Friday, November 15, 2019

First of our seasonal novenas set to begin next week!

TGIF everyone! The first of our planned community novenas is scheduled to start Wednesday, November 20th. And our gal up on deck is one of my very favorites, St. Therese!



We'll be praying the St. Therese Thanksgiving Novena, which is ever so lovely, and I had not heard of until my good friend Tracy directed me to it!

Link to Thanksgiving Novena prayers
Here's how this will work: I'll be posting a thread on Monday in our community Facebook group wherein people can add their intentions for the duration of this novena. If you're not on Facebook, you are welcome to leave your intention(s) in a comment to this post, and I can pop them in the thread over there so that everyone sees it. And of course, feel free to post "for a personal intention" if you do not feel comfortable revealing specifics.

On Wednesday, November 20th, I'll begin posting the daily prayers in the Facebook. I'll also put up a blog post on that particular Wednesday with the prayer for day 1 and also a link to the full pdf with all 9 days. After day 1, I'll only be posting the daily prayers in Facebook, it would be too tedious to do daily blog posts. But you'll have the link, so I would just keep that as an open tab on your browser or phone so that you can refer to it each day through Thanksgiving!

I think it is so lovely to pray together as a community, and to focus on the needs of others, especially at this time of year. I know that when my own intentions are clouding up my mind, my prayer time tends to get anxious (yikes!), but when I'm praying for the intentions of others, everything is all serenity and light. Win/win!

I hope that you will join us! *virtual hug*

Thursday, November 7, 2019

November/December novena plans!

We have actual prayer plans based on feedback that I received last week!

*praise hands*

I received the most votes for praying, as a community, the St. Andrew Christmas Novena:

St. Andrew Christmas Novena
This will begin on November 30th, and run everyday until Christmas, so it's not a traditional 9 day novena. It involves praying a short prayer multiple times through out each day. I will post a reminder before this starts! 

The next one is a totally new-to-me novena called the St. Therese Thanksgiving novena:

St. Therese Thanksgiving Novena
We will begin this one on Wednesday November 20th, and pray until Thanksgiving day.

*heart*

I will post about each of these in detail before the novenas begin, but I won't be posting daily reminders or links to the prayers here on the blog, that would get messy in a hurry. If you're on Facebook (and I know Facebook has it's flaws, but it's an excellent way of keeping up with beloved family and friends), we have a community Facebook group wherein I'll be posting daily reminders and the text of the prayers. That's definitely an easier way of keeping up with the prayers if you'd like me to do a lot of the work for you! I'll also be creating threads in the Facebook group wherein you can post your prayer intentions for each novena, and we will pray for each other's needs!

I'm very excited about these! I've heard of the St. Andrew novena before, but I've never prayed it. Has anyone else prayed either of these novenas before? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

With November approaching, a prayer plan emerges...

Rosaries by Allison
Happy Halloeen, everyone! This morning, I raided my embarrassingly large rosary supply 😬 and brought out my Dia de los Muertos rosary, which is absolutely *perfect* for November, the month of All Souls! It's a great time to remember our family and friends who have passed before us, and to ask them to intercede for us. Speaking of that specific rosary, it is made by my dear friend, Allison, and she's having a special in her Etsy shop for 3 days only! So if you'd like to grab one of these rosaries, definitely hop onto her site and order asap!

As I was praying and driving into work this morning (for an 8 am class 😴), it occurred to me I'd like to plan another community novena. I ended up posting the St. John Paul II novena in our Facebook group recently, kind of spur of the moment, and it was very well received. I thought we could select an upcoming feast day and decide to pray as a community for those 9 days. I can post the prayers daily in the Facebook group, for those who follow along there, and I'll link to them here, of course, so that you can follow along regardless of if you participate over at Facebook or not. So! This begs an important question...

*beams*

Which novena would you like to pray? I'll include some ideas below, and please comment on this post with your vote!

St. Cecilia (feast Nov. 22nd)
All Souls (sort of a general November theme, feast is Nov. 2nd)
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini (feast Nov. 13th)
Christ the King (feast Nov. 24th)
St. Andrew Christmas novena (this would start on his feast of Nov. 30th, and is 25 days long leading up to Christmas)

Oh gosh, I'm getting so excited. :-0 Let me know your thoughts! We could potentially pray more than one of these!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Pondering the rosary...

I've been on a rosary kick lately, as I talked about last week. :-) It's hard for me to develop and stick with spiritual habits, but so far, this one is going pretty well. I pray the rosary a lot in the car, but sometimes on the weekends I'll pray it while I'm waiting for Mass to begin. This week, I was home sick one day with a horrible headache/24 hour bug, and I prayed a rosary while flat on my back in bed, because I had no choice but to lay there. The act of finding and wrenching my St. Francis rosary out of the pocket of my robe while it was still tangled around my body is not a rosary experience I'm looking to repeat, but I'll take what I can get. :-0 The point is that I have been committed to praying it daily, and it's stuck.

Towards that end, my ears perked recently when my sister Shauna'h mentioned that she'd been going through a short Bible study aimed towards better understanding the mysteries of the rosary. When she said that it was designed to last about a month, I offiically looked into it, as Advent is just over a month away. Once I espied it on Amazon, I knew that I had to get it. It's called Ponder, by Elizabeth Foss, and it's published by Take Up and Read.

I'm not particularly good at sticking with daily devotionals like this. But given that this one is designed to last 28 days, I'm cautiously optimistic that I can stick with it for the duration. Each day is only a short time commitment, and takes you through one of the 20 mysteries of the rosary. The other 8 days introduce the mysteries, or have you reflect on them when you complete all five in that set. I received my copy this week, and have just completed day three. The first day was an introduction to how the study will run, and then I've made my way through the first two Joyful Mysteries, the Annunciation and the Visitation. You're provided with the relevant scripture right there in the book, as well as a personal story by the author relating to the mystery. You also have space to answer questions each day:


  • What personal message does the text have for me?
  • What do I say to the Lord in response to His word?
  • What conversion of mind, heart, and life is He asking of me today?


These are the same each day, but I'm already seeing how different my answers are each day depending upon the mystery and the scripture. You're also provided with some action item suggestions related to the mystery.

I have been agog the past two days over how much the discussion of the mystery for that day has related back to things I'm going through in my life right now involving my kids, the worry that I'm carrying in my heart each day. I'm getting a lot out of this! And I'm slated to finish up around November 19th. This works out well, because if for some reason I miss a day, I still have over a week before Advent begins. My goal is to have gone through the entire devotional, spanning all four mysteries of the rosary, before Advent. I'm particularly excited about getting to the Luminous mysteries! When I re-started my rosary quest recently, I was shocked to realize that it had been so long since I'd prayed them, that I had actually forgotten them. 😳 That has happily been remedied.

Has anyone else used Ponder, or another devotional in the Take Up and Read series? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, October 18, 2019

During a tough season, the rosary has been a soothing balm...

Rosaries by Allison
So, I've been going through a period of spiritual dryness. It's been going on for quite some time, come to think. I had a brief respite in the late summer, but then as the dance competition loomed closer and the kids started back to school, I fell off doing the small bit of daily prayer that I had worked back into my routine, and things deteriorated once again. They weren't terrible, I still felt comfort from my faith and from going to Mass on Sundays, but that richness was lacking. It felt like I was trying to do everything myself, rather than letting God in to help me. The more that I was worried about (and the items piled up especially as September unfolded) the less I would seek out God. I knew He was there, but I had a difficult time asking for help.

About a week ago, my sister asked me about starting a daily challenge to pray a full rosary. I haven't prayed a full rosary in two years, and do you want to know why? Because of my car. I used to always pray the rosary in my car.

In September 2017, I had to replace my aged Honda Civic, and I wound up getting a 2017 Honda Fit that had a stick shift. I didn't know how to drive a stick shift, and thus I learned how. It was not easy, but I got it. However, the newness of the experience made me reluctant to give my hands something else to worry about when they were now so busy simply making the car go. And so for 2 years, I have not prayed a rosary with all 5 decades!

Shauna'h's query got me to thinking: I've been driving a stick now for 2 years, and I'm quite good at it. I also, of course, live in North America, and so I'm shifting with my right hand. My left hand is pretty passive, even when driving the stick. So last Friday, I got out my gorgeous new St. Jerome rosary and took it for a spin. I could easily keep count on the rosary tucked in my left hand while it was also placed on the steering wheel doing what it needed to do. I prayed half on my way into work, and half on my way home. I finished the entire rosary, with no impact on my driving the car.

Since then, I had prayed a full rosary every single day. Oftentimes in the car, but also before mass starts or in other spots throughout my day. I tend to not finish praying a rosary in a single sitting, but this works well for me with my contantly-on-overdrive brain.

I've noticed my anxiety abating a bit. I'm also feeling more positive about things that were previously eating me up inside. I look forward to getting into my car and going to work (where things have been quite stressful with teaching) so that I can have that quiet interior prayer time. I'm loving it.

It's really helped. And I'm hoping to keep it up. I know that sometimes I'll miss a day, things happen, and we're human. But the perseverence is what I need, especially as we move closer to Advent and the holiday season.

Do you have a daily rosary habit? Where do you pray it? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Reflecting on reflecting... ;-)

This week, I had a slight break in my busy teaching schedule (2 of the next 3 weeks are going to be quite unpleasant), and so I disciplined myself to work on my 2020 Gospel Reflections for CatholicMom.com. I've been a monthly contributor for Catholic Mom since 2015, when I met Lisa Hendey at the Catholic New Media Conference in Atlanta. I have such happy memories of that event, and everything associated with it, so that whenever I settle in to write one of my contributions, I think back on that time with a smile on my face. Some months, it's a rush to come up with an idea for a piece, but I've never missed a deadline.



I've also been a member of the Gospel Reflection team for the past several years. That involves taking on 3-4 short reflections that will appear on specific dates throughout the following year. I really enjoy those, because preparing for them means that I need to settle my mind a bit, read some scripture, and reflect on what that specific set of verses mean for my life at that particular point in time.

Each time I sit down to write a piece for Catholic Mom, I think about how lucky I am to have not only my faith, but the community that surrounds it. We are blessed to have a large, readymade group of friends to share our lives with. And each time I start typing up my contributions, I think about you all as I write them: What are we all going through right now, and/or what would you like to read about? I do tend to theme my pieces by the current season, liturgical and otherwise. Writing these really helps me to prepare and settle into the different milestones on the liturgical calendar, as well as the changing weather and seasons in my life: my kids getting older, changes in my job, etc. It seems like such a small writing gig, but it has been monumental for me personally as the years have gone by. You can check out all of the pieces I've written for them, including the Gospel Reflections, via my author page. :-)

This month, my piece isn't up quite yet (next week!) but it deals with birds. Yes, I know that must sound like a strange topic choice for Catholic Mom. :-0 But they give give us a lot of leeway on what to write about, because they want the pieces to be personal, and relatable. I wrote about birds because Anne and I love to birdwatch, and it's something that she and I share right now. Anne has been resistant to praying with me for a little while now, and I talk about that in the article. We share together when we watch birds, and it's an important bonding and emotional connection for us. I've also been finding it difficult to pray myself lately, as I've been experiencing a spell of spiritual dryness. This is cyclical thoughout my life, as I think it is for pretty much everyone. And it's lovely that I can express what I'm going through spiritually, even when it's not particularly exciting.

So be on the lookout for a piece on CatholicMom.com next week with an American robin as the featured photo. ;-) I love writing for them, and I can't wait to see what next year holds in terms of my writing inspiration! *beams*

Is writing a way for you to reflect on your own spirituality as well? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Uplifting fall vibes...

St. Jerome rosary, photo credit Rosaries by Allison
Happy Friday, friends, and although the weekend is here, my stress level continues to be high. :-0 There's been a lot going on for my family and I these past 6 weeks or so, and I'm just trying to manage it as best I can.

I've been trying to focus a lot on how much I love this time of year, when the air gets cooler and the leaves turn. I live in a beautiful part of the country to be able to enjoy it all. Often, as has been the case the past 3 years, work is busy and stressful for me right at this exact time (September through October) which has had the effect of me not taking advantage of the gorgeous fall weather and the fun activities that it can entail. This year, I endeavored to enjoy fall despite the stress, and I do think it's, for the most part, working. Even with the dance competition recently, some crazy teaching weeks, and increased concern about both kids at their adjustment to new school life, I've taken some moments to enjoy the beautiful fall we're having here in WNY. The skies are gray a lot, but for me, the fact that the air is crisp, the leaves are beginning to show color, and harvest/Halloween decor is out in abundance makes up for it completely.

It's definitely the little things, and the lack of uncomfortable heat and humidity, is a small, but important, joy for me. I've also been trying to really drink in the time that I get to spend on my hobbies: escaping to Hogwarts with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, immersing myself in the combinations we're learning in my dance classes, the new flow segment in my lunchtime Piyo class on Mondays. I've never been good at doing this in the past, but something has changed. Does age really bring wisdom? ;-) I'm able to do it more so now, because I know how important it is to be able to recharge before tackling the stressful things again.

As you can see from the photo in this post, I commissioned my dear friend Allison to create a fall themed St. Jerome rosary for me, and I heart it so much I can hardly stand it. 😍 I have it tucked into the pocket on the driver's side door of my little Honda Fit, and I reach for it often to just hold, or pray a single decade. I may not get a whole rosary in, but I don't think that's anything to fret over. It comforts me to see the fall colors, and feel the smooth beads. St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians, and so he's my buddy when I go off to teach a stressful 5 hour stretch of back-to-back classes. It's definitely the small things.

What are the small things you're grateful for this weekend? *heart* I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, September 27, 2019

"Is there still time for me to get out of this?!" Adventures in dance competition finals...

OK, so I'm BACK and STILL ALIVE! πŸ˜‚ But I tell you, I asked a lot of myself this past weekend. This took "stretching your comfort zone" to a whole new level!

I woke up Saturday ready to go. Mostly. You know, after coffee. ;-) But the time was nigh, and I was as ready as I would ever be. I kept telling myself that all I was doing was going to perform at an event. I was going to get up on a stage and dance my choreography. I perform all the time, so no big deal!

But of course, this was different. With the event being a competition, I was putting myself out there in a different way than I ever had before, and I was definitley feelin' it. I put my makeup on and packed my bag, and gathered up my army of dance supporters in the form of Mike, my instructor and mentor, Claire, and one of my best friends, Brandy. We set off amidst a sea of nerves.

The drive took us over an hour, so we had plenty of time to chat and try to relax a bit. Our arrival was what was making me most nervous, because then the anticipation wait would begin. And that was tough, but all told it was less than 2 hours, since my category was up first. And once at the venue, I met SO MANY kind and beautiful dancers. The environment could not have been more supportive and pleasant, even amongst people dancing in the same category! I can't say enough about how positive this entire event was.

I danced second to last in my category, and when the dancing started, something became very clear: the level of talent at this event was VERY HIGH. I mean, VERY, VERY HIGH. πŸ˜‚ I felt pretty in awe that I was included as a finalist among them! Over the course of the afternoon, I learned that dancers came in for this event from several large cities where they study with internationally known teachers, and all had been in competitions before. Their dancing was absolutely spectacular!

So when your Catholic Librarian's turn came up, I made my way to the stage with as much courage and bravado as I could muster. First, I summoned my internal patronus. ;-) Then, I danced my best, and gave it everything that I had in me, but I was not surprised when I did not secure a placing finish, and that's totally OK! What I did receive was some outstanding and incredibly helpful feedback from the judges, and the experience of pushing myself to take place in an event like this has changed my dance forever in the best way possible. It was an extremely positive and transformative experience, and to be a finalist at an event of that level has left me all aglow. I feel so inspired to move forward in my dance career, and to continue to grow based on what I learned. I'm also now friends on social media with a number of these dancers, and it's all so cute and warm and fuzzy. 😍 I absolutely love it!

Honestly, the fact that I didn't chicken out has me feeling pretty good about myself. :-0 Being in a competition is an intimidating situation, albeit a healthy one, and the fact that the shyest gal in school pulled that off is a personal milestone, to be sure! I seem to keep choosing to do things that terrify me more and more, so I'm not sure what this means about what is next. ;-) But it's certainly keeping things interesting and exciting! I definitely feel an increased sense of inspiration for studying my art, and I can't wait to see what comes next!

What's the scariest thing you've ever challenged yourself to do in order to grow in something that you care about? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, September 20, 2019

"The horse is out of the barn at this point. sweetie." Adventures in an epic amount of nervous energy...

My husband is loving, but very practical. ;-) And he's right. As I write this, it's Thursday. The dance competition finals are Saturday afternoon. I've prepared, I've reheared, I've fine tuned. I've practiced everything from technique to fluid arms and hands to projecting emotion with my face. And honestly, this is the biggest benefit of participating in a competition: it's not the results, it's the preparation. I suppose one enters a competition partially because they would like some recognition that their efforts have paid off and that they are good at what they do; but it's mostly because you care so deeply about your art and know that to continue to grow, you need to challenge yourself and make yourself vulnerable. And indeed, I feel very vulnerable right now. :-0

I will continue to rehearse over the next 2 days, but it's pretty much a done deal at this point. It is what it is, and it showcases the best that I'm capable of at this point of my journey. There's no use mentally comparing myself to the other dancers, because I cannot change any of that. They're all going to be really talented, and I need to just focus on myself. Tough to do, but necessary. I actually expected this week to be much more difficult mentally than it has turned out to be. Because although the thought of the unease I'll face on Saturday is certainly present in my mind, it has not consumed me. My piece is done, I think that's what is soothing me. It's completely done, there are no arms/weird things left that have been bugging me and I want to change. It's finished, and I'm resting easy in that. It is what it is, and I hope that the audience enjoys it!

So anyway, that's pretty much all that's on my mind right now. πŸ˜‚And I am *definitely* looking forward to my post-competition life in which I think of other things in terms of my creative realm! Even within dancing, I've been fixated on this piece for so long, I can hardly hear the music anymore without inwardly groaning. :-0 It's time to move on to other things! I have some awesome dance plans for later this fall and winter that I cannot wait for! 😍

Coming up, I'll certainly report in on the competition experience next week. After that, as we move into October, I have some Fall into the Season Catholic plans as we gear up for the end of the liturgical year. ;-) Stay tuned!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Adventures in new school routines and last minute restaurant dancing...

Well, it may not be pretty, but I'm makin' it. πŸ˜‚ The weeks are long right now, but we're getting there. Let's settle in for a drink!


I've lived through another week, which these days, is an enormous accomplishment. I feel like this each day lately when I get up in the morning:


Life is a marathon right now, but I'm trying to sprint through each day. I'm getting there, but each evening when I am trying to keep my eyes open before collapsing into bed I am very aware that I am trying to do too much and that I cannot keep up this pace forever. But in the short term, until the competition finals are over, I'm not really sure what else to do. So I'm hanging on for dear life and doing the best I can.

Henry is loving his new high school. I'm quite shocked at how he's clearly acclimated already and thriving. We're still figuring out how we're getting him to and from school each day, since he starts and finishes at completely different times from Anne, but we'll get there. We live close enough that he always has the option to walk/bike, which is absolutely clutch. 

As for Anne, things are still a struggle. She has not acclimated to her new class, and is not thriving in any way. I'm anxious to talk to her teacher, but unfortunately, her teacher's mom passed away this week, and so there has been a substitute. Therefore (quite understandably) it's going to be awhile before I'll be able to get a sense of how she's doing when she's actually at school. I just know that at home, she's been quite unhappy and down about school. Mike and I are both, consequently, quite anxious about all of this. It's been challenging, for sure.

My car goes in to be repaired on Monday, thankfully. But my litany of other appointments remain, and I'm just balancing them all in the short term as best I can. My classes are finally all scheduled, so that's something.

In my dance world, it's been complete and total chaos. :-0 I've been preparing for the competition, and my troupe is preparing for a hafla that is coming up in just a few weeks, but everything is on hold at the studio right now because one of our instructors is getting married this weekend. And in the midst of all this, I've had several paid gigs. I hadn't had a paid gig since New Year's Eve, and now I've had 2 in the past 3 weeks. 😳 And it's great, don't get me wrong. But it's been so stressful at a time when I've had so much else going on, I can hardly think straight.

Last week, my instructor and main dancing partner in gigging situations messaged me to see if I was available to dance at the grand re-opening of a restaurant we frequently dance at on New Year's Eve. They had had a fire, and had been closed for 5 months. They wanted to hire us to dance, but the re-opening was in 3 days.

😬

Now, here's the thing: we're belly dancers. We improvise for a living. I can put together a set list and dance to it with 5 minutes of notice. But emotionally, paying gigs take a lot out of me. You're in costume and performing to the utmost of your ability for anywhere from 12-20+ minutes, and it's exhausting. Restaurant sets are usually 20 minutes for us, and we each dance 2 or 3. It takes a lot of physical stamina and emotional well being. And the emotional thing has been a bit low of late. :-0

But this is a great restaurant, a great opportunity, and great extra pay. So we agreed to do it.

That Friday found me applying stage makeup as Mike and the kids ripped up carpets in the upstairs hallway, remember that? I'm stepping over staples and disintegrated carpet pad as I frantically race around looking for my 4D mascara and extra facial glitter. Claire and I arrive at 5 pm for a 4 hour stretch of waiting amongst straw wrappers and sugar packets, interspersed with 20 minute sets of dancing. This restaurant is lovely, but their sound system is not the best, and stress abounded with getting the music to play loudly, all while people keep coming up to ask me if I can seat them at a table. :-0 It's always a little wacky at these adventures. I will also say that it adds an element of interest to improvisational dancing when you don't even remember what you put on your set list. :-0

But it went great, and I went home a limp noodle after a very long day. I don't know how much longer I can keep up this pace, but I have to until September 22nd. Then I can start worry about my crazy teaching load (5 classes that next day alone) and the hafla that I don't even know the dance for yet. πŸ˜‚I don't know, I guess we'll figure it all out! But I have to admit, I don't like things to be *quite* this exciting all at the same time!

What's new with you as September reaches it's mid point?

Friday, September 6, 2019

When God tells you to slow down...

Since we last spoke, things have been a whirlwind in the world of your Catholic Librarian. And, don't get me wrong, it's not like I have it worse than anybody else. Everyone's lives are busy right now. We're all in this together. *hug*

But I've been having a hard time managing it all, both physically and emotionally. In the past week:

(1) Henry started high school, as well as the after school work study program to earn money towards his tuition, which runs every day. Our previous morning/afternoon routines are now in shambles.

(2) Anne started 3rd grade, and was decidedly NOT looking forward to going back. I think she's a little envious of Henry's exciting new situation in his new Catholic high school while she's back in the hum drum world of their K-8 school. I also think that, although she won't admit it, she misses Henry being there, and is lonely. Her class is very small this year, and although that's great for individual attention, I think she's sad about not being around more kids. She has a hang dog face each morning, and I'm a bit worried about this.

(3) My teaching schedule at work is still up in the air, despite it being the second week of the semester, and things are generally a bit chaotic right now with regards to our lesson planning. I'm stressed about it.

(4) My dance competition is in just over two weeks, and I have a pit in my stomach about it. We're also learning a new group choreography that we haven't finished yet, but need to perform with just a few weeks to practice at our next showcase. And now I'm going to be missing class this week due to a last minute restaurant booking. 😬

(5) We're getting our upstairs carpet replaced on Saturday, and the house is in complete disarray in preparation for that, with furniture moved to and fro, painting happening, and carpet being slowly pulled up from the staircase.

(6) I'm undergoing physical therapy for my recurring calf injury, and suddenly have appointments out the wazoo on my calendar intermixed with the teaching that is to come. Whenever that's finally all scheduled that is. πŸ˜“

And all week long, I've been battling what I thought were fall seasonal allergies, but I haven't been this sick with allergies in a long, long time: lethargy, congestion (both head and chest), sore throat, fever rash, the entire works. The night before last, I coughed so much I could barely sleep. When the alarm went off for the morning, I was like:

😳

I couldn't do it. I was at that point, I just couldn't do it. My mind was awhirl with my to-do list of approximately 146,783 items, but my body wouldn't let me. I was exhausted, and I physically had no energy to do any of it.

I got up, and helped the kids get ready for school. Got the lunches all set to go. Mike drove Anne to school, and I took Henry. Then I came home, called in sick, climbed back into bed, and dozed off. It's the best thing I could have done.

I had a physical therapy appointment at lunchtime, and I dragged myself to that. But otherwise, I stayed home, in my jammies, and rested up. I would get small bursts of normal feeling energy, but within the hour, my eyes were drooping closed and I'd lay down.

I'm back at work today, and the feelings of being overwhelmed are still very much present. I'm trying to manage them the best I can. But I think that yesterday, God was telling me that I had no choice, I had to rest. There was a lot that needed doing, and I couldn't do any of it. That's really hard for me to accept.

But it's life, you know? I can't always do and control everything. It's part of my personality, but I need to accept that sometimes things are going to be different and I have to accept that. I'm a work in progress on this, to be sure.

How about you? How does God get your attention when He needs to communicate an important message to you? ;-)

Friday, August 30, 2019

In dance prep mode... When I have any energy at all, that is ;-)

Welcome to the end of August at Life of a Catholic Librarian, friends, and I cannot believe how quickly this summer flew by! My kids go back to school next week after the holiday, each of them, for the first time in several years, going to a separate school building (Henry's of the high school variety), Henry has a smartphone for the first time in his entire life, and Mike and I have been back to our fall semester schedules since this past Monday. My crazy teaching load won't start up again for a few more weeks, so thank goodness for small favors.

I've been battling some anxiety about all of these changes, and I've also been battling a persistent muscle pull in my left calf. With the dance competition less than a month away, I'm pretty much freaking out. :-0 I finally took the initiative to see an orthopaedist about it, and initial diagnosis is quite good. He doesn't think it's anything more serious than a simple strained muscle, and recommended physical therapy. I start next week, and am feeling very encouraged by it. I've also been working on my own to strengthen that lower leg, since it's now somewhat weaker than the other one.

You could say that I have a lot of trepidation moving into September. I'm doing my best with it, but it's definitely been a significant challenge in my adult life.

As September 1st looms, I'm burying my head in the sand and not looking at the calendar. πŸ˜‚ My dance competition finals are Saturday, September 21st. I'm telling myself that it'll just be a wonderful learning experience, I've already benefitted greatly from the preparation process, and that I'll likely not place in the top 3. And seriously, that would be fine. I'm thrilled to have been selected as a finalist, and I need to keep my expectations low. It's an international competition, that's a really big deal! If the reality exceeds them, well, that's gravy, but it probably won't.

I've been working on my piece since late January. Time limit is 3 minutes, so I had to select and cut music, and choreograph a dance. Let me tell you, it was HARD. I'm a belly dancer, and I love to improvise. That's an important part of this dance form. I found planning out a piece to be much more difficult than I anticipated! I used to choreograph solo pieces to perform at haflas when I was new to soloing, and so I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to go back to doing it just this once. Yikes! Nope, it's difficult to plan out a choreography, especially when you want to use it to show the entire range of your dancing abilities in 3 minutes.

Finally, in May, I had a version I was pretty happy with. I filmed the video, amusing anecdotes and all, and submitted it. As much as I had enjoyed the process, and working with one of my instructors who mentored me through it all, I was so glad to not have to practice that dance anymore. :-0

My reprieve lasted a month, when I found out that I had been selected as a finalist. This means that you now have to perform live in the finals. You can perform the piece you did in your video, or something else entirely, it's up to you, and it's a whole new panel of judges. With less than 3 months between then and the finals, I did NOT want to come up with entirely new material. So I'm using my video piece; however, it's been heavily modified based upon judges' feedback and my own fussiness about things I decided that I hated. πŸ˜‚ It's silly, because the piece is done, it's been honed and revamped based on excellent and detailed feedback, I've been practicing it for months in terms of fine tuning my technique and other nuances, yet I still feel so unprepared.

I suppose that's how it will always be with these sorts of things. When you care about what you do, you always feel like it could be better. I also hope that, on the day of the performance, my nerves don't interfere with my ability to do my best. Tha's what everyone always worries about, yes? It's a Catch 22. You're nervous because you want to perform to your fullest potential, but your nerves interfere wtih your ability to perform to your fullest potential. Stinks, but it's part of the human condition.

So, that's that. I rehearse my piece every single day, and indeed, after the finals, I will be relieved to NEVER DANCE THAT CHOREOGRAPHY EVER AGAIN! :-0 I'm dancing at the party after the finals are over, and how I delight in being able to improvise and do whatever I want, ha ha!

I'll keep you posted, but truly, it's OK no matter what. If you don't challenge yourself, you'll never grow. You might be more comfortable (as my poor stomach can attest) but you'll be letting yourself down if you don't at least try. We'll see what happens. But no matter what, on September 22nd, I'm laying on the couch all day, drinking beer, eating pizza, and watching football. :-0

How is your August wrapping up, dear friends?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Spending a little time with the Word...

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my little blog! I can't believe that it's late August already, YIKES! My kids haven't gone back to school yet, but it's coming. We have parent orientation tonight at Henry's new high school, and I think I'm handling my interior freaking out pretty well. ;-) I'm ready for a new season, but I'm also quite nervous. It'll be OK, but there are big things in store, to be sure!

I teased today's topic in last week's post, and I'm so excited to write about this today. :-) While I was on vacation last week, my sister introduced me to these Write the Word Journals, by Cultivate What Matters. I saw her using one each morning with her Bible and was intrigued.

These are not scripture studies, or guided journaling through scripture, per se. They are different from anything I've used in the past in that each day has a passage from the Bible listed (book and verse only) and then a big space for you to write down the actual passage. So you're not reflecting on the scripture verses (although you could do that too), but you're transcribing the verses down into your journal. There's also space to write down what you're grateful for that day, a word for the day, and what's on your heart that day (which you could use for pretty much any prayer purpose you wished). What I like about this system is that:

 (a) it can help you to memorize scripture verses, and

(b) on busy mornings, no deep thought is required on your part. You can just write the verse in, and there is still a great benefit to settling into God's Word for those few minutes without having to come up with coherent thoughts of your own. ;-) Some days, no inspired/academic reflecting is coming, as I'm sure you can relate!

There are a number of these journals available from Cultivate the Word, and each is themed. So this one (which is the one that I purchased) is about renewal, but there's also faith, hope, joy, contentment, etc. Here's a peek at the interior pages:

So indeed, I ordered one of the journals to check it out. You can also get these through Amazon, which if you have Prime shipping, is a way to save a bit. That's what I did. And I've been using mine each morning for a little peaceful and happy time with my Bible and with my own thoughts.

This is a non-Catholic Christian company, so the scripture references will be from the parts of the Bible that we both share, just an FYI. But I have to say that I'm loving the set up of these. There are lots of great options out there for scripture study, to be sure, I've just taken a shine to this one as an opportunity for individual scripture study, in a format that appeals to someone with a short attention span, and with not a lot of time to spare in my morning routine. :-)

Speaking of scripture study, I have been very inspired by this of late, and so have fun plans to announce to you. :-0 I'm going to start a weekly thread with themed scripture verses for us to chat about together in the blog's Facebook group! My sister Shauna'h has agreed to lead the thread each week, and will announce the theme and a related verse for us to look up in our Bibles and write in with our thoughts if we are so inspired. This will be super low maintenance, just participate whenever you'd like and/or are able to. I even made a graphic for us and everything, horray!


Join us on Facebook for Wednesdays with the Word starting up right after Labor Day! So, our first day will be September 4th. πŸ€— I can't wait for this, I'm so excited!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Unexpected blessings at Mass on the road...

Hudson River, at Corinth, NY
So I had a lovely experience this past weekend, one of those times wherein you're sort of cruising along on spiritual auto-pilot, and then something comes up and grabs your attention in a completely unexpected way, kwim? To be sure, things haven't been poor for me in the spiritual realm, but it has definitely been a bit dry of late. I think this happens to most, if not all, people, and for me it's quite cyclical. A cycle might go for a year or more in either direction. And for me, it's been "just OK" for a number of months now.

This past weekend, my entire family took a weekend trip together for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. My 2 sisters live in other states, so we all met in the middle, rented a huge house with a pool through Airbnb, and all 15 of us stayed there together for a few days. It was SOOO nice to see everyone, and to spend quality time together.

Having some time to blissfully talk to my sister Shauna'h in person, we quite naturally navigated over to spiritual topics. Catholic podcasts we both listen to, books we've read, etc. And a book she was using for her morning devotional time really struck a chord with me. In a total teaser, that is the subject of *next* week's post, so you have to wait a bit for the big reveal on this particular book. :-0 But I'm soooo excited about it, and to share it with you! At any rate, she and I were talking about this book, and about prayer routines and scripture study, and it really got the Catholic Nerd in me re-energized, big time. More on this next week. ;-)

And so on Sunday morning, I was really looking forward to going to Mass. I'm going to be honest and admit that lately, Mass is something I attend because I know it's the right thing to do, not because I feel spiritually edified when I'm there. It happens. We must soldier through, and so that's what I've been doing. I was even wondering if we were going to make it, given that many of us hadn't slept well the night before, and things at the house were moving slowly Sunday morning due to an electrical outage.

But we made it. The Google Maps lady got us there safely, and I was feeling optimistic and much more enthusiastic about attending Mass than I have in quite some time. As we were walking into the tiny church for the 10:45 am Mass (open only seasonally to accommodate tourist season in the Adirondacks), a man standing at the door greeting people stopped us and asked Henry if he could help him carry something heavy. Henry, always the first to complain about church being boring, could use a job to do to keep his mind occupied, so I encouraged him to help out. The rest of us bustled into a pew.

Next thing I know, I see the man directing Henry into retrieving the cross from up at the front of the church. In most parishes, the portable cross for processing up the aisle is made of wood, but this one appeared to be made of wrought iron. :-0 Henry got it out, no problem, and carried it to the back of the church. I was pleased to see him being so cooperative.

Within minutes, the man reappeared, and this time he was wearing priestly vestments.

πŸ˜‚

Who knew?! He wasn't wearing a collar before then, so I assumed he was an usher. But I should have realized that this tiny church did not need ushers. At any rate, the opening song begins, Henry and the priest proceed to the front of the church, and Henry efficiently tucks the cross into it's holder and carefully turned it so that Jesus was facing out at the congregation. As he started to walk back to our pew, the priest stopped him, and they had a quick sidebar. Apparently, Henry's deliberate pause at the altar with the cross, waiting for the priest, and then coordinating their bows, gave away his skills as an altar server. Father recruited him on the spot to serve at the Mass. Which is hilarious, because Henry was on the schedule to serve at our home parish that exact same Sunday, and had to find a sub due to our trip. Apparently, he wasn't going to get out of serving on this particular day!

The experience gave the Mass a truly serendipitous feel, like it was meant to be for us to be there for that specific Mass. I loved watching Henry pitch hit on the altar, figuring out the system at this parish as he went along. Afterwards, we chatted with Father for awhile, and it was just lovely. He was thrilled to have an altar server at Mass, as he usually doesn't have one at this particular location, and enjoyed talking to us about our story and where we were from. I left with the happiest feeling of contentment and joy in my chest.

It's little moments like this that cause me to remember that God is always looking out for us, even when we're not adept at recognizing the signs. It was a wonderful experience that has left my faith feeling rejuvenated.

Have you ever had an experience like this one? Just a small God-incident moment? Any good Mass on the road stories from Sundays of travel? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! Also, next week we'll chat about devotionals. πŸ˜€

Friday, August 9, 2019

Back-to-school prayer, and knitting as a distraction from worry...

Welcome back friends! I hope you're enjoying the fresh start to August as much as I am. I am going to freely admit that I am quite odd, and find July to be my least favorite month every single year. I like certain aspects of July, like the 4th of July holiday and swimming/picnics, festival dancing, extra socializing with friends. But the weather?

πŸ‘Ž

It's the most humid month of the year here in WNY, and that's my least favorite weather ever. Yes, even more so than winter. So, with July done, besides panicking a bit about the approach of my dance competition finals in late September, I'm enjoying the slight turn in the weather that August brings. There are still warm and humid days ahead, don't get me wrong, but they tend not to cluster so much, and to be less oppressive than July. I'll take it.

August also heralds other changes in our lives. K-12 schools in my part of the world don't start back until after Labor Day in September, but back-to-school is IN THE AIR now, if you know what I mean. Lots of sales and pictures on Facebook of back-to-schoolers, since most other areas of the country start back before we do. This is a situation that I have tucked away firmly in my heart for daily prayer. This new school year means lots of changes for our kids: they will no longer be at the same school, Henry will start high school, and Anne is officially in Big Kid Land as she starts 3rd grade. I have this rosary on my desk at work, made by the lovely Allison, and just holding it and looking at it gives me a sense of peace:

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us!

I have a feeling that I'll be using it for more than admiration purposes as we transition into fall. I think her courage and faith are exactly what I need next month, to be sure. I'm downright weepy about all of these changes, and the worry that accompanies them. So I've been knitting for both children up a storm, because in my mind this keeps them safe.

?

I know, I know. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to make me feel better! I started a pair of green self-striping socks for Henry (who is suddenly an ADULT LARGE in terms of shoe size), and I made a robin playset for Anne. Not exactly conventional, but that's how we roll in my avian friendly household.

This summer, we had a robin family nest in our neighbor’s yard. Anne, ever the avid birder, kept vigil with her binoculars over Memorial Day weekend, and got to see the entire process - from the parents building the nest, to mom incubating the eggs, and finally three little beaks starting to push up over the top of the nest as mom and dad arrived back with worm reinforcements. The babies fledged a few weeks later, and now we see them in juvenile form, hopping around our back yarn with their spotted breasts, learning how to look for food on their own. It was just so special! So I found a robin pattern to make my Anne her own commemorative robin:

Pattern is Spring Robin, and is available for free!

This is Mother Robin. And she's super inquisitive. ;-)



Never content to leave well enough alone, I made a nest for Mother Robin. She needs a comfy home for her family!




And of course, my little helper is so excited about her new bird friend.


Instructions for the nest are included in the pattern, and it was MUCH easier than I expected! You essentially make a yarn snarl in your lap that you baste together with a separate strand of yarn, threaded through a tapestry needle, into the shape of a nest.

And here, HERE, is the best part. Mother Robin has her triplets!

:-0
I mean, did you ever? Instructions on how to knit the nestlings (squeal!) are included right in the pattern as well. I will admit, I found it a bit more cumbersome to knit a stuffed toy, especially small ones, as opposed to crochet. But this was an enjoyable process that I learned a lot from, and I'm thrilled with the results!

Anne made some "worms" out of scrap yarn, so now we have Mother Robin and babies posing all over the house in various scenes of feeding frenzy. It's all so cute, and I'm glad that I tried out the new skills I had to learn in order to make these. The satisfaction of all of this took my mind off of how freaked out I am about several key dates in September. πŸ˜‚

So that's what I've been up to. How about you? Do you have any intentions you would like the community to pray for? Just let us know!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dancing around dogs and potholes - festival dancing adventures 2019...

TGIF everyone, and as ever, weeks with summer festival dancing are full of adventure. I have to admit that heat and humidity are not my favorite conditions to dance in, but when you perform a cultural dance form, outdoor festivals are sort of your jam, whether you like it or not. So I've adapted as best I can (gigantic clip to get hair off of neck for in-between dances and changing of costumes is absolutely ESSENTIAL) but it's always an interesting stretch, especially the last full weekend in July, when our studio has traditionally danced 2 full afternoons at one particular art festival.

This year, there was no stage for performers, so we danced out at ground level throughout the festival grounds. This is another less then ideal situation, because it means that we're dancing on a road surface that is inevitably uneven and full of divots and loose gravel. It's just, you know. Not very glamorous. :-0 And a little bit uncomfortable!

Saturday was about 85 degrees, and quite humid, so my very strength of will was girded about what we were about to experience. Which is to say: sweat. So much sweat. And the un-air conditioned dressing space is the gateway to this situation, for sure and for certain. πŸ˜‚

We were dressed in Saidi gowns, which means that the sweat situation was a bit more intense than usual, as they are full length and have long sleeves. I know, I know, but we are performing a number of folkloric pieces this summer, so the costuming is very specific. Hence, the sweat. But people dance in Egypt in gowns heavier than this, so I figure I cannot complain. ;-)

Saidi gowns!

And everything went very well. It's always difficult to carve out dance space in these situation, but people are super curious, so they tend to give way. I don't like dancing on slightly inclined surfaces, because I lose my balance much more easily when turning, but I did what I could:

Tiffany's Thought Bubble: "Well, maybe if I just step/step/step around it'll be better? Oof. Where did that hole come from?"

As we were lining up for our drum piece, I heard a troupemate whisper:

"Could you guys scoot forward just a bit? We're in a pot hole over here."

Very typical festival conditions, to be sure. πŸ˜‚

Each day required an immediate shower afterward and complete laundering of costume and accessories, but such is life in summer festival season. We're performing again tonight, and I'm expecting more of the same! It's draining, but fun to dance with my girls. πŸ€—

What are you all up to this first weekend in August?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Summer crafting updates...

Happy Friday everyone! We're coming up on the last weekend in July, which is an art festival weekend for my dance studio every year. Although I love dancing, I have to admit that doing so outside in heat and humidity is not my favorite. But I'm sure that it'll go great, and that I'll have a wonderful time with my dance girls. Updates on that next week, festival weekends are always amusing. :-0

I promised a craft update this week, and in between dance rehearsals, that has been keeping my mind and hands busy, which is a good thing. As otherwise, I'd be a puddle of worry by the end of the summer. ;-)

Summer is always Harry Potter time in my house, and we re-watch all of the movies and I continue on my quest to read the entire series. This summer, I'm reading Half Blood Prince. I'm going to be honest and admit that I could not finish Order of the Phoenix last year, and I feel super guilty about this. 😬 From what I hear from others, I am not alone in my feelings that, although the story was compelling, this particular book was just far too long. I kept reading, and reading, and reading, and my Kindle progress would move up a single percentage point. πŸ˜‚ I think I got to about 70-75% when I finally gave up. It just wasn't holding my interest, and consequently, I wasn't picking it up enough and my progress got even SLOWER. Half Blood Prince is going WAY better, and I'm already quite absorbed in the story.

When we start re-watching the movies, I start wanting to create some Harry Potter crafts. And so here we have Hedwig:


Pattern is Hedwig the Owl, by Erin Shirley, available for free!
Don't you just love her wings?!


Anne, who was clamoring to bring this Hedwig up to bed with her that night, was trying to make the case that Hedwig didn't need wings, but let's be real. Hedwig has to deliver the mail, she needs wings. ;-)

Since I had originally intended Hedwig for my desk at work, and Anne stole her, I decided to make another one. This one has different eyes, so Hedwig #2 has her own new look:


She's keeping me company at work and I just love her. *heart*

Over in my Hogwarts at Ravelry group (where I'm Gryffindor Head Girl *beams*) I'm participating in a Mystery Knit-along and Mystery Crochet-along hosted by Ravenclaw. Both items are dishcloths, and clues are being released one per week, alternating between the cloths. This has been a lot of fun! This is the in-progress MKAL cloth:

Definitely looks like a bird :-0
And this is the MCAL cloth:


The clue that we'll be receiving this weekend is for the MCAL, so that will be the one to grow this week. I love how the variegated colors are working up on that one! Yarn is Knit Picks' Dishie Multi in Cabin (colorway is unfortunately discontinued).

In non-Harry Potter Land, I'm working diligently on the back piece of Mike's long awaited cabled cardigan:

Pattern is 0-850 Rambling Man, by Drops Design, and is available for free!
I'm taking my time with this, but I'm determined to finish it up for Christmas! I'm almost to where I'll need to divide for the arm holes, so I have to figure out how to do that. ;-)

And finally, the long term work-in-progress I decided to pick up this summer in order to finish for fall, is this:

Looks like an unexciting rectangle, I know
Although this currently looks like nothing special, it will ultimately turn into an adorable poncho, perfect for autumn:

Pattern is Oakwood Poncho, by Nikki Wagner, available via Knit Picks
Rather than the blue, gray and black stripes you see in the original pattern, I chose forest green, burgundy and brown stripes for mine. I'm excited to see how it turns out! I'm just now diving for the front panels, so things have gotten more interesting!

I'm really happy with my summer crafting plans. I also have additional Christmas gift ideas, which will be implemented very soon.

πŸ˜‡

Do you have late summer crafting or gardening plans? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

New news on my book! And assorted other family updates...

Happy July heat wave, everybody, and hope you are doing well this week! We're busy, busy as always, but somewhat less hectic than last week. Anne made it though Girl Scout camp, and now this week Henry is working at his new Catholic high school, earning a bit of credit towards his tuition (which we definitely need him to keep doing). The school is quite close to our house, so this week's morning routine is vastly improved over Girl Scout week! Mike's summer teaching schedule changes after this week, too. He's teaching 2 classes right now, but they finish up today, and starting next week he'll just be teaching a section of Logic each morning. Easier schedules make for overall family happiness, to be sure.

For my part, I'm hanging in there with all of the emotional changes and doing pretty well with it.

*virtual fist bump*

Working quite hard on dance, I'll have a full post devoted to that sometime this summer. I've also been busily crafting. I'll likely post an update on that next week.

In other news, my book, and indeed the entire Stay Connected Journals series, is now being published by Our Sunday Visitor. This is a large Catholic publisher, and we're quite thrilled that they've been picked up by OSV! So my book now has a new home on Amazon, and the price is just $11.95. It's also for sale in OSV's shop, and they offer free shipping on all of their books. :-) This is a happy place for the books, and we're excited to see what the new publisher will do with them. I was on their webcast yesterday as part of OSV's author series to talk about the series and about my book specifically. You can view the recorded webcast by registering for the event here. :)

I just absolutely love this beautiful trio of books as a great gift idea, and I really hope that small group Bible studies get something out of them. It's such an exciting collaboration to be a part of, and I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of this project.

For my own part, I'd really like to get back to daily scripture reading, but that has decidedly not been happening. This is all on my own (part of the problem) because I don't have a small group study that I'm a part of. How about you? Do you attend a faith sharing or Bible study group of any kind? What type of routine works for you in terms of adding scripture reading to your day? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July always needs some St. Kateri...

http://catholicmom.com/2019/07/08/a-special-devotion-for-july/
Hey everyone, and welcome to a humid and uncomfortable early-July edition with the Catholic Librarian. :-0 Thank you so much to everyone who reached out and wished me well following my post last week about my upcoming adventures as a finalist in my very first (and let's be real, probably only) dance competition!  I'm super nervous about it. 😬 But I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'll definitely devote a whole post to my preparation process sometime this summer! Finals are in late September.

😬😬😬

But onward and upwards! This is a summer of many changes, as I've talked about several times in recent weeks. The kids are growing and changing soooo quickly. Anne is at Girl Scout camp this week, and she had a rough first day. 😒 My kids are both introverts, just like Mike and I, and so new situations, especially those that:

(a) involve lots of unknown people,
(b) are loud, and
(c) involve games and singing

...are very hard on them. I completely relate to this, and I'm a soft touch, so tears of not wanting to go back make me want to crumble. But of course, perseverance is also important (she wanted to go to this camp, I wouldn't have signed up up otherwise) and so I told her that she needed to give it at least 1 more day. If after the second day it was clear that it was a bad fit and was actively making her miserable, I would not have pushed her. But the first day is never a perfect indicator of how things will be going forward, you need to give it just a wee bit more time. So I took her on the second day feeling uber guilty, and she came home exhausted and hangry again. However, she also chirped on about the woodsy things that they had done, the other girls, and the homemade beef and macaroni dish they had for lunch. She had a good time. And wanted to go back the next day.

HUGE sigh of relief. But the week has been emotionally draining as a result. Therefore my July piece over at CatholicMom comes at a perfect time and on an ideal topic. St. Kateri is a huge source of consolation for me, as I mention in this article (and there is a link back to the original piece fully detailing St. Kateri's place in my and my family's faith journey in there), and right now, I need her more than ever. So, if you need a dose of St. Kateri too, I'd love it if you would check out my piece over there. Comments on the CatholicMom website are always super welcome!

Who are you favorite summer saints? My kids' feast days are also in July: St. Henry on July 13th, and Sts. Anne and Joachim on July 26th. July is a great saint month. πŸ˜€

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Is there such a thing as too much dance excitement? A tale of exciting anxiety :0

Well, I'm here to tell you that there is. πŸ˜‚ This week, I think we need wine instead of hot cocoa, but whatever your preference, settle in for a chat!


My mind has been all a whirl for quite some time now. There have been so many changes, as I've spoken of recently. And more are to come, as Henry starts high school this fall, Mike will begin a new teaching position, and even my own teaching responsibilities will look somewhat different next semester due to changes in the way our program will be administered. It's just a lot to deal with for someone who is quite averse to change. :-0

And then there's dance changes. Dance has been a constant in my life for just over 10 years now, and it was a staple in my childhood as well. It's something that has given me stability in my active life, and inspiration in my creative life. Those two things have grown over the most recent 3-5 years, for sure. I've kept on tackling new challenges in dance, and it has been the best thing that I have ever done.

I remember when I was in the beginner class thinking that all of the people who performed at haflas were so brave, that I could never do that. Well. 😳

I did that, and it was a downright BIG DEAL, performing with my class for the very first time. That's a HARD thing to do, I think back on it so fondly when I see new students at the studio getting the jitters about this, because I so completely understand. To be sure, I STILL get performance jitters before dancing. As in, major ones. But we'll come back to that.

So, first I took the leap and began performing with my class at haflas. Then I moved up to the troupe, and it was a given that I would perform more with them, since they perform at festivals and other events. At that point, that was a pretty seamless and natural transition. Also, right around that same time, I tried something ELSE I swore I'd never do: I performed a solo. THAT was a really huge milestone, if I'm being honest. That was one of the hardest things I've ever done in dance; to look out and see everybody waiting for you to start, because, you know, it's just YOU out there and they're all. Looking. At. YOU.

😬

It was scary, for a shy person, it must be said. But I did it. That was one of my proudest dance moments. I did a solo at every hafla after that, and I remember each of them. But that first one holds a special place in my heart.

After a few years, I got my first pro restaurant gig, and I have to say, that was a pretty scary leap too. πŸ˜‚ And my pro experiences built up pretty slowly, so in-between those gigs it was like I was starting from scratch, sick to my stomach before each event and/or New Year's Eve. But I made it, and I got better at it, and I was proud.

And then, well. I did something a little crazy. I entered a dance competition.

😨😨😨

I'm not really sure why I did that. :-0 Well, my mentors encouraged me to, and this particular one is fairly local to us, AND the first stage involved simply filming and entering a video. Pshaw, I said. A video? I can do that. Well.

It's not as easy as it sounds. :-0 And you all know me, I'm an improvisational dancer. I LOVE to improvise, I'm good at it, and I feel comfortable doing it. What I'm NOT good at is creating choreography, and that's what I needed to do for this video. I mean, I *suppose* you could improvise in this situation, but that didn't strike me as a good idea for a competition. You want to assure that you showcase a range of movements and musical expressions, and with improvisation, you never know what the heck is going to happen. You may plan certain parts of it, to fit specific spots in the music, but in the moment, you may or may not remember to do those things. At least if my improv experience is any indication. It makes for beautiful, emotive, dancing, but in this particular case, it didn't seem to be the right fit. So I chose music and started a choreography. 5 months later...

:-0

I finished and filmed the video. πŸ˜‚ For 3 minutes of choreography, yes, it took me 5 months. Because I kept changing and fine tuning things, and then I wanted to work on my technique and expression within the choreography. That took a lot out of me, I tell you. :-0 This was HARD! Really, really hard. And then the filming itself.

My teacher helped me to film the video. She has better equipment then I have, and offered up the studio as a nice big spot to film. This was fantastic, especially since the alternative was my small living room. We filmed 3 takes, and they went as follows:

Take 1: Went well, but I was nervous and stiffer in my execution.

Take 2: I'm all relaxed and into it. My favorite take by far. Figuring I'll use this one.

Take 3: I'm all sweaty and exhausted, and the adrenaline is starting to wear off. But I film one more just in case. I have a memory lapse towards the end, and forget a movement, but keep going. No matter, because I'm not using that one anyway.

A few days later, I look at the takes:

Take 1: is fine, but I know I can do better.

Take 2: Approximately 25 seconds into the 3 minute video, a thick portion of hair sticks to the sweat on my forehead and lodges there quite noticeably. All glamour, all the time, over here. I figure the hair flips and such I have coming up will fix that, but NOPE. It stays there for the entire.rest.of.the.song. Crap!

Take 3: I'm sweaty. But clearly more relaxed. There's that mistake at the end that doesn't look noticeable to the outside observer, but *I* notice it and it's bugging me. Now what?!

😭

This was all very stressful, I tell you. Sure, I could re-film, but my teacher had warned me about this phenomena: when you care about your art, there comes a point after which, when you have to ability to keep trying, you'll never be happy with it. You care so much that you always feel that it can be better. But at a certain point you have to call it enough. And that's where I was at. Plus, I did not want to inconvenience my teacher to take time out of her busy schedule to film me again. So I did the only sensible thing:

I roped my long suffering husband into moving the carpet and furniture out of our small living room so that I could do another take there. :-0

That was an amusing morning, it must be said. Me in a belly dance costume at 8 am, Mike rolling up an area rug and wedging the coffee table into our hallway. And both of us rigging up my small iPad mini to try and film. The things we'll do for love. Well.

The experience was worthwhile, but I didn't end up using that video. The picture and sound quality were just so much lower, and though we tried to control the natural light, it was still reflecting in at a bad angle and washing me out on one side of the room. I was glad that I had tried, because it made me feel like I had at least exhausted every possibility. And in comparing the videos, it made me appreciate the studio videos anew.

So what did I end up picking? Take 3, of course. I had a few friends watch them, and my teachers, and all picked Take 3 as their favorite. So I submitted that one and tried not to obsess about it. That was the end of May.

In June: Well OK, I obsessed a *little*, but I really think I kept it reigned in pretty well. :-0

Then on Monday, I got word: I was chosen as a finalist in my category. And I now have to perform live in September for the final round of the competition.

And this is the point at which we circle back to the performance jitters issue. WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING?! Now I have to go perform in a competition and I'm scared to death! πŸ˜‚ Why do I torture myself this way?!

Because if we don't challenge ourselves, we won't grow. And if we don't grow, our art will die. When we grow, we are alive. And that's a good, good feeling, even if it's mixed with nausea. ;-)

The process of working on the choreography, and working to improve my dance within it, was more beneficial than I could have possibly realized. And even if nothing more comes of it than the stage I'm at right now (which is to say, I don't achieve a placing finish in the final competition, and of course, this is a very likely scenario given that all of the dancers at this level are extremely talented!) I'm so glad that I did this. I'm continuing to challenge and trying to improve myself, and that's an excellent thing. Plus, this business of me being a finalist in a competition is staying on my dance Instagram profile for all time and eternity. :-0

So, this summer will be dedicated to working on my choreography again. Your video submission earns you judges' comments, and they are SO HELPFUL, I can't even begin to tell you. So I'll be working on technique and a few small changes. In the end, all I can do is work to showcase my personal best. I'm going into September with no expectations beyond trying to achieve that.

Honestly, though. I cannot believe I went through with this. :-0 Don't get me wrong, I'm so glad for it! But this is nerve wracking. I hope that I feel really, really alive in late September. πŸ˜‚

How do you continue to challenge yourself in the things you love? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, June 28, 2019

The happy distraction of summer crafting...

My crafting has been occupying my busy mind this summer, and believe me, the distraction is quite welcome and needed. This is also the time of year I get all into Christmas in July mode (even if it's not quite yet July; apparently I'm just as bad as the Hallmark Channel ;-)), and start planning items I want to make for holiday gifts. Want to see? :-0

Soooo, I may or may not have been promising Mike a cabled cardigan for approximately the past 5 years.

😬

I know, I know. Time just kinda got away from me! And I kept putting it off because a men's cabled cardigan is going to take some serious time to complete. But after I wrapped up a few longer term projects this spring I was itching for a new challenge. And look who finally got cast on?

Pattern is Rambling Man by Drops Design, and is free!

This is the back piece, and I have to say that I am IN LOVE. It is SO fun to watch the magic of cabling come alive, and the moss stitch texture in-between is just to die for. Currently, I'm working my way towards where I'll accommodate for the arm holes. I'd say I have about 2 more repeats of the chart before I'm there. After I finish this piece, I'll have 2 front pieces to knit, plus the sleeves, and a large ribbed collar and button band. Relatively speaking, I'm making quick and excellent progress! My goal is to have this completed by Christmas.

*virtual fist bump*

So that's officially gift #1. Anne has asked for an alpaca hat. I have yarn from an alpaca, but I think she also wants it to look like an alpaca? :-0 More research needed on this one. She's also asked for a snowman mug cosy, and I have yarn and buttons to make the most adorable one:

Pattern is Chill Chaser Cup Cosy, and is available for free!
I'm planning to make some stuffed animals this summer, many of which can be gifts, and I know that Anne wants a robin. I haven't told you all about the robin family that has been in and out of our back yard this summer, but it's absolutely precious, and we can commemorate this particular summer in this way. I need to look at patterns for this still!

For Henry, he always loves handknit socks, and the poor child, the last pair I knit him, I didn't remember to accommodate for how much his feet had been growing as he starts to go through puberty, and his toes burst through them within a few weeks. 😬 So I need to measure and make him a new pair for Christmas.

So that's:

(1) Mike's Cabled Cardigan
(2) Anne's alpaca hat
(3) mug cosy
(4) stuffed things, including robins
(5) socks for Henry

No problem. If anybody has any requests, you must tell me know now. ;-)

I'm also planning some treats for myself, one of which is a Hogwarts Express shawl with this lovely yarn I bought in Rhinebeck last fall:

Yarn is Dragonfly Fibers Birch Pixie
*blissful sigh*

I'm not planning to go to Rhinebeck this fall (*sobs!* But we have Catholic high school tuition, so you do what you gotta do) and so I'm planning to revel in the beautiful yarn that I bought last year. And my friend Nancy is attending and will bring back some yarn and alpaca socks for me and the kids.

*halo*

Do you have any crafting plans this summer? Gardening? Any "Christmas in July" plans of your own? Let me know in the comments!