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 30, 2011

When We Practice

Six to seven miles at a moderately slow pace is supposed to be easy. After all, that's about one quarter of a marathon distance, right? I'm not saying my run this morning was hard, but it did leave me feeling a little frustrated.

Was I more frustrated at the fact that it was harder than it should be or that I haven't been getting in my shorter runs during the week to help me maintain my stamina?

Like all things, we get better results when we practice regularly. Running once a week will never be easy because I'm not putting in the time elsewhere during the week to make it so.

Is this not true of our personal relationships? Without consistent communication with our friends and family, the times we do get together set up conversations to be a lot more on the surface level. Instead of focusing on the things that matter most, we spend our time talking about everything we've done in the past x number of months into about a five to ten minute conversation. (And we call this "catching up.")

And what about our prayer lives? Well, let's think about it: When our prayer lives are regular, we are more aware of God's goodness all around us. (And then we are more ready to thank God for those things at the very moment.)

It's not automatic, by any means. But, like all good things (as noted above), we get better results when we practice.

(I guess that means Notre Dame's football team got in a bit of extra practice this week, eh? GO IRISH! What a game and what a day! - See a couple of pictures below.)

Fall at Notre Dame
Marching Band spells out "IRISH"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Loving more each day

Nineteen heads bobbed up and down as the students warmed up for gym class.

And I just stood there and watched them. They are truly nineteen personalities. They have their days, so to speak, it's true.

But we're slowly learning what makes them tick.
And the puzzle pieces are falling into place.
And I'm loving them more each day...because I'm getting to know them better. (And, man, are they coming out of their shells!)

And then, as I stood there, I thought about how much more God knows each of us and loves each of us. Pretty unbelievable when you think about it, right?

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
(1 John 4:9-10)

So, I close tonight with a short and simple prayer of gratitude. I think you will find it fitting as well, and I encourage you to pray it with me:

Thank you, Lord, for loving me and for showing me how to bring your love to those with whom I work and spend time. Help me to be a sign of your love in the world. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So many activities -
From volleyball to Boy Scouts,
From swimming to piano

So much pressure - 
From report cards to band solos,
From school plays to science tests

When is there time for a child...
to just be a kid?
to learn that mistakes are ok?
to be silly?
to do something simply because he loves it?

What's the hurry?
What's the rush?
As adults, don't we wish
we had those "good old days" back?

The moments go too fast -
We have to urge children to slow down.
And maybe we could slow down too.

It's okay to say no.
Maybe there should be family dinner time.
Sleep is definitely a good thing.
And time to ponder and pray,
now, wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Color Me Fall

I'm not going to even pretend I took that picture - I didn't.

But today's weather was so darn gorgeous that it couldn't really even be captured by a camera.

And it had to be spent outside, where I found any and every excuse to be - a walk to morning Mass, a walk to meet my sister for lunch (and then a walk back home via gelato and the grocery store), an architecture boat ride tour on the Chicago River, a walk to dinner with my roommate's parents...

Today looked like Fall. It felt like Fall. It tasted like Fall.

How can you not fall in love with such a beautiful day?


(I did take these last two pictures, in case you were wondering. Perfect day for a boat ride...)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Marked by His hand

Do you remember the movie "Toy Story (the first one)?" Do you remember the part when Woody looks at his foot and really realizes that he belongs to Andy - that Andy has put his mark on him?

During morning prayer today, we were reminded of this, but it was in light of how it is like this with us and God. God has put his mark on us. We are His - He loves us (and gives us plenty of reminders to help us realize this).

After a long day like this one, I sure find comfort in remembering these things. I hope you do too.

Remember, God has marked each of us with a sign of his love. So, now it's our turn to be that reminder of God's love to others.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trying to find the words

I got plenty of nothin'
Nothing's plenty for me...

Over and over I've started and erased tonight's blog post for no reason other than I just can't find the right words today.

But maybe silence is exactly what I need tonight in order to refresh for tomorrow.

Have you enjoyed a moment of silence today?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Can I Do Better?

"Best is good. Better is best."
- Lisa Grunwald

I love this kind of phrase because it manipulates familiar words and our understanding/thinking about them:

It feels great to be the best at something, doesn't it? Maybe it's a specific sport, musical talent, or knowledge of a specific subject/area of expertise. Isn't it nice to be the "go-to person?" (Think of that Discover commercial with Lou Holtz: "Peggy, you could be my go-to guy...gal.")

So, I'm sure you'll agree with me that there is no denying best is good.

But we can't settle for best. Take a lesson from Jo March: In the musical "Little Women," she sings, "How can I do better than what's already here?" and it takes her the rest of the musical to truly find her voice to make her writing better than before. She didn't give up - she kept trying to be better.

Honestly, when you have finished or are in the process of completing something, are you truly ever done? Isn't there something else - something better - you could do, even though sometimes you don't want to or don't have the energy to do?

If that's true, then when can we say, "enough is enough" or "I've done the best I can?" Well, I don't believe there is a be-all, end-all answer to that question. But if you have worked to become or make things better than they were before, you have already succeeded. By making it (or yourself) better, you have made it (or yourself) best.

After all, we can't always be best, but we sure can always do better. (And, technically speaking, isn't "better" considered "best" in the grand scheme of things?)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Twin Factor

After today's marathon experience, I'm pretty sure Marisa and I could make a new hobby of entering races wearing matching (or even not matching) outfits to get comments/responses of "Are you two twins?" and "Go twins!"

It's pretty funny that most people will tend to give us an extra thumbs up or the wow factor just because we look the same.

For this (and probably for this alone) I will probably never run another marathon without my sister. It sure is a lot more fun to turn heads, regardless of the outcome of the race, by running with my twin.


(P.S. My parents are the best - Despite some travel delays, they made it to the marathon to shuttle and cheer us on!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Weather" or not...

You can't trust the weatherman; he said rain today...

Ok, so it did actually rain today, but it's usually safe to hedge your bets and face the day without the help of the weather channel.

Truth be told, I hardly ever check the upcoming weather - and that's probably not the best idea, I know - but I've been in constant contact with the good old weather site this week because the weather has potential to have a pretty big impact on this weekend's marathon experience. Let's hope it turns out for the best!

But "weather" or not the sun shines through on Sunday, I'm determined to run a good race and, more importantly, to enjoy the weekend with my family. (I can't take them for granted - they're the best!)

As Friday looms on the horizon, don't forget to carry that umbrella - that way, you'll be prepared come rain or shine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gather 'Round

What do pizza, school families, and hungry teachers have in common? Well, for one thing, they can all come together in an effort to support Catholic education.

And that's exactly what happened tonight with "Let's Raise Some 'Dough.'"

I admit it - I didn't want to cook tonight. Plus, it was a good excuse to have a "family dinner" with my 2 roommates. (And, *bonus*, I met a family with children at the other building of our school.)

Having never cooked one of those pre-made, slide-in-the-oven pizzas before (https://www.homemadepizza.com/), the process was relatively simple. I didn't burn anything. And I have leftovers for tomorrow night too. (Score!)

Yep, this simple fundraiser brought us together for some quality time around the dinner table, where it's often true that more is shared than simply a meal.

But let's face it, the pizza was pretty darn good too...

Monday, October 10, 2011

October, the month of...

October is a month for Fall. It is a month of Halloween decorations and costumes. It brings all flavors pumpkin, caramel apple, and cinnamon. It is time for sweaters and slacks for school. It is better-pull-out-that-winter-coat-soon weather. It is a time of harvest.

But did you know October is also the month of the Rosary?

Admittedly, I do not pray this form of prayer as much as I probably should. (After all, it's our direct link to Mary who is a pretty strong advocate to God on our behalf.) But I took a few (EASY) steps today to get me pointed in the right direction...and I invite you to do the same:

1. Pray for Life - Through Notre Dame's alumni association, I registered with the prayLIFE calendar, where anyone and everyone can sign up for a one hour time slot to devote in prayer for life - life of the unborn, sick, and elderly, as well as the quality of life for all. Seeing as an hour is a pretty large chunk of time, I decided to use the Rosary as my prayer of choice.
(This decision brought me to step #2 -->)

2. Pray the Rosary online - An ongoing Rosary prayer with the Mysteries of the day can be found at http://www.comepraytherosary.org/. You are able to join in and exit at any time, and it tells you at the bottom how many others are on the website praying the Rosary in live time with you. Also, there is a place where you can submit intentions (anonymously or with your name). The words of the prayers are available in addition to a Rosary that shows up at the right of your screen to help you keep track of what decade you are currently praying.

3. Pray the Rosary on-the-go - Awhile ago, my friend of mine sent a website (http://www.rosaryarmy.com/?page_id=22) on which you are able to download audio podcasts of the Rosary (with or without the Scripture passages included). I loaded them on my iPod tonight, and I made a CD for easier access in the car. My intention is to use the CD to help me pray on my commutes to and from school for the remainder of this month.

And just in case I forget which day is which set of Mysteries, there are plenty of handy guides online like this one to remind me. (And the beauty of #2 above is that it starts in with the right Mysteries automatically!)

Remember, October is the month of many things. But, most importantly, it is the month of the Rosary. So, remember to spend some quality time with Mary today.

"From Mary we learn to surrender to God's Will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God!"
- John Paul II

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Did you ever wonder...

Can an apple a day chase the doctor away?

or Is a gob more than a smidgen?

or even How hot is the sun?

Ok, so maybe you haven't wondered the exact questions posed above - although, give me anyone who hasn't at some point wondered the first one! - but you have to admit, isn't it neat to wonder?

Wonderopolis is a site I happened across a few weeks ago, and I like to check back every once in awhile to see all the latest wonders for the week. I enjoy making time for doing so because it gives me a chance to read and/or watch about things I've taken for granted and never really thought about before.

Too busy to wonder? Think again:

"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
- Albert Einstein

"Wisdom begins in wonder."
- Socrates

"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why."
- Bernard Baruch

I wonder if I've made my point?

Good night, my friends...and have a wonder-filled evening!

Friday, October 7, 2011

We don't want perfect

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves.” 
- Thomas Edison

There is so much pressure on kids these days to "be perfect." Parents and students already have their sights set on college, graduate or med school, and beyond.

That's all well and good, but it's setting these kids up for failure...or for a nervous breakdown. Plus, it's creating a culture in which students are oftentimes afraid to try the harder path because they are afraid of failure. Even a small homework mistake may throw a student into a tizzy.

But without some failure, there will be no growth. Without accepting the fact that we might fail at something, there is no possible way we can be at our bests. And if we're not at our bests, then how are we able to achieve our true potential? 

Isn't it often that the hardest tasks and activities we do are often the most rewarding?

Let's let kids be kids - mistakes happen! Those mistakes won't kill them. In fact, if they learn from them, they'll be much better off in the long run. Failure from time to time gives us the opportunities to look at things from a new perspective and figure out better ways to tackle the tasks at hand.

Face it, playing it safe is not an option. The game is won by the ones who risk failure and push to success.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Their Shoes

Don't judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins. -Indian proverb

How much baggage are my students carrying with them to school every day? What are things going on outside of school of which I'm not aware? What are the thoughts really occupying these children's minds as they move through the day?

Well, I know a few things...

If I was a fourth grader, I sure wouldn't be able to concentrate on my school work if someone was calling me names or was taking my books from my desk.

If I was a fourth grader, I couldn't think about doing math when we should have been able to go to the computer lab to type our poetry projects.

If I was a fourth grader, it would be nearly impossible to focus on the book I was reading when all I really want to know is who was elected to student council from our class.

And in knowing these things, maybe it's okay after all to reserve some time for silliness. Maybe I need to be a little more patient for students to return to the task at hand. Maybe I need to be a little more forgiving of students who can't manage to keep still at their desks.

So, maybe it's time I remembered what it's like to be in fourth grade. Just maybe it's time to walk in their shoes...

Monday, October 3, 2011


The adventure of life is to learn...
There is so much to be learned any given day, and it's not always learned from a textbook. As our principal pointed out this morning at the faculty meeting, our goal as teachers should be to first help the students learn valuable life lessons, such as how to deal with bullying issues, how to manage time for projects, etc. Then, the "book learning" will come. After all, as my dad always likes to remind me, "They won't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

The goal of life is to grow...
Think about it: children are always eager to see how much they have grown over a given time. Take my family, for example - we had a basketball pole at Grandma's house that we always measured ourselves on with sharpies and a kleenex box. But I think it's more than about (literally) growing taller. It's about growing in our abilities to learn new things, empathize with others, and participate in prayer.

The nature of life is to change...
Did you ever hear the phrase about how "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? No matter how we might fight it, change is inevitable. And, speaking as one who does not usually embrace change, it's important to recognize change as the potential for good. Without change, we stay safe. And while safe feels good, we're called to challenge ourselves and mix things up a bit.

The challenge of life is to overcome...
And what are we overcoming? Well, heck, there are challenges every day. But in order to overcome these challenges that come our way, we need to keep everything in perspective. It's not the end of the world. And we are not alone. (Remember that.)

The essence of life is to care...
There's really no point in living if you aren't doing it with and/or for others. We learn in communities. We pray in communities. Caring makes life more worth living.

The secret of life is to dare...
Risk failure - it's okay to make mistakes. That's a secret some people don't learn for a long time. (I'm personally trying to get my students to learn this very secret now. We'll see how it goes...)

The beauty of life is to give...
For it is in giving that we receive...

The joy of life is to love.
Some of my friends like the term "heart explosion" - and I think that's the perfect image for how much joy can be felt when we model our love after how Jesus loves us. Maybe the Beatles were right - "All you need is love..."

Now, let's add up all the pieces of this quote -->
“The adventure of life is to learn. The goal of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The secret of life is to dare. The beauty of life is to give. The joy of life is to love!”
-William Arthur Ward

Have a blessed evening!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Living Daily with Jesus

As I sit here this afternoon, looking ahead to the upcoming week, I realize how exhausted I am. But I mean this in the best sense. 

I just had the opportunity to spend the weekend at Notre Dame at the ACE Advocates Fall Summit with others from around the country who are truly passionate about Catholic education. It was wonderful to see friendly faces, but it was even better to have a chance to dialogue with everyone about all of the events and service projects, etc. that are being hosted in the different Advocate regions - so much food for thought!

One of the things that stood out to me about the weekend was a special session that focused on spirituality and how we, as educators, need to have living daily relationships with Jesus Christ. In other words, He must first be present in us so that we, in turn, may be Jesus' tangible presence to those we teach and with whom we work. In fact, another way to frame that same thought is in the words of Blessed Beyzym (his memorial is today): "One must be in constant union with God and pray without respite." 

Clearly, this weekend screamed the reality that we need to make time for prayer every day. Duly noted.

And our hearts forever love thee, Notre Dame!