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, November 28, 2012

None of them are you...

Especially when I was younger, I worried about living up to other people's expectations and being who others thought I should be. I worried about not being good enough at something or being less in comparison to someone else.

It's taken awhile, but I think I've finally realized that living that way is no way to live. It's not about what other people want or expect of me. It's not how I measure up to anyone else. It's about how I measure up to the life God has in store for me.

This idea was brought to my attention tonight in 2 settings - the first was in my Strengths for the Journey group. As we went around and shared about the discussion questions, everyone was responsible for listening and telling back to the person what we each took away from what he/she just shared. By exercising more careful listening, I was able to tune in more to what each individual was saying, and I realized that everyone has such a different story - different backgrounds, education, experiences...you name it. Who are we to be judges of others in any situation on any given day? And, in light of what I previously mentioned, why should I be worried about people judging me? - No one (except God) really knows where anyone else is in his/her life at any particular moment.

That being said, I felt like someone whacked me on the head on my drive home from Strengths, as my second encounter of the evening with this idea hit me - my iPod came on with None of Them Are You by Brendan James (click on the video below). And I feel like this song speaks a similar message - No two people come from exactly the same place. And if we spend our time worrying about being better or the same as others in different talents or situations, we'll be robbing ourselves of the joys and talents present in our lives.

It's not about comparison, after all.

It's about each of us living our own lives to the best of our abilities using the talents and graces God has given to us. Nothing more.

(Gotta love Brendan James - check out this recent NY Times article. I think you'll be hooked.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Actively Choosing to Stress Less

I just realized earlier this evening that when this week ends there will only be three more weeks of school until Christmas break. Amazing yet stressful at the same time. (I feel like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars - "stay on target...stay on target...") So much to fit in, but so much to look forward to: heading home, relaxing and sleeping, visiting with family and friends, enjoying warmer weather...

So, it's time to remember to keep things in perspective - yes, there are many things to get done, but nothing is the end of the world. Plans may need to be adjusted, added to, or (likely) taken away from...and that's okay. In fact, that's life.

Some people may mistake that notion of not being worried over things for being either careless, lazy, or even oblivious. But it's not. It's an active choice made from deep within one's self - it's understanding deep down that most things are out of our control, so it's time to give those things up to God in prayer.

So, maybe I need a list like this -->

No stress

My favorites are 1, 5, 8, & 10. What about yours?


On an unrelated note, I tried again today to listen to Christmas music this afternoon on the way home from school, but it just wasn't doing anything for me. I really think I'm conditioned to be ready for the holiday season when Advent starts...and not a moment before.

So, for now (at least), my radio is tuned to NPR and country music. (But don't get me wrong, I'm eagerly looking forward to Advent.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful Each Day

Another Thanksgiving in the books.

(It makes me think of Bing Crosby's song in Holiday Inn - what about you?)

And as Sunday night rolls around...and family goes home...and vacation comes to an end...
I am reminded of God's many blessings in my life - yes, even though we always have at least a few family squabbles - and that I need to make an effort to be more thankful in my everyday prayer and actions.

Well, here's a prayer for starters. (Found it on Pinterest.) -->

Thanksgiving Prayer...soooo love this!

Oh, and I found this too:
Be grateful

And I think I can definitely start by being thankful that Christmas break is less than 4 weeks away.

(Just kidding...well, only kind of kidding...there is so much more to be thankful for than just that...)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Favorite holiday weekend of the year has officially started.

Why is Thanksgiving my favorite? Well, aside from the obvious answer of "I love the food," there are many other reasons too: spending time with my family, annual turkey trot (or, in this year's case, a different 5k race), time off from school/work, knowing that Advent starts soon, and many more...

(Plus, it has the word THANKS in it, and that reminds me to thank God for all of His many blessings.)

I also have some favorite holiday traditions that I usually start doing around this time too:

Making turkey apples with my students:

You gotta love seeing Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving (and also his Christmas special)...

And watching holiday movies...


It's the time of year to start editing Mom's annual Christmas letter too...

In my classroom, I need to bust out the Advent wreath and calendar (and I need to re-find those favorite online resources)...

And in iTunes, I have to update my Christmas music playlist - I'm resolved to not start playing it until Friday, though...

Yes, it's almost time for "the most wonderful time of the year." (Note, don't click this link unless you're prepared to hear some Christmas music.)

But let's remember to take time this weekend to enjoy our family and express our thanks to God. Don't let this holiday get away from you before getting wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

Yes, let us give thanks...for God is good. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Prayer in all things

Last period of the day.
Only one more day (half of which is a field trip) to go until Thanksgiving break.
Substitute in for my co-teacher (who was out at a conference).

I would have expected chaos.

But we had the total opposite...

Ideally, it would have been very appropriate to do a Thanksgiving-themed read aloud. Alas, the book I wanted to borrow from my sister was the exact one she was using today...so I turned to plan B.

(Sometimes, you gotta LOVE plan B.)

As the students sat on the carpet, I set the tone by explaining that we were going to read Granddad's Prayers of the Earth, and then I explained how I would guide them through a meditation prayer exercise. (I ordered the book through Loyola Press's Pray Me a Story series.)

The story tells of a young boy who is very close to his grandfather - they go on many walks together, and the boy asks many questions. One day, he asks his granddad about prayer, and the boy's granddad goes on to explain over the next several pages how every part of nature, from the tallest trees to the rocks to the water to the animals to (even) humans, prays. The years pass, and the boy and his granddad share many walks and much time together. When his grandfather passes away, the boy loses touch with prayer - he can't hear it anymore, and he feels far away from his grandfather. (At this point, I was holding back tears - I knew it was coming, but it's like the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" - it gets me every time.) But one day, he finds he can hear the prayers again, and so he prays and finds his grandfather's presence is nearer.

I read. They listened.
I guided. They meditated.
I gave the discussion over to them. They raised their hands and took turns sharing their own connections, responses, and stories.

For 2:00 in the afternoon, I couldn't have asked for more. Actually, given any time of the day I couldn't have asked for more.

This book should be a part of every classroom library - it is such a beautifully told story (with illustrations to match). It serves as a reminder of how we should strive to hear the prayers that are all around us all the time. In fact, it almost made me think the story had been written by a Jesuit because it invites its readers to find God in all things.

Plan B rocked our classroom. And we continued the rest of our reading period in peace.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Perfect, in a Sense

Saturday morning's news said, "Tomorrow (Sunday) will be a carbon copy of today."

And it was.

You can't ask for better weather at this time of year. (All you need is a light jacket...)

Perfect weather for _____ (fill in the blank - I'll get you started below with things I did today)

...a long run on the lakefront path.
...morning family Mass at my school's Church.
...a walk up to the local ice cream shop for the best fall flavor: pumpkin.
...not doing much school work (because it's a short week and most is already done).

Two school days until Thanksgiving - and, quite frankly, Tuesday doesn't even really count, as we'll be on a field trip and then doing Thanksgiving-related activities (including one of my all-time favorite family traditions) for the remainder of the afternoon.

Cheers to that.

Time to start gearing up for Thursday - our menu is set (as we bought our groceries today to avoid all crowds)...


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Update to Book List for Life

As promised, my Book List for Life will continue to grow as I read more and more books. Here's my latest addition:

26. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
"There is a reason God limits our days...to make each one precious." This book is amazing - could not put in down (to be read as, "I finished it in less than a 12 hour span"). It's an incredible look at time - how we count it, try to control it, wish it this way or that... I encourage you to read it - it will be time well-spent.

Simply Saturday

It's 4:40, and I'm already feeling pretty accomplished today.

I was up at 8 for a quick jog at the gym before heading downtown for Ministry of Care. (Didn't see too many patients today, but those I did see were very grateful for a visit.) On my way home, I went via Trader Joe's in order to pick up a few needed groceries (i.e. veggies) and some treats for next week's visitors... (Look what I found, Mom.)

Once at home, I made a quick turn-around and visited my neighborhood GAP store (yes, there was a sale) to pick up a few long-sleeved items to expand my wardrobe ever so slightly. I left a happy customer and came home, where I worked a little on lesson plans for this upcoming week for school.

Later on, I (actually) cooked, following a recipe for quinoa that I found online. (I've made it before, and it is quite tasty!) And, I scored a stack of student reading response notebooks.

Currently, I am watching Notre Dame score some serious points against Wake Forest (and wishing that I could have gone to the game for senior night - but oh well) and finishing up the final touches on an upcoming science assessment.

To top it all off, today's weather was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS (and felt exactly as Fall should feel), and I got to spend quite a bit of time outside. I also started reading The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom - it is intriguing from its first pages, where it poses many questions about time, how it came about, why we measure it, who Father Time is, etc. So far, the structure of the novel is that it switches back and forth between chapters set in two different times (and with 2 different purposes). I can't wait to read more - and may do just that later tonight.

Hope you're enjoying a relaxing day. Remember, Thanksgiving is just around the corner... Gobble, gobble!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Love of the Game

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves, that you forget, truly forget....how much you have always loved to swim.”
-Tyler Knott Gregson

It's days like today - Parent/Teacher Conferences - when I realize how much I really do love to teach. The parents were so great, and they kept expressing how pleased they were with how their children were doing in our class and enjoying school. It feels good to get that kind of feedback because the hard work often does go (seemingly) unnoticed.

It's so easy to forget why I teach - it's certainly not for the paycheck! - on a day to day basis due to all of the requirements, student needs, phone calls & emails, etc. Some days it seems that there are more hoops to jump through and tasks to accomplish that I feel I'm not able to truly do my job and focus on the kids.

But the kids are what count. All 22 of those 4th graders are my coteacher's and my responsibility. And we do love spending time with them - teaching them and learning right alongside them. The laughter, the critical questions, the funny moments, the randomness - all of these things add up and play a part in the equation of teaching.

It's days like these that I feel that I am floating with my head well above water, and it's days like these that give me the energy to maintain my energy when I need to tread awhile.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pass it On

Happy World Kindness Week!

Starting yesterday, our school has been on a random acts of kindness (RAK) mission. (This has been inspired by the middle schoolers who were encouraged to first do these RAKs earlier in the year.)

During this week-long celebration, there is a different activity each day. Yesterday, we made a list of what RAKs could look like at home and at school. Today, we created pictures and ads to spread the word about World Kindness Week.

One of these days, we're supposed to come up with some kind of song or chant that represents Random Acts of Kindness...and my first thought turned to the Muppets (from their old Christmas movie) - kind of want to show it to my students. Thoughts?

Catchy, no?

So, as you go about your daily activities, remember that kindness is contagious - pass it on!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

A thought for today:

“Shine through me, and be so in me, that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be mine."
- Mother Teresa

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wedding - Woo Hoo!

Going back to that whole idea of countdowns - finally reached the end of one yesterday afternoon: Two of my housemates from my time in ACE (Phoenix) tied the knot, and there was quite a lot of celebrating going on.

Here are a few photos:

Kelsey with her parents

at the party - with my current housemate and my sister

our place settings - got to sit with some of my other ACE housemates

centerpieces - handmade by Kelsey, her mom, and her sister

our great dinner table

Now that the weekend is pretty much over, it's hard to believe it. The events, from the rehearsal dinner to hanging out with my friends to the wedding & reception to brunch at the hotel this morning, flew by.

But everything was wonderful.

And, in my opinion, what's even more wonderful is that I'll be seeing the bride and groom pretty often, as they live in Chicago too. :) Therefore, the celebration has only just begun.

So, what's my next countdown? Eh, probably parent-teacher conferences; although, the countdown I am most looking forward to is Thanksgiving now!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

It's 6:35 a.m. and I've been up for about an hour - and the sun's been up for awhile too.

I know it's crazy that the sun now sets before 5 p.m. (the darkness that early is killer), but when it comes up so early on the morning end, some days it's worth it.

There's something special and motivating (and even comforting) about the sun - not to mention, its warmth - and for days full of sunshine, especially in the fall/winter, I am very grateful.

And today is the perfect start of a wonderful wedding-filled weekend for two of my closest friends (and ACE housemates). I know God is smiling on Chicago right now.

So, allow me to close here with my absolute favorite Beatle song - enjoy:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Right & Responsibility to Vote

Exercised my democratic right & responsibility of voting this morning. (Yes, I went before school at 6 a.m. this morning.)

No nifty "I Voted" sticker, but I did get a ballot receipt. (See below.)

Now it's time to await the national and local results...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day Resources

Election Day is on the horizon, so I've collected some resources that I've used (or am *hopefully* planning to use) in the classroom:

*Learn about the electoral college process with "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" from Schoolhouse Rock! -->

*Here's a brief history of voting -->

*Check out Congress for Kids and/or Ben's Guide to the Government to help students find out detailed information about our federal government and the Constitution.

*This blog has some creative ideas for election day activities. In fact, we'll be modifying the Coke vs. Pepsi electoral college activity using cherry and blue raspberry jolly ranchers and having the students color in an electoral college map with results as we go.

Here's hoping for some learning opportunities during this year's election and reporting of results! Happy Election Day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What's your stand on countdowns?

Countdowns - These usually fall to one extreme or the other: Love 'em or Hate 'em...depending on the event for which the countdown exists.

Case in point:

Countdown for wedding of 2 of my ACE housemates = 6 days (extremely excited)
Countdown for parent/teacher conferences = 12 days (not excited)
Countdown for arrival of parents for Thanksgiving = 16 days (very excited)

You get the idea.

Take some time to think about your countdowns right now - are you loving them more than hating them? If not, how can you change that so you're counting down to celebrations & events rather than dreaded deadlines?

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Thoughts of Thanks
KMF (11-1-12)

Where have all the "thank yous" gone?
I pray it's not too far they've strayed
A mere two words is not too long
To thank someone for what he gave.

But kids today (and adults too)
Take much for granted, it is true.
What used to be enough's now not -
We're not content with what we've got.

Always wanting more and more -
Comparison robs us of our pleasure.
And happiness walks out the door,
that which was our truest treasure.

My greatest wish today is this -
That complaining we could resist.
And in its place, we say a phrase
of thanks - Oh, let that guide our days!

Some days, I have to wonder if parents still teach their children manners at home. And, maybe it's not (or at least not all) the parents' fault, but the fact that more and more people (especially students) I meet have a sense of entitlement about them worries me.

That's where the inspiration for this poem (that I wrote today) came from. We had leftover snacks from our 2nd annual Chocolate House today, so we decided to share them with the aftercare students. When we limited them to 2 snacks to start with, a chorus of "What?!" and "Why can't we have more?"s rang out, and I just became disheartened. What happened to being thankful for a small treat - which is more than they would have had in the first place.

I'm not blaming anyone...except maybe society. With instant gratification & indulging behaviors towards their children, I fear we're raising a society of self-centered and oblivious-to-others people. And, quite frankly, that scares me. I know that this instance today was just one, and it wasn't every child who complained, but I don't think I'm overreacting. (In fact, the woman with whom I had aftercare duty agreed with me too.)

I pray that people don't lose their sense of gratitude - after all, we are entitled to nothing. Everything is a gift or is earned (or, at least, that's how we should look at it).

Hopefully, this entry didn't put a damper on your day/evening. It's meant to provoke thought more than anything else. And I pray for a future of gratitude for all of us. Our world needs a little more thankfulness.