I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pumpkins, Buildings, and Baking...Oh my!

Saturday was a wash, weather-wise. It poured on and off for the entire day and through the night. So, it seemed like a good idea to carve my pumpkin. The only problem was that I didn't have one yet. This meant I had to go to the store and carry it home, it under one arm, my umbrella in my other hand. It was a little uncomfortable, but it worked.

I had a few hours on hand before I would be going with a friend to some sites involved with Open House Chicago, so I sat down and started transferring my design to the pumpkin. (The "Harry Potter" marathon on Freeform was on in the background.) Then, it was time to scoop and clean the pumpkin seeds. So far so good...

The carving went well; though, it took a lot of patience because of all of the small cuts where the knife was almost too big.

When the final cut was made, I turned down the lights, put in the candle, and lit it. Magical.

The timing could not have been more perfect. As I finished cleaning up my mess and drying the pumpkin seeds (for later roasting), my friend called and told me she was at my apartment. We were ready to go. We ended up heading up to Evanston, checking out "The American Toby Jug Museum," the Alpha Sigma Epsilon building (at Northwestern), and the Baha'i temple. All were quick stops, but it was definitely worth it.

My friend invited me to go swing dancing, but I passed this time around. The weather was swaying me in the other direction. But I will go soon - I love dancing!

Later in the evening I baked those pumpkin seeds. And, because the oven was on, I baked some cookies for my faculty too.

When the cookie recipe calls for softened butter...you hold it in the oven, naturally!

I must say, it was a delicious way to end the day. As for today, I got a run in this morning (though there were many puddles!), and I'm off shortly to see "The Princess Bride" and to attend the opening dinner and Mass at my church. Happy Sunday!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Columbus Day Weekend - Marathon, Ice Cream, and Reading!

Columbus Day weekend means two things in Chicago:
1) Marathon time!
2) No school (if you're lucky)

It turns out that I knew quite a few people running in this year's marathon (none of whom are pictured below - those are random people who happened to run by as I decided to photograph), and it was exciting to cheer them on as well as the tens of thousands of other runners. What a great day!...even though it was probably 20 degrees too hot for the runners...

After we finished watching (but before the clean-up crews came), I went with my sister, her fiance, and another friend to brunch at the cutest French bakery. We had actually just been there Friday night for a girls' happy hour, but clearly it was that good we wanted to come again right away! It was still as delicious round #2.

The way I ate on Sunday you would have thought I ran the marathon... Later in the afternoon, I met up with Marisa and her fiance for ice cream at one of our favorite spots. The weather was perfect for ice cream-licking on seats just outside the building - we had shade from the buildings and L stop, and it was not quite hot enough to melt the ice cream before I finished the cone...

I did try the pumpkin...mmm...

Today I was one of the lucky ones to not have school. I did get up early (so as to not mess with my ability to fall asleep tonight) - I went to the gym, got some grad school work done, and then went to daily Mass at my church. Daily Mass is probably one of my favorite parts of the Catholic church...I just wish I could do it more often. (This will probably be one of my action steps for Advent this year - finding a church with daily Mass that is either early enough to go before school or late enough to go after school.) Today's Gospel was about the Good Samaritan - it's always a wonderful reminder to hear that one! After Mass I got my daily cup o' Joe at the coffee shop near church, and on my walk home I caught up with a friend who recently moved to another state. I tell you - so many wonderful things before 10 a.m.!

Upon arriving home, I did some additional work for grad school and regular school (lesson planning for next week) until mid-afternoon. At that time, I decided to get some fresh air, so I walked up to the park, where I knew I would find some peace and some shade.

It was glorious! My book of choice was Tattoos on the Heart, which I have read before but felt compelled to read again. I'm glad I decided to pick it up - so many heart tugs, so much wisdom, so much love. If you haven't read it before (or even if you have), I urge you to read it (again). One line in the preface (photo included below) particularly caught my eye: "If there is a fundamental challenge...it is to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives." How beautiful and how true! As Christians we cannot think any life is worth less - we are all loved by God. (I also included a poem from the end of the introduction below - read it slowly, and then re-read it.)

Back to reality tomorrow when the alarm sounds at 4:45. It's a 4-day week...I totally got this!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A man named Jerry

I pass by him almost every time I walk to church. He sits in a wheelchair right outside the Walmart food market. As he asks for money, I usually just shrug and say I don't have anything and keep walking.

But for some reason, when he asked me to help him get some money to buy food today, I stopped, turned around, dug into my wallet, and handed him something to help him get what he needed. It wasn't a lot, but it would help. He smiled at me and thanked me. He shook my hand and told me his name was Jerry. He couldn't hear very well, so I had to repeat my name four or five times. I turned to walk away, and he called out "thank you" and "have a beautiful day" after me. I smiled and kept walking.

I can't imagine living on the street, begging for money, having so many people walk by and either ignore you or look at you with disgust. I guess I figured that in some small way I could treat him like a human being. I have no idea what he'll actually use the money I gave him for, but, in all honesty, I probably would have used it on something less important or necessary if it had stayed in my wallet.

I am grateful to people like Jerry who remind me of Jesus' call to see him in each person, especially those among us who are poor or neglected. My 7th grade students have taken to asking me almost daily if I want to be a saint. I always tell them "Yes, one day." Some days I am more successful in working towards this goal then others. But I'll keep trying, one interaction at a time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ice Cream!!!...and football

It was a picture-perfect, beautiful fall day - plenty of sunshine and a hint of cooler temperatures (60s)! Good thing we were heading to Notre Dame.

We did make one detour first - we stopped for frozen custard at Ritter's. How has it taken us this long to figure out this is the BEST place to start our ND game day experience?

Campus was filled with students, alumni, visiting team guests, and more. We saw more than one friendly face at the ACE tailgate - it's always fun to catch up!

When we got to the stadium, we soon realized we had been put in the freshmen section. (Oops.) Luckily, it worked to our advantage, as we made our way to the top of the section, strategically placing ourselves in front of a wall on which we could lean. Score!

The ND band always has something new up their sleeves - this week they celebrated the eclipse, complete with shifting a moon over the sun (and then running in a circle to make it spin when it was on top). I forget the name of the song they played, but it was pretty fun to watch and listen.

We ended up leaving the game a little early. In doing so, we missed a lot of traffic and were able to get dinner. But more importantly, before we left campus, we were able to find some peaceful moments at the Grotto. I love that place more than words can begin to come close to describing. It's absolutely wonderful, and it brings such a sense of peace to spend time in prayer there to our Blessed Mother.

And I am now about to hit today running (literally). I'm off to the gym, and then later today I am excited to witness the Baptism of my goddaughter's sister at Mass. The rest of my day will be spent preparing for this week at school and also getting some grad school work accomplished. The long weekend for Columbus Day will surely be welcome after the busy week that lies ahead.

Notre Dame our mother, Pray for us!

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Joy of Sharing the Catholic Faith

I can honestly think of nothing better than engaging in meaningful opportunities to share about the Catholic faith with others.

Maybe I have found my calling as a religion teacher...

Just this week I found out from my principal that the relics of St. Padre Pio would be up at St. Ita's church, so I headed up there after volleyball practice. On the way, I tried to let some friends know about it too (some of whom already did). The Mass itself, while extremely crowded and incredibly hot (no air conditioning), was such a beautiful experience. I only wish I had known and been able to invite others sooner! When I got home, I found my roommates working on some things and enjoying some wine. I joined them, sharing about where I had been. I (unintentionally) threw out some Catholic vocab (e.g. relics), and in doing so I had a natural way to go into more detail about the richness of our faith surrounding the Saints. I loved it!

Then, at aftercare today, one of my seventh graders started asking me about the Saints, as we've been reading about them in the Ablaze book recently --> "Why are so many named Teresa?" This led to how many religious nuns and sisters would take names of the Saints that they wanted to emulate; in a sense, they died to their old selves and began a new way of life. (There are other explanations and reasons too...) This, in turn, led us (somehow!) to religious persecution and other (various) faith topics. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it made the hour we spent outside before gathering our belongings and returning to the classroom until pick-up go much more quickly than usual.

One more Catholic thing that made me extremely happy today was that we started 7 Riddles to Nowhere in 6th grade. Excited to see FXW (one of their sports team rivals) on the cover of the book (as it takes place in Chicago), they finally settled down to listen to the first chapter about Kameron Boyd, his selective mutism, and the possibility of his Catholic grade school closing in the near future. In a few weeks we'll get to take a field trip to the cathedral, and the students will be able to see firsthand some of the clues and descriptions from the book.

This weekend should be pretty amazing - I'm heading to the ND game with my sister tomorrow, and then on Sunday my goddaughter's sister is getting baptized, so I will attend that Mass to be with the family (and hopefully get in some visiting time). In terms of grad school, I just submitted my executive summary (due Sunday) as well as my action plan for another class (also due Sunday), so I think I'm in a good place. So, it seems the best thing I can do to prepare for the weekend is to hit the hay and get some rest...

Let's go Irish!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

How do you like them apples?

If you fancied a look at your thermometer in the Midwest on Saturday, it would have read as 90+ degrees for most of the day. Yet, as a Midwesterner, you realized that there are only so many weekends left for one of the best fall traditions - a trip to the apple orchard - before the cream of the crop literally get picked over.

We did what anyone in their right mind would do - we hopped in the car, took a drive to the orchard, and picked ourselves some apples. (It's a good thing I remembered not to buy any at the store this week!)

So, was it hot? H*** yes.
Did it feel like fall? H*** no...even with the apple cinnamon donuts and the festive fall decor.
Did we have a good time? Absolutely.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Grateful Heart

Only on a ND-sponsored trip do you stay in an Irish inn and pub...

I want to hang a sign like this up in my classroom...

The past few days in Milwaukee were truly wonderful. We spent time visiting a handful of high-performing schools that have truly created cultures of joy.

what I tell my students - minus the Aaron Rodgers part

Lots of focus on college...couldn't find USF though...

This reminded me I'm so torn for the upcoming football game...

The trip was a life-giving in terms of all of the amazing things and people we saw, and it was life-giving for another reason too - I spent quality time with some of my Remick classmates, and I also ran into some other familiar faces (from the ol' ACE days) who I wasn't expecting. It was a lovely surprise!

Lakefront Brewery tour - Remick leaders & instructors

the first ones to the inn!

selfie with Fr. Nate

PLC 1 excitement - can't stop this

ACE 15 :)

When I count my blessings, I count ACE twice...no, make that more like two hundred times. It's the program that keeps on giving, and I get to keep learning. I don't know exactly what the future will hold for Catholic education (or my life in general, let's be real), but I am excited to play my part here in Chicago.