Thursday, April 26, 2018

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

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 

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