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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some days

"Can we go outside without our coats? PLEEEEAAAAASSSSSE!"

The day topped off at nearly 60 degrees - who could blame them? The students were busy running around during recess, and they made sure to take in all the sunshine.

Some days don't fit the mold.
Some days break the monotony.
Some days are meant to be spent outdoors.
Some days are a great reminder of God's presence in our lives.
Some days come once in awhile.
Some day was today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Tomorrow is February 29 - it's not often we get to write that date.

In fact, the last time we saw the 29th of February was four years ago (obviously), when I was still in college.

It's amazing how things have changed and happened since then...

- I had not yet been accepted to ACE (nor had I graduated from college), which has been a HUGE part of who I am today, especially in terms of my career as a teacher and my personal growth.

- I had no dreams of living in a big city (truthfully, I was very much against it), and yet I find myself in one today.

- Shoveling snow and scraping ice off my car was not my idea of fun - and I had never had any experience with such activities - but so far (in a mild winter, I know) I've done a-okay. *Keep those fingers crossed.*

- There was no desire on my part to live in, or let alone visit, the Southwest, and yet I survived and enjoyed its desert beauty for three years.

- Patience was something I never knew I needed so much more practice in, but as a teacher, I get loads of practice each day.

- My faith life was strong, but I didn't work as actively to cultivate my relationship with God (even though I did pray a lot and assisted planning many Catholic Student Union activities in college). Now, I read books, blogs, websites, and more - and I've even been on a few young adult retreats.

- Coffee was not even on my radar, but I find it hard to go a (school day) without a cup o' joe - it starts my mornings off on the right foot.

- One marathon was under my belt, but who would have thought I would add 4 more (and all in different states)?

I could go on, but I think that's enough for now. But, isn't it kind of crazy to think about the changes when you take a look back?

And doesn't it make you excited for the possibilities ahead? A lot can happen in four years...clearly. Maybe there is uncertainty, but in God's hands we know we'll be all right.

Think about it: Where will you be on the next Leap Day (2016 - whoa!)?

Tomorrow starts our benchmark for the next four years. Enjoy the ride...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New State of Mind

If I take one thing away with me from this weekend, it's this: Look for God - He's there. It's all about our perspective and perception.

But, I'm not going to lie - there is so much more that I will also take away with me from this weekend retreat. The people I met were genuine, like-minded young adults whose hearts are on fire with love for God. I felt so welcomed (even though I went into the retreat Friday night knowing absolutely no one!), and everyone made themselves completely vulnerable and open. I connected at so many levels with so many people, from having someone in my small group who graduated from USF to having another girl in my group who is a twin to talking with another girl after social hour about sign language and our love for it - I was blown away. I enjoyed talking with newfound friends throughout the weekend, from our car drive up to meals to free time to yoga (yeah, I did that - kinda sore, it's true) to the drive home - so many encounters with Christ. These encounters served as reminders that we aren't meant to walk our lives alone.

And I learned things about myself too - I realized that I am familiar with many ways to pray, but I definitely have my favorites, including the Examen and the Rosary. I learned that I take the fact that I stay up to date with a lot of Catholic blog posts and articles for granted, but it's a gift of new-found knowledge I can gladly share with others. I learned that there is nothing like a good laugh - and repeated laughter is even better. I may not have ever laughed that hard in my entire life - and those of you who know me know I love to laugh. (If you've never played the game "Telestrations", then you should check it out.)

Coming out of a retreat weekend is always bittersweet - the retreat high is still with me, but I know that I need to continue to energize my life with regular prayer so I do not lose my intensity and newfound joy and perspective. It's not going to be easy, but I have some plans ready to go, including attending Mass with the young adult group on Sunday nights. (Finally!)

It may seem that I'm donning a new pair of rose-colored glasses, but, honestly, it is more than that. It's about recognizing each moment as a gift from God and then thanking Him for all those little moments. It's a new "state of mind" (see Matt Maher lyrics and clip below) - and it's not about being optimistic. It's about having hope. It's about having a deeply rooted joy and finding rest in God.

"Hold my heart up to the light
Next to you, I'm more than alright
I've got nothing left to hide
I'm walking around in a new state of mind..."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday marks...

Tomorrow marks the first Friday of Lent...

It marks the last Friday of February...

It marks the start of a much-needed retreat...Well, amen to that!

Yes, you might say I am a bit more than just a little excited for a young adult retreat (centered on the Holy Trinity) this weekend. It's a chance for me to start Lent off on the right foot, and it's a chance to just get away from the hectic-ness of school and the city. And, hey, maybe I'll meet some neat, like-minded people while I'm at it.

Sometimes a retreat (or even just some reflection time) is what we need.

So that's just what I'm going to do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Having Our Fill

Here's a little scenario for you:

You have two glasses - one is a tall thin one and the other is a bit smaller and more like your typical shot glass. Which one is more full?


(No, I did not ask you which one you would rather have...)

The correct answer (drum roll please) is that they are both equally full.

But they are of different sizes - How is this possible?

Well, in her autobiography Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux explains this phenomenon rather simply as it was once explained to her. (Well, actually, her example was with a tumbler and a thimble, but I decided to take a more modern twist - forgive me.) Both glasses, or containers, are filled to the brim, leaving no room to add any more water. Therefore, even though one glass (meant to represent a person) has more than the other (meant to represent another person), the one with less should not be jealous of the one who has more because he is already full as God has seen fit.

Ok, so St. Therese is obviously better at explaining this than I am. But, hey, I tried.

Others have tried and succeeded better than I as well - one such example of stressing how we should not strive to make our lives a competition can be found in the Notre Dame Daily Inspiration Prayer Archives. (This reflection is short and well worth the read.)

Remember, God has filled each of us as He has seen fit. It's not about who has more or who is on top. God knows our needs and has entrusted us with such.

Let us strive to remember this as we prepare our hearts to enter into this holy Lenten season.

On a related note, here's a small selection of Lenten resources on the web that may be of use -->

*Pope Benedict XVI's Message for Lent
*Lenten Calendar (free printable)
*Living Lent Daily (Loyola Press)
*Other 6 - Daily topics and prompts to help in the Lenten Journey
*Huffington Post - A Lenten Journey
*Praying Lent - An online Creighton University Resource

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kindred Souls

When I first read on a favorite blog that the book Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan was coming out, I knew I had to read it. So, I ordered it right away.

It came in the mail a few weeks later, but it sat on my shelf for a few weeks after that too...Until today. With the extra day off from school (Amen!), I decided I had time to sit down and read it. And I am so glad I did.

It's a book about a boy and his grandfather who, at 88 years old, is still as sharp and lively as ever. It takes place during the summertime, when school is out, and Jake (the main character) spends much of his time with his grandfather (who everyone calls Billy) around their farm. As the story unfolds, a small dog named Lucy (whom Billy nicknames his "Angel Dog") becomes Billy's pet, and Jake (with the help of the rest of his family) builds his grandfather the sod house (from his childhood memories) that he has been missing for so long.

There really isn't that much of a plot - it's mainly a story about relationships, especially those rooted deep within the human soul. It is simple and beautiful. And, I would be lying if I didn't admit that it made me both laugh and shed some tears. 

Truthfully, this book really got me thinking about my grandpa again. And I think that's exactly what the author was trying to do. Patricia MacLachlan is quite the talented writer. She knows how to speak straight to the reader's heart...

And my heart was ready to listen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Opening a box of...memories

Oh, it happened. The Girl Scout cookie box has been opened.

And they taste so good.

I actually think these incredible cookies maintain their appeal because they taste like memories. How can you not buy Girl Scout cookies if you once sold them yourself? (Do you remember those cookie booths? - fun, yet torture, at the same time)

Take the classic shortbread Trefoil, for example: It's never been a top-selling flavor, but one year, man did we sell that kind like hot cakes once one of our leaders shared a marketing secret - you can use them to make mini strawberry shortcakes! -->

And what about the Thin Mint? (pictured directly below) That one's been around since Girl Scouts started selling cookies - and they still top the charts year after year. Minty chocolate-y goodness - yum!


In truth, Girl Scout cookies remind me of those Pillsbury ads they are running now about getting family members either out of bed or away from fighting with each other to gather around the table for a special treat. That's what these cookies do too.

And, if I do say so myself, they support a great cause. 

Carry on, Girl Scouts - 100 years strong!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Keep it cool, boys

5 pounds of potatoes in a 3 pound bag - Yup, that's how you do it.

Golly, I'm surprised our students made it out of this week as unscathed as they did - not that we were trying to kill them, by any means. (But we did pile quite a few tests/quizzes on them and pack in a LOT of material.) Actually, I think I was most surprised by how little complaining (except from the most common offenders) I heard from them. Maybe they're building those backbones after all.

What does this tell me about these students? They're smart, yes...but, more importantly, they're determined and they can "stay cool" under pressure. (And, trust me, there's a lot of pressure from their parents and society.) Maybe the upcoming four day weekend (3 for us teachers) was a strong motivator. I know it helped me get through the week.

Unfortunately, as far as test- and stress-wise, next week doesn't look too much better - with the end of the trimester coming up and Terra Nova tests approaching, it's going to take a lot of reminding to make sure these students don't fall from the top of their game. I know they can handle it - it's now the challenge of getting them to know that too.

"Stress is not what happens to us. It's our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose." -Maureen Killoran

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You know you're a teacher when...

You know you're a teacher when...

...you have dry hot cocoa mix covering your backside because you forgot about trying to find a better place to clean your hands.

(...and your co-worker decides it would be hilarious to document such an event.)

Yep. That's kind of how my day was.

Good times.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Do you remember...

There I was, just sitting and minding my own business, trying (to no avail) to be inspired for a blog post.

All of a sudden, an email popped up - I have no idea what spurred this specific email, but it made me smile at both its randomness and its memory:

"Do you remember...
how incredible "Muffin Mondays" were?
Kelly Foyle is, was, and ever shall be amazing!"

I, personally, had forgotten Muffin Mondays -->

**when I baked a whole Pillsbury or Duncan Hines package of them that were devoured by the time dinner rolled around on Monday evenings...

**when I had to shoo away housemates who tried to sneak in one bite on Sunday nights...

**when the whole ACE house smelled of blueberry yummy-ness or banana-y heaven...

**when people smiled, even though it was a Monday and there was a long week ahead...

But now, I remember. And, clearly, one of my ACE housemates still does too.

"People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Heart-Shaped Treat

Some days I am so random. (Scratch that - Most days I am so random.)

But, in case you weren't aware...

And in case you have a Panera in your neighborhood...

And in case you were craving something sweet this week...

These lovely (and delectably yummy) cookies

are "buy one get one free" until Valentine's Day.

Make sure you bring a friend (or 2) - these cookies sure are sweet, but man are they good. (My sister and I stopped for lunch after her students led Mass this morning at her school. We both had salads, so we didn't feel too guilty for indulging in these sweet treats.)

Get 'em while they're hot. (Literally.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We will be the witnesses

As I continue to post about my experiences this year, I find myself going back to the new position I have taken up with the Ministry of Care program. But I realize this is no coincidence. It is through this ministry that I have already (in only 2 visits and 2 training sessions!) had the opportunity to encounter Christ through both the patients at the hospital and my fellow MOCs (that's "Minister Of Care" for short).

Today was another "shadow day" for me, and, largely due to the fact that it was quite cold outside, I somewhat grudgingly made my way to the hospital downtown. Well, as I am constantly reminded, God works in wonderful ways, and by the time I left the hospital (3 hours later) today, I was feeling uplifted and blessed.

It all started when I arrived - I met up with Mary Ann (the person I was shadowing), and we sat for a few moments introducing ourselves. Well, as it turns out, neither one of us actually attends Mass at the parish through which we do Ministry of Care. Guess where she frequents - the Church that is connected to my school! (This was pretty exciting news because, of course, she knows the priests and community.)

As we visited the patients on our list, I found myself much more comfortable this time. I knew what to expect, and it was wonderful to experience the ease with which Mary Ann entered into conversation and prayer with the patients. (I was on a different floor this time, and many of the patients had recently received, or were waiting for, transplants.) I had many opportunities to lead the prayers and conversation myself, and everything seemed to go well. The patients were so grateful for the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, and I was blessed to witness much hope and faith in God.

As I continue my day (and week), I will try to keep experiences such as these at the forefront of my mind, so that I might recall how blessed I am to be where I am today.

God is good all the time.
All the time, God is good.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caring Too Much?

What happens when someone cares too much? Is there really such a thing?

Perhaps such a statement is not truly possible, but when a lot of concerns about others and oneself start weighing a student down, it becomes a little concerning.

Something bad happens to someone in the news...

Someone mentions something inappropriate about a classmate...

Class subjects are getting harder...

After-school activities are accumulating...

Feelings bottle up, and it becomes time to burst. All of it adds up. And some kids really feel both the pressure and the strong emotions.

Is it bad to worry about others and yourself? Well, no - it's actually a good quality. Jesus reminds us to constantly put our neighbors' needs above our own. So, we should be concerned for our friends and classmates.

But, we have to remember that other part - the one about giving our burdens (and, if we are concerned about others, theirs too) over to the Lord. (It's actually in a few different places in the Bible, so we know God must have meant business.)

It is time to turn that worried energy into prayer. It is time to depend on God.

And I hope that this is just what I can help my student do too. Such concern and worry for others is a burden that is too difficult to bear on anyone's shoulders - especially on those of a young child.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cardinal Virtues

Prudence (wisdom, of sorts)...
Justice (doing what is fair/just)...
Temperance (exercising self-control)...
Fortitude (courage)...

Out of these four cardinal virtues, which one would I say I need to work on the most at present? What would be a good plan of action to make sure I do this?

That's a tough question, but it is one we asked our students on their Family Life test today. There were definitely some honest and thoughtful answers!

Here is what my answer probably would have looked like had I taken that very test this morning:

"The virtue I need to practice most in my life right now is temperance. Temperance can be hard for me because it is moderating an amount of something that I really enjoy. Take chocolate for example. That is definitely one of my downfalls - I eat too much of it if it's readily available. My plan of action is to buy a bag of individually wrapped dark chocolate Hershey's kisses that I will keep in the freezer. I will only replace them every X amount of weeks. If I run out before then, it would only be because I did not ration them wisely or appropriately. Therefore, I would have to go without them for the amount of days left. This way, I will be sure to exercise temperance in eating sweets.
As far as exercising temperance in using electronics, I feel that I do this relatively well. I only watch a few chosen tv shows, and I do that when my work is done or when I need a break. (e.g. I watched an episode of "Castle" tonight after dinner and before grading test papers.) I can make sure I continue to work on this virtue by setting time limits for myself and/or only doing these other things once I have finished school work and gone to the gym.
Temperance is an important virtue to practice in life because it is about self-control. When I find myself losing some of this self-control, I can make sure I say a little prayer to God to redirect me. I need to remember to be grateful for what I have and to use it wisely."

Have you given these questions some thought? What virtue(s) are you in need of practicing?

(It's okay - I know I still have a lot to work on.)

And recognizing that is the first step...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Couldn't Sleep...

And wouldn't sleep...

So, why not look at some old emails and photos from a trip I took to England some odd years ago?

Well, I must say, that it wasn't the brightest idea - I was plum tired this morning.

But what else could I do? I hate just tossing and turning.

The pictures and emails (which, while lengthy, I now find hilarious - I overused "jolly good" and "chap" somewhat, but the whole British lingo thing was totally on my side) brought back many good memories, such as

punting on the Cam...

visiting London...

touring Bournemouth...

and so much more.

And, at this same insane hour of the morning that I was reminiscing, I reconnected with some friends from Cambridge through email and Facebook.

So, again, while not the greatest choice, it was a rather good one, if I do say so.

And, I am pretty sure I have ensured that I will fall asleep quickly and soundly tonight. Amen to that!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Do What You LOVE

Today marks the anniversary of the death of a Jesuit leader, Pedro Arrupe. He was a man of great faith, and his prayers and sayings have been quoted and recorded. Here is one of my favorite Pedro Arrupe quotes:

"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 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."

How true these words are!

Try it - think about how you spend your time. Are you doing what you love?

Here's my weekend breakdown...

I love to run...so the first thing I did when I woke up on Saturday and Sunday was to go for a jog.
I love to read...so I caught up on some of the latest young adult fiction on Saturday afternoon.
I love to laugh and celebrate...so when the opportunity for a friend's birthday outing came along, I joined in a for a little bit on Saturday night.
I love to attend Mass...so I went on Saturday night with my sister to my new favorite Church.
I love to watch sports...so I made sure to see Michigan State beat Michigan in basketball this afternoon, and tonight I am heading to some friends' apartment to watch the Superbowl.

...You get the idea...

So, again, I invite you to reflect - What are the things you love? Are you spending your time doing those very things?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Day

Many days I feel like teaching isn't really a job - it's too much fun when the students get excited and the lessons are interactive and creative! On the flip side, it's a lot of hard work, preparation, patience, and persistence too. That's why it's extra nice to get that little pat on the back of encouragement and thanks from students and parents alike.

Best "gift" from today's Teacher Appreciation Day was a student-made bookmark with a poem that went like this:

"Ms. Foyle, You are fun
then you make us do work till we are done.
Still you are great
and for a rate
I'll give you 10 or more
for field trips we can explore.
I think you are funny and fun too
And when we read good books you give us a clue.
You are the greatest teacher ever,
And I would never not miss you ever!
You are an awesome teacher."

Glad to see techniques taught in our first writing unit on poetry are still being applied.

What a fun day!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

STOP and think...

On the way home from a favorite Thursday night tradition (a.k.a. Wing Night), I happened to notice a STOP sign that had the small lettering of "judging" at the bottom. It looked kind of like this:

It took me a second for the "message" to register, but then I realized that someone was trying to say something important: Stop Judging.

And yet, I wondered also how many people had driven by that same stop sign without seeing the small word below. This got me to thinking that in order to see and hear the messages around us, we need to first be aware and notice our surroundings - people, signs, events, etc. Only then will our ears and eyes be opened to receive the message that is waiting for us.

It's time to STOP and take a look around. A message may be staring us in the face, but that won't matter if we are looking in the other direction...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good for the Soul

“Music is more logical than the human mind can comprehend: yet we can recognize it and surrender to it. We cannot comprehend music but music can comprehend us.”
- Peter Hiett

As the celebration of Catholic Schools' Week continued today, we had the opportunity to attend a performance held at school by three incredibly talented musicians skilled in the art of drumming. They played drum sets, but they also played drums from around the world, including Brazil, Western Africa, Northern Europe, New Orleans, and the Caribbean. (Some of the students even played some additional percussion instruments in a conga line!)

The greatest thing about it - for me, at least - was that the music and rhythms spoke right to my heart. I honestly can't even express how I felt. It was so uplifting - such a great middle of the day (on a Wednesday!) activity. I could have listened all day without becoming bored. Seriously.

As we conga-lined back to class, it hit me how hard it was going to be for the students to refocus after such an activity - especially for math. But, they managed to pull it together, and we learned all about graphs (and counted a bunch of change they brought in for the Pennies for Patients project - that's another story) before lunch.

So wonderful. So beautiful. I am still in awe. Music is amazing - it is beyond words yet it touches into the depths of our souls.