Friday, April 21, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #93 - Spring into creativity!

Happy Friday all, and welcome to a very seasonally springy edition of:


Today I talk about what is bringing me creative inspiration this spring: dance, crafts, novenas, and some upcoming trips!





**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 creative things are inspiring YOU this spring? Don't forget to write in with your favorite genres of fiction for our chat next week about a summer book club!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Live Today Well, Chapter 13...

Well, looky here! We're into the Easter season, and into the final 2 chapters of our book club. Well done, yes?! We started back in February. I'm very impressed with us! ;-) I'm very excited about where we can go after this in terms of a summer book club. I have some ideas for that, and we can chat about them next week!

OK, but for now, we're set to talk about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, better known as Confession. We all dread this one just a wee bit, right? :-) At least you do if you're me! Let's dive in.

I know that I dread Confession because I feel so guilty about the things that I need to confess, and I feel like a perpetual failure since I seem to repeat things a lot. Does anybody else relate to this? Interestingly, St. Francis has this to say:

"confession and penance render a man infinitely more honorable than sin renders him blamable" and that "the greater our misery, the more is the mercy of God glorified." Our author notes: "With this attitude in mind, we might approach the sacrament more frequently and more profitably."

I like this positive spin. Instead of feeling guilt and despair, I should feel hope and gratitude. Since our approach to the sacrament actually highlights God's mercy, we should go MORE often, rather than our natural inclination towards less.

Our author also addresses preparing for Confession, reminding us of the daily practice of the Examen. As well, if we go to Confession for frequently, it will be MUCH easier to recall what we need to confess. If we wait too long, it gets impossible to recall everything that we should.

Crucially, in terms of what we should confess, St. Francis suggests:

"...that we not only confess what we have done (or failed to do), but, more importantly, that we acknowledge the reason for it and the motive behind it. These are what allow us to see ourselves as we really are and become the place where we focus renewed energy, with the help of divine grace, in becoming who we are called to be."

This selection really spoke to me. If there are things that I need to confess again and again, WHY am I continuing to do them? It's not simply a matter of resolving not to do it again, then eventually caving and doing it again, it's a matter of what is causing that temptation or weakness to be present. This was a very useful insight for me.

What were your thoughts on the Confession chapter? Next week is our final chapter, and it's about the Mass! I'm really looking forward to that one. I have very much enjoyed our endeavor together with this book, but now that we're at the end, I AM excited about moving on to something else. I can't wait to chat about it with you!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Journeying towards Pentecost!

Good morning all, and happy Easter! I had such a lovely Easter weekend, and am very much trying to carry forward the joy of the vigil and Easter Sunday. But as we know, Easter is a full liturgical season, and so we remain joyful for many days to come!

My Triduum was exactly as I hoped when you and I chatted about it during Tea Time last week: The Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday was moving and inspiring.I always tear up during the transfer of the Eucharist at that Mass. And then the dramatic leaving of the sanctuary by the priest and altar servers really sets the tone for the continuation of the liturgy on Good Friday. Anne came with me to the 3 pm Good Friday service at our parish, and that liturgy packs a punch every single year. When the priest and deacon lay prostrate in front of the bare altar at the start...makes me cry every time. Another reading of the Passion, the veneration of the Cross, the absence of the Eucharist in the sanctuary, all of this is so tangible for me. 8 pm on the vigil of Easter found both me AND Henry at Mass holding small taper candles. I relented and let him come with me, because he really wanted to, and I have to say, he held up his end of the bargain. No complaining about length or asking when it would be over. He did really good. And I LOVE that Mass. As usual, it was spectacular.

Easter Sunday, our house looked like a chocolate factory exploded in it. and we had family over for dinner. It was a beautiful and glorious day.

I was dreading coming back to work, but here I am, bushy tailed if not bright eyed. Fortuitously, I found out about something that really cheered my Easter spirits, and I thought I'd share it with all of you:

I talked back at the beginning of Lent about the Blessed is She devotional for that liturgical season.It was beautifully written and designed, and I got a lot out of it during Lent. Yesterday, I found out that they also have a journal for the Easter season leading up to Pentecost, called On the Way: Road to Pentecost Journal.

*bells chime*

I downloaded the e-book version real quick like the Easter bunny, since I wanted to start right away, but there is also a gorgeous print copy available (thought the numbers are low, so they may go out of stock any minute!). For the e-book, I recommend watching the video Jenna did on Facebook to explain how much to read every day (it's in the Blessed is She Facebook group, recorded on 4/17/17). The e-book lacks the journaling lines that signal the end of that day's selection, so it can be confusing as to where you should stop each time. There is also a special Facebook group devoted just to discussion of the journal during the Easter season, which I joined, and you may want to as well!

I'm very excited about this. We're almost done with our Live Today Well discussion (in fact, I just read the chapter on Confession that we're going to be addressing tomorrow!), and it's nice to have something else of the spiritual reading variety to focus on. Is anybody else reading along with Blessed is She for Easter? I'd love it if you'd let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #92 - Triduum plans!

A blessed Good and Holy Friday to you all, and this is officially a Triduum edition of:

Today I talk about my Triduum plans, and how this Holy Week was a bit of a mystery for me. Please 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:
What are your Triduum plans? Do you have anything special planned for Easter Sunday and Easter season generally? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Live Today Well, Chapter 12...

I cannot even believe that it is already Holy Week! And here we are in our little book club, about to talk about the chapter on virtues, and about to wrap up in just 2 short weeks! I hope you've enjoyed this process as much as I have, and have also gotten a lot of spiritual fodder out of our discussions! This is the most participation I've ever had in a Catholic Book Club series, and I'm just thrilled about it!

So today we are talking about "Living the 'Little Virtues.'" I wasn't sure exactly what this meant prior to reading the chapter, and here we find out:

"These 'little' virtues may be lowly in terms of not garnering great public esteem; practicing them is not something for which people are widely known. But they are not at all little in terms of being easy to do. Nor are they small in the value they they hold for those who practice them. In fact, these are the sort of good deeds that, from the inside out, change lives forever - not only our own but also those with whom we interact each day."

I just love that emphasis on the word "little," reminds me of St. Therese of Lisieux. And St. Therese, to me, emulates everyday holiness, I like those kinds of down-to-earth saints. :-) And what are these little virtues?

Humility - To St. Francis de Sales, this is "an honest estimation of who we are - in both the positive and negative realities of our personal identity." This one is painful, but we need to face it. :0 Especially when my patience is worn thin at work or with my kids, I know that negative qualities about myself come out. We have to be honest with ourselves about what these are if we ever want to overcome them.

Gentleness - "Gentleness invites us to be honest about, and accepting of, others." I like this. I can do that. Then I read this: "After all, the more we learn to embrace the truth that we are not perfect, the less we will expect or demand that others be perfect towards us. Yet how often do we expect things in life to be different?...We expect our work to produce positive results in proportion to the effort we put into it. We expect other people to act as we would in the same situation. All too often, and all too easily, we dwell in a world of 'should.' And when things do not measure up to the image we have in mind, when life does not go as we think it should, or people do not act as we want them to, we often get angry."

#whoa

Let's pause for a moment here to reflect on the powerful nature of the point made above. :0 I actually wrote: "!" in my book next to this passage. This is why I struggle, and have been struggling, since the fall semester began. I get exasperated with careless, inconsiderate people, because I expect and want them to behave differently. I can still want them to, but I can't expect them to. That is not for me to worry about. Regardless of their behavior, I have to react to them with the same kind and loving guidance as I would anybody else. When we react with gentleness, we will "...show docility toward those with whom we find fault, our natural passion gives way to a more reasonable response." This REALLY made a big impact on me. Gentleness. It comes naturally to me, but my work environment sometimes brings out those negative qualities mentioned up in humility, above. ;-) Going to be working on both of these!

Simplicity - By this, St. Francis means that our approach to ourselves, others, and life in general should be: "forthright, plain dealing, and otherwise free from pretense." I have a Scentsy warmer that says "Live Simply" on the front. I'll think of St. Francis whenever I turn it on. ;-) "To be simple...is to be cognizant of the opportunities afforded for good that take place in the ordinary responsibilities of our vocation."

Opportunities afforded for good in the ordinary places of our lives. I need to tape this to my forehead. :0

What did you all think of this chapter? There was a LOT of fodder in this one for me! Next week, we're going to talk about reconciliation!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"*gulp* What do I do NOW?!" Adventures in hafla dancing, April 2017 edition...

As ever, I bear amusing tales from our semiannual hafla, the Middle Eastern dance equivalent to the old fashioned recitals we all know and love. At least, *I* loved them. I'm sure my long suffering relatives sometimes wished they could have a break. 😂 And so here we have Current Day Tiffany, no longer a budding ballerina, but a full-time librarian and semi-professional belly dancer who dances even more than she did 30 years ago. Who would have thunk it?

Our spring hafla was a lot earlier than usual this year due to a number of factors, but despite that fact, it was still Heavens to Mergatroyd HOT in there for the duration of the show. Nevertheless, I straightened my hair with the hopes of it looking halfway decent by the end of the performance. As opposed to THIS, which is how we started off pre-straightener:

A rare behind-the-scenes hair look



With just a WEE bit of wrangling, we got to this:

Thank goodness for the miracle of modern technology


After packing up what felt like 100 costumes, I wheeled my handy dandy little orange suitcase off to the studio. I was nervous because not only would Mike and the kids be there, but also my in-laws, who have never seen me dance before.I wanted to do as good a job as I possibly could.

Set 1 included 2 group numbers for me. I was sweating as daintily as human possible waiting for our slots. The first number in any given performance always feels a bit rusty to me, but this one is one of my favorite pieces, and I felt like it went very well. I wasn't nervous, just like we were shaking off our cobwebs a bit. After that, was the piece from the Sunday choreography class I took over the winter, and that one went REALLY well. Set 1 ended on a high note.

But then came the part I was most nervous about. :0 My solo was the very first piece in Set 2. I changed into my baladi gown, sweating all the while. Even after all these years, I still get VERY nervous before I perform. I had practiced my heart out, and I'm pleased to say that it was all worth it. I've been working very hard to relax more when I dance, and to focus on projecting the emotion that the music evokes in me. I felt really good about the way it went (not perfect by any stretch, but my very best effort!), and the audience was super responsive. That's every dancer's best case scenario!

The solo behind me, I allowed myself the treat of breathing a bit, and changed into my next group costume. This is a piece that I've been having a difficult time remembering, which is totally not like me. Dance choreographies are usually the one thing I CAN remember. Office keys, crucial lesson plan details, directional navigation issues? Nope. Dances? Always.

So I had practiced this one based upon my nervousness about it, and during the show it went great! I remembered everything, including some last minute changes we had made. We had yet another group piece in set 2 (clearly, my most exhausting set of the night :0) which was a power-packed Shaabi/drum duo, and those also went quite well. My hair was expanding and curling quite a bit in the heat, but all in all, I was managing it quite well, I thought. :0

Then we get to set 3. I am nearly in the clear here, peeps. Everything had gone pretty much as good as it could for me, and I was already prophesying about the gigantic glass of Chardonnay that would be awaiting me upon my arrival home. I was tired, my hair was huge, but I felt good, and changed into the costume for our brand new Shaabi piece.

This was the last dance of the night. Everything started off fine. You're getting a sense of foreboding reading this, aren't you. ;-) You're not alone, friends! We get to the middle section of the dance, and herein lies the part that we changed the night before the show. Our venue is in the round, and Claire asked if my side of the line could face a different direction for that segment. It threw us all at first, because we've practiced it differently so many times, but when we tried it, it went fine and looked great. Well.

We get to that part, and I'm having an intensive conversation with my own self inside my head about what way to turn and face. Check, I remembered, no problem. But my mind was so preoccupied on that little detail, that BOOM! The music hit an accent, signalling the onset of our accent sequence near the end of the dance. And what happened? Nothing. I couldn't remember what came next in the choreography.

😱

The directional change had disoriented me enough that I blanked. It doesn't happen to me often when I dance, but when it does, let me tell you, it sucks. :0 But I have learned something from my years of performing, and that is the following:

A compelling dance performance is about so much more than dance ability. It's about putting on a persona. You gotta SELL IT, SISTER. If you can't sell it, they won't buy it!!

The music accents. I blank, and realize that I have blanked. Thus, I strike a snappy hip accent, while fixing a blistering smile at my immediate audience. The other half of the line is doing something different from my half anyway, by design, so I pray that it looks like I MEANT to do this. The music accents again. I'm still disoriented and cannot remember what the next movement is. To my left, I can see that my troupemate Lara is in the same boat as me. I strike a second accent that I pray is correct. It isn't.

*&$!

On the third one, I strike the correct accent but facing the wrong direction, and Lara manages to synch up with me facing the wrong direction. Which makes it the right direction, in my opinion. 😂

Lara and I beamed our way through our duo sequence at the end, which we both remembered, thankfully, but MAN. That was rough. :0 Back in the dressing room, my other troupemates were saying they forgot parts in the other choreography, the one I originally was so nervous about remembering, so the moral of the story is that it happens to everybody sooner or later. I hadn't even noticed that they had blank moments, so SEE. They sold it. 😀

All's well that ends well. My in-laws loved the show. Despite the Shaabi debacle, I felt really satisfied with our group pieces and with my solo piece. And hey, the Shaabi is a good story. ;-) I love the dancing life.

Book club tomorrow, and we're almost done!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tea Time with Tiffany #91 - Frantic week, & Holy Week preparation...

It's our vigil of Holy Week edition of:

Today I talk about the crazy week that I have been navigating, teaching drama, SQPN meet-ups, upcoming dance performances, prayer, and my plans for Holy Week!





**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 was your week, dear ones? What are you plans for Holy Week? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Live Today Well, Chapter 11...

Well, I made it to Thursday. In a week like this, I consider that a win! Today, we move into the third and final section of Live Today Well, and herein we focus on specific sacred moments in our faith: prayer, virtue, Mass, Reconciliation. This first chapter focuses on prayer, so lets dive in!

I really needed this chapter, because although I think of God often throughout the day, I feel like I don't dedicate enough time to set aside, quiet prayer. My mind is always whirling, and I squeeze prayer time in (when I remember to) around all of that. Not exactly a stellar model. And so what does Salesian tradition have to say to help us out in this regard?

The Salesian model is based on meditation for prayer time. This is defined as:

"...a prayer of the mind and heart. It follows the example of Jesus, who at important moments in his public ministry would often go off by himself to a quiet place to pray and thus to be in communion with the Father and the Spirit...Conceived as a form of inspired imagining, it focuses more on listening to God than on speaking to God."

To prepare for this type of prayer, St. Francis recommends the following:

(1) Presence. We focus on God's presence by recalling that He is everywhere, that he is indeed present within us, and that He is gazing down on us from heaven. We should also picture Christ near us by imaging him walking beside us.

(2) Imagination. I love this step. We can use our imagination to focus on a particular place or scene in which God acts, such as in a biblical story. We could picture ourselves being present at the Last Supper, or the healing of the woman. This makes it easier for us to imagine Christ working in our own lives, in the present day.

(3) Consideration. Now, we allow the Spirit to guide us from thought and feeling, into action. Based upon what we just re-imagined in our minds of how God worked in the lives of other people, and knowing that He is present with us (albeit in a different way), how might He want us to act now?

(4) Affection. When we think of our affection for the Lord, it inspires us to act in holy ways.

(5) Resolution. With all of this in mind, we make a resolution to act in a certain way that aligns our human reality with the divine mystery we have envisioned:

"Devotion, according to St. Francis de Sales, is not simply a thought or a feeling. The good life is one that is lived!"

Amen, am I right?!

St. Francis also promotes a form of prayer called aspirations, in which you repeat short sayings to yourself as you move through your day. Such as "Jesus, I trust in you." I enjoy this form of prayer as well, since it lends itself nicely to my always preoccupied state of mind. ;-)

What did you all think of this chapter on prayer? Will you incorporate any of the suggestions into your day? I'm going to try and work on the imagination part more, and allow my mind to be quiet while doing so. For Holy Week, we move on to virtues! Please do post your prayer thoughts in the comments. :)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"What day is it?!" Adventures in frenzied librarianship...

Wow. Where to start...You'll notice that today is usually Book Club Day. And well...I forgot the book. 😱 When you hear about my past 2 days you'll understand why.

Let's start with Monday. Grab your coffee!

Monday morning heralds a string of text messages from my colleagues. Our students have an automated quiz to complete this week, and there's been a problem with the course management system not granting them partial credit like we had intended. They are receiving either a 100, or a 0, and as you can imagine, this is generating some angst. I start class at 9 am on Mondays, so I rushy rushy at home to get into work and fix this before my first class begins. When I open my email I already have a half dozen questions about this problem, and I'd rather not accumulate more to have to deal with. The issue when we encounter a problem like this is that we're all teaching 10 sections of this same lab. When we have to change something in class #1, we have to change it in all 10. That's a lot of mundane mouse clicking for a Monday morning, but I manage. It makes me run a few minutes late, but I finish, and rush off to class in the other library building.

Immediately upon my arrival, my colleague that I teach with in that time slot informs me of yet another problem: there's a troublesome question in the quiz. She thinks we should remove it. I look at it and agree with her.

*long suffering sighs are heard throughout the land*

We have 3 classes in a row for this Monday stretch. Between each of them, she and I are on laptops, our fingers moving at lightening speed to eliminate that quiz question, and re-set up the partial credit option. For all 10 sections, it takes a LOT longer than we wanted it to.

Class 1 comes and goes with just some questions about about quiz problem #1. While the students are working on something, I send out emails to the other sections, alerting them that the problem has been fixed. Class 2 begins, and I immediately pick up on a vibe: there is tension and dissension amongst a table towards the back of the room.  They had a group project due last week, and there is apparently strife with regards to what was turned in and who did what. As the other students are working on something else, I hear shouting coming from that table. I.KID.YOU.NOT. They were in my colleague's section, and she had to EXTRACT them from the room to deal with the problem out in the hallway. We never signed up to be K-12 teachers, y'all. Good grief!

By Class 3, we were both emotionally drained and just hanging on to make it through the morning. This group was confused when we mentioned that they (assumedly) had to write a paper for their English class, and we were here to help with that. A paper in an English Composition class? This was shocking news, apparently. :0

After that, I headed to my regular fitness class, though every muscle in my body ached to just go back to my office and build a hermitage to live in for the remainder of the week. After that, I stuffed my lunch in my mouth while answering emails and dealing with assorted other work issues. I left at 5 pm totally exhausted.

Yesterday, I had the day off from work, but it was jam packed with social outings. If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I am an introvert, and that socializing, while I very much enjoy it, isn't exactly on my list of activities that induces *relaxation.* 😅 I visited with an out-of-town friend, and we walked to Canada (long story :0). We had lunch and did lots of lovely visiting. After a rushy trip home to shower, clean up the house and tend to the children, I had a date to go out to dinner and to see Swan Lake with my mother-in-law.

*collapses*

Again, lovely, but by the time I dragged myself home at 10 pm, you could have blown me over with a wisp of wind. Today, I'm back to my regular class schedule and feeling like a nap may overtake me at any moment. And of course, I forgot our book club book. :0 And I have to prepare for a dance performance this weekend. And a small gathering we're hosting for some friends to watch the Masters golf tournament. Hermitage, anyone?

Sooooooo, tomorrow we'll have book club! And Friday we'll have Tea Time!

How was the beginning of your week? Was it as frenzied as mine?