Open up your English course. Look at the left navigation menu for 'My Groups.'"

*more distracted silence*

"Where? I don't see it."

*re-pointing occurs*

"Oh. It says My Groups."

"Precisely."

"OK, but how do I find my actual group?"

*prayer for eternal patience*

"You must *click* on it."

"ooohhhhhh!"

My week. My entire week. 8 times already, with 168 students. 3 more incarnatiions to go.

😠

Because the thing is, it's not that these students lack intelligence. They're just perpetually not paying attention, and/or using creative curiosity. Sometimes to figure things out and find things, you need to look around and try things. There is an unwillingness to exert any effort in that direction that myself and my colleagues find most frustrating.

Frustrating. Have I mentioned how frustrating this week has been?

I recorded a Tea Time, horray! Lots of news coming. It should be out on Friday!

Friday, September 15, 2017

No Tea Time this week, BUT...

...I have some ideas for it, and happily (especially amidst the craziness and stress I've been experiencing) I'm feeling inspired about this creative endeavor. I will chat about all of this in the next episode, which will indeed be next week!

To be sure, I've felt overwhelmed lately with life and work (and this is a "life blog," right? I always keep it real). But I think I know how to strike a better balance with this set of current challenging circumstances AND my creative endeavors, like this blog and the Tea Time podcast. I've been prioritizing my rosary time more, and trying to seek out God's voice amidst the noise. Sometimes, it's stressful stages that make us most attuned to this, no?

It's having a good effect. And I even feel cautiously optimistic about my job, which is saying a lot right now! :0

So we'll chat next week. Oh, and I am LOVING our new Facebook group! I'm going to post a weekly gratitude thread on Mondays every single week, and we can check in with each other and search in for what we are grateful for in a given week. I find this activity so soothing and energizing. I've also been inspired by a few books this week and posted about those. Any member is welcome to do the same with book recommendations, and to post requesting prayer. In fact, we should have a weekly prayer thread too, yes? I will start that next week!

I'm thinking that for Advent, we can schedule a live chat for our book club selection, and in Lent too. Did I mention that I am loving this?! It's very low key in there, nothing but happy thoughts. :) And I'm not putting pressure on myself to post x number of things in a week or anything. During crazy weeks, we may just have the gratitude and prayer threads. But hey, that's what that group is for!! It's a relaxing, spiritually nourishing environment. If you haven't already joined, please do head over, we'd love to have you!

All right, back to grading for me. What are you up to this weekend? Are you in the new Facebook group? What do you think? :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

So I did a thing :0

Let's just say it's been a long week. A super, duper long week. Insert visual image here of me teaching my students how to upload their newly minted collages into their ePortolio headers. Then picture 40 of them individually calling me over to explain it to them one-on-one because they neglected to pay attention while I was doing so.

!!!

Trying. Very trying. But I got some excellent feedback from my post last week about finding a place we could all hang out, chat, and support each other besides just the blog comment area. A little bit more real-time, if you will. ;-)

So I created a Facebook group! I'm not thinking this is going to be a hotbed of activity, to be sure. But if you'd like to join, have at it! We'll have weekly Gratitude posts to uplift our spirits, and you can feel free to post prayer requests in there too. It will be a lovely, supportive place for us to seek each other out when we need a friendship boost!


You can search in Facebook for CatholicLibrarianHangout, or use this link, and request to join. I have it set so that you can add people to the group, too.

We'll try this out and see how we like it! I'd love to have you in there! *heart*

***edited to add: I just had a thought!

Eureka!

When we have book clubs, we can do FB Live chats to discuss the book!

*virtual high five!*

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tea Time #112 - Spiritual journeys amidst the hectic everyday...

It's a cathartic edition this week of:

Today I talk more about my spiritual crisis relating to my job, how I am managing it, and why the podcast may not be weekly anymore. :-\ But hope springs eternal, and I have ideas for other ways we can connect during the week and offer each other prayer support. 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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

My heart-to-heart post from earlier this week

On My Bookshelf - Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice and Heroic Virtue, by Maria Johnson


Prayer Corner - The rosary. I am currently obsessed with my St. Teresa of Calcutta rosary. :) Allison's rosary shop, if you'd like to message her to request a custom St. Teresa rosary!

Creative Commons - I finished the Rhinebeck sweater! 

Not the greatest photos, but I'll have Mike get a good one of me wearing it after it's blocked! For the time being, the front:

the back:


 and cable detailing on the back:




OK, let me hear from you! What are your thoughts with dealing with spiritual crises, and not overdoing things? Do you have ideas for an online chat place we can all hang out and ask for prayers?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In which I finally admit to myself that I cannot do everything...

Hello all, and welcome to a brand new week! I wish I could report in for duty that I am having this glorious week in which I feel validated as a teaching librarian, that my job is so rewarding, and that I have been pert and chipper all week long. Well... :0

I'm going to just say it: I had a terrible weekend. Why, you reasonably ask? Because I allowed work to creep into my home life.

I knew that with this being the fall semester, the very first college semester for all of our students, plus the Labor Day holiday in which we wouldn't see some of them for week 2 of our content, this meant that we would receive a lot of emails with questions. I decided to check my email on Saturday afternoon to just clear the recent messages, to save myself some time when we all came back from the long weekend on Tuesday morning.

Dozens. Dozens of emails to field. Also, emails from my boss with instructions on how to fix various unforeseen technical calamities with our course management system. On Labor Day, I spent 2 hours  on my laptop manually changing due dates in assignments for all 11 of my sections, and answering yet more student emails.

It was...discouraging, to say the least. That type of work isn't meaningful in any way, and with the volume of classes and students that we have, the last minute, frantic nature of these types of problems just makes us all feel harried and frustrated.

Yesterday morning, I was downright dreading going into work. I haven't felt that way since last fall (which was an epic nightmare with our course being brand new in a revamped curriculum), and before THAT I hadn't felt that way since I was a practicing attorney writing a brief at the office at 1 am. It's not a good feeling. I'm a LIBRARIAN, my job shouldn't be this stressful. That's why I made the major career change that I did 12ish years ago.

I got in the car Tuesday morning and had a heart-to-heart with myself. Yes, I talk to myself sometimes, I see it as part of my charm. :0 And I realized something very crucial: I'm trying to do too much. I am simply trying to do TOO MUCH. Indeed, I work full time outside of the home. I'm a wife and mother. And I have all sorts of interests and hobbies that I enjoy. Some of those items need attending to on a daily basis, and others do not. I cannot do everything. I simply, for the good of my own health and well-being, need to prioritize better.

Obviously, my family comes first. Yes, I do need to go to my job, and to do my best effort with it. But I do not need to let it take over the rest of my life. If email and course management disasters build up over a weekend, so be it. I can deal with all of them, as expediently as I can, during the week. We are not paid to work on the weekend. So why am I taking on that burden?

I have felt for some time that God has been trying to tell me that I'm trying to do too much. I put pressure on myself to meet these daily expectations that I set for myself, but see the keyword in that sentence? *I* am doing this to myself. Nobody else is. I can feel less harried if only I allow myself to. So I'm going to try.

Before I left the driveway, I set up my phone in its holder and set my Divine Office app to play the audio for Morning Prayer. And do you know what happened? It wouldn't play.

😱

It really seemed to fit the theme of my life at that moment. :0 Because you know what? IT'S OK. I picked up my St. Teresa of Calcutta rosary and prayed that on my way in. And I felt WORLDS better by time I arrived.

There has been more chaos and gnashing of teeth throughout the land here at my university. But it's OK. Classes have been good! I've done well teaching, and I've been patient and charitable with the students. That's all that matters. Sometimes, my volume of email during the day, and my family time in the evenings, may mean that I can't get Tea Time out that week, or that I won't write a post when I usually do. But you and I have known each other long enough now that I have confidence you realize that I am always coming back to you - if a week goes by, send me a Tweet just to check on me. ;-) But I will *always* be back. This is my happy place, and I'm so grateful to share it with all of you.

How do you fare during busy seasons like this? How is your own September prayer challenge going? I would love to hear from you. *heart*

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #111 - "what day is it?!" Beginning of semester exhaustion...

TGIF everyone, and BOY do I really mean it this week :0 for a new installment of:

Today we talk about the back to teaching grind, how the 30 day prayer challenge is going, lots of creativity flowing, and bunches more. Join me! (I even look exhausted in this screenshot, don't I? :0)





**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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

Weekend dance post

On My Bookshelf - Murder Wears Mittens (Seaside Knitters Society), by Sally Goldenbaum.

Prayer Corner - I've been working on praying at least 1 office of the Liturgy of the Hours each day with my Divine Office app.

Creative Commons - I'm on the 2nd sleeve of my Rhinebeck sweater! But also, a Beachcomber Shawl in a fall-inspired colorway.  This is the yarn base I'm using, though the colorways I chose are no longer available. It's *divine*, and the dyer is incredibly talented!

How is your prayer life these days? What is your back-to-school season like? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"I guess go ahead and start." *aura of unhappiness* Adventures in restaurant dancing, installment #6...

Well, today is the first day of class for the fall semester, but guess what? I don't want to talk about that. :0 Let's talk about something infinitely more enjoyable to me, and we can circle back to teaching another time. Because to talk about teaching right now would drain what little energy I have left to give. So there's that.

But Friday night, I had another dancing adventure, and those are always fun. Let's chronicle!

So, this shindig was about 90 minutes from where we live, and so Claire and I had a mini road trip to contend with on either end. 90 minutes isn't a big deal, but we definitely had to plan for it. We set off around 3:15 pm for our 5:30 set time and gossiped the entire way there.

We arrive, and find our destination in a mall. Not exactly what we were expecting, but no matter. We unload our gear (costumes, so many costumes, plus Sword, a candle tray, a cane, and a gigantic set of veil fans), and head in. I notice right away, and happily so, that the restaurant consists of 2 full rooms. It's much easier when you have multiple spaces to travel between, keeps things interesting. You're not marooned in one room with the same people for the entire 20 minute set. I did notice though, that there were no people seated in the second room. Nor was there an abundance of people in the other room. I am struck by a sense of foreboding.

*long suffering sigh*

We find the owner, and he has a real face on him. By which I mean he seemed to be somewhat annoyed by our appearance and existence. We hadn't talked to him prior to this, since we had been booked by his marketing person. He was just very hard to read. By the end of the night, we came to realize that this was just His Face. It just always looks like that, even when he's happy. :0 But we were unsure for a time.

We take a quick look around the place, and he pops us into this dank back hallway where supplies are kept, and which has been designated our dressing room for the night. Immediately, our shoes begin to adhere to the sticky floor.

😱

We creep to the end of the hallway, and carefully set up our stuff, trying not to get grease on anything in the process. I set Sword on a ledge and happen upon a squashed spider.

*shudder of revulsion*

We change into our first set of costumes, and head out to ask him when he wants us to start. There aren't many people there yet, just 4 tables full, and we'd be happy to wait until 6 pm to start, to allow for more people to fill in, we tell him. Once again, we are accosted by The Face:

"Go ahead and start."

OK then.

I'm up first (yayyyyyyyyyyyy!) and Claire sets up my music. I swirl out with my veil. I assess my 4 tables:

Table 1 - large, full of older people. They do not seem to have even noticed that there is a belly dancer waving a giant silk veil around in the middle of the restaurant.

Table 2 - a family with 2 young children. They are friendly, but the toddler appears to be terrified of me.

Table 3 - 3 other belly dancers that I recognize from Facebook. They enthusiastically came to see us dance, and establish themselves early on as the safe spot to refresh and recharge.

Table 4 - a couple who look up from their food and beam at me whenever I hip drop in their direction. They are also on my good list.

I make my way around the room. The belly dancer table is predictably very loud and raucous in the best possible way, and give me the energy boost I need to keep trucking. The couple table is just so sweet, and they also make me feel good every time I dance in their corner. The young family finishes up and leaves shortly after I start my set, so now I'm down to the two happy tables plus the older people table who still appear to not realize I am there despite my dancing several enthusiastic circles around them. There is only so many times I can bask in the glow of the belly dancer table praise and applause. Let's just say that the set began to feel verrryyyyyyyy.llloooooonnnnnggggggg....

Finally, I decide to take matters into my own hands. WHO IS GOING TO GET UP TO DANCE WITH ME?! Because it was going to be SOMEBODY. "No" was not an answer I was willing to hear.

I dance over to the cute couple, but they had just gotten back from the buffet. They both beam at me, but they were about to eat and I did not want to disturb them. I shimmy over to the belly dancers. The first woman I ask declines.

!

You're killin' me, girl!

I am not budging. I am hip circling over there until somebody gets up, and that was that. Realizing that I was not so easily dissuaded, one of them finally clamors out of the booth.

*angels sing*

We dance together for the remainder of the song, and as is always happily the case, getting people up to dance always raises the energy level in the room. She sits back down, and I steel myself to head back to the older people table.

This time I elicit a response. They seem to finally notice my existence, which is a pleasant change. I wasn't feelin' asking any of them up to dance, but they were now a friendlier crowd. Mercifully, this helps the set to pass faster, but I am still incredibly relieved to hear my drum solo queue up, and then finish off. I float away, awash in exhaustion.

I head back into our sticky dressing room to find some fresh air. Claire dances next, and comes back with a very long suffering expression:

"Good heavens. I really wish they had let us wait to start until later."

We change into our second set costumes and kill as much time as we can. It's about 7 pm, but the restaurant has advertised belly dancing until 8:30. Our sets are 20 minutes apiece, so as you can see, the math isn't really adding up on this one. Us peeking out from our little hovel finds us, once again, confronted by The Face:

"There are new people. Go ahead and start."

New people? *Two tables* 2. That's a TOTAL of 2, just to be clear. And one of them is the same older people table, just with a few new additions.

D'oh!

Sword and I nervously queue up as Claire starts our music. There is a big open space between the two tables, and Sword and I linger there. He gets a LOT of attention in this set, just for the sheer reason of using up some time. I swoop him around for a bit in that middle area, then troop him over to each table to balance. As is always the case, Sword is a crowd pleaser. Everyone is certainly now paying attention, and Sword actually accompanies me, ON MY HEAD, across the span of the entire room. He brought his A Game, that's for sure.

I keep Sword with me for the entire song before reluctantly handing him back to Claire. I now have 16 more minutes to fill with these same few people.

I will say this: when your situation is less than satisfactory, you're much more likely to drop your nervousness and perform better, because hey. What is there to lose at this point?

I dance over to the new table, a family with teenaged children. They are extremely attentive and I immediately deem them likeable. I overhear the girl mention something about loving dance, and that she used to tap dance, and I waste 0 zero seconds hip bumping over to ask her to get up and dance with me. She appears terrified and declines, which is disappointing, but you can't win them all. I dance back over to the older people, and there is now a woman at the end of that table who is extremely friendly and STARTS A CONVERSATION WITH ME WHILE I AM DANCING. While I appreciate interactivity, that's not exactly what I had in mind in this particular situation. I ask her up to dance:

"Oh no. I am a terrible dancer. I'm Italian!"

I inform her that I, too, am Italian, and this delights her to no end. She leaps up and begins to dance with me. The set has taken a definite turn for the better.

Her entire table is now watching us and clapping along, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I mean, there wasn't really anywhere else for me to go. :0

After she sits back down, I make my way back to the other family, and they are delightful and attentive, but good gracious, everyone must be sick of me by this point. I am like their personal belly dancer when they really didn't want one.

By the time my long drum solo for the end of the set finally starts playing, I am bathed in sweat and I can see the hair near my face sticking straight up in the air as a result. Sweat runs into my eyes, making them burn.

All glamour, all the time.

I love the drum song that I picked, but I was ready for this little shindig to be OVER. I move to the open area and am accenting my little heart out when I experience the sinking realization that the restaurant is silent. I glance nervously out of my arm formation and see that it is silent because everybody is watching me. They loved the drum solo. All 10 of them. πŸ˜‚

We stalled as much as we could before Claire's set, but Face Guy really wanted her to begin, so she did. As she danced, closer to 8 pm, the restaurant began to fill in.

We told him so. :0

When Claire finished, there were a decent number of people there, although nowhere near enough to start filling up the second room. We change and pack up our belongings, very relieved to have this one behind us.

By the time I get home, it's after 10 pm and I am beyond exhausted. I am grateful to have a bit of a break from performing. For a few weeks at least!

Now I have classes starting. 😠 Not exactly fun times, but we do what we can. How was YOUR weekend, dear reader?!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #110 - STRESS

How's that for a relaxing title this month? ;-)

Today I talk about the semester starting, and how I'm finding it just a wee bit stressful. Prayer strategies, more dance gigs, fun books coming out this fall, and more!





**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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

On My Bookshelf - Same author as my Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries (just under a pseudonym), is a new series, Assaulted Caramel (An Amish Candy Shop Mystery).

Prayer Corner - I'm starting a 30 day Evening and Night Prayer challenge beginning Monday, 8/28. Would you like to join in?

Creative Commons - I started the sleeves on my Rhinebeck sweater! It's a miracle!

Are you going to pray along for the prayer challenge? Have any new book recommendations? Planning for Advent already the way that I am? ;-) Do write in!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On headaches and 30 day prayer challenges...

Soooooooo, I had a totally different post planned for today about discernment. And then...today happened. It was not a good day, work-wise. The semester starts Monday, and as is our new normal, we're all running around putting out fires that NEVER start back in June. They only start 2 days before classes begin. Every.Single.Time.

I felt frustrated. I felt stressed out and harried. I felt like I was forgetting things from moment-to-moment, as is always the case when I'm trying to do too many things at the same time. I developed a headache.

As I popped an ibuprofen, I thought of the text string I had with Sam last night. As we were talking about the stress of the new semester approaching (Sam is starting a brand new job as a teacher in a combined 1st/2nd grade classroom!) I said that I was really feeling deep in my soul how important prayer was going to be for me this semester. So that I wouldn't sink back down to the abyss of anxiety and depression and happened last fall (we will heretofore refer to the fall of 2016 as "That Semester" and shudder whenever we hear it's name). I had an official "Fall 2016 Managing Stress Series" last year for a reason. It's painful to reflect back on.

At any rate, back to prayer. Sam, my sister, and myself are in the midst of a 30 day yoga challenge for stress relief and relaxation.Which may not seem to have anything to do with prayer, but stay with me! :0 I mentioned to Sam how I longed to get back into a routine with praying the Liturgy of the Hours, but it's just SO difficult to stay consistent with it (footnote: the Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church; it is made up of hymns, psalms, and other short prayers relating to the liturgical season and/or feast day). She and I both then commiserated on just how many times we've failed miserably at keeping up with Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Then I had a eureka moment:

"We should do a 30 day challenge for *that*!"

Right?! For 30 days, we'll endeavor to keep up with this form of prayer. Now, Sam and I both agreed that Morning Prayer? It's just not happening. We're realistic, you see. We're up by 6 (Sam even earlier than that), I have kids out the door by 7:20, Sam has a 40 minute commute, we both have classes first thing...Morning Prayer just isn't going to fit in there. Doesn't mean we can't pray a morning offering, but official Morning Prayer would only make us cry. So what we thought we would try is for 30 days, praying Evening and Night prayer. Something to look forward to after our long days, and both are designed to be SO soothing for weary souls. Would you like to join us?

If you own Christian Prayer, or the 4 volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours, you're all set.  If you'd like to use an online tool, there is the iBreviary app, which is available for both Android and ios, or you can use Universalis. I have the Divine Office app, but I know that isn't for sale currently while they work out a copyright situation. It doesn't matter what you use, as long as it allows you to pray!

We're going to start Monday, 8/28. I can have accountability posts in here from time-to-time, so we can check in with each other and see how it's going. It made me feel SO much better to think of this today in midst of my Nightmare Day From The Pits Of The Evil One.

If you'd like to join us, or just have thoughts generally on helpful forms of prayer for stressful times, please comment below!

*heart*

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #109 - How to *not* feel overwhelmed...

It's an organization-focused episode this week of:


Had a little bit of a technical mishap today, and the audio didn't record on my video. 😑 So no video this week, but I do have the separate audio for the podcast feed, so that's all we have this week, sorry about that! I put lipstick on and everything. :0

This week we talk about strategies for evading that sense of being overwhelmed as we segue into Back-to-School season full force!



**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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:


On My Bookshelf:  


Prayer Corner: St. Monica novena starts Friday 8/18, sponsored by Pray More Novenas. You can now also sign up for Facebook Messenger notifications by following the directions in this post!

Creative Commons: The Rhinebeck Sweater continues to grow. :0 I'll have a photo as soon as I join the back and can try it on!

What's going on with you this weekend, dear listener? What are your ideas for feeling less overwhelmed?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

*lots of keyboard clacking* "Hum. Oh dear." Adventures in traveling, 2017 edition...

As I mentioned in Tea Time last week, I had a trip to visit my best friend Cristina planned for this past weekend, and we had been planning it since May. Saturday morning, my bags were packed, I was at the airport before 6 am for my 7:15 am flight (after a fitful night of sleep anticipating the early alarm), and I was ready to go. I walk up to the self-checkout kiosk thingie, type in my reservation number, and am greeted with the following message:

"THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR RESERVATION. PLEASE SEE AN AGENT FOR ASSISTANCE."

Well grand. Not exactly what I want to see before I've had even a drop of tea. I take the little slip of paper that it printed it out, and limp over to the ticket agent. She greets me with a smile:

"Good morning!"

That remains to be seen.

"How can I help you?"

I smile and hand her my ominous slip of paper. She looks down at it, still smiling.

"ooohhhhh. You're flying into Newark? That flight is cancelled."

BOOM. I wished I could have slept in before dealing with all of this. 😱

"Oh."

That's the understatement of the morning.

"Let me just see for you when the next flight is that we could fit you in on."

She begins that nefarious practice of typing on her keyboard with the constant clickety clacking sound that inevitably takes 10 minutes, yet results in a concise announcement just like this:

"Tomorrow."

"Oh!"

I really needed caffeine. This had never happened to me before. It was *6 am*. And there's not a single flight I can get on within a 24 hour time period? Apparently not.

"Tomorrow? Really?"

"Yep. It's weather related."

That really didn't fully answer the question, but I was too tired to dig for further details.

"OK, well...put me on that one, please."

She's still clacking away, while I text Mike to ask him to come back and get me. Suddenly, I had a painful thought:

"What time did you say that flight was tomorrow?"

"6 am!"

She said that so brightly. I groaned.

I deliberately had not booked the 6 am flight because it would have meant getting up at about 3:30 am. And I was already operating on one abysmal night of sleep. Plus, Cristina lives quite a ways from the airport, so this would mean a crazy early morning for her as well.

"Gosh, that's... a bit earlier than I'd like. What is the next flight out after that?"

More clacking.

"2 pm!"

*long suffering sigh*

I knew that there was a 90th birthday party that Cristina and family were attending on Sunday, and I was slated to be their guest. This would likely fall right in the middle of that, and they live 90 minutes from the airport.

A conferral with Cristina bore all of this out - the 6 am and 2 pm flights weren't going to work. Going any later would cut my trip ridiculously short. We agreed it would be best to just save the ticket for another weekend, and we would try to plan a road trip in the fall.

*tears!*

I can use my ticket for up to a year, but that does little to soothe my spirits. I am sad.

😭

So here I am, home and cranky. But safe. Everything happens for a reason, right?

You need to give me this one little solace to cling to, people. ;-)

In the meantime, I did have a lovely weekend with Mike and the kids. I've been getting more writing done on my Bible study. AND I have lots of stuff to talk to you about in Tea Time this week! Upcoming novenas, Third Orders, books, fall crafts. Horray!

How was your weekend, dear reader? Care to commiserate on cancelled flights?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #108 - Back to School, and Scentsy talk!

Hello all! And welcome to a Back to School themed episode of:

Today I talk back-to-school, fall Scentsy shenanigans, and my trip this weekend to see Cristina! Plus, I finally reveal my Rhinebeck sweater, and what the heck that is. 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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

My Scentsy website. Just send me an email if you'd like to join the Facebook group!

On My Bookshelf: Amish Quilt Shop series. Murder Plainly Read (Book 4), and Murder Handcrafted (Book 5).

Creative Commons: My Rhinebeck sweater, Opposite Pole, by Joji Locatelli. Yarn is Knit Picks' Wool of the Andes. My sweater specifically is in the Aurora Heather colorway. :) Link to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival!

Prayer Corner: Novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe! Watch for my piece about him on Catholic Mom, this coming Monday 8/14. 

What are you working on this weekend, dear readers? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Book Club! The Well, Part 8...

*tears!*

It's the end of our Summer Book Club, and this Catholic librarian is feeling a bit emotional. It doesn't help that my kids are on a short overnight trip with their grandparents to a water park, and I'm all weepy about THAT, too.

#somanyemotions

My lucky husband. ;-)

But let's get down to business! The final segment in our Summer Book Club for 2017 is about to begin...grab your beverage!

All right, so we pick up with Shem and Mara on the run. They had met Mary, and are on their way back to Sychar, but with Mara trying to convince Shem that he must heed Jesus's call to follow Him. Shem, unlike Mara, is still very much unconvinced that Jesus is the Chosen One they've been waiting for. As Shem and Mara travel, they continue to grow in affection for each other. Shem decides that upon their return to Sychar, he will ask Mara to marry him.

When they return, they are happened upon by the roving band of bitter men that are always causing trouble in Sychar, i.e. Zevulun and his minions. πŸ˜’  They immediately accuse Mara of being just like her mother. Shem and Mara of course rightly deny this, but reason and honesty play no role with Zevulun. He drags them to the temple, where Mara is publicly accused of untoward behavior outside of marriage. Shem isn't too worried, because the punishment for this when both parties are unmarried is for them to get married. This is what they both want anyway. Right?

Mara does want this. But she feels deep in her heart that it would be wrong to prevent Shem from following Jesus the way he was asked to. She denies him her hand so that he will be free to follow Jesus's invitation.

Shem is devastated. This is a *very* powerful scene. 😒 And apparently, they now have to ask any of the other unmarried village men if THEY will marry Mara. If none of them will, she will be stoned.

😑

Shem is still begging Mara to marry him when Enosh steps forward. And so Deltaflute and Melanie were correct!

Enosh wants to marry Mara, AND he defends her good name in front of everybody, saying that he will pay a full dowry for her hand in marriage, though in this situation, it is not required (as a way to further humiliate the woman in question). Enosh loves her. Though Mara hadn't seen Enosh in a romantic light as of yet, she is very fond of him, and knows that he will be good to her. She believes that she will only continue to grow in her feelings for him, and so she accepts. They are betrothed on the spot, and Mara consents to a one day betrothal as a sign of good will towards Enosh's kindness and generosity to her.

While all of this is happening, Nava walks in. Not only is she healed, but so is Asher! His club foot has completely disappeared.

Shem is in disbelief, but Mara's dramatic actions, and Nava and Asher's healing, have a deep effect on him. For Mara to be so convinced that he must follow Jesus, it drives the point home to Shem that there is something special about Jesus. He has a change of heart and realizes that he wants to do as Jesus has asked. He will go to Jerusalem.

He and Mara have a painful goodbye. He knows that Enosh will take good care of her, Nava and Asher, but his heart is broken that he cannot be with her as he wishes. Mara is also crushed, but still optimistic as her wedding day dawns.

In the epilogue, our worst fears are confirmed: Shem goes to Jerusalem to do the Lord's work, and is stoned by an angry mob. He isn't afraid, knowing that he will be going to his eternal home with Jesus.

Holy smokes. This was powerful. I have to admit, even though I know how this story has to end, I felt frustrated with Mara for not just agreeing to become betrothed to Shem during that dramatic scene in the temple. Surely, saving herself from stoning and being able to be there to take care of Asher, and making a family with Shem, would be a good and holy thing! Even with my firm faith in our Lord, I struggled with this! Her faith is an inspiration to me.

And that moment with Nava and Asher walk in! *swoons* I had tears in my eyes.

My take-away on the love story is that Mara will grow to love Enosh romantically, and that the first tentative steps in that direction have already been taken emotionally. Plus, she trusts him and he makes her feel secure. She knows that he will make her happy. This gives me a warm and fuzzy.

All right, I NEED all of your thoughts now! I *cannot wait* to read the next two books in this series with you all!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #107 - The epic dancing weekend, & morning offerings!

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome to our early August edition of:

Today I address the EPIC dancing weekend I had, more about performance jitters, a new trilogy from my favorite secular author who specializes in suspense set in Montana, the joy of Morning Offering prayers, and the Downton Abbey shawl is coming along!





**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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

Highlights from last weekend's epic dance performances

On my Bookshelf: Dark Horse (Whitehorse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping), by BJ Daniels.

Prayer Corner: Morning Offerings.

Creative Commons: The Downton Abbey shawl I will be gifting is coming right along!


Needs lots of blocking when it's done, but coming along nicely!


What have you been working on this summer? Are you looking forward to back-to-school season? Any Advent book club suggestions? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Summer Book Club! The Well, Part 7...

Hi everyone! Hope you are all well today. We had a longer swatch of our book to read today (chapters 25-29), and Great Googly Moogly did it pack a punch! This is our penultimate week, and it was certainly a doozy. Grab your tea cup!

Soooo, a lot happened this week. :0 I'm going to mention the things that stood out to me, but I'm certain that not everything will come to me right away, since there was so much going on in these five chapters. But here goes: Shem and Mara are trapped in that creepy guy's (Silas? We'll go with Silas) fancy house. Mara is very uncomfortable with the way she is dressed and made up by the female servants in the house. For the first time, her hair isn't wild and tangled, and she has make up on her face, and both Silas and Shem take notice. Shem, though, is a gentleman, and thus is discreet in his admiration and is in Protection Mode to keep Mara safe. Silas, on the other hand, is still lecherous, and grows more so as he drinks. Everyone settles into dinner, and Mara is hurt by Shem's attempt to be dismissive and rude to her in a ploy to throw Silas off their plan.

As the dinner wears on, it becomes clear to Shem that Silas plans to get Mara drunk, take advantage of her, and then dispose of her. In order to do so, he most likely plans to dispose of Shem as well. Mara and Shem end up improvising a scheme of Mara getting sick to get them out of dinner and away from Silas.  Back in her room, Shem wants to escape, but Mara is too exhausted to travel. He decides they can sleep for a short spell before making their move, but when Mara is startled awake, she peeks outside to see Silas leading two Roman soldiers into the house. Not surprisingly, he has sold Shem out.

Shem and Mara make a hasty getaway out the window. They have a perilous journey over to the sea of Galilee, where they meet up with Zebedee, a friend of Shem's dad. He helps them out and finally gets them to Jesus. There, Mara has a Moment, and then runs away.

*long suffering sigh*

She now feels unworthy to talk to Jesus. Jesus seeks out Shem, and their conversation makes Shem all the more skeptical. Apparently, Jesus tells him that Shem will be the first of many, and that his name is now Stephen.

Am I the only one with a terrible sense of foreboding here?!

😱😰😱

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Jesus also gives Shem a message to relay to his mother, Mary. *sniffle* Zebedee aids them back to Nazareth so that they can see Mary, and I just LOVED this part. I loved that we got to visit with her. *heart* Mara asks Shem why the soldiers are after him, and he finally tells her. Interiorly, Shem comes to the conclusion that if he survives, he wants to live in Sychar permanently, working in his grandfather's olive grove, and marry Mara. At this point, they have no idea if Nava is still alive or not, and Shem knows that he loves Mara, and wants to provide for her and Asher.

After visiting with Mary, Mara has a change of heart. She wants to try and find Jesus again, who is now traveling towards Jerusalem. She has a feeling deep within her heart that Shem should accept Jesus's invitation to follow him. Although Shem doesn't agree, he does want Mara to have another chance to ask Jesus to heal Nava. They head on their way.

Oh boy. I just...these chapters really grabbed me. Does this mean that Shem is St. Stephen?! And does this mean that maybe Mara will end up with somebody else? Enosh, like Melanie mentioned? God forbid, the guy who seems to kill all of his young wives?!

GOOD GOLLY. Next week is our last week, and that will take us through Chapter 33 plus the Epilogue. We'll be discussing next Wednesday! *heart in throat*

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I survived. *collapses*

Well, I made it. This was the busiest dance weekend I ever had, and to be honest it's a bit of a blur because I'm so tired. :0 I don't quite have the time to write a full post on the whole shebang, but here are some highlights:

(1) "Try and be discreet when entering the wedding reception venue. Our performance is a surprise for the bride and groom!" Let's just say that giant iridescent wings are not so easy to discreetly tuck into your bag.

Exhibit A

(2) Balancing items on one's head that are actually lit on fire is apparently scary for some viewers. ;-)

(3) 8 belly dancers with Isis Wings and 2 balancing candle trays, on a small dance floor, makes for a bit of a dangerously cramped situation.

(4) Heat, direct sunlight, and asphalt do not make for a pleasing dance environment. 😱

(5) When rolling out the lovely solo arm work segment, sweat running down both arms only enhances the ethereal beauty. Or so I tell myself.

(6) Uneven surfaces make for unsteady belly dancers. Nobody actually twisted an ankle, so I guess we'll call this a win!

(7) Everybody still loves Sword, the little stinker.

(8) A person can actually sweat more during an indoor 15 minute solo set than during a 5 hour, outdoor spell, at a sweltering art festival. Now you know.

(9) Being a belly dancer and inviting women to get up and dance with you yields about a 50% success rate. That's actually higher then I would have thought. πŸ˜‚

(10) People genuinely love and enjoy cultural dance. Seeing smiling faces, tapping feet, and rolling shoulders out in the audience when we dance brings me a lot of joy.

At my studio, the aim is always to present authentic Egyptian dance as an art form, in a classy and graceful fashion, with costuming that is elegant and modest. American conceptions of belly dance are often quite the opposite, and we are the Belly Dance Ambassadors, armed with properly draped beads and sequins to perform the dance in a beautiful light. We clearly need super hero shirts with a big sparkly B on the front. ;-)

Although exhausting, I had a fabulous weekend. And I will detail it ALL for you in Tea Time this week! Bet you can't wait. :0 What were you up to this weekend?!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #106 - Battling nerves & exciting book club plans...

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome to our late July edition of:


Today I talk about performance jitters, the height of the summer festival season, and plans for future book clubs. 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 "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

Items mentioned in this episode:

This week's amusing dance adventures post

On my Bookshelf

  • Summer equestrian theme - Sabotage (Love Inspired Suspense), by Kit Wilkinson
  • The next 2 books in the Living Water trilogy for Lenten/Easter book club 2018 - The Thief (on sale right now for $4.99 for Kindle), and The Tomb.

Prayer Corner: St. Maximillian Kolbe novena

Creative Commons:  Downton Abbey crocheted shawl. Pattern is Happily at the Abbey, and the yarn is Knit Picks' Stroll Hand Painted.


Original finished shawl (colorway is the discontinued Hayride):




Newly started shawl in different colorway for Irena (colorway is Big Top):




What's going on with you this weekend? What do you think of my book club ideas? Do you have a book suggestion for our Advent book club? Please write in!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer Book Club! The Well, Part 6...

Welcome all! We're actually nearing the end of our Summer Book Club if you can believe it. Today, we are discussing chapters 21-24, and after this we just have two segments left to go! In today's chapters, we witness a lot of character growth between Shem and Mara, and the story focuses solely on them and their dilemma. Let's grab our tea cups and get started!

So Shem and Mara are on the road to find Jesus. They encounter some challenges along the way, but Shem is always protective of Mara. When they get to their destination, they are disappointed to find that Jesus is not there, he has proceeded on with his disciples. Shem is concerned about continuing, because their chances of encountering Roman soldiers will increase, and as we know, this would be a death sentence for him if he is recognized. Mara though, does not know about any of this, and is determined to press on to find Jesus, with or without Shem. Shem will not allow Mara to go alone, so they continue together. They have a long talk about Jesus, and their differing feelings about Him and His message. Mara can't fully explain why, but she believes in Him. Shem is skeptical, and does not see how He could be the Chosen One. Not only that, but Mara's belief that Jesus could heal Nava from afar is utter nonsense to Shem. For the first time, they stew a bit over their disagreement.

Eventually, they encounter a man who knows Shem's father. He is very wealthy, and insists that Mara and Shem stay overnight at his house. Shem does not trust this man, and this man is super creepy and lecherous with Mara, but Shem knows that if they refuse his offer they will offend him. And offending this guy could set off a chain reaction that is VERY bad for Shem, given that he is a powerful man and he knows about Shem's prior run-in with the Romans. So Shem reluctantly agrees, telling Mara to stay silent. He has told Creepy Guy that Mara physically cannot speak to keep him from asking her anything and suspecting anything about her.

When we leave off, Shem is lounging with their host, trying to get him to believe his story that Mara is his cousin, and that they are on some innocent errand. He wants to escape without this guy getting offended or suspicious of them. The guy, though, appears to be a bit of a hothead, and I am very anxious for Mara's safety. Shem and Mara need to press on the next day to get to Jesus, but their host wants them to stay for several more days. Now we need to see what happens the next morning. 😬

I enjoyed the dialogue this week between Shem and Mara very much. Mara's childlike faith in Jesus is very inspiring to me, though I relate to Shem's initial skepticism quite strongly. I am incredibly worried for both of them, and positively FLEW through these chapters. Next week we have 5 chapters (25-29) instead of the usual four, and I'm rather glad, because I didn't want to stop reading! Even though Nava didn't appear in these chapters, I still felt her presence. Her conversion and courage in promoting honesty and integrity, and in protecting her son, are an inspiration to me. I really hope that she makes it, and that she can continue to be a witness for Jesus's message.

What did YOU think this week, dear reader?! I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Oh great! The Hawaiian dancers are here!" Adventures in summer dancing, take 343...

So, this weekend's dancing adventures were...interesting. We can say that for certain. ;-) Never a dull moment since I started training in Middle Eastern dance, and for a shy and timid gal, I suppose that is a very good thing. Grab your coffee or tea!

Saturday I had two dance events lined up: one was a larger studio performance at a local public library for a children's reading group themed around cultural dance. The other was a paid gig for 3 dancers at a country club for a corporate party. Each had it's share of challenges and amusements. :0

For the library event, we had a bunch of group dances scheduled. I was dancing with my troupe, and Claire had also asked me to do a solo with Sword, since she wanted a variety of props to showcase. You all know about my love/hate relationship with Sword as a balancing prop, but I do what I can. He's been a good boy lately, at least. But he adds an element of stress to any performance that I'd ideally like to avoid. So I was NERVOUS.

I was in a few group numbers before Sword had to come out. Our audience was quiet, to put it mildly. They were attentive (only one child was sleeping :0), and polite, but incredibly quiet, which can make them hard to gauge. Everything went great, although I was distracted by the hip wrap on our new gowns. It was sliding down a lot on my right hip, so I took some pins to it before my slot with Sword came up.

I posed with Sword, and my music started, and well...it wasn't the music I had planned to dance to. :0 This is where being fluent in improvisation really saves your bacon. There was a miscue on my part when I told Claire what song I wanted to dance to. I hadn't specified the version, and I assumed that she had the same version that I did. Never, ever make that assumption, dear friends. πŸ˜‚

I swirled Sword around, but without the same cues I had marked in my practice, I had no reference points for where I was in the music/where I planned to balance, etc. Not much I could do about it at that point though, so Sword and I soldiered on. The music seemed to be going on interminably, so I stuck Sword up on my head and he balanced like a champ. I took him off, and did a lovely spin, but then the music kept GOING AND GOING. So I stuck him on my head again and channeled Patronus Face for all I was worth. A little toddler came out to dance with me, and his mother was mortified. :0 I think she was worried about the presence of Sword, for which I cannot blame her. Having people come up and dance is fine in other settings, but with the sword present, (even though it isn't sharp) it just isn't the best time for it.

So Sword and I navigated all of that as best we could, and I have to give credit where it is due: he was excellent. No bobbles or other stomach churning issues to deal with. Huzzah!

We finished the group pieces, and our quiet audience departed. They seemed to really like it, and they grew in number as we performed, so I know people were interested. They were just quiet. :)

Then it was time to ready for the evening gig, and my stomach went into definite churning mode. Claire, Amy and I freshened up, and then headed to the country club. We were all schlepping our giant costume bags, and I had Sword safely sheathed beside me. It took a few minutes before we found someone we could ask about where we needed to go. Claire had been trying to get in touch with the event planner all week about specifics on the party and venue, but had received no response.

*ominous music cues up*

The guy that we eventually found told us that the event was being held outside, under a big tent.

#ugh

We schlep out to the tent. Our approach made a few things abundantly clear:

(a) We'd be dancing outside. Not my favorite thing to do in summer humidity. And,
(b) The party appeared to have a luau theme.

This was alarming, because, well. It doesn't seem like Middle Eastern dancers really fit with a luau, yes?

The guy we met inside introduced us to an outside guy and departed. Outside Guy says:

"Are you all working for us tonight?"

Strange way of putting it, but sure. We all nodded our assent.

"Great. So, people will begin arriving about 6 pm. What we need you to do is stand next to this bowl of leis here and hand them out as they come in. Then you..."

"Um." Claire interrupts him. "We're the belly dancers."

Although I wouldn't have minded the lei handing out job, just for the record. :0 Sword may have been a bit much for that particular task, but still.

"Oh!"

Glad that's cleared up.

"Great! Glad you're here. John, these are the Hawaiian dancers! Could you talk to them about how to get their music cued up to the sound system?"

Uh oh. In an instant, a trifecta of brown eyes between me, Claire and Amy meet up in alarm.

"I think there's been a misunderstanding." Claire, our fearless leader, never lets us down. "We're BELLY dancers."

*blink blink*

"Belly dancers. Middle Eastern dancers. EGYPTIAN dance."

"Oh!" It took a second for that to sink in for Outside Guy, but there you have it.

"We're not Polynesian dancers. In fact, there aren't any Polynesian dancers in this area. Perhaps that's why your event planner booked us?"

It's Outside Guy's turn to look mortified.

"Oh gosh. I'm so sorry for this confusion. So...you don't dance in grass skirts?"

*pregnant pause*

"No."

Although if I could find a Polynesian dance teacher, I totally would! :0 A beautiful dance, there is just no representation around here, sadly.

Outside Guy apologized profusely that our time had been taken up on a gig that was not at all what we could have expected. We're not certain whether the event planner had thought belly dance WAS Polynesian dance, or whether, in the absence of actual Polynesian dancers, she figured: "eh, this will do instead"? At any rate, it was a giant misunderstanding for all involved. The event planner was not present, so we'll never know, I suppose. We were not the type of entertainment this party had been looking to hire, so we let Outside Guy know that we would just head out, and not to worry about the contract or paying us. He was immensely relieved, and took our information for future events that were not luaus. :0

So there you have it. Never a dull moment, no sir. And this weekend...*shudder* Never a dull moment is an understatement. We have the biggest festival of the year, plus I have 2 additional gigs (one with the troupe, one solo).  Sword's presence is once again being requested, and I suppose I can't begrudge him with how good he's been behaving. 😟 At this point, I need a vacation from my weekends. :0

But on we forge! How was your weekend?! Are you all set for book club this week? It's the third to last week, can you even believe it?!