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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

True Riches

"A toast, to my big brother George, the richest man in town."

No matter how many times I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and hear those words uttered by the character of Harry Bailey, I can't help but tear up. And, somehow, I don't think that this just keeps happening to me. I reckon that the message shared through those words is one that resonates with most people.

The older I get, the more this movie seems to hit home. So often it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and lose sight of our lives' true meaning that we forget how blessed our lives are by what we do for others and by what they do for/with us. And our lives are (or, at least they should be) measured by what we give, not what we get/have.

This reminds me of a book I just started reading yesterday - it's called Rediscovering Catholicism (by Matthew Kelly), and so far I have found it to emphasize a couple key points along the same lines of what I just discussed above: 1) the idea of living an authentic life in which we are called to live our faith by our actions more than just our words; and 2) our human desire for happiness and truth can never be filled until we find these things in God (and that's a constant striving, moment by moment).

George Bailey did both of these things - he ran his business in such a way that he treated customers as people and, more importantly, as he would treat his friends, even if that meant operating at a loss. He fought tooth and nail to prevent Potter from making a monopoly of the banking of Bedford Falls, and he ultimately took the blame of losing the $8,000 that should have rightly fallen on Uncle Billy. In addition, over the course of his time with his guardian angel Clarence, George Bailey found that he already had the people and things in his life that could help him find true happiness. He realized that even if he were to go to jail, his life was worth living because of the people whose lives he had blessed and because of those (especially Mary and his kids) who had blessed his life.

And, in the end, George is rewarded with more generosity than he could have ever imagined, and that is when Harry Bailey states what every other person in that room was thinking. (And then Clarence reiterates this point a few moments later in the note he wrote in the book: "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.")

What a great lesson we can take from George Bailey - riches are not found in accumulated wealth but rather in our choices of how we share our time, talent, and treasure and in the people we choose to spend our time with. These "things" are what can bring us closer to God and our desire for true happiness.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mother Mary

It's good to be home. In fact, when Marisa and I walked into Church yesterday, it was difficult to figure out whom to hug first. (That's a good problem to have, right?)

Mass was beautiful too, as we celebrated the fourth (and final) Sunday of Advent. During the Preparation of the Altar, the choir sang "Breath of Heaven" (see lyrics here). It sounded lovely, but what made the song even more special and extraordinary was how the interpreter signed the song - she was so graceful, and she consciously chose signs to match the meaning (not just the words) of the song.

This particular verse (included directly below) struck me yesterday, as I couldn't help but think about teaching. (Yes, as a teacher, those thoughts of students, planning, and general school hectic-ness are with you 24/7 - a blessing and a curse.)

...Do you wonder as you watch my face 
If a wiser one should have had my place? 
But I offer all I am 
For the mercy of Your plan 
Help me be strong, help me be, help me...

There are days when I have similar thoughts to this one that Mary must have had - in fact, most of us probably ask this question along the lines of "Why me?" or "Couldn't someone else do this better?", especially when we come to the end of a particularly frustrating day.

But then, the line continues - and this is the most important part to remember - Mary makes an offering of herself, all that she is. And we are called to do the same...with God's help, of course. (That's the next part.) Even though it may not seem like much, all we have is enough and the most we can give. Mary reminds us of that.

Mary is our Mother, and Mary is our model. Through Mary we come to know Jesus, and through Jesus we come to know God's loving presence in our lives.

Friday, December 21, 2012

In Giving...

'Tis better to give than to receive.

I'm sure some people don't believe this saying, but, personally, I embrace it whole-heartedly. It brings me such joy to pick out gifts for others and to see the excitement of someone unwrapping a present. Yes, I think there is more joy to give a gift than to get one.

In thinking on this today, I turned my thoughts toward God, and I realized how incredibly joy-filled God must be every day, as He blesses us so much with graces both large and small. We, in turn, sometimes smile or give a quick prayer of thanks. And, at other times, we don't even really notice...but God still gives and gives.

In this time of holiday giving, let us remember to turn our thoughts to our greatest Giver of all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Counting Down...

At the start of today, this was the countdown:

And then there were 2...(with an evening Christmas concert thrown in tomorrow)

We can do it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Good Ol' Volleyball Swing

Thank God for Tuesday nights. I am so glad I decided to get back in the "swing" of things by playing volleyball with other young adults at my parish on a pretty regular basis over the past couple of months.

Seriously, why did I wait so long?

Having not played since high school, I guess I was intimidated...but there was no need to be so. Everyone has been so encouraging and welcoming, even when many of us make mistakes. (I'm definitely in the middle/middle-bottom of the talent pool, but it's not for lack of effort. Ha ha.)

And it's good for the soul too - it's good to share conversation, laughs, and even a little bit of exercise. And when I see others from volleyball at Church or around the city, it's exciting and fun.

Plus, let's face it, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, right?

Monday, December 17, 2012


O Wisdom of our God Most High, 
guiding creation with power and love: 
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Sound familiar? If you're a fan of "O Come O Come Emmanuel," then this first antiphon should come as no surprise. (From what I've read, the song seems to have its roots in the O Antiphons.) It's actually quite a beautiful way to engage in prayer in a special way these last few days before Christmas - as these antiphons use different titles for Christ each day.

In light of all of the media coverage and opinions (about gun control, school safety, mental health help, etc.) being published/shared about the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, praying to God as (and for) Wisdom is likely the wisest thing we can do...

Let us all lift our hearts in prayer to God in a special way during these last days of Advent. May we be filled with joy deeply rooted in Christ and find peace in our hearts and world. Amen.

Now, here's a not-so-traditional version of this beloved song for you to enjoy.

And in case you were wondering, tomorrow's antiphons continue with O Adonai (or, O Leader of the House of Israel)...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To-Do List for Today

With one week left until Christmas break, I've actually taken the opportunity to not bog myself down with work, lesson plans, grading... 

And it's been glorious.

I must admit, though, I do have a to-do list for today - it's one that I have found most rewarding, peaceful, and helpful -->

[Maybe baking those gingerbread cheesecake bites to share in the teachers' lounge tomorrow helped lessen any stress or worries as well. (And, having already "taste-tested" the ones that "fell apart", I can honestly say that they are delicious!)]

Still breathing - Mass tonight (followed by the young adult community Christmas party) is pretty much all I have on the docket for the rest of the day. Looks like I might get some time to delve a little further into The City of Ember. Yes please...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saying Goodbye is the Hardest Part

Saying goodbye is never easy, whether you are able to prepare yourself or whether you aren't.

I've known for months that one of my students is leaving - tomorrow will be his last day at our school...and in the country, for that matter. He and his family are heading home to Australia for good. (Well, I am sure this student will be back for college, which he hopes will be Notre Dame.)

But having known this for a long time hasn't helped, especially in these last few days. After all, these last few days are the ones I believed would never come, or, at least they are the ones I didn't try to think about. And talking to his parents briefly tonight at the boys' basketball game surely didn't help either - I got all choked up. He really is a good kid, and, while I know I'll miss him, I know his classmates will miss him even more.

The students will probably be a little less chatty come Monday morning, and I'll be grateful for that, but I know that I'll still be counting up to 22 heads and looking for the missing #13 papers (even though, ironically, the student we're talking about here never could remember his name on anything). A different student will be the first one in the classroom each morning, and I'll have to find another student with whom to talk ND football.

It never fails - I've yet to get through an entire school year without "losing" a student mid-year due to any variety of circumstances including family moves, changes of school, and expulsion. It really does shake up the dynamic, and it usually affects the kiddos more than we really know.

But I pray for this student and his family. We'll be missing him very much...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Recently Read & Revisited Children/YA Books of Note

In the confines of a school day, not much gives me more pleasure than sharing with and recommending books to my students. When I discover a great book, it cannot stay on the shelf - and that goes for books for adults too (if you couldn't tell).

Just today, I passed along The Lions of Little Rock to a fifth grader (one of my fourth grade girls last year) with the instructions to pass it on as she sees fit to some of her friends...just so long as it eventually makes its way back to my classroom. What I loved about this book was that, while it takes place in the late 1950s during the push for integration of schools, it is not focused so much on the violence or specifics of the time - instead, it is more of a look at a young girl's (12 years old) relationships with her parents, her sister & brother, her new friend (who turns out to be trying to pass as white), her classmates, and people in her community. It's the story about a girl finding her voice and standing up for what she believes in, even when it's not the easiest thing to do. The story revolves around themes of friendship, trust, and courage. To top it all off, the book was a rather quick read, despite its nearly 300 pages.

Currently in our fourth grade class, we are reading The Family Under the Bridge, which has already led into various discussions about homelessness, Paris, and the meaning of family. This novel was meant to be used as a literature circle book, but as many of the copies we have are falling apart, we have opted for doing it as a read aloud/model book instead. It's a very timely book, as it centers around the Christmas season and one family's search/wish for a permanent home. I'd consider it a Christmas classic.

The Gift of the Magi is another book that is perfect for the holidays, especially for middle elementary grades and up. Instead of reading the classic version of this story, half of our class is performing the story as a readers' theater (Scholastic ed. of scripts). (We might also read the picture book version too.) This story gets me every time, as, in an ironic twist, the main characters both independently sacrifice their greatest treasures to find the perfect gift for one another. Its message rings true for all ages, and it has caused our fourth graders to think more deeply about sacrifices. [The other half of our class is doing a twist on the classic A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens), but that's (literally) another story.]

I just started The City of Ember at the recommendation of my sister's coworker. We'll see how that turns out, but I hope to finish it before the Christmas season, so I may then turn my attention to The Penderwicks and some other reads.

After all, I have to keep one step ahead of the students. Recommendations are always needed (and usually welcome)...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Mmm...Do you smell that? 

It smells just like a fresh (REAL) Christmas tree...

And ours is now all decked out for the holidays (see below). In fact, we even rearranged our living room area to better accommodate (a.k.a. show off in the front window area) our newly decorated tree.

In all fairness, the saying goes, "There's no place like home for the holidays," but until December 22nd (when I get to go home) rolls around, this will definitely settle for a close second. It's surely starting to feel more like Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Finally...Yes, I finally gave my 2 housemates their wedding present: ACEopoly!

And they came over to hang out and play it last night. (My sister, roommate, and roommate's boyfriend were here too.)

Here's a glimpse at the game:

The cover of the box - Phoenix Ed.

The property cards

Updated/Altered Community Chest cards

The gameboard

more properties & such

A closer look at some of the properties

Add some snacks, some vino, and some laughs, and you have a pretty great Saturday night.

Come to think of it, this whole weekend was pretty darn good - Mass & brunch downtown with my cousin, a visit with an ACE classmate, a school event at Barnes & Noble, my Strengths group wrap-up potluck, and more Mass.

Only 10 more (school) days until Christmas break...We can make it!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mary Immaculate

"Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did. If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his mother, he will not have Christ for his brother." 
(St. Maximilian Kolbe)

Never have I heard so many excuses volleying at me than this afternoon when our principal came over the speaker to reiterate our pastor's reminder about this weekend's holy day of obligation (The Immaculate Conception) and how we should all go to Mass with our families both Saturday and Sunday.

"I have a basketball game..."

"I am going to a party..."

"Ms. Foyle, I can't go..."

Honestly, I stopped listening. I went on to tell them that I wasn't interested in their excuses - it's between them and God, not them and me. 

(On a side note, excuses don't make something okay or right, even though most kids these days think that's the case, but I know I'm in no position to pose any kind of judgment - again, not my job.)

Personally, I love celebrating Mary (I think it's that inner Salesian spirit in me!), so I try to do so every chance I get.

Mary Immaculate, Pray for Us!

*Now, I do want to clarify that I have included a video for "Mary, Did You Know?" even though tomorrow's feast is celebrating Mary's conception without sin. Still, it's in the spirit of Mary...enjoy:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Alone Time...

Being busy has its perks...and that's good because these past few weeks (and the ones leading up to Christmas break) have been (and continue to be) pretty darn packed.

But there is something to be said for alone time too... 

I just got home from wing night, which was so much fun, especially since I hadn't been in quite some time. Thanks to getting together, plans are now tentatively made to hang out with some friends on Saturday night, and other plans are taking form to do quite a few other Church-, school-, and friend-related activities over the course of the rest of the weekend too. (My weekend got packed so fast!)...

But right now, I am sitting in my living room. The smell of my cinnamon candle is permeating the room, and the sounds of instrumental holiday classics are filling the room. The t.v. is off, and my roommates are not yet home. The radiator is hissing, and the heat coming from it is almost as comforting as the sweatpants I am currently wearing. The knowledge that tomorrow is Friday (and that there are only 2 more weeks until Christmas break) is refreshing and motivating.

Alone time.

Thank God for moments like these.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Share the Passion

Being a part of a Strengths for the Journey group for a second round really turned out to be a blessing. In addition to meeting more wonderful, inspiring, and engaged parishioners, I had the opportunity to continue to reflect on my strengths and their manifestation (in both overt and subtle ways) in my life.

I realized, tonight, how blessed I am to be in a job that truly allows me to share my passions and use my strengths every day...

Being goofy...
Learning new things...
Asking questions...
Telling stories...
Laughing at corny humor...
Relating to people of all ages...
Stretching my limits...
Reading & Writing...
Creating new opportunities...
Deepening my understanding of my faith...
Solving problems...
Being dramatic...
Being joyful and joy-filled...
Helping students feel safe, welcomed, and wanted...
Collaborating with co-workers...

Apparently, last week on the news, they interviewed a number of people, asking them what they would do if they won the Powerball lotto and if they would stop working. Many said they would quit their jobs.

If the news crew had asked me, I would have explained that I would not even consider it - I love it (good and bad days) too much. Teaching helps me come alive, realize my passions, and share my love for learning (and God) with my students every day.

Teaching truly is the best job in the world, and I don't know where (or who) I'd be without it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Just another Monday night

It's after 9 p.m. on a Monday night, and, as far as work goes, I actually have plenty to show for it.

Let's face it - I don't usually buckle down, make assessments, and plan lessons this early in the week, but with the promise of Christmas break lingering over my head (and the many, varied, and unusual plans with friends and family between now and then), I decided I'd do the leg work now and enjoy putting my "free time" to better use later.

Plus, who doesn't love learning about the differences between heat and temperature (in addition to the 3 main types of heat transfer) on a Monday night? Pretty great stuff, right?

All science lesson plans (and quizzes) until Christmas? Check! (And Amen!)

As for the rest of the week, things are shaping up quite nicely - volleyball tomorrow, final Strengths meeting on Wednesday, weekly wing night on Thursday...and then the weekend!

(Oh, and I guess I better start thinking about getting those Christmas cards signed, sealed, and delivered...)

So much to look forward to. So much to feel blessed about this holiday season.

P.S. - FINALLY started listening to Christmas music (even to the radio on the way home), and, surprisingly, my favorite music so far has been the Instrumental Holiday Radio on Pandora - it's so relaxing and beautiful to have on in the background while doing work. And it's not at all distracting since there are no words!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

1 Year Today

One year ago today, my family lost a really great guy, my grandfather. I know a lot of my posts, especially right after he passed away, have been reflections on his life and my relationship with him. But I don't think words will ever be enough.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West

I think my grandpa surely did "do it right."

photo collage made through Picasa

(The photos are small, but I think if you click on it, they will get bigger on your screen. Also, if you click at the bottom on the label "grandpa," the screen will bring you to all of my previous entries (including poems, reflections, etc.) about him.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Flavor for the holidays

Peppermint - what a wonderful flavor. So Christmas-y and winter-y. It makes me think of hot chocolate, fire places, and snow...

It's so versatile and delicious (and seasonal) -->

a little added flavor to morning coffee...

a little twist on the traditional pretzel slims...

peppermint bark...

peppermint ice cream...

"brain food" for the kiddos...


There are reasons I don't usually keep these kinds of sweets in my apartment - It's because it's really hard to exercise self-control when these treats are so darn good...

What's your favorite holiday flavor?