Thursday, April 26, 2018

Our Lady of Fatima has a hold on my heart...

https://www.etsy.com/shop/allisonkinyon
As May approaches, my thoughts automatically turn towards the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which we celebrate on the Church calendar May 13th. There are lots of other exciting things going on in May: May Crowning at the kids' school, Anne's birthday, Sam's birthday, confirmation season, Pentecost, my dance family returns from Egypt, the long Memorial Day weekend...all fantastic stuff that I cannot wait for. Always though, my mind turns to our Blessed Mother, and the role she is known for amongst three young Portuguese children in the early twentieth century.There is something about her that has become special to me in my adulthood, and in my role as wife and mother. That image of her is so appealing to me, so filled with tender understanding.

The week before Holy Week, I stopped in at our parish for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been dealing with (and continue to deal with) the aftermath of a few difficult emotional situations. It's all part of life, you know? But for someone with a personality like mine: very gentle-natured, always wanting to please others, experiencing a great deal of empathy for others at all times - it's hard to climb out of a dark abyss like that. It's hard to feel like myself again, because my mind always wants to take me back to things that have hurt me and that I cannot control. It's something I've dealt with my whole life, but as an adult it has helped a bit to do some research (*pins on librarian super cape*) and realize that these qualities about myself are not only God-given (and thus, I cannot change them even if I wanted to) but they are in fact positive characteristics that I should not see as weaknesses. I should revel in being compassionate, loving and trusting, and in the resulting beautiful and lasting relationships I have in my life. It has given me a lot of peace and healing to focus on those things.

And so, as I was leaving the confessional that recent week late in Lent, I was struck by inspiration - Our Lady of Fatima. Her feast day is in the spring, and I just felt compelled to carry her with me on a day-to-day basis. So I texted Allison to see if she would accept a custom order for a one decade, springy rosary with an Our Lady of Fatima center, and she did. It is, of course, the rosary you see featured in this post. Isn't it lovely?!

I love one decade rosaries for the ease of being able to tuck them into your pocket. If you need a little extra courage or strength on a given day, you can easily reach for the rosary and feel the solace that it offers. I'm so thrilled with this particular rosary and the association I have with it for Our Lady in a particularly sweet, motherly role. Granted, I don't think we ever see Mary in a non-motherly role :) but this one strikes a special chord with me. I am relying heavily on Our Lady of Fatima this spring.

Maybe we could pray her novena this year? It would start next week, on May 4th, I believe. I can dig up the prayers if anyone would like to join me!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Spring"time malaise, and ruminations on performing in our daily lives...

Hi all! It's been an interesting week as I wrap up my grading and course-related work, and segue back into writing project mode.  It's been a refreshing change, to be sure, as I do tend to get burned out from the intensive teaching that we do for the first 10 weeks of every semester (anywhere from 8-13 sections of the same library research lab). This semester I had the lowest number I've ever had, which is 8, and while it was much more manageable in terms of preparation, grading, and email management, it still very much crushes my spirit a bit. It's draining, it's monotonous, and frankly, it can be unfulfilling. It *can* be fulfilling, depends on the class and the week, to be sure. But every semester, when we are wrapping up this portion of our duties, I breathe a sigh of relief for a break from that harried routine. It's extremely refreshing to have other tasks for a spell, to have a chance to recharge and feel inspired again to teach in the fall.

Earlier this winter, I mentioned that I was struggling quite a bit with seasonal depression. I know, though, that it was also related to what I just discussed above. I took it hard when the spring semester started in late January, and my lovely holiday break and winter quiet time turned into chaos once again. I've been working on mitigating that with some natural remedies and prayer, and it has indeed helped. With the summer approaching, I know that the break from teaching will be the most important factor of all in helping me to recover my perkiness.

But the weather? Let's just say that is decidedly NOT helping.


April is not very springy in WNY. It's a factor of living on the volatile Great Lakes, it's just part of our climate. April is a transition month, very akin to November. Following the gorgeous foliage and cozy cool temperatures of September and October, November is gray, rainy, cold and gloomy, interspersed with occasional pleasant days. So is April. And that's OK. But every once in a while, you get an April like this one. And April 2018 is gray, rainy, cold and gloomy, but interspersed with high wind warnings, pelting mixed precipitation, snow squalls, hail, winter storm watches, and regular ice dams on your windshield. It has been rather miserable, and I'm getting weary of bracing myself for the walk out to my little Honda Fit every evening after work.

Everybody has been talking about the effect this long winter has had on our emotional well-being. We're looking to bust out of this funk we've been in. :0

In other, but related, news, I have some professional dance gigs coming up, and it's caused me to realize what a dramatic turn my life has taken over the years. We went from:

(A) voted shyest in her high school senior class; to

(B) gets up in front of people daily for either public speaking or dramatic Middle Eastern dancing.

It's quite the 360, let me tell you. And the thing is, although I've gotten slightly more confident as I've aged, the reality of the situation is that both of the things mentioned in (B) still make me all:

😳😬😳

I need to psych myself up to both daily, and afterward, both leave me drained. My dance instructors are going to Egypt for nearly a month, and are passing on gigs to me while they're away. All I could think when they told me this was:

"Please God. Let them hurry back!!"

Because I may be a quivering mass of sparkles in the corner by the time they return in mid-May. Restaurants on New Year's Eve are one thing. Surprise birthday parties, with their potential for countless instances of social awkwardness, are quite another. 😱

It's interesting, but *that* is what I worry about with teaching, too. Embarrassing myself. Saying something stupid. Tripping over my own feet and collapsing in a heap at the front of the classroom. I want to do a good job, sure. But more than anything, I fear feeling incompetent and letting myself down. The shy little girl from my K-12 years hasn't totally gone away. I tamp her down a lot better then I ever have, but I don't think a person ever completely changes inherent parts of who they are.

Life takes lots of unexpected turns, to be sure. I'll take my life now over my younger self, any day. It does still have it's challenges, though.

As we await summer, I've been busily knitting some baby gifts and catching up on my reading. My current reads are Lethal Licorice (Amish Candy Shop Mystery #2), and The Tomb (Living Water series, book 3). I'm thinking we can start up our summer book club (which will be apologetics themed!) in July. Sound like a plan?

How is this spring season treating you? Has it been as spring-less for you as it has for me? ;-) Write in and regale me with details!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Dancing with exhaustion, new dresses and volatile hip belts - spring dancing, 2018 edition!

It's been awhile, right?! Since I wrote a regular, non-structured post, that is. ;-) It's Easter, so I'd say the timing is perfect! I had a jam packed dancing weekend, which is always fun fodder for humor on this blog. What do you say we dive in?

The weekend prior to this past one was Easter, yes? The reason I bring this up is that Easter weekend meant that we couldn't rehearse our dances, since we didn't have class the week before our big show - the spring hafla. Not only is the hafla the time that our family and friends see us perform our new pieces, but we also had a guest dancer coming to town, Florence from Montreal. She is a STUNNING dancer, so talented, and you know. We wanted to not look stupid in front of her. πŸ˜‚

This all collided into a pretty intense week of preparation leading up to last Friday, when Florence was set to arrive, and we would all be taking a veil technique workshop with her. Afterward, the troupe was staying behind to rehearse.

I had been practicing with my solo music all week, including quite a bit on Friday, so I had a good deal of nervous energy going strong even before arriving at the studio. ;-) I've been dancing for a long time, 10 years to be precise, BUT - I still get very nervous before I perform. And in some ways, haflas are more nerve wracking for me than professional gigs. Professional gigs =

Strangers. I don't know you people. I do want to do a really good job for you, but I'll likely never see you again, so in the grand scheme of things, you have no emotional power over me. :0

Whereas, haflas =

Family. Friends. Other dancers that I admire, whose opinions I seriously respect. My beloved instructors. 😬

I put more pressure on myself, no doubt about it. Each time I dance at a hafla, I want it to be better than the last. I want it to be ethereal, the best performance I've given to date. At professional gigs, I just want to get out without slipping on my veil into a puddle of hummus, or dropping my sword onto someone's foot.

When I dance solo, I do not choreograph. I improvise, and although it sounds counter intuitive, I do that by design because it's easier for me. I'm very comfortable with improvising, and as someone with a more reserved personality, improvising helps me to be more natural and spontaneous, and to convey that with my movements and facial expressions. So one would think that given the lack of orchestrated choreography, I wouldn't really need to practice much before a performance. However, when you're Type A Belly Dancer like yours truly, that is not the case. :0

Going into the long workshop/rehearsal/show weekend, I had already worked daily for 2 weeks with my chosen music. I pop it on and improvise, becoming as familiar with the music as possible. I do plan out accent segments. I don't always remember them ;-) but I put some thought into them. I work on pretending that my kitchen table is an adoring audience, and on what I want to project to that audience via my face, torso and arms. The feelings, the emotion, the energy. You're probably thinking right now that I make dance very complicated. :0 And it's true, I do. Because dance is art to me. You don't just slap colors up onto a canvas and call it a masterpiece, right? ;-)

So going into a long night on Friday, I had already whipped myself into a frenzy of non-stop improvisation. I show up for the 7 pm veil workshop all star struck to meet Florence for the first time. :0 And the studio was packed with women waving silk veils around. It's a good thing it's still freezing cold and hailing here to combat the generated heat!

*virtual high five!*

And Florence had *such* a beautifully refreshing style to her teaching and dance! We did one movement where we floated the veil back and forth over our heads, and she called it "painting the ceiling with the veil." Do you see why I love her so much?! And she has a DREAMY French account to boot.

We worked hard for 90 minutes, and then as other attendees had filtered out by around 9 pm, my troupe held a quick rehearsal of our pieces. So here was the issue:

(1) I'm the annoying dancer who always overpractices and thus always remembers the choreography. So Claire often puts me in the front to aid choreography synchronization throughout the entire group. BUT,

(2) Apparently that doesn't fully translate to when I'm falling on my face exhausted, which I was by 9:15 pm on Friday.

During Run Through #1, I was still OK, but by the second go-round, I was holding onto consciousness by a thread. :0 We got midway through "Leilet Hob" and I had a moment. I did an incorrect arm movement, and it threw me. I lost my place in the music. 😱

Immediately, a bad house of cards situation erupted. The entire troupe lost focus and our choreography collapsed like so much cooked spaghetti. Claire didn't seem worried, but I was. We had morning rehearsal for the special winter choreography class dance, plus a 2 hour workshop on movement fluidity, photos at 6 pm, and THEN the hafla at 7 pm. Chances were not good that I was going to be less tired the next day.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling a little better, but my body let me know that it was exhausted to the bone and would appreciate a little letup in the obsession-level dancing. But rest was not to be that day, that's for certain!

I was at the studio at 10:30 for rehearsal. The workshop ran from 12-2, and it was SPECTACULAR. I headed home, where I promptly fell asleep in a fort that Anne had built on the landing of our staircase. When I woke up, I felt even more tired than I had before.

😳

This whole "getting older" thing is for the birds, let me tell you. Though in my defense, even dancers ten plus years younger then me were also struggling with tiredness by Saturday night. Oh good, see? I feel better now that I remembered that.

*gold star!*

Mike and I head to the studio for the hafla, and I was having to work hard to keep my energy level up. My first dance was the winter choreography, and I was focusing on trying not to sweat in our new, light colored, long sleeved, gowns. :0 All glamour, all the time, over here.

Before we went out, somebody's homemade hip belt exploded into a pile of loose beads on the floor. So not only was I trying not to sweat, but I was doing so from a squatted position on the floor, scooping up tiny pink beads. Once we got that situation under control, we danced, and it went well. That's a beautiful piece.

My solo was in the second set, and I changed into my baladi gown with trepidation. I was still ridiculously tired. But I shimmied my nerves away, and danced out to my lovely music. About a quarter of the way into the song, I started noticing that my dress felt *different* on my right leg than it had before. This was my first time dancing in this costume, and it's never a good sign to have it feel *different* right in middle of your performance. I popped in a movement wherein I could position my right hip to the back wall and then swoop over there to look at what it was doing like I had planned that all along. Gulp. The split in the gown had clearly moved from it's original location closer to my knee, and was now higher up on my leg than before. It wasn't anything scandalous, but I was paranoid for the rest of the song, because I didn't want it to move anymore!

During the disaster. :0 It's not bad, but costumes are supposed to stay where you put them!
I created a few movements whereby I could adjust the split a bit and just tried not to worry. When I quizzed Mike about it later, he was all surprised, and said he noticed nothing, "and I was REALLY WATCHING CLOSE." :0 So I guess all is well that ends well!

I was happy with how it went, but my biggest worry still lay ahead: "Leilat Hob." I did *not* want to mess up that dance and let Claire down. And my troupemates were sweating it a bit as well. It's a new dance to us, and that's when the potential to forget things is at it's highest:

"TIFFANY. You have to remember 'Leilet Hob.' If you don't, the rest of us are in big trouble."

No pressure. 😨

Let's just say I brought my "Leilet Hob" A game. My focus was akin to that of a surgeon prepping for the biggest operation of his career. I had gone over where my arms had gone astray, and honed the movements into my memory. The music started, and I busted out the most exact rendition of the piece I've ever done. And I enjoyed dancing it, the focus brought a refreshing intensity with it. 😁

Everything went great, but this was one hafla I was glad to successfully navigate to the end. Naturally, as our final drum solo wrapped up, I was wide awake and couldn't fall asleep until 1 am. Because, you know, that's how these things work. :0

I'm glad to be back to posts like these! How was your weekend?!

A link to the magnificent Florence's YouTube channel if you'd like to see her dance!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Tea Time for Lent/Easter 2018 - Episode 7! Triduum recap...

So, we had a bit of a production delay ;-) and thus have a combined Lent/Easter edition of...

Today I chat about my Triduum, 2018 edition, Henry and the marathon altar serving, and the poignancy of the Easter vigil mass. 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 in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 





Happy Easter everybody! How was your Triduum and Easter weekend? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 31-36...

😭😭😭

Well. We knew this book would be ideally suited to Lent, did we not? I knew when I picked up this last segment over the weekend that it would be a tearjerker, and it did not disappoint. Let's dive in. I suppose.

😭😭😭

We pick up on Crucifixion day. UGH! Oh my gosh, I was bracing myself as I read, as I'm sure you were too. Nissa wakes up determined not to abandon Dismas during his hour of need, and she carries through. She finds the men as they are given their crosses to carry up to Golgotha, and stays by Dismas's side. Other people gather to throw stones and spit at them. I mean, really? No matter what they've done (or you think they've done) aren't they suffering enough already? I even feel bad for Gestas at this point! Nissa protects Dismas as much as she can from the cruelty of the bystanders.

Longinus is there too, and he does what he can to straddle the fine line between doing his job, but doing it with compassion. When Jesus falls, he ropes in Simon of Cyrene to help him out.

During all of this, I could literally FEEL the agony. We want this suffering to end for these men, this terrible burden of carrying heavy wooden crosses up a hill when they've already been physically weakened by a brutal beating. But we know that when they arrive at their destination...their worst suffering is still yet to come. I was having a difficult time sitting still while I was reading, this was all so palpable to me.

Up on the hill, Dismas extends only forgiveness and love to all. He is at peace, and says that doing this, taking Nissas place, is the best thing he's ever done. This moment, combined with the descriptions of them all being nailed to the crosses...this is where I lost it. They hadn't even gotten to Jesus yet, and I was a sobbing basketcase. The inhumanity of death by crucifixion had never been more real to me.

Longinus compassionately tends to Jesus. Nissa does not leave Dismas's feet. Jesus dies first, and when a priest demands proof that Jesus is dead, Longinus pierces His side with a lance. The blood and water that pour forth completely convert his heart that Jesus is the son of God. He finally does something that he couldn't bring himself to do before - he forgives Nissa. He has Marcellus hurry along the deaths of the two thieves, in order to shorten their suffering.

Meanwhile, we learn that Gestas had betrayed both Nissa and Longinus before he died. Longinus is arrested for treason, and he urges Nissa to immediately leave Jerusalem.

But, of course, she doesn't. She heads to Gehenna, where the bodies of Gestas and Dismas are taken. She does not want their bodies to be left for the wild animals. While she is hiding, waiting for her opportunity, she encounters the hanging body of Judas.

Nissa gives Dismas, and even Gestas, a proper burial, and while she is doing this, it begins to rain. Her heart has been changed by Dismas and Longinus's witness, and she begs God for forgiveness, and prays for the first time in a very long time. She heads home looking for Cedron, and encounters Gilad, our other evil G person from this story. When he tries to get money from her, suggesting that she can pay "in trade," Nissa puts into practice the defense moves Longinus taught her and successfully kicks Gilad's ass. I had a very proud Girl Power moment right there.

*virtual fist bump*

She finally finds Cedon hiding at the Temple with his friends, and they're all confused. Jesus is dead, and thus they are all convinced this means that he's not the Messiah they were waiting for. They were ready for revolution, and He let them down. Nissa does what she can, but leaves discouraged by their attitude.

She hustles to the prison to try and find Longinus. She finds Marcellus, and convinces him to sneak her in. Naturally, Silvanus catches them, because he is a squirrelly evil person. Her and Longinus are taken to Pilate.

Pilate has no more sympathy for Longinus. He sentences him to death, and for Nissa to be given to the Sanhedrin. And we all know how compassionate THEY will be towards her. Suddenly, somebody rushes in with news. Jesus's guarded body has disappeared. This has a big impact on Pilate.

He is a man devoted to the Greek gods, and fears that this mysterious God of the Jews could potentially strike him down. He releases both Nissa and Longinus.

I was surprised by this! We actually have a happy ending for Nissa and Longinus. They have no money, but they love each other, and they have their faith, and they agree to figure out a way to share their lives together.

They head to the tomb. There is a crowd gathered there of Jesus's followers, but also Cedron, Marcellus, and Cornelius, another Roman centurion. They are the believers of the early Church.

So, WOW. This book had a powerful, powerful impact on me this Lent, and especially this Holy Week. The scene on Golgotha will never leave my head whenever I meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and when I attend the Good Friday liturgy. I am speechless. The author so realistically set the stage of us being bystanders on that journey and seeing the events unfold. I was SOBBING. Sobbing. Each step, each nail, each breath of agony, I was there. We were all there together.

I may re-read this book every Lent, it had that big of an impact on me. I am SO GLAD we chose this to read for the book club this Lent, and I would absolutely love to gather *your* thoughts on the end of this book!

We'll have another book club this summer, how does July sound? We're going apologetics this time, and we'll chat about it as the date draws closer!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 6! Contemplating the Holy Week liturgies...

I get all into liturgy nerd mode on our late-Lent edition of:

I wax nostalgic a bit today about my cradle Catholic years with Lent and Easter, but having never experienced the Triduum liturgies until just a few years ago. We linger over Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, and the meaning behind those liturgies. To be continued last week since I got so into this!




**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

What are your experiences with the Holy Week liturgies? Did you participate in them as a child, or only as an adult like me? I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 25-30...

So much sighing. This book is actually getting hard for me to read because I fear so much what will happen next. I sort of want to finish just so that the agony will be over, but if I don't stop between weekly segments, I lose track of what happened when, in terms of writing these posts. :0 So I stopped, and here are my thoughts for chapters 25-30!

*ominous music plays*

When we left off, Dismas had been captured by Longinus and company, and the assumption was that *he* was the murderer of the Temple priest. Cedron and Nissa cook up a plan to help trap Gestas for Longinus and his men, because, as we all know, HE is the actual guilty party.

Out and about as Mouse during the planned trap, however, Nissa freezes and allows herself to be captured along with Gestas. She wants to help Dismas, and figures this is her best shot at doing so.

Longinus quickly realizes that not only is Mouse a girl, but that girl is Nissa. He immediately jumps to the conclusion that *Nissa* in fact killed the Temple priest, and behind his back has been mocking him and generally making a fool of him. These guys and their insecure egos in this story!

#ItIsRatherExhausting

He drags her off to prison, where she is tossed into a cell with Dismas and Gestas. Gestas, of course, only wants to save his own fanny and tries to blame everything on Dismas and Nissa. Longinus is still stewing about Nissa, and exposes her identity as a female to Dismas. Instead of shocking and scandalizing Dismas, it only softens him all the more towards Mouse. He begs Longinus to free her, taking all the responsibility for what happened given that he coaxed her into a life of theft to begin with. He officially offers to take her place as the second thief.

😭

Nissa is horrified, but Longinus accepts Dismas's offer.There's a whole wrenching scene here wherein Nissa begs Dismas not to do this, but he is steadfast, and Longinus tosses her again, this time back onto the street. Nissa concocts a plan to find Jesus, thinking perhaps he can save Dismas. She and Cedron go to Mary's house to look for him, and isn't this such a touching interlude?! I loved it. Here, they find out that Jesus has gone to pray in Gethsemane, because "his time has come."

*more ominous music plays*

Cedron thinks that she means revolution, but we all know otherwise, don't we?

#ohdear

This plot point of Cedron being a Jewish follower of Jesus, and the conventional wisdom that Jesus came to be a political figure, is so, so informative and interesting to me. As Nissa and Cedron are about to leave Mary's house, someone rushes in to tell them that Judas is about to hand Jesus over to the authorities. Much rushing about commences.

Back with sulky Longinus, he is rushing to the garden to warn Jesus about his own leaders wanting him dead. Nissa is rushing to the same place, wanting to find Jesus so that he can help Dismas. They literally run into each other. Longinus hides them so that no one else observes them, and from their hiding spot they espy Peter denying Jesus, and Jesus being betrayed by Judas and then taken by the authorities. Nissa realizes that Jesus will not save himself, let alone Dismas. This scene was very poignant and chilling to behold, was it not?

Then things really get dicey. Longinus meets with Pilate, but as they fear, the Jews reject Jesus and want Barabbas released. Silvanus manages to trick Longinus down in the prison area and locks him into a cell. Longinus then overhears Jesus being scourged and crowned with thorns outside, which is pretty horrifying. 😳 With the knowledge that he already has of Jesus, plus given this new incident of him courageously bearing the unfair punishment without any fear or anger, Longinus converts.

Longinus finally manages to deck Silvanus, and goes outside to see Jesus. They have a moment. Longinus realizes that he will be called upon to assist in crucifying Jesus.

Oh.My. I know several of you have already finished the book because you just couldn't bear to stop. I totally understand! I'm glad that I still have the last 6 chapters to read this weekend as we move into the start of Holy Week, and that I also had a chance to catch my breath after the way that Chapter 30 ended! Being able to observe, if you will, the events surrounding the end of Jesus's earthly life has been incredibly meaningful. This book has been such a important and eye opening part of my Lent, and I hope that the rest of you feel that way too!

I'll be discussing the final 6 chapters next week, on Holy Thursday. Hold onto your hats for that one!

Leave your thoughts below on this part of the book, or over in the Facebook group!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 5! On Almsgiving...

We've come to the end of the 4th week of Lent, and another Lenten edition of...


Today we wrap up the final installment in our sub-series on the 3 pillars of Lent, and discuss almsgiving! This includes giving of our time, talent and treasure, particularly during the Lenten season. I manage to weave in introvertism and an upcoming Catholic Mom book club. ;-) I hope you'll 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 in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

Items mentioned in this episode:



How is your Lent going, dear listener? What are your thoughts on almsgiving during the Lenten season? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 19-24...

😳

Oh.My. I'm just... I can't...

😩

This is rough, guys. But how PERFECT is this read for Lent?! We're literally approaching Holy Week through this story! I need to catch my breath again, hold on... All right. Now I can start sweating again.

*sigh*

OK, we left off with that tragic priest situation that Nissa got caught up in. Nissa is feeling pretty bad about herself and her life choices right now, and feels that she cannot be forgiven. As she is walking home, she encounters the Evil Guy, the one who killed the priest - Gestas.

😑

Just insert that emoji mentally after every sentence I'm about to write here. Gestas followed Mouse, and discovers his/her true identity. In a move that surprise absolutely nobody, he uses this to his advantage and threatens Nissa: she will steal with him and give him pretty much everything. Otherwise, he'll kill or maim Cedron. Nissa knows that she is trapped. She agrees only after Gestas does physical harm to her.

Longinus discovers her like this, and is distraught. He brings her home, and although he obviously doesn't know the evil Gestas situation, remember that he thinks that Nissa is employed as a prostitute to support herself and her brother. He offers her a solution: she can marry him. He would protect and provide for her.

This actually IS a solution to Nissa's secret problem. Gestas won't mess with her if she's married to a Roman centurion. Although she is tempted by this offer (she has come to genuinely like Longinus) in the end she refuses him, and does so in a deliberately hurtful manner so that he will not question her. She does not want him to be caught up into her dangerous situation. She plots to draw Gestas into a situation where he may fall into bad hands and get himself killed, and therefore out of her hair.

Meanwhile, Stephen is still playing chess in the prison with Marcellus. Longinus feels increasingly conflicted about what to do with him. He decides to use Stephen a bit for his own strategic advantage, but would also have the added benefit of releasing him without harm - he sends Stephen to warn Jesus not to come to Jerusalem. The Passover is coming, and he ways to set a trap for the thieves without the distraction of Jesus in town. As well, Longinus had overheard some conversations near the temple. Jesus has raised a man named Lazarus from the dead, and everybody is all abuzz. He overheard Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin plotting to have Jesus arrested for fear that the Romans will see the Jews generally as causing too much trouble, and possibly revolting. Longinus has a soft spot for Jesus, and does not want to see him killed.

In an amusing scene, Marcellus and Longinus help Stephen disguise himself and escape from Silvanus's arrival. Stephen warns them that Jesus will do as He is meant to do, despite any warning. Longinus makes plans to catch the thieves, by making the marketplace a bit more accessible to them at Passover (I can't remember all of the details here, but he had thought it out real well. ;-)).

On what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem, much to Longinus's chagrin. This was *interesting* here, wasn't it, as to why the people lined the road with palms, and the background on the entryway to the city? In the fray, while the thieves are out and about, Dismas is captured. Nissa is HORRIFIED.

Dismas has been nothing but good and protective towards her, how can she leave him to be punished for all of their sins? In her emotional agony, she confesses to Cedron that she is a thief.

Good grief. I have a feeling that these next, and final, installments, of this book are going to be real tear fests. 😭

Thoughts please on this part of the book?! We only have 2 weeks left in our Lenten Book Club!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 4! On Fasting...

We're in the middle of a short series this Lent, as we podcast our way through to Holy Week...


I'm in the middle of a trio of episodes on the 3 pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our episode today focuses on fasting. How does this work in the daily life of your average married, work outside of the home mom, who is all rushy rushy on a regular basis? We reflect a bit on how fasting involves more that just abstaining from food between meals. 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 in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

Items mentioned in this episode:


How has fasting played a part in your Lent this year? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 13-18...

Whoa boy. Things are getting intense around here, aren't they.

*sweats*

I was breathless a few times during these latest chapters, and I found myself torn between wanting to tear through the pages to see what happened next vs. not turning anymore pages because I DON'T WANT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT LEST IT MAKE ME CRY. :0

All right, let's see where we're at:

Last we left off, Cedron was healed but his parents had disowned him, Longinus was on a mission to find the thieves and had employed Cedron for this task, and Nissa was majorly panicking. And for good reason.

And so we pick up with Cedron and Nissa trying to build a life for themselves without their parents, and Longinus stalking about being all moony and moody over Nissa, and WHO WE DO COME ACROSS ONCE AGAIN?!

Shem!!

😱

I was not prepared, y'all. We saw Shem in The Well didn't we? And we loved Shem and then he came to follow Jesus, and then Jesus changed his name to Stephen, and then...

😭😭😭

I was not expecting to see him in this story, I did not think about the timelines overlapping. Although, *of course* they do. And so now we get a peek into what happened to Shem during the gap in his story in The Well.

Deep breaths, Tiffany, lots of deep breaths.

Longinus finds him and nearly kills him, because Shem is the ONE WHO KILLED HIS FRIEND SCIPIO. I know I'm shouting a lot this week, but I just can't help myself; OMG!

The beginning of The Well! Shem is the one who kills Longinus's (frankly, lecherous, serial attacker) friend. And Longinus sees this as some grave injustice, although we all know that Shem was simply defending a woman who was about to be assaulted. Instead of killing him right away, Longinus has Shem thrown into prison, guarded by Marcellus. Longinus watches out for Marcellus, trying to protect him from the evil Silvanus. Anyway, that story stews for a bit, while meanwhile...

Nissa pretties herself up to meet smarmy Gilad and pay their rent, but Gilad proves himself to be the Class A Jerk We Already Knew Him To Be. Longinus had unexpectedly come to visit Nissa just before this, and is all surprised to find her bathed and coiffed. He also notices that although Cedron still can't work given his leg injury, the pair now has food, perfume and other niceties. He assumes that Nissa must be prostituting herself to bring in the money, although he keeps this surmise to himself. He's sad about this, and teaches Nissa how to physically defend herself against untoward aggressors. Nissa is confused by this instruction, Then Gilad comes over, sees Longinus leaving, and assumes the same thing. He, however, does NOT keep this surmise to himself. He outright accuses Nissa of this, and Nissa has no way to dispute it. Because after all, how DID she get the money? From stealing. She can't exactly admit THAT.

Gilad takes advantage of the situation and charges her triple the rent. I hate this guy.

😑

This whole "the guys saw each other leaving and assumed the worst" thing is straight out of a daytime soap opera, just for the record.

OK, now we skitter around a bit with all of our protagonists, and it all made me *super* nervous:

Shem is all converted to Christianity and at peace with himself and the universe. He befriends Marcellus, which I have to say, I found endearingly hilarious, and Longinus discovers the two of them playing chess and Shem decidedly NOT being starved to death. He's angry, but realizes that he too no longer hates Shem/Stephen as much as he thought he would. Shem projects goodwill and general goodness. Longinus begins to wonder if, given all of the evidence he's seen (the stymied stoning of the woman caught in adultery, Cedron's healing, Stephen's otherworldly countenance), there really is something to this Jesus guy. Instead of throwing Stephen out to be crucified, he decides to use him as leverage against Cedron: up your efforts to find the thieves; if you are successful, Stephen will be released.

Meanwhile, Mouse is back in action. Nissa knows how dangerous this is given Longinus's efforts to catch the thieves, but she's desperate: they need more money than ever with Gilad extorting them for rent. And now there's a new snafu in this already dangerous plan: Dismas has a new partner. I can't remember his name, but he's EVIL. Nissa has a bad feeling about him from the get-go.

She tags along with him only because she knows he'll be greedier than Dismas, and although she doesn't want to be greedy, she now has no choice. He involves her in a scheme to lure a Temple priest down into a dead end alley of some sort. Nissa is confused about the greater plan throughout, until Evil Guy kills the priest. Then she is clued in.

😰

Nissa now has blood on her hands. She did not intend it, she did not knowingly enter into this plan. But all the same, she attached herself to Bad News, and the outcome was a tragedy. She is devastated.

Dismas tries to get her to still take the money, feeling responsible, and figuring that now they *really* have to stop stealing, so she'll need the money. But Nissa won't take it. This is where we leave off.

*sweats anew*

Oh baby. This was a doozy of a week. I need your thoughts, people! I wrote more than usual because I got so into this; my keyboard has been tap tapping away for far too long. :0

Friday, March 2, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 3! On prayer...

We're going to start examining the 3 pillars of Lent, horray! Join me for another special Lenten edition of:


We're talking Lenten pillars for the next 3 weeks, and today we're starting with prayer. Scripture, prayer postures, structured vs. more informal prayer, we cover it all!





**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

Items mentioned in this episode:

USCCB page on Lent
Catholic Journaling Bible
Blog that I mentioned re: transferring things to the journaling Bible

How are you employing prayer this Lent? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 6-12...

Oh boy. Things are really heating up in the land of Nissa and Cedron! I read these chapters in 2 sittings over the weekend. WOW, wow - the author does such an amazing job of drawing us into the scene and empathizing with the characters. Let's dive in!

So we pick up right where we left off, with Nissa and Cedron heading for the pool of Siloam after their encounter with Jesus. The crowd around them gets whipped into quite a frenzy during all of this, and as I expected, when Cedron washes his eyes off in the pool, his blindness is gone. He can see, and this causes quite a bit of mixed emotions within the crowd around them. Some are happy, of course, but many are skeptical, thinking that Nissa, Cedron and Jesus are all frauds.

Longinus is on the scene as well, and boy are we starting to actually like this guy, right?! He's empathetic and caring in his own way towards others beneath his tough exterior and position. Nissa's saucy bravery in protecting her brother has drawn his admiration, and he disperses the crowd so that the two of them do not get trampled or otherwise hurt.

We are then whirled into a scene of Cedron being tried before the Sanhedrin, and and is it me, or was anyone else a bit confused about how this actually happened? Did they go there right from the pool? We could see conflict coming, because there was a lot of reactions amongst the crowd that they suspected Cedron of some wrongdoing or dishonesty, but are the Sanhedrin just on standby, waiting for some poor soul to be dragged in to see them on a moment's notice? I think I missed something here. Oh, and the no-good parents are dragged in and disown Nissa and Cedron for good measure.

Next thing I knew, some priests and others were starting to stone Cedron, Nissa was understandably hysterical, and Longinus was intervening. I felt very out of sorts and confused about how and why this all happened. My impression was that they felt Cedron was a charlatan, and thus they were"justified" in their actions. Longinus breaks things up and saves Cedron. He saw what happened with Jesus both times, and though torn, he believes that Jesus genuinely can heal and otherwise save lives. Cedron is badly injured, but is alive.

Longinus helps them both escape to a place they can hide out for a spell, and then departs. Nissa hides them out in the place where she transforms into Mouse, but works on getting them a house rental with some money she stole. It's not in the best of neighborhoods, but it's something. She also gets Amit the donkey back.

Whew.

We see some more of Nissa working with Dismas to steal money for them to live on, and we learn a little backstory on Dismas's sad entry into a life of crime. Cedron tries to get work now that he can see, but his leg injury from the stoning is making that difficult. Nissa espies him speaking with Jesus, and learns that Cedron is working with a group called the Zealots, who support Jesus and His work.

We connect again with Longinus, and now things really get interesting. He figures out where Nissa and Cedron have moved to, and seeks them out. He is clearly drawn to Nissa, and she to him. and everybody, including you and I, know that this is going nowhere good.

😰

Nissa just wants him to go away, because she fears him discovering that she is Mouse. He likes Nissa, and simply enjoys her witty company, but he also has a plan for Cedron: he wants to employ him to find the two thieves he's been searching for.

😱

Cedron, of course, has no idea that Nissa is one of these aforementioned thieves. He wants to earn an honest wage to help support Nissa and Amit, and he figures he has nothing to lose, because his Jewish brethren already know that he supports Jesus, of whom many are already suspicious. What difference does it make if he now sympathizes with a Roman?

He agrees, and both he and Longinus are very happy with this arrangement. Nissa is inwardly horrified, and who can blame her? That's where we leave off.

THOUGHTS?! I'm terrified for both Nissa and Cedron. I'm feeling all kinds of empathy for Longinus, but we know things don't end well for him, so I'm already grieving. 😭This is the perfect read for Lent, don't you agree?

Please leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 2! Resolution Time!

I'm back with another short episode of the Tea Time podcast for the first full week of Lent!


Today we chat about Lenten resolutions. What are mine? How are they going? What are yours? Is it possible to get back on the bandwagon after falling off? I'd love to hear from you!




*I said Magnificat Advent Companion in the recording, when I obviously meant the Magnificat Lenten Companion!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

 Comment below on all things Lenten resolutions!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 1-6...

Hi all. I am SO glad to be resting in here with you today, my family and friends. I've had a difficult week, and I covet your prayers. This book though, The Thief, really was a balm to my soul. Despite my heart being in my throat a few times for worry of what is to come in the story, that is. :0

I have lots of Lent stuff to talk to you about in Tea Time tomorrow. Are you as excited for that as I am?! I'm SO glad that I started that back up again for Lent, and it's back to it's older short form! So if you'd like to listen, but don't have a lot of time, this new short format may be for you.

*beams*

All right, so chapters 1-6. Let's dive in!

We read book 1 in this series, The Well, during Summer Ordinary Time. I really enjoyed that book, but I have to say that The Thief grabbed me much sooner than that one did. This book starts out fast, and I was immediately caught up with Mouse and his surroundings, feeling immediately empathetic to his plight in being poor and hungry, and thus being forced to steal to provide for his family. My heart was pounding with fear that he would get caught. And so when he does...

😱

A lot of anxiety was exuded during this part. :0 Mouse is caught by Longinus, a Roman centurion. Mouse is working with a guy named Dismas, and though Dismas seems callous and selfish, he actually comes back to save Mouse. A big sigh of relief was exhaled when they both escape.

And then the second chapter started, and I was like HOLY C*#@! MOUSE IS A GIRL!! Mouse is actually Nissa, a young Jewish woman who is desperately trying to keep herself and her blind brother, Cedron, alive in the face of their parents' neglect and addictions. And she's also trying to keep the family donkey fed too. I really like that Nissa.

Nissa feels pretty down on herself because she thinks of herself as plain. Her father and various other questionable men in her life have convinced her of this. She believes that she is plain to look at, and that her sharp tongue makes her unattractive to those seeking a wife. She has resolved to be a caretaker for her beloved brother, and for Amit the donkey. Although the stealing has been working, she wants to quit and find an honest way to make their living.

Next, we spend some time with Longinus. He's a character that evokes mixed sympathies from me: he has a job that involves violence and cruelty towards others, but he has an empathetic side that he tries to keep hidden from his colleagues. In a scene similar to what we saw in The Well, he goes to the bathhouse with his smarmy compatriot, Silvanus. He hates Silvanus and his treatment of others, and comes to the aid of Silvanus's victims where he can. But he has to be careful. Silvanus challenges him to find the thief who got away recently as a test of his manhood or some such notion, and Longinus agrees. He wants out of this duty post, and this is his way of proving himself and receiving a requested transfer so that he can live in peace. I feel for Longinus, but I also have a very bad feeling about all of this.

Back with Nissa, her father's gambling has caused her to reevaluate her cessation of stealing. He has yet again gambled away what little money they had instead of paying their rent, AND he has absconded with Amit the donkey; Nissa fears that he will sell the animal to a tanner for money. I may have cried at this part.

So Mouse comes back out, and the danger is very real. Mouse and Dismas are very much at risk of being caught.

We move into a heartbreaking scene in front of the Temple, and here we see Jesus for the first time. He is intervening on behalf of the woman caught in adultery, and saving her from being stoned. Everyone is quite taken and/or bewildered by this new character, and Nissa knows that Cedron has heard of this man and wants to meet him. She collects enough loot to provide for the family for a time, splits it with Dismas, gives some to a starving woman begging on the Temple steps, and heads off to change and find Cedron.

Cedron is just the sweetest, and is immediately taken with Jesus. Jesus puts mud on Cedron's eyes, and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. This is where chapter 6 ends. I think I know where this is heading, and I'm super excited to find out if I'm right!

I'm also super nervous, have I mentioned that? 😰 There are lots of possible yikesies looming on the horizon. I have a feeling that the ending is going to pack a wallop, since we know just from the description that we do get to Holy Week in this story.

I am loving this book. I'm getting a lot of out of it spiritually, with the timing and setting, and I find the characters very relatable. The story is moving VERY rapidly and I'm all caught up in the events. I cannot wait to read the next 6 chapters!

What did you all think?! Leave your comments below or over in the Facebook group!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 1! Musings on Ash Wednesday and starting Lent off strong...

Hey looky, a SURPRISE! I was inspired this week, and so have the first episode in a Lenten series to share with you:


These are going to be *short*, 9ish minute vignettes that I share each Friday during Lent on a Lenten theme or my own Lenten experience. This week I talk about Ash Wednesday, and my attitude of starting Lent off strong. I hope that you'll 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 in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com

 How was your Ash Wednesday, dear listener? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ash Wednesday is approaching, and new adventures in fitness to combat the winter blues...

ooooo, Ash Wednesday is almost here! I have to say, despite Lent being a penitential season, I look forward to it every year. It's a time for contemplation and reflection, a time to refresh and grow. It also means that it's at least midish February (sometimes early March) and so spring is not so far off in the future. Lent causes me to truly appreciate the sacredness of Holy Week, the poignancy of the Triduum, the breathtaking awe of the Easter vigil, and the sweet relief of Easter morning. I love it.

Lent also usually falls right near my birthday. As the years go by, birthdays have become more a reason for inner reflection and appreciation, rather than any outward celebration. I do miss my days of birthday parties in my parents' basement, the pictures inevitably featuring a pigtailed, glasses-wearing Yours Truly, with lots of games and homemade cake. Now, I see my birthday as a time to be grateful for how far I've come from that happy, but very insecure little girl, and to appreciate my adorable husband and kids. It's a time to be grateful to be alive. It really does tie in nicely with Lent. :0

This Lent, I am aiming to keep it simple, but meaningful. My item that I will give up is alcohol. Indeed, it is a bad habit to rely upon that as a way of winding down after work, and so this is a sacrifice that has been a long time coming. 😳 As well, I have the Magnificat Lenten Companion downloaded for Henry and I to share each evening, and the January/February/March issue of Our Daily Bread for myself to reflect on in the mornings. And therein lies the entirety of my plan.

In the past, I had more grandiose ideas, and inevitably, I'm not able to keep up with it all for the entirety of Lent. Then I feel like a failure, and by Holy Week, I'm castigating myself for yet again, being the Worst Catholic in the Known Universe. This year, I'm keeping it a little simpler. I'm curious to see how it will all turn out by the time Holy Week rolls around.

And frankly, I could use a Lenten boost, because the winter blues have hit me with a vengeance this year. I normally love the winter, but for whatever reason, this year it's affecting me differently. When the new semester approached, I assumed that, given my lovely holiday break, I would be a little down, but that I'd get back into the routine soon enough. Miss Type A over here tends to thrive in routine. Not this year.

We're on the third week of the semester, and my malaise has not let up. I dread coming to work, and I'm emotional and teary at home in the evenings. Not necessarily about work, just about...everything. It's like I don't totally understand why I feel so sad and cannot shake it. I'm normally a very upbeat person, and so this was a huge red flag for me. There is only one other time I remember feeling this way, like I couldn't control the depth of my emotions, and that was right after I had my kids. Postpartum depression. I'm obviously not postpartum now, but the basic physiology in my brain is the same: Depression. I'm thinking it's seasonal, but I suppose I don't totally know for sure. I just know that it's very unusual for me.

I decided to be proactive and get myself moving a bit more, because I know that there is a connection between physical exercise and mental health. I'm certainly not an inactive person - I go to 3 dance classes per week right now, and I take 30 minute walks at lunch when I can. But I know that dance technique classes, for all of their many benefits, are not cardiovascular or strength training exercise, so I decided to step it up. I'm participating in a free fitness class for staff here at work on Tuesdays, and in the big step I did something that I've never done before: I joined a gym.

The free class at work is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and as evidenced by the fact that I can hardly walk the next day, I suppose it's "working." To be honest, I don't really love it, because I have a weak knee that I don't want to risk injuring, and the intervals are extremely fast paced and involve lots of getting up and down. But I've tried to modify things as best I can to accommodate for that, and I adore the second half of the class, which is more traditional strength training with hand weights, working our way through specific muscle groups. Afterwards, this type of exercise makes me feel an endorphine rush, and like I could climb Mt. Everest. This is what got me thinking about a gym.

I dance for reasons other than physical health, ironically. It's a creative outlet for me. Besides short walks, and now the HIIT class, I don't really dedicate time to fitness. I decided to check out the free trial at a local Crunch gym that I drive right past on my way home from work.

Gyms intimidate me, just keeping it real. They are generally filled with people in extremely good shape, who take fitness very seriously. I know squat about fitness. After 5 minutes of discreet frowning and head scratching, I can figure out how to turn the treadmill on, but that's about the size of it for me. Those weight machines? Looking at any one of them, I can barely figure out how you would even sit on the thing, let alone what it's supposed to DO for a specific part of your body? Nefariously, some of them you DON'T EVEN SIT ON; you hang, lean or otherwise contort around them, and trying to figure that all out without getting in some other gymgoer's way makes me break into a cold sweat. Let's not even get started on the free weight area. I would rather get a root canal that go over there and deal with all the unspoken social interactions involved in that Pit of Potential Awkwardness.

So I went for my free trial. I donned my gym clothes and naturally, made my way over to the treadmill area. It did take me 5 full minutes to figure it out, don't judge :0, but I got it going, and managed a 30 minute slightly inclined walk. While I was doing so, I gym watched: how did the People In The Know use the scary torture machines? Ooooo, you put your legs THERE. Oh, oh, what are they doing now?! Ahhhh, that's a cleaner bottle thingy to wipe the machine down, good idea. That seems particularly smart for the winter. Oh I see, that's a machine to do abdominal crunches on. For reasons I cannot explain given how uncomfortable it looks, that seems like a very popular one.

Even looking over at the free weight area required courage I didn't know that I possessed. Herein lies the people with gigantic muscular arms, who carefully watch their form in the mirror as they lift weights that they selected ever so carefully. There are people hanging from things and tugging on pulleys, and I cannot foresee that me and my stick arms will ever be able to do any of these things with a straight face. But I suppose our God is a God of miracles. :0

All of that being said, I did enjoy my trial. When I'm there, I'm focused on doing something healthy for my physical and mental well being. I'm in The Zone. I push myself much more than if I was taking a quick walk during my lunch break. Importantly, Crunch has a $9.95 per month option, and does not require you to sign an annual commitment. I went for it.

This is only my second week, and my big Adventurous Move was to move from the treadmill to an elliptical machine and pick a random track rather than simply setting a speed. But hey, I'm getting there! I do want to try the weight machines, and they have a 30 minute circuit that I'm itching to attempt. I feel very self-conscious because I don't know how to use anything and I don't want to be a nuisance to anybody else and/or be in their way. But I'm working my way up to it.

I actually look forward to stopping there on my way home from work a few days per week, so I'm optimistic that this will have a long term benefit for me. I'll keep you posted on how things go with my trying new things there. 😨

All right, today is Fat Tuesday, and I'm trying to perk. I'm dancing with my troupe tonight at a benefit for the SPCA, which is fun, but it's going to be a long day. I'm looking forward to Ash Wednesday tomorrow, and navigating Lent beside all of you. *heart* Starting tomorrow, I'll begin The Thief  in anticipation of our first book club post next week!

How are you prepping for Ash Wednesday? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Official book club plans for Lent, and navigating the snow into the spring semester...

Good day to you all! I'm working hard to have a better week over here. It's been intense, to be sure. Once again (*long suffering sigh*) we've completely redesigned our course, and thus each week the way that we are presenting the material is totally new to us. As you can imagine, this makes for time consuming preparation, in addition to all of the teaching, grading and email answering that is involved with having 200 students. It's not entirely pleasant, but it's not all that unpleasant either, if that makes sense. I'm getting used to it again, and if you can believe it, the volume is actually *better* than it's been in previous semesters. So I'm trying to look at the positive things, and not complain about the negative things. It can be a challenge, but it's actually going pretty well.

We also continue to get lots of snow and cold temperatures here in Western New York. Not that this is an unexpected thing in the dead of winter, but this has been a much colder winter than usual. It does wear on a person after a time. I've had the winter blues a bit, and actually joined a gym to try and climb my way out of it. In fact, I think we need a whole separate post on that topic, since it is a brand new one to me. Look for that in the next few weeks. ;-)

Lent starts NEXT WEDNESDAY, how did that happen?! I've been busily planning away. I downloaded the Magnificat Lenten Companion, and plan to read that each night with Henry. I also may give up wine. 😨 That might be a little rough when I'm looking to wind down in the evenings after work and the kids go to bed, but I think it would be fruitful. What are your Lenten plans shaping up to bed?

There is also our book club to plan for! You know me, I'm a Kindle reader, so I downloaded the book yesterday:

https://www.amazon.com/Thief-Novel-Living-Water-Book-ebook/dp/B00DPM7YUE/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517942942&sr=8-1&keywords=the+thief+landsem

I know many of you are awaiting your copy from your local library. Here are my thoughts: We'll begin reading as Lent starts, so our first official "meeting" won't be until the week after Ash Wednesday; out timeline will run through Holy Week. We'll have a little book chat weekly, and I'm aiming for posts on Thursdays. I thought Tea Time for the book club worked well for Advent, but this time I want to try written posts again. I rather missed doing them over Advent. And speaking of that issue...

I had a little heart-to-heart with myself, and realized that during Lent, while the semester is very much in full swing, I will not have time to both write a book club post each week *plus* put out a short Tea Time podcast episode. I really wanted Tea Time for the major liturgical seasons, but Lent simply isn't going to work, at least not this year. I still think Summer Ordinary Time is a very viable possibility though, so that is my goal. For now, I'd like to focus on weekly therapeutic posts, along with the book club. These will likely be together in one longer post each week.

And here is how I see the dates/reading assignments broken down:

February 22nd: Chapters 1-6
February 28th: Chapters 7-12
March 8th: Chapters 13-18
March 15th: Chapters 19-24
March 22nd: Chapters 25-30
March 29th (Holy Thursday): Chapters 31-36

How does this sound to everybody? The chapters aren't long (the book is about 340 pages total), so I think it will be manageable. As soon as your copy arrives, you can get to reading, and I think the timing will be good! Thoughts? Who do I have joining me this Lent?! Leave a comment!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Why can I still not see this stupid portfolio? Was this not tested before they rolled it out?!" - 1st week of class adventures...

*waves weakly*

Hello all, I'm coming to you from a prone position on the ground, but otherwise, I'd say I'm holding up pretty well. :0 It's been an interesting start to my spring semester, but before we go there, we have to cover blog housekeeping, and thus talk about THE LENTEN BOOK CLUB!

Ok, so the tiebreaker poll was a bit of an epic fail. :0 We're all apparently book lovers who simply CANNOT be forced to choose between books because the tiebreaker poll ended in a tie.

😎

I get it, I really do! So here's what I propose that we do: Let's read The Thief for Lent, the theme is just SO perfect, and for the Summer Book Club we will read Kevin Lowry's conversion story, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church. We will not have another book poll for a while, because well, we're all polled out. ;-) But we *clearly* all want to read these two books, and so we will read both! Let's work on acquiring The Thief for Lent, and after Easter we'll look at starting a Summer Book Club focused on apologetics in June-ish. Sound like a plan?

*virtual fist bump*

All right, sooooooo, my week. I'm exhausted, so there's that. Emotionally and physically. :0 It's not that it's gone poorly, but just like in every other semester, technical debacles abound the instant the first day of class rolls in. Combine that with multiple classes (I have 8 this semester, and this is the *lowest* number I've had since this enterprise started a year and a half ago), nearly 200 students to manage, and catching some sort of nefarious winter bug, and, you know, it takes a toll. I've been dragging the past few days, although my spirits haven't been down, so that's good.

I arrived on campus Monday morning in my little Honda Fit feeling mighty trepidatious. I know how first days tend to go: I walked up to my office, and soon learned that internet connectivity was spotty across campus due to a server issue of some kind. πŸ ” Yeah, pretty much like that. :-\ My office PC was unaffected, but you want to know what was affected all day long? Our classroom's teaching station. And I was up for the 10 am class slot all by my lonesome.

Yyyyyyyaaaaaayyyyyyy πŸŽ‰

One of my colleagues finagled an iPad mini with an HDMI cable that was able to connect to the WIFI. So I was ultimately still able to use the teaching station and the projector, albeit a bit more awkwardly. The larger problem wasn't fully solved until Tuesday morning, but all's well that ends well, right?

Well. 😱

Tuesday morning found a new problem.

"Tiffany, are you over there? We have a problem. A BIG PROBLEM."

That's just what you want to hear shouted from your boss's office first thing in the morning, is it not?!

In the first few weeks of our library lab, we guide the students in creating an ePortfolio for their English course; we set them up with step-by-step video instructions on how to do this. Sounds foolproof, yes? It IS, unless a previously undiscovered little glitch occurs in the new ePortfolio software, and students cannot open or edit their portfolios after they've created them. This wouldn't be quite so apocalyptic save for the sheer volume of students that we teach in our lab - and this would be a couple thousand. Whenever we need to apply a fix with so many students affected, things get messy. Some had already created these ill fated ePortfolios, and so now we need to have them create new ones, but do other things to fix the problem and try to banish the old ones. Some had not yet created an ePortfolio, and so now we need them to do yet different things to create a Portfolio. Some will have no idea what is going on (can't really blame them in this instance), some will have 2 ePortfolios and forever be confused by which is which, some will not follow the correct instructions and will produce a malfunctioning ePortfolio, and some will do nothing at all until the end of the semester, when they will inevitably come complain to me about their low grade.

*collapses*

I've decided to deal with all of this...NEXT WEEK. 😳

I'm hanging in there; I mean, what else can we do?

I've also started to get the expected student emails, confused about where to click and look for assignments. No matter how clearly we try and spell things out in the directions, this always happens. I get it, to a certain extent. There's nothing like being addressed in an email as "respected madam," to make a girl feel old, though. :0

All right, that is my week in a nutshell! Over in CatholicLibrarianChildren Land, it is Catholic Schools Week, and my two munchkins have been enjoying all of the special activities and treats. I'm busily planning for Lent, and have I mentioned that despite my 100% failure rate with journaling, I want to try a journal again for Lent? Because THAT'S guaranteed to go well, right? What could go wrong?!

*high five!*

Let's discuss next week! In the meantime, what's up with YOU?! Would you rather our Lenten Book Club be Tea Time podcast discussions or written posts? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dealing with winter stress, and break the Lenten Book Club tie!

Hi all! Happy new week to you! As I mentioned before, we have quite the dramatic turn in the Lenten Book Club poll! :0 Two books received the exact same number of votes, and it's been a week since anybody has voted, so I think that all of my regulars cast their opinion. I had the poll set to allow multiple votes (because why not? I like having that option. I have a hard time with commitment in these circumstances ;-)) and so now I made an executive decision. I could have just picked between the 2 books myself, but I didn't want to do that. I closed the poll, and put up a new one. You have til next Wednesday, January 31st, to vote for one of the top two books (and yes, this time you only can vote for 1!): either The Thief:

or How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church:

Scriptural-based historical fiction (involves the story of Longinus), or non-fiction apologetics/conversion testimony. Go to it!

In other news, I'm not having the best of days. :-\ It's just one of those stretches in which I have a lot on my mind:
  • The semester starts in less than a week, and the frenzied preparation pace at work is very draining. I like a lot of quiet in my life (I'm a major Introvert), and this type of environment is extremely noisy, if you know what I mean.
  • With the semester starting next week, my work life will go back to whiny emails about why assignments are not done on time. They haven't even started yet, and I'm already over it. 😢
  • I'm always worried about my kids. I've given up on ever being in a relaxed state when it comes to them.
  • I'm getting more requests for professional dance gigs, and although this is what I "wanted," the Scaredy-Pants, Insecure Tiffany that lurks within is feeling downright nauseous about the whole thing.

    All of this, in addition to the following pile-ons of late:
  • My phone has decided that it suddenly doesn't want to connect to any other devices via Bluetooth. i.e. my Fitbit and my car's system such that I can play my podcasts in there. Fitbit challenges and podcasts are two of my sweet joys in life. And speaking of my car...
  • My little Honda Fit has decided that he is a sensitive soul, and thus sometimes he needs to be macho with his gear stick. This means that when I'm driving along in 5th gear, and need to downshift into 2nd to make a turn, the stick will get "sticky" and not allow me to move it into any gear at all, let alone the one that I want. 😳 Even Mike, a lifetime driver of stick shifts, has commented that my gear stick is more challenging than most. But back to my phone, who should be put directly into the Naughty Corner...
  • My podcast app decided that it didn't like a few of my feeds and was regularly throwing tantrums, refusing to download new episodes. I finally gave it the boot and downloaded a new app, despite the fact that I had paid for the old one. I've decided that I don't care, this one is working great, and isn't that what matters?
I feel exhausted from even thinking about all of this, and I've been down all day. Sometimes, it's just the way it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to rally! Life is good, even amidst frustrating days.  Mike is taking the kids and I out to dinner tonight, I'm reveling in my new dance choreographies, and I'm happily deciding on what I'll be doing for Lent besides reading our book club entry. Do you all have any ideas for me?! I haven't given anything up for Lent in several years, I've tried to add things in instead. And well...sometimes those things don't make it all the way to Holy Week. :0 I already know, from Advent, that journaling is likely to go down the tubes quickly. What are your ideas? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A return to reality...

Well, hello there, everyone!

*waves*

I had a REALLY fun time talking to you all last week about our upcoming Lenten Book Club. Tons of interesting comments were left here and in the Facebook group, and the resulting discussion was fabulous! Lots of votes have been cast, and there's actually currently a tie! This is the most drama we've ever seen in a Life of a Catholic Librarian book club poll. :0

It's all very exciting! We'll see where the votes are ate on January 30th and go from there.

*beams*

In the meantime...yeah, it's officially mid-January. What does this mean? This means that the holiday/New Year's glow has faded, and we have gone from glamorous belly dancing gigs, festive parties, warm fellowship, amazing food and drink, and days spent loafing about the house in my bathrobe while simultaneously crocheting and watching Christmas Hallmark movies, to the following:

(1) The spring semester starts in less than 2 weeks, and to say that we are not ready in our course preparation is the understatement of the century. A feeling of impending doom pervades our floor of the library.

(2) The weather has gone from charmingly wintry and cozy, to gray and cataclysmically polar within a span of 48 hours.

(3) Our "days off" begin with $1200 orthodontic appointments for one of my offspring.

(4) The dance studio is so cold that glamour goes out the window in favor of gigantic fuzzy socks and shroud-like sweaters.

(5) My new car and cute new suede boots are both covered with salt.

(6) My DVR has become clogged with Hallmark Winterfest movies that I have no time to watch.

😭

Indeed, the bloom is officially off of the rose. I'm no longer basking in money showers and glittery costumes. I am stewing in a pit of lesson plans and dirty snow.

😑

It's too bad, truly it is. I suppose, though, that this is what makes those good times all the sweeter. We'll get there. The semester will start, and it won't be nearly so bad as I fear. And then Lent will come, and we'll all enjoy each other's companionship on that journey quite well, I am sure. I also have some fun dance events coming up, including a very dancey weekend, with two choreography-intensive classes, plus a show that I'm attending. Life is good! Snowy, but good. God save us all from this frozen precipitation "wonderland."

What are you up to this cold January day, dear readers? Report in for duty, please! :-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lenten preparation! Because we are Catholic Nerds :)

Happy second week of January everybody! It feels like full-on winter right now, yes? I'm ensconced back at work, but the joy of New Year's Eve and the holiday break lingers on, and the spring semester hasn't started up yet, so I'm still in the Happy Zone!

I've been thinking a lot about Lent coming up on February 14th, and I figured the time was nigh for planning! We've talked about a few books for a seasonal book club (the Advent one went SO WELL), and thus I've put up a poll up for the Lenten Book Club! I have the books we talked about previously, plus a few more. Variety is good, right? *beams* Here are our descriptions!

We spoke about the Living Water Series, because we enjoyed The Well so much during our Summer Book Club. Therefore, I knew I would include one of the books as an option, but in the end I decided to include both of the remaining volumes! First up, we have Book 2, which is The Thief, by Stephanie Landsem:


A Roman centurion longing for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a deadly secret witness a miracle that transforms their lives and leads them to the foot of the cross.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Abandoned by the God she once loved, her only recourse is to depend upon Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, to keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and the landlord satisfied.

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure and is desperate to escape the accursed Judean province. Accepting a wager that will get him away from the aggravating Jews and their threats of revolt, he sets out to catch the thieves harassing the marketplace.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Nissa hopes for freedom from her life of lies. But the supposed miracle brings only more misfortune, and Longinus, seeking to learn more about the mysterious healer, finds himself drawn instead to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Cedron, Longinus, and Nissa are unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. As danger closes in on them from every side, they must decide if the love and redemption Jesus offers is true or just another false promise. How can the so-called Messiah save them from their shackles, when he cannot even save himself?
This is certainly a top contender, in my opinion. I loved this scriptural fiction genre when we investigated this series last summer, and the theme of this installment seems ideally suited to Lent.

Next, we have as an option Book 3 in the Living Water Series, this one about Martha and Lazarus, The Tomb, by Stephanie Landsem


In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.

Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.

Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love.

When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?
Thoughts? Also a nice option for Lent. Nothing says we have to read the series in order!

Next up we have an apologetics option. In my 20's, reading conversion stories like this one changed my life and my faith. I have always had a soft spot for personal testimonies like this, and I have not yet read this particular story! It is How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, by Kevin Lowry


A preacher's kid at a Catholic university, Kevin Lowry settled into a double major in beer and billiards soon followed by uncomfortable run-ins with pious students, failing grades, increasing anxiety, a missing night and the startling realization that some fellow students actually attended Mass the morning after a party instead of sleeping it off.
After getting kicked out, Kevin got his act together, got the MBA, and also got the girl. Meanwhile God was working, drawing him to the inevitable conclusion that Catholicism was all true despite his objections.
Kevin Lowry's journey to Catholicism is fascinating, often funny, and demonstrates God's unfailing, patient love for all of us.
Doesn't this sound interesting? I really want to read this one. If it doesn't win, I'll keep it in the hopper for the Summer Book Club!

Finally, I thought this was a lovely option. The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life, by Melissa Musick


The popular mother-daughter team behind the hit website TheCatholicCatalogue.com helps readers to discover, rediscover, and embrace the holidays and seasons of Catholic life through this collection of prayers, crafts, devotionals and recipes. 

This beautifully designed book will help readers celebrate Catholicism throughout the years, across daily practice and milestones. The Catholic Catalogue is a field guide, a list of far ranging topics, that should aid any Catholic, whether steeped in the tradition or just discovering spirituality for the first time, to understand the daily acts that make up a Catholic life. And like the most useful field guides, it is divided into user-friendly sections and covers such topics as the veneration of relics, blessing your house, discovering a vocation, raising teenagers, getting a Catholic tattoo, planting a Mary garden, finding a spiritual director, and exploring your own way in the tradition.

With more than 75 inspiring chapters, this book promises to be a resource that individuals and families will turn to again and again, helping to make room in their busy lives for mystery and meaning, awe and joy. 
You know me and the liturgical year, total fangirl. I think Kevin also enjoys liturgical living books, yes?

All right then, it's time to vote! I'll leave the poll up for 3 weeks and announce the winner at the end of January. *beatific beam*

I'll handle the structure very similarly to the Advent Book Club. I'll have either a Tea Time discussion or a post here on the blog with my thoughts each week (I haven't decided which yet), and also a thread up on the Facebook group. So you can take your pick as to where you'd like to participate. That worked out very well during Advent, and we had a lot of nice participation!

If you're torn between two books, don't forget: we also have the Summer Book Club! If you'd like me to keep one of the books that doesn't win in the rotation to vote on for the summer, make sure to leave a comment to let me know! Read, set, VOTE! The poll is up on the right side navigation bar of the blog!