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!


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.


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 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!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year, 2018! It's an exciting, dancey start :)

Happy New Year everybody! I'm still exhausted from mine :0 (you'll see why shortly), and the transition back to work wasn't an easy one. I had a lovely vacation at home with family, and braving the sub zero temperatures here currently in WNY to troop back to my office, away from the family love, wasn't easy. :-\ But let's reflect back on the fun, and look at where we're heading in 2018!


Christmas was lovely. I did not enjoy having no 4th week of Advent though, is anybody with me? I know it just falls like that sometimes, but it's very unfortunate, in my opinion. Our church was already decorated for Christmas on the morning of the 4th Sunday of Advent, because there was no time to decorate before the Christmas Eve Mass that evening! :0 And Christmas Eve was hectic with family party festivities as it always is. But after that...BLISS.

Christmas morning Mass. Gift opening. And then days upon days of relaxing family fellowship and meals. I loved it.

And New Year's Eve? Was CRAZY. :0 In a really good and amusing way. Got your tea or coffee?

So I wound up with two dance gigs that night. We had a bit of a house of cards situation going on with dancers starting out at 2 locations, then funneling to a third as earlier sets finished up. As opposed to our usual tag team plan, with us switching out for each other at each set, this year Claire had to dance fully before me, and then jet to the second venue, leaving me alone to handle my sets for the final hour. This was uncharted territory for me, and I was nervous. :0 Oh, and I did I mention that the high that day was 4 degrees Fahrenheit?


We were starting off in a small Indian restaurant, and every time the door open to admit a new diner, a blast of icy air filled the space. And our "dressing room" was a tiny, closet-like indentation that we had to stuff ourselves into, with a window to the outside that also made it freezing.


All glamour, all the time over here!

Claire got started right on time just as the restaurant was filling in. Everything went great, the audience was very happy and responsive. After her first set, she reported in that despite the polar air regularly being admitted to the restaurant, it was actually *sweltering* out near the buffet while dancing. This actually made us appreciative for the freezing dressing room between sets. Huzzah!

The rest of her sets also went great (as I expected they would), and she noted something I would find true in precisely 1 hour: the 3, 10 minute sets with full costume changes between each, all within an hour, were pretty tiring. We are used to dancing multiple 20 minute sets, but over a multi-hour time period, with huge breaks in-between while the other person dances.

She finished up, said goodbye to the owners, and then I was on my own from 8-9 pm. Sweating profusely. My delightful friend Brandy came to help me with my costumes and start my music for me, bless her soul. I was changed and ready for Set #1 at 8:05 pm.

Veil and I swirled out and it went great. It was a polite and quiet crowd, but very attentive and responsive. I made my way around the entire restaurant with ease, given the size. I had 4 playlists for New Year's Eve, so I kept forgetting what was on each one - It was a big surprise every time a song ended. :0

Set 1 finished, and I rushed to change in The Freezer. Set 2 is Sword's set, and as you can imagine, he was all excited. ;-) I tried something different this time, and emerged with Sword already balanced, and I have to say, I like this model better. If you're having a good sword night, you can remove it, do some other things with is, and then re-balance at various spots of the restaurant, but if you're not, you can just discard it with the pressure off and no one is the wiser. Plus, when you come out with a sword balanced on your head, it really gets everyone's attention. :0

Sword had his big drama sequence, and it went really well. I re-balanced a few times as I swooped around the restaurant, and then handed him to Brandy as I moved into my second song - which is to say, my favorite Middle Eastern song of all time, Shik Shak Shok.

Now, you see, Claire warned me about this. Before I ever did my first professional gig, she wisely told me:

"Always pace yourself. Have a slower song in each set so that you don't tire out before the end of the evening!"

And what did I do this past New Year's Eve? I put together a set with Sword (slower song, but still high intensity nerves given the balancing prop), the high energy Shik Shak Shok which I loooovvveeeeee, and a drum solo.

Shik Shak Shok starts. Let's just say that I got very into it. :0 I've never performed to that song before, and I danced HARD, circling the restaurant like it was going out of style. I mean, I love it, I couldn't help it. I don't think I've ever shimmied so much to a single song in my entire career, and this song is over 5 minutes long.

As it was wrapping up, I thought to myself:

"Oh boy. I'm *tired*."


I pounded out the drum solo, but Great Googly Moogly. You could have scraped me up off of the floor with Sword by time that set was done. And then I had to wrench on yet a third costume and perform another set. And it was quickly approaching 8:45 pm, so I had to hustle.

I think part of the extra exhaustion factor was the quick costume changes, plus all of the new adrenaline rushes every time a set starts, all within a condensed period of time. Luckily, Set #3 didn't involve any props, and was much easier than the others. A fun pop song, a slower but upbeat baladi, and a very familiar drum solo. I got some people up to dance with me and all went well. After that, I changed, said goodbye to the owners, who seemed very pleased with how the evening went, and Brandy and I rushed off to Indian restaurant #2. Well. :0

This was a larger restaurant, and it had a nice crowd there. Claire was dancing when I arrived to a very lively audience, and I hurriedly changed and readied Sword (yes, AGAIN, *sob*!). To make things even more challenging, I had also put Shik Shak Shok into this set. WHY GOD, WHY?! I told myself that I could do this. I was tired, but it was just one more set. Granted, a 20 minute one, but that's cake. Usually. I hope.

Claire came back to the dressing area, breathless, and we looked at our watches. It was 9:35, and dancing was scheduled to go until 10. The time was nigh.

She set up my music while Sword and I got ready, and we came out with all of Sword's dramatic flair. The crowd was LOUD and somewhat raucous. But in a really good way. :0

Sword and I swooped our way around. There was a table of little boys who seemed particularly taken with this part of the program. We did our thing, it went well, I handed Sword to Claire. And that's when things got interesting.

I was making my way around the restaurant when I noticed that a group of people had come out into the center of the room and were dancing, beckoning me over. So I danced over. Quickly, a circle formed around me. This was a first, but OK. I got this.

Next thing I know, I notice things flying out of the corner of my eye. That seemed somewhat alarming, so I made a circular movement thus that I could inspect further. It was MONEY. This was another first. :0 It is a Middle Eastern custom and sign of appreciation to shower performers with money as tips. I kept dancing, and the money kept flying over my head. I tried to keep my face not showing the surprise I felt that anybody liked my dancing that much. :0

There were lots of kids there, and they ALL came out to dance with me. By the time Shik Shak Shok queued up, I was having the time of my life, and flew around the restaurant with ease. I wasn't tired anymore, and this was the most enjoyable set of my career. I was starting to feel it a bit as my final drum solo started up, but I made it through no problem. That was FUN.

Afterward, Claire and I kibbitzed about what a great gig that was. The owner was very happy with how things went, and we left, aglow.

Then I got home, was all wired on adrenaline, and couldn't fall asleep until after 1 am. Happy New Year! :0

So, after all of that excitement, I am here thinking about the year ahead. I used Jennifer Fulwiler's new Word of the Year generator, and this is what I received:


I like that! 2018 is the year of making things counts. :) I have always endeavored to do the things that I love, and to do them well, to the best of my ability. Vivid. I think it really fits.

So let's plan! Lent is approaching, and begins on Valentine's Day this year. Shall we do a book club? If I do one (likely historical/scriptural-based fiction from the Living Water series) who would be in? I'm thinking we could do a combo here on the blog and also at the Facebook group thing, and we could add in a devotional component. Like, each week we set some sort of spiritual theme or goal for ourselves. Maybe we could all take turns coming up with the themes for the upcoming week? I'd love a show of hands of who would like to participate, and then we could go from there!