Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I love 1st graders! Week 10

There are as many paths to the Catholic faith as there are Catholics. There are converts (shout out to Kassie at Secret Vatican Spy who will join at the Eucharistic table this Easter!), cradle Catholics (here's to Rebecca at Modestia!), "reverts," and double/triple/etc. reverted reverts. We love and welcome you all (and non-Catholics, no hatin' here).

One thing is for sure: to be a Catholic, you must have sturdy knees.

This week I ... abandoned my co-teacher. Don't fret, I checked with her first and she said everything went fine, though it was a full house of kidos. The University of Virginia's Catholic Student Ministry hosts a praise and worship once a month entitled Ignite.242. Last night was the final Ignite.242 of the semester and a friend of mine was the guest speaker.

My friend used the word "given" as a spring board for the talk, following up on previous talks covering "chosen," "blessed," and "broken." These four words are the key chapter titles in Fr. Henri Nouwen's book, The Life of the Beloved (one I will have to go buy).

He explained how even those who are materialistically poor or poor in health can develop a strong and healthy community, inciting joy.

In the last year he spent time in Mexico and Haiti, building, teaching, and helping where needed, while exposing himself to some of the most needy, yet joyful people he's known. He said some of the orphans in Haiti had just lost their parents, but they showed great love and sought attention from him and his mission buddies. A woman in Mexico, who cannot afford any kind of material comfort or luxury, somehow managed to make cookies for the missionaries and walked the miles to deliver them.

The sense of community was a source of true wealth and it does not have to be isolated to those in dire situations. You are my brother. You are my sister. We are a community, we need only to act like one. Working to please ourselves and achieve success for ourselves alone will not only leave us unfulfilled, but it will prevent us from creating our community.

He elaborated, reviewing a lesson I will never hear too many times: imagine how good you feel when someone smiles at you on the street. Think about how much of a relief it is to start up a random, friendly conversation with someone when your day was spinning down into the dark. Haven't you seen how fulfilling it is to be the one to smile at someone on the street or to act friendly toward a stranger? You are my brothers and my sisters, I want to act that way.
I do not own this picture.

Sing sing sing ... my friend spoke ... sing sing ... and then a priest walked in with a consecrated host in the monstrance, aka Jesus joined us in the flesh. There is always such a rush when you first see this during adoration, I love it. The rush blocked out the thought, "What's the plan? How long will this be?"

I promise this was not out of impatience, some adorations are longer than others. We're back to the tip about having good knees... let's just say it was quite a while. My stubbornness and pride got in the way, so I wound up kneeling at a perfect right angle, on the naked floor for ... a long time. Serves me right.

During one of the knee-numbing cycles, I recalled something my friend said in his talk. He shared with us the example of his parents who show him the devotion and commitment of real, true love everyday. His mother is ill with chronic pain, yet he said his dad shows heroic patience and love for his wife a several decades. His dad is an inspiration of what true love looks like in his own life.

God came to Earth and joined us in flesh. As God and man He allowed Himself to become arrested, beaten, scourged, embarrassed, and hung on a cross, all so that we might spend eternity with Him. God is Love.

Like I said, I will always welcome a refresher of this truth. Even if it costs me my knees.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The BBC has no faith in us

Many of you have seen this BBC list of 100 greatest novels on Facebook. Apparently, the BBC thinks most people have read only 6 of these 100 books. Show those limeys what's what. If you've read more than 6, shout out. If you haven't... read a few of them. Many of them aren't very long (Great Gatsby: love, obsession, murder, parties, all under God's watchful eyes).

You'll notice I didn't go through and show which ones I've read because I have an unfair advantage over science and econ majors.

Groan if you want to, but I'm actually disappointed that I have read only 32 with all the time I spent in English lit classes. I've gotta get crackin'!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 White Fang/The Call of the Wild - Jack London
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Saturday, November 27, 2010

High school reunion

It's my teenage vow of self-preservation: I try never to say the words, "I feel old." I hope future me appreciates this, but I'm sure I've embarrassed her some other way.

Today I will dress up, put on make-up, pick up an old friend, and head out to a bar for my 5-year high school reunion. Part of me cannot believe that it has been 5 years since I donned the white cap and gown. The other part knows that I have been at least ten versions of myself since graduation and this is more likely to be a introduction to a group of people I don't know and who don't know me.

Half of that is very accurate. I know all of the girls from my class, as I graduated from an all-girls class of 76 girls, but I only knew 4 or 5 of the guys at the neighboring brother school.

It's a little nerve-frying, as I'm supposed to know everyone in the room, but I'm determined that it will be fun. I love my city, another thing that has changed since high school, and I'm excited to meet and reconnect with Richmond residents who are my age.

Friday, November 26, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 5

Click here to read the original post at ConversionDiary.com


I've received a lot of support from friends and even from people who don't know me this week after the sudden loss of my family member. I am very blessed.


Just like many out there, this was a busy week, so this will be a very short Friday post. We were surprised on Sunday with the passing of my great aunt. Her faith was so strong and unshakable, I hope to honor it and emulate it for the rest of my life.


Jesus was a saint, sort of.

They looked a lot like this. How generous!
My wonderful boss was kind and thoughtful enough to send a beautiful arrangement of flowers to a man he doesn't know from Adam, my recently widowed great uncle. He is the best boss a person could hope for, as seen through this simple but enormous gesture. God bless him.


I am really grateful I don't like pie. Thanksgiving comes around and my picky eating habits save me from a lot of pain and belt buckle loosening. Believe me, I certainly ate enough, but I could have gained 20 pounds today if I was a less picky eater.


After I finish this, I'm going to finish my personal statement for grad school. If I can brush my shoulders off (I am never going to let go of that phrase): I think it's going to wow them. It sums up with an ode to Wordsworth's "Ode" (my favorite), comparing the sentiment of working toward God in this life to working toward the reachable depth of knowledge through the study and discussion of literature. Booya (again, this is staying with me).


You should see how many little scraps of paper I have next to me right now. I'm a scraps-o-paper jotter-downer (I love the English language) and I am sitting next to a whole pile full of ideas for future posts. This week has been quite an interruption and a time for love and familial support. I will hop back on the efficiency train soon, but for now, I'm spending some time with my family, my prayers, and the Holy Trinity. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JML (love)

On Sunday the world lost a wonderful woman and my great aunt. It was an extreme surprise and this week has been a real trial for her family. Below is the eulogy I gave for this woman who was so filled with Christ's love that I can only hope I honored. For those who have never heard the Richmond accent, "Hello there" is pronounced <<Hello, they-yah>> and she was famous for it. 

Hello they-yah.
One of the most consistent memories I have of Joan Marie was that she was always very well put together. She always had a fun jacket or sweater, perfectly matched shoes, and a fresh face of make-up. I remember that every time I hugged her, I felt a little foundation rub off onto my cheek. Now, I think I was in 6th grade when I finally grew taller than her, so it was the little ritual I will always remember: first, she’d say “Hello they-yah Elizabuth,” Second, bend down, but not until the last second, so as not to look like I was about to hug a 10 year old. Third, accept the warm kiss on my cheek and feel the slick spot of foundation on my cheekbone. Just like I could feel that little spot on my cheek, we all feel the direct and indirect “rub offs” that Joan left on each of us.

Joan Marie and the house she decorated WERE CHRISTMAS. She used to tickle my dad into submission. Laura and Chris always mentioned each time they received a gift, which was always perfectly wrapped, on time, and ideal for that person, it would most likely be green. My freshman year of college, she IM'd me. My 65 year old Great Aunt IM'd me! I’m sure Michael Jr will testify that she was the coolest Mimi around and he’ll get to tell his new cousins all about her.

Joan lived the faith and didn’t ask for credit. Obviously Matthew 6 was stamped right on her heart. She probably dropped off meals at peoples’ houses who, to this day, do not know from whom they came.

This philosophy spilled over, in abundance, to her life with Saint Gertrude High School. I never knew how involved in Saint Gertrude she was until I was pleasantly surprised to run into her at a class correspondents’ meeting earlier this fall. Gerties love their committees, I think I sit on 3 of them and I’m sure she sat on 30 or more since she graduated. There she was at her alma mater for what was likely her 1000th meeting to discuss Alumnae relations, chatting up some ladies from her Gertie era. She was the popular kid!

When I offered to talk about Joan, Johnny asked me not to be too soupy. So let me see: ham biscuits, broccoli casserole, corn pudding, Peecahn PAHI.

Let’s just agree, the essence of Joan Marie is: Joy. And it’s our job to keep that joy going.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I love 1st graders! Week 9

"Is Jesus a saint?"

I asked my first graders this when we were learning about the community of saints.

"Yes, no, maybe so?" was the response.

Go ahead and form your own answer. G'head.

Later that night I posed the same question to a group of friends and my wise friend said that yes, He is. The definition of a saint is someone who is in heaven... this we know of Jesus. This means Jesus is a part of the community of saints and he is above the community of saints, as God. 100% man, 100% God.

I have to be honest, I didn't think of this. I like to think it's because I was trying to translate the messages into 6-year-oldese, but he's exactly right. It's another wonderful relationship we have with God and I am grateful for it!

I told the first graders that He wasn't a saint as a segue into a review of the Holy Trinity. They made me proud: "Father, son and Holy Trinity, I mean Holy Speereet."

We both come to some new clarity today: I realized I have another connection to Christ and they remembered some details about the Holy 3-in-1. Yay for learning!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gak me.

God knows what He's doing.... and He didn't call me to FOCUS. That was the elusive opportunity that I was referring to in the last few weeks. I was really excited by the idea of ministering and evangelizing (this is such a scary word. I really consider it "talking" to people about things that we're passionate about. I happen to be passionate about Christ) on a college campus somewhere in the U.S.

But like I said, He knows what He's doing and those weeks between applying for FOCUS and waiting to hear back woke me up. They suspended me in my plan, which, as my dear friends and family can tell you, changes A LOT.


I miss school. SCHOOL: writing papers, getting in academic discussions/debates, reading, pulling all-nighters. I miss learning from professors who have made knowledge their life. My shape-shifting plan over the last few years has gone from pursuing a masters in English lit, a masters in physical therapy, an MBA, a masters in creative writing, a masters in arts management, and probably about a dozen striations in other directions.
(I don't own the rights)

My plans are like Gak: it looks like it could dry into a cement you could walk on, but then you squish your finger into it. EWWWWWWWWWWW hehehehehe. Nope, there she goes again.

Two years ago I steered away from the plan of getting a humanities graduate degree because I figured I need to think about practicality. Also, I wasn't confident in my potential as a professor. Working with TOB teens (all 5 of them!) and my first graders has been some of the most fun I've had this fall. And college students are basically really tall 6-year-olds, right?

Many, many topics grab my attention and passion; I hate having to choose.

I'm working my way down this post, trying to decide if I want to conclude with "so I'm going to get a X degree!" Nope, I still can't decide. I'm going to stick with a list and I'm sorry that I've used you to get my ideas out in this platform.

*Master of Arts in English Lit
*Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
*Dual MA/MFA degree
*PhD in English Lit
*Change my mind once more

Friday, November 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 4

Click here to read the original post at ConversionDiary.com

See if you can guess my pattern here.


Here we go, once again... Just as the leaves took forever to turn rusty colors... my inevitable autumn sickness took forever to turn its ugly head. I don't want to siphon all the blame onto my 1st graders...but they are probably the Mary to my Typhoid. Watch out people, the stomach flu is out there and it is kicking and screaming all the way home.


Home handcuffed me to the sick bed and I managed to keep that stomach flu to myself! No one in my family got sick, which is a true miracle. You know who you are and I love you, but some people in my family pick up more colds and flus than mess around the house.... I guess I could be pointing that at all members of my lovely family. Family, forgive me for this.


This is the weekend. I am going to conquer this digital stack of graduate school applications and I'm going to conquer it good. Call me Joan of Arc, my weapon is my keyboard.


Keyboard (more likely a piano), guitar, drums, base, and a beautiful voice. Those are the weapons of choice for many a talented musician. I am in awe of anyone with musical talent, but one of my favorite Christian musicians is Phil Wickham. Tis the season and this wonderful man just released his Christmas CD! This is a CHRISTmas CD, so check it out! It's almost Christmas!!


Christmas movies are really failing us. How many new Christmas movies, versus "holiday" movies, have you seen lately? This is one of those typical complaints that is easy to make and easy to get people to agree with, but why can't we come up with another movie that makes us feel the way It's a Wonderful Life makes us feel? How hard can that be?


Be merry and full of turkey, mashtayders, caohrn, peeaz, cRANburry sawce, rolls, ham biskuhts (if you're lucky enough to be from Virginia), pAAHHHHH, and family in one week!

(Did you catch the pattern?)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Theology of the Body, Week 2

A big theme in Theology of the Body is that being pure does not mean to build brick walls around yourself, avoiding everything and "surviving" life sex-free until marriage. We're actually working toward something. By making purity a part of your life, you're moving toward a goal of a whole self.

Today's chapter is called "Love Defined: Giving versus Using." Last time we talked about how we were created for Love and this time we went over how to give real Love.

"The person is a 'good' toward which the only proper and adequate attitude is love." -John Paul II

Ahhh what a wise man. He really had his finger on the pulse of communicating ideas. Though it is seemingly impossible to show love to people at all times, what is the alternative? If we're not giving love, we're not doing as God asks us to do. We're also completely disrespecting ourselves in the long run because we're altering our own concept of love by mistreating others.

Boy, Buttercup is a real pain in the tush, huh? She has the pretentious London accent (in Florin?) to round out her snobbery toward Wesley. However, bless his heart, Wesley treats her with patience, respect and human love.

I have NO idea how Wesley fell in love with Buttercup, but he did and she fell in love with him. I won't spoil the end for the 6 or 7 of you who haven't seen The Princess Bride, but they preserve their concepts of love for one another.

Love vs. Using

Men get a bad rap sheet for using women for sex. Sometimes, they certainly do. However, women also use men. They will give or have sex in order to get the lovey dovey, iconic "love" feelings from men. They use men to feel loved.

Love is not selfish, it is generous. Loving as goodwill for another is closest to the love with which God loves us, or agape.

Love is the greatest commandment that Jesus gave us: "Love one another, even as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

Jesus gave all of himself for us as He willed us to be with Him for eternity.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I love 1st graders! Week 8


We start every class with the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father and the Hail Mary because they're on big poster boards, stapled to the wall. First graders in our diocese concentrate on learning the hows and whys of prayer, so this is our routine (if you know any 6-year-olds, you're correctly picturing the 1/3 eager beavers who do the Sign of the Cross with rapid quickfire speed, 1/3 who look around with the "are you serious? We do this too much" eyes, and 1/3 who go forehead-chest-right-left, by accident).

Today we learned the Holy Trinity. Yup, simple as that. They all know it now, it's down cold.


Jesus was the Son and He told his friends that His Father was going to send a "helper" to live in us and teach us while He's in heaven. The Holy Spirit, the great mystery, is probably one of the hardest things to grasp. I admit I can only vaguely understand it, which sometimes proves its essential existence.

One of our students, a real sweetheart who always cuddles and loves us, looked confused as we explained the Holy Trinity.

"I don't understand."

Understatement of a lifetime, girly, believe me.

So I explained it as a tricycle, to make the connection with the Latin (I know they're six, okay? I think kids can handle more than we give them credit). My brilliant friend and co-teacher said, "So just like a tricycle, you need all three wheels otherwise it will be unbalanced and fall over."

Sadly, in ten years, this sweet girl will not voice her confusion. What makes us think that we have to understand every last part of this life? Fear. If we ask the question, we're in a limbo where the answer may tug us one way or another. Asking the question catapults us into that place of uncertainty.

However, if we don't ask the questions, we are as uncertain, yet less inclined to pull ourselves out of the confusion. I'm proud of her for asking and I wanted to hug her and say, "I know, not very many people do. It's the kind of thing you learn over several experiences as you pick up on things through life."

As we addressed a few weeks ago, kids have the perfect mindset for coming in contact with Jesus' teaching. It's the rest of us who have to hear it, translate it, translate it back, answer it and then translate our answer.

Hopefully we land somewhere near the "be like a child" target for which Jesus called us.

Need to see the whole picture?
*I love 1st graders! Week 7
*I love 1st graders! Week 6

Three acts, three times, 3x3 sets of tears

My family spent this weekend in Harrisonburg, Virginia realizing that our mid-kid is even more accomplished, talented, mature, and wonderful than we already knew. Christine picked and directed a play by Karol Wojtyla (JP2) at her university, approaching the extremely mature themes of love and matrimony while on a college campus.

She has always been one of my heroes, but in watching her pre-play "do it with me and turn off your cell phones, please" speech, I wept. A flash came to mind of 4-year-old determined Christine swinging her way across the five foot high monkey bars with same "seriously playful" face. Christine stands 5'10'' of elegance, beauty, brains, determination and trust in God.

The play's words were wonderful, of course, and very dense. I saw it three times this weekend, deriving different key points out of each performance. The actors were fabulous, not a lemon amongst them; they were all very talented. The other directors of the play are beautiful, wonderful, and talented ladies. All three (a pattern emerges) directors pieced together a beautiful rendition of JP2's words mixed with pertinent and gorgeous dance sequences, a chorus of speakers behind the audience's view, and powerful lighting. The light became a character. 

As my title suggests, I was a big crybaby throughout all of them. My youngest sister and college freshman, Katie, arranged a ride and surprised Christine with her presence in support of her. Ah family!

I've asked Christine to write a post about her experience or about the play from her perspective... hopefully she'll arrest some time to write it soon.

I'm very proud of her.

Friday, November 12, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 3

Click here to read the original post at ConversionDiary.com

"Lipitor heart throbs"
That's my new catchphrase for having celebrity crushes on attractive leading men who are could be on medicare (if they were alive).  Tab Hunter, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Tom Drake (see #3), Gene Kelly, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant... I admit, I'm a little creepy, but think about it: half of them could sing and all of them knew how to dance well enough to put on a suit, shine their shoes, buy a corny corsage, and take you to a ball. Does anyone else hear the Zoot Suit Riot playing in the back of their mind?


Speaking of young men I love: Gilbert Blythe. Swoon.

I love Canada. Canada, I really love you. If you weren't so darn cold, I'd come visit you.  

Anne of Green Gables may be the book that made me fall in love with literature. In turn, it led me to love writing. The Darcy-Elizabeth, hate-secret-admiration relationship (obviously, the most romantic of all possible scenarios) is perfectly played in Anne of Green Gables.

The audience falls in love with him before Anne realizes she's got a grade A sweetheart on her hands.... plus he's super cute. Swoon.

I listen to Christmas music earlier than most people (July). I just love it so much, I don't think I'll ever get sick of it. However, I do ration my Christmas movies, so right now I'm in the Meet Me in St. Louis layer.

The only section of Christmas comes at the end, so not only is it a legitimate November movie, it's also a great transition to the White Christmases of the world. It also shows the investment of year-round family bonding involved in a truly beautiful Christmas experience.

Meet Me in St. Louis (I sing it, I don't say it) climaxes with my very favorite secular Christmas songs of all time: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

One gem in this movie that guys should notice is that eldest daughters scheme to "convince" the men in their sight to "take the first step." It's hilarious to watch it 1903-style because YOU GUYS HAVE NO IDEA how slow and scared-i-cat-y you can be! We have to move it along sometimes.

I am down a third notch in my belt since last year. Woot! I kind of whined about Starbucks last Friday, but apparently I owe them an apology.

I'm going to Lisbon! This New Year's Eve I will be celebrating the new year in a former world trade-power's capital with people I love! I haven't seen these friends in more than a year; most of them are from and live in Europe or South America, so this will be an epic reunion. In honor of my excitement, I'm sharing some of my favorite pictures from my Europe trip last year.

My mom and I went to London (where we met up with my good friend from Belgium), Barcelona (narrowly missing a good friend who was in North America for the exact days we were in Europe. The luck), Torino, La Spetzia, Cinque Terre, Pisa (yuck, thank you Europe for creating a nasty city so we feel better about ours), Roma (<3 Vatican City), and Florence.
Casa Batllo, Barcelona
Vatican City
Casa Batllo, Barcelona

Rome, Italy
Inside of St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

Thursday is my kickball night and this week it was EPIC! I've been really nervous and terrible every week on a team with which I had no chemistry. This week I played with a new team of great people, most of whom are married (that ups the maturity factor), who welcomed me with encouragement.

In exchange, I kicked BOOTY and walked away with: a strawberry on my knee, a bruise on my kicking ankle, awesome new teammates, three runs (one sliding), and the distinct pleasure of getting 3 MEN out.

Did I brush my shoulder off? (What year is this?) Well, I did it anyway. Yes.

This one is a prayer for vocations for every person reading or not reading this. Remember: Jeremiah 29:11.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weminder foh Waiting

When I have a big weight on my heart, I revert to childhood, according to that title. Pweese escuse me.

I'm in a state of absolute limbo. A huge boulder is balanced on a pointy ledge. The seesaw is caught in a motionless stupor. There is nothing to do but wait.

I mentioned it in my first 7 Quick Takes and I still can't elaborate. It might sound like I'm just trying to pass off my own frustrations to you by keeping you in suspense, but I promise that isn't my intention.

This is a perfect time to review "let go and let God." He knows better than I will ever know. I am more than happy to give Him this burden..... I just have to figure out how to do that.

Good thing moms know exactly what to say when you start letting gravity pull you out of the light:

"Jeremiah 29:11."

My parents chose this reading for their wedding (I love that my parents went against the grain on wedding reading choices) and I need it now more than ever.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

I love 1st graders! Week 7

My first graders were a little harder to love this week, but we managed. This one goes out to Halloween candy, thanks BIG GUY! You plotted, you schemed, you fought your way into my little angels' bloodstream and you launched a big, fat raspberry right in my face. Thanks a lot.

We talked about the church calendar's five seasons on Monday. The kids knew about Christmas (Santa), Easter (the Easter Bunny) and Lent ("like the stuff in your belly button"), but Advent and Ordinary Time were new for them. In a circle on the floor, we went over what each season means, how and why we celebrate them.

Again, one more thank you to my frienemy, Halloween.

During the hour and a half, I hit that mental stop sign where I looked both ways, said to myself, "Parents must get more tired than I realized," and rolled forward.

We have one kid who talks CONSTANTLY. No one has to be listening, he'll faithfully inform the air. One girl is obviously bored, but wants our approval so she spends her time on a seesaw between listening while tap dancing and looking at us from the flat of her back.

One of our kids (my education-masters-holding good friend and co-teacher tells me he's trouble, but he's got me fooled) is so cute I want to gobble him up. He's polite and uses the magic words, yet talks while we're talking. He asks permission to go to the bathroom, but stands on his chair. This kid is so adorable and charismatic, he's going to get a lot of attention when he grows up. Right now, I'm sure he gets a lot of attention from his daytime teacher. Like my friend, I doubt he/she thinks he's as cute as I do.

All in all, this was the most rambunctious class we've ever led.... not too bad when all we have to blame or complain about is a sugar high.

This weekend I met a wonderful and energy-filled young woman who teaches CCD to fourth graders in Harlem. One told her, "I don't have to listen to you, I'm Puerto Rican" -- which is so much funnier when you can see the sassy mouth, wide eyes and sassafras finger waving in her rendition. Siblings are constantly pummeling each other in class and she hears stories about these kids who are just a few years away from some potentially dangerous ages.

She said she sees more sad than funny days in that situation, yet she chooses to return to class to teach every week and love them. That is not easy; I'm sure hearing about the home life of a Harlem kid when trying to explain the Bible can knock on her head for a long time.

On Monday, we kept a level head, taught them about the Catholic Church calendar and loved them. I'm grateful for the days I spend with these lovable, tiny people.

I'm also grateful for the very large beer I ordered in our traditional trip to the local bar that night.
Take that, Halloween.

Miss this one?
* I love 1st Graders, Week 6

Monday, November 8, 2010

What eye has not seen...

"I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I'm here to party." -Talladega Nights

Hmmm... starting with some Cal Naughton Jr. theory for this post... I hope I haven't lost you yet.

Just like Cal, I like to picture Jesus as I pray, which is why I am grateful that we portray Jesus in His final moments on Earth on the crucifix. It helps pull me back to the power of real Love and entirely selfless sacrifice.

In the last two years, as my relationship with Jesus Christ has matured and deepened, I have asked Jesus to sit with me during prayer. This started off as a symbol, but as I learn to transcend my busy thoughts and actually quiet my head to hear my heart, I occasionally feel His true presence.

Newsflash: images help us take in the world. Even when we imagine, we are using "sight" to describe things to ourselves. I can only imagine that the blind have some version, perhaps even richer than mine, of painting emotion and thoughts in the mind with images.

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ gives us this tangible example of the suffering and doubt Jesus chose to face in his last hours.

I watch this movie with a knot in my throat, especially in the flashbacks to happier times with Mother Mary, until I explode in the torture scenes. Each lash of the whip is a witness to the hatred we inflict on Him. Some of the Romans grow in their hatred and obviously want to make Him fall apart, literally. Other Romans show remorse when they see how much He is willing to endure.

The people fall to the feet of fear as they yell out for Jesus' Crucifixion, as mirrored in our lives.

We find familiarity in Pontius Pilate, as Jen at Conversion Diary put so eloquently, and get a miniscule taste of Mary's life as the woman chosen by God to bring His Son to life on Earth. She watched Him give his life back to her and to us.
The warmest color peering out from suffering.
As I pray, I see Gibson's choice for James Caviezel's eyes in my rendition of the Lord. He puts His arm around me and asks me to sink into Him. All it takes is surrender of my stubbornness. He wants to take all of this mess from us.
But as it is written: "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him," this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Small plug: Ricky Bobby's wife in Talladega Nights went to my high school. No big deal.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

ADHD praying

I spent my college years reading literature and writing for my English major... I'm pretty sure I read every book, short story, poem, newspaper article, and cereal box at least twice during that time.

ADHD. A common complaint from college students (the same ones with the iPods, Gchats, texts, talking...), but I've learned to cope with it. One part of my life I'm most upset about this tendency toward distraction is my prayer life.

I love the Our Father! However, when I start with the Our Father, I'm halfway through it before my heart convinces my mind to quiet. Only then do I hear and understand the words I'm reciting, so I have to repeat it to myself.

It's no coincidence that the first part of the beautiful, God-given prayer is chock-a-block full of metaphysical thoughts, followed by the more tangible. One begets the other, and in my prayer life: they must beget beget beget in order for me to get the full force of the hit.

It would be so easy just to submit the first part as ritual. I'm grateful that the second part reminds me why I need the first.

I've typed up a little reflection on my thought process through the Our Father and I'd love to hear from those with similarities or differences in their prayer life:


Give us this day our daily bread because so many do not have it. Also, help me see the signs that the Holy Spirit is working in my life. Shame on me if I don't notice them.

And forgive us our trespasses. Oh yeah, those. I have those. Thank You so much for dying for mine. I want to always remember that You would rather die on the cross than spend eternity without me.

As we forgive those who trespass against us Oops. I need to remember that today. Please help me to remember to Love first, to forgive for Christ.

And lead us not into temptation... This part always stopped me when I was little. "Am I supposed to believe Jesus is going to lead me into temptation if I don't ask this?" I'm still slightly unclear every time I recite this. However, I always think: lead us, your people, to open our hearts enough to listen to You. If I let go of my worldly lessons and trust that you'll lead me, I will have an easier time saying no to temptation.

But deliver us from evil. You've already died for me, so You're just waiting for me to follow you to heaven. Deliver my brothers and sisters from the devil's works on Earth so we can be delivered from our tendencies to follow him. True delivery from that fall means a FedEx to heaven.

Amen. Thank you.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come (please!) thy will be done (please help me get there!) on Earth as it is in heaven (please! I want to help!)...

Friday, November 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 2

Click here to read the original post at ConversionDiary.com
A few weeks ago I jumped on the Toms Shoes bandwagon. I love the idea of combining the free market and the improvement of developing world. I happen to think they're hideous, but I'm going to paint a design on them. Another treat I've discovered in these weeks is that they are most comfortable feet-friends I've ever worn. My slippers are the only pair that trump them. Last weekend, I spent more than three hours tailgating, aka standing around in a 15' by 15' space. The only part of me that was sore when I finally sat down were my stomach muscles, and this was from laughing...

At the tailgate I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Donnie Brown, a good ol' boy from Staunton, Virginia. This 77-year-old was hilarious, super cute, and a very wise, open Christian. He told my family all about his book, Jessie Is Her Name, a book written in stream of consciousness about his mother's life in rural Virginia. His devotion to her is admirable and it something that Hollywood is considering projecting on the Big Screen.

We met his wife, a tiny Staunton woman with as much spunk as her husband. Tears came to my eyes when I saw the way he and his wife looked at each other, decades after their teenage romance began. The Browns' shag dancing and stories made me laughed all three hours long... thus the sore stomach muscles and thus the following post:

Those sore muscles bother me. It's not the soreness, I actually l love that feeling, it's the fact that LAUGHING highlighted just how out of shape I am. Like many, I go through patterns of hard core, daily gym trips, "I LOVE TO EXERCISE!" to "UGH, you can't make me go back there." I'm following the latter trend right now and it needs to stop. Too many pumpkin spice lattes.

That brings me to: raise your hand if you derive a wicked amount of pleasure from calling the 12oz drink at Starbucks a SMALL. I even think TALL when I order those lattes. And no thank you, no room for cream. Fill it up to the tip top, I'll decide if there's room for cream.

A reminder prayer request for all of those involved in car accidents, but certainly for those in the one I witnessed on All Saints' Day. John the Baptist, pray for us!

"The devil...the prowde spirite...cannot endure to be mocked." -- Thomas More

While I was in NYC in August, I saw a boutique theater production of The Screwtape Letters, which was the most well spent $75 I shoveled out during that expensive weekend. The entire play was a devil's advocate (ha) sermonizing his letters to his intern nephew, Wormwood, as a reptilian Toadpipe servant transcribed silently. Screwtape was mentoring his nephew, whose job it is to tempt his patient -- a human on Earth -- to bend to the will of the "Father down below."

The simplicity of the adaptation was powerful and I bought the C.S. Lewis book on my Nook a few weeks ago. This is a book I could read dozens of times, just as the devil makes dozens (hundreds, thousands) of attempts to tempt me away from God.

In his preface, Lewis writes, "I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands." I have not completed the book, but of those letters I have read, I can see that Lewis derived the letters directly from every single day of my entire life. How did he do that?

I have visited two college campuses in the last week -- queue the "I miss college" rant? No, though I do miss a lot of it, I prefer grown-up life. One of the college quirks I never thought about missing was the multitude of bulletin boards.

Remember those? Even if you were eagerly early to class, there was plenty to read: a new art installation in the campus gallery, information about a study abroad course in Croatia, the College Republicans hosting an animal rights barbecue, or a certain play by JPII to be performed soon...

I stood before enough walls of stuffed bulletin boards in the last week to determine I miss the mystery and potential of that kind of wall landscape.

In the same vein, I came across this in the ladies room on campus:

It's fuzzy, but it says "You are wonderful." Hey, thanks!
It looks like someone found Operation Beautiful. Now I want to post-it it on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"The Jeweler's Shop" By Karol Wojtyla

If that name sounds familiar, you get a gold star on the Catholic chart. That's right, our very own Venerable Holy Father John Paul II was an accomplished playwright before he came to sit at The Holy See!

The Jeweler's Shop: A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama, or Przed sklepem jubilera in Polish, is a three-act play to be performed for the first time in years in the United States at James Madison University's new Forbes Center.

* Saturday, November 13, 2010 -- 2:00 pm 

* Sunday, November 14, 2010 -- 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm 

* Monday, November 15, 2010 -- 8:00 pm

* Tuesday, November 16, 2010 -- 8:00 pm

* Wednesday, November 17, 2010 -- 8:00 pm

I am intimately connected to this play because my sister Christine is the director. She and her lovely co-director, also a devout Catholic, have faced more than a dozen major road bumps in the process of bringing this play to JMU. All the hiccups were unrelated, detrimental and would have tempted directors of weaker faith to give up. These two beautiful ladies persevered, with the help of prayer and a mutual faith, and the play hits the stage in 9 days.

If you're within driving distance of Harrisonburg, VA, this play will refresh your views about marriage, as God intended it. The play is $6 per person ("WHAT?! I PAID TWICE THAT BOTH TIMES I SAW INCEPTION!") and need to be purchased in advance. We will be happy to reserve tickets for you, just email me (this is my own jewelry shop's email address, pun intended) with your party number and date.

Christine and Dora will need the consolation and intercession of a few more decades of the Rosary before the stress cloud passes, but they hope you can join them for a night of true passion.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

After All Souls' Day

"There's no way to reflect about being in a car accident, without being in one. They're always really different." -Christine Hillgrove

In June 2009, a woman backed into my younger sister's door in a parking lot. Minor damage, major scare as this small confrontation in a parking lot with Christine's driver side door was the first car accident my nuclear family encountered. My family jokes, with dark humorlessness, that this bump was the catalyst for the Year of Tests (potential brain damage, open heart surgery, stroke, house fire -- that is a long story and I'll get to it later).

In the fall, my youngest sister, Katie, was T-boned in the middle of the last major intersection before her high school, stopping up traffic and pissing off students who were racing to make the first bell. The car died, yet Katie walked away jolted (no, she was not on time for school and I suppose some of the impatient passersby were late as well).

On November 13, Christine, who was in Italy, made plans to return earlier than expected (again, more later). The night before she was scheduled to fly home, the car in which she was a passenger was T-boned, flipped all the way over and back on its feet.

This is Italy, land of the tiny cars. The FIAT somehow protected its contents and all four people walked away. However, Christine waddles around with an injured back that frequently pops out of joint, end of pain not in sight.

Prayer request

All Saints Day Mass concluded at 8:30pm on Monday, a highly unusual time and day for anyone to be leaving my church's parking lot. I followed fellow parishioners out of the lot, making my way to the turn lane to enter a major road. This is when I heard tire screeches, scratching metal and an indistinguishable thud coming from the perpendicular road.

I witnessed the second half of a major accident that turned one car on its side. The horn was holding a long, continuous honk.

In the panic, I managed to call 911, as I know other parishioners did. Several were able to pull over their cars to help, all with phones to their ears. On most days, the traffic passing that crash would have been sparse. Fewer than five people would have seen it, which means fewer people making the call for help.

Mass dismissal brought hasty help, I watched the sirens pass very shortly after hanging up the phone (I would have caused another accident if I had tried to pull over). I'm asking a special prayer request that the members of the crash survive. And if they do not, please pray for their souls, their loved ones, and for those Good Samaritans who pulled over to help.

My immediate thought was of gratitude. My family has faced a lot of emotional bruises over the last year and Christine still wears physical signs of it. We grew closer to each other and to God over the same year.

But I never really let myself understand just how close I was to losing my sisters.

You've watched the movie scenes a million times: protagonist realizes this life is short and we need to make it count. Again, as Christine said, "There's no way to reflect about being in a car accident, without being in one. They're always really different."

The impact of this crash is still pushing on me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

99.7% Unnecessary

Today we're looking at a vibrant day of electing, voting, last-minute campaigning, voter intimidating and words, words, words everywhere. I want to make my stance very clear:

I am anti-antibacterial gel.

I said it and yes, maybe that makes me part of the party of "NO," but I have always scoffed at it. It's 99.7% effective at evaporating off your skin. It dries out your hands and it stinks. If I could have a dollar for every brain cell I lost because of breathing that stuff in, well, I would keep sniffing it because I would eventually get rich enough to make smarts inconsequential.


When I was in middle school, Bath & Body Works was making a mint off of girls. We just bought each other multiple sets of flavored soaps, shampoos and HAND SANITIZER. I remember one birthday, these gifts were, quite seriously, the only gifts I received. I just threw out the last bottle. Of soap, I threw out the hand sanitizer immediately because it's dumb.

This is not a scientific blog, which means I may get in trouble with Public Health majors. However, I do know "they" say people who use this cold liquid regularly contract colds regularly. Immune system, schmimmune system, the little squirt bottle says.

My vendetta against hand sanitizer is more relevant during Mass. Every Catholic church I've visited since the Pig disease swine flu H1N1 virus hit the US requires Eucharistic ministers to "wash their hands" before coming to the altar. This does make me giggle, watching the adult members of the parish simultaneously rubbing their hands around and around next to altar table. It is funny.

Because they're purifying themselves so they can touch GOD.

Rather than spell out the obvious, I'll turn to the All Saints Day readings for this year:

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” Rv 7:14

My priest blew his nose on a handkerchief before the Eucharistic ministers walked up. No, he didn't squirt squirt squirt from the clear alcohol gel bottle. He went on with his duty of passing around our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to his Brothers and Sisters. I took my host directly from him today and I feel great.

We didn't have the 1st graders today. No school = no religious ed :( One more week :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Whole New World?

Aladdin, one of the greatest Disney movies of all time, came on TV this week.

I remember when it came out, I giggled my teeth out when Robin Williams, aka Genie, said things like "Rick 'em, rack 'em, rock 'em, rake. Stick that sword into that snake!" A blue man, in a cheerleader outfit: classic! I still know all the lyrics and melody of "A Whole New World," including the duet parts. I was Jasmine for Halloween one year (obviously, my fear of Halloween didn't play a role when I got to wear long, black soccer socks from my turquoise headband to stand as beautiful raven princess hair). This movie had a profound impact on my young life.

Only this week did it occur to me that the "grown ups" who pieced this movie together probably spent years in and out of meetings. They held focus groups to determine what to do about an Urdu accent or what shape to make Jasmine's eyes. It never crossed my mind that we're listening to white bread DJ Tanner's boyfriend Steve every time Aladdin's voice cracked. Donnie Osmond, the whitest, most American "boy" out there, sang through the "street rat's" lips. Donnie Osmond? He's just a little bit rock and roll... sitar not included.

The producers needed to make sure this painstaking cartoon work was a worthwhile investment of time and money. They need to be sure that my dad and mom would watch the trailer, decide to pack up my sisters and me into our car seats, drive to the theater and put up with the surprises three small children bring to that kind of experience. They needed our money, our impulsive Abu-lunchbox buying, and our decades-later realization that we know that Aladdin can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride.

Sadly, something that hasn't changed is that the culmination of the focus groups and marketing discussions meant audience members watched characters prance around Agra, India and the Taj Mahal with inoffensive, white skin and almond eyes. These people looked like they could be from North Carolina in the beginning of the summer.

The hard data told Disney that the only way to get ticket money from the Smiths and the Johnsons (the Goldsteins, the De Lucas and the O'Reillys) was if the cartoons onscreen were white enough.

This is not a groundbreaking uncovering of the discomfort with the "other," it just struck me because I never realized how much our prejudices shaped my childhood. Just think about that office memo:

Hey gang,

Remember, we have to have another facial shape brainstorm session at 10am tomorrow. Last time, we almost nailed it on the big ugly palace guard. It was just shy of unanimous to knock out his front tooth because it makes him look that much more untrustworthy. We think if we darken his skin and leave the tooth out, we can appease all parties on this one.

Thanks! See you then!
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