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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

The Religion teacher in me came out during my pumpkin carving tonight...

St. Clement Church, Chicago

Happy Halloween!


...So it's okay to reach out to some of those people when you need a little bit of help...

(I know this quotation is more likely to be interpreted along the lines of keeping an open mind and trying to learn all you can from those around you, but I think it's fitting for my purposes today.)

especially when it comes to teaching religion...

especially when needing to gain a sense of perspective of the 2000 years of Catholic history post-Christ...

Because, let's face it, when you only have a general idea of some of the material you need to teach, it's probably pretty impossible to be effective in the classroom.

But when a friend helps you get to the big ideas and essential take-aways (while also explaining some additional key details), it all starts to come together...and you breathe a little easier...and, while you know it's still going to be challenging to come up with lessons to convey the concepts, you still feel confident that your teaching tool belt is better stocked than before and you won't be a complete failure.

And you sigh with relief.

Well, at least I did.

I am so grateful for the people in my life who, at any given time, have given and continue to give of their time to help explain something to me, pray for my intentions, listen to me talk things out - time they likely need to complete something of their own.

I am surrounded (both in local and distant proximity) by an amazing network of family and friends, and it's days like these when I remember that I need to thank them from the bottom of my heart.

On an unrelated note, Happy Halloween. My pumpkin remains uncarved (if that's even a word?) on the living room floor, but I have hopes for last-minute after-school inspiration. Be safe everyone, and have a great day!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recipe for a Family Rosary Class Event

Recipe for a Family Rosary Class Event

Pre-stuffed "kits" with beads (10 of one color, 3 of another, + 1 cross bead), & string/twine - enough for each student & parent/grandparent...plus a handful of extras
Invitations (sent home with the kiddos AND via personal email)
Step-by-step instructions for how to assemble the decade Rosaries
Resources for the families to share in class

Day of:
Extra chairs (for the parents/grandparents)
A co-worker to cover your lunch duty (*optional*)
Student-led opening prayer
A resource to help you pray the Rosary with the students & parents

Don't forget to keep a smile on your face in light of Rosary "fatalities" and to remain flexible to help, repair, or start over. Be sure to thank parents and students multiple times for their presence and participation. Pray with full heart, stand back, and enjoy...

I got the beads at Oriental Trading and Michael's

I am so thankful for the opportunity with my 6th graders today to spend time learning about, making, and praying the Rosary together (in both classes, separately). All of the parents/grandparents were so gracious, and everyone seemed to have a good and meaningful time.

I think it's really important, especially in the older grades, to invite parents into the classroom for various activities and such...but it takes an extra effort, since there's less control of time, less amount of time to host the activity, and students who appear indifferent at their parents' presence (even though on the inside they are excited to see them).

But it's worth it. What a recipe...what a day...

Monday, October 28, 2013


Last night I got to the point of being pretty stressed. This whole teaching early Christian Church history thing is a new concept to me...as in, I am learning more about it as I go so then I, in turn, can pass on the information/learning opportunities to my students.

It's hard to find that kind of stuff online in videos and articles, let me tell you. (And I am not alone in this - one of my friends who I might consider a Bible history guru said it's hard to get good stuff from the internet for teaching this material.) And, let's face it, the textbook mentions big events (that I need to cover from the Archdiocesan standards) in passing...and without names.

Ok, sorry for the little rant there...but you get where I'm coming from, right? I just couldn't finish up my lessons for 8th grade, and then, all of a sudden, it was time for Mass.


I got to Mass early because I was signed up to be an EM, and that turned out to be a blessing because I had about 20 minutes in prayer/silence before the Church building started filling up with people. (It definitely gave me time to offer a prayer of thanks for another friend - this one in the seminary, so you know he's a good source - who is working on getting some ideas together to help me in my Church history endeavors. Alleluia!)

Mass proceeded pretty much as it usually does, but when it came time for the Eucharistic Prayer, something hit me - all of a sudden, I experienced the tradition of the Mass - the words and gestures and prayers we said echoing those said 2000 years ago at the time of Christ - and I got chills. (I guess all the reading up on the first Apostles and martyrs started to take its toll on me.) Literally, chills.

I don't think I'll ever experience Mass the same again, not after that. I guess the struggles of learning all this new material has rewards of understanding and blessings beyond my imagination...and I got a taste of that last night. So as much as I b**** and moan about all the material I have to jam-pack in before Thanksgiving break, I honestly have no right to complain.

At the end of the day, I must admit, I love my job.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy (almost) Halloween!

It's that time of year again...Happy (almost) Halloween!

I didn't have the time, nor did I have the energy, to make a new costume this year, so I reused my Katniss Everdeen costume from last year (Turns out the odds are still in my favor, as the costume was a hit...as long as I didn't hit people with my arrows.)

This year, I went to a party with Mickey Mouse (A.K.A. my sister)...

I thought about doing a Mockingjay carving for my pumpkin this year, but that may be a bit much.

(I'm not that obsessed...)

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Let the Children Come to Me...

Ministry of Care days are always such a blessing.

Today, my visits were not long, nor were they many, but my heart was happy to see so many children - in the waiting rooms, in patient rooms, in the elevator, by the Starbucks.

I overheard one child saying, "I saw Uncle ____, and I told him I loved him."

And I thought, wow.

I believe it's so important for those visiting the hospitals to bring their children with them - they bring such joy and hope to the patients as well as to those of us who happen to pass by at just the right moments. In addition, I think it's good for the kiddos too - sure it requires a lot of patience and ability to follow rules, but practicing those things is good for them.

I remember going to both the nursing home and the hospital/Hospice as I was growing up - and I'm pretty sure that my experiences there not only brought me closer to my relatives but also helped me develop an appreciation for and desire to help (in my small way) the aging and those who are sick/recovering.

I am so thankful to those families who brought their children today - it was likely a struggle or a trip balanced with something like "we can get ice cream when we finish," but it was SO beautiful.

"Let the children come to me"...in the sick and suffering...in the hearts of all people...

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Another Value Quote of the Day to pass along:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Melody Beattie -
author, journalist

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whizzing on by...

Goodness, gracious - I feel like I've not blogged in ages. It's been one of those weeks - you know what I'm talking about - when everything keeps coming and whizzing by, almost like you're on a moving train.

Talk about not enough hours in the day.

I am definitely looking forward to tonight - aside from volleyball, which is right after school (and which is our last practice for the season), I don't have any plans/obligations/events tonight. Highly unusual...but much anticipated.

I love being busy, don't get me wrong. I love being around people and having fun, whether it be at a Bible study or young adult volleyball night, a happy hour fundraiser or a prayer group.

But there is something to be said about being still and being quiet.

I hope tonight is one of those nights.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Whenever You Remember

It's hard not to think with fondness of the past, isn't it? I find myself every now and again thinking back to times in college, my ACE experience, and even just last year teaching 4th grade. And I find myself wishing I could be there, in those moments, again. Sometimes, I accidentally take a turn down the wrong hallway at school, and I find myself outside the 4th grade doors. (Oops.) It's such a routine...it's such a part of the road that led me to where I am today.

It's not that I have rose-colored glasses. At least, I don't think I do. And it's not that I don't enjoy where I am right now. I do. (In fact, I am SO blessed to be where I am right now - I love the opportunities, people, and school.) 

So, I don't know what it is. But I do know many people find themselves in the very same boat. I don't believe this to be a bad thing, by any means, unless we find ourselves in a position like the quotation states below:

It's okay to miss the past. Some things and people and memories can never be replaced. And it's important to learn from those times and avoid any similar mistakes and such in the present or future. 

But, as I think this quotation makes very clear, it is not okay to let the past cast a shadow on our happiness today. When we are caught up in the present moments, especially those that are stressful or difficult, it's hard to keep the perspective of contentment with the here and now. If we keep wishing for yesterdays, we miss out on all that today has to offer. It may not be the same as it was, but different may be just as good...or even better.

So, let's strive to remember yesterday but live for today.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What is Faith?

What is faith? What does it mean for faith to be a gift?

Here are a few things my 7th graders would say...

"...So, thank you for this gift, it is one of the best ones I will ever get."

Yes, that just about sums it up.

I think they got it. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Greatest Love Story

The greatest love story of all time is contained in a little white host.” 
-Bishop Fulton Sheet

What a simple and beautiful thought - Jesus truly is the embodiment of God's perfect love for each of us, and Catholics are reminded of this every time we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist.

How do I help my middle schoolers realize this love? How do I move some of them (especially 7th grade) past the whole faith as a feeling and into a faith rooted in reason and understanding?


The Little Things...

Yesterday's Value of the day email said this:

I firmly believe in small gestures: pay for their coffee, hold the door for strangers, over tip, smile or try to be kind even when you don’t feel like it, pay compliments, chase the kid’s runaway ball down the sidewalk and throw it back to him, try to be larger than you are— particularly when it’s difficult. People do notice, people appreciate. I appreciate it when it’s done to (for) me. Small gestures can be an effort, or actually go against our grain (“I’m not a big one for paying compliments…”), but the irony is that almost every time you make them, you feel better about yourself. For a moment life suddenly feels lighter, a bit more Gene Kelly dancing in the rain.” (Jonathan Carroll, author)

The small things do matter, often times just as much as the big things because they are constant and they do, in a sense, add up.

While I couldn't find it online, JJ Heller sings a song called "Little Things" - There is so much too do, not enough time, money constraints, etc. - the list of excuses can go on and on for all of us. But if we stop and think about it - like the quote and this song go on to tell us - the little things make the difference.

So, the next time you think you're not big enough to make a difference or that "one small action isn't going to change the world so why bother", I beg you to reconsider.

Give yourself that "Gene Kelly" moment and allow yourself to dance in the rain...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day off...So, what did I do...?

How did I spend my day off from school?

Well, I did get a lot done this morning...

- I went for a quick jog at the gym, where I was able to catch up on the news.
- I bought dish soap and cleaned a large pile of plates/bowls loaded up in our sink.
- I dropped 2 of my coats off at the cleaners.
- I baked a pumpkin dessert.
- I finished planning my second 8th grade unit.

And then I got to work on three performance assessments (& their rubrics) for my middle school religion classes.

Let's just say, that took awhile.

All feelings of being productive earlier in the day quickly vanished.

I am not sure if what I came up with even makes sense, but here is the gist of each of the projects:

6th grade - Compose a letter of faith to their future selves, explaining what they know about topics like the Trinity, the 4 Marks of the Church, etc. and also what they hope to know (through comments and questions) in the coming years

7th grade - Create (draw) & explain a set of 3 "Instagram" photos to catch people's faith in action, including the 4 Marks of the Church, prayer in life, and evangelization

8th grade - Design & explain a modern-day disciple action figure(s) equipped with materials/traits/accessories to help share the faith, deal with evil in the world, understand the Trinity, etc.

I hope my rubrics are more reflective of student performance/understanding of material this time - last time, I think some students ended up with better scores than they deserved/earned. However, I did listen to a webinar on Saturday night (yes, what a grand Saturday night I had) about the design and wording of rubrics, so I hope I did better!

My creative energy is drained. (Maybe it wasn't even really there in the first place.)

Good thing that tonight's creative energy involves painting rather than thinking...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Rambling of Inner Thoughts...(in Free Verse)

Stressed? Is that the right word?
Maybe I am...
But it's a long weekend,
So...maybe I'm not?

It's mid-October -
Feeling like a hamster on a wheel,

"When things slow down..."
"When I get caught up..."
These are phrases I find myself saying
but not following through
Because I can't catch up.

Do we ever catch up?
Probably not.
Can I settle with that?
I better work on it.

There will always be more -
More to do...
More to read...
More to prepare...
More to teach...
More to pray for...
More to experience...
More to get better at...
More to spend time on...


Step back.
We're in this for the long haul.
Maybe things aren't "just right" now.
Maybe they'll never be.

If I've learned nothing else,
I've at least learned this -
Relaxation and refueling are important...
Keep going and eventually you will break down.

So, this weekend,
I'm taking time to breathe.
My work is important,
But (more) so are my friends and family.
And my health.

There will always be more to do.
And that's ok.
That's how it should be.
It doesn't have to get done now.

Enjoy the Fall.
Enjoy friends and celebrations.
Read a good book.
Sip that coffee...slowly...

And smile.
Because God is SO good.
Everything will be all right.
Perspective is key.
Life is short.
Savor the moments.
Work hard...at striving for balance.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lazy, Tired Friday Night...And that's OK...

What to do after spending every night out this week?

Easy answer = stay in, catch up on missed tv episodes, do some laundry, and catch up on grading


Bedtime soon? Yes, I think so...

Thank goodness for the long weekend ahead.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do You Really Mean That...?

Today's Gospel is the one where one of the disciples asks Jesus to teach them how to pray. And so, Jesus says the words we know today as the Our Father.

But these words seem to have lost their meaning today for many of us...

We say the words without thinking...
We say the words in a hurried rush, doing our Christian duty or keeping up at Mass...
We say the words because that's what we were taught - that is a prayer we have memorized since we were small children...

But what are we saying...?

I used this version of the Our Father as a hook to the lesson with my 8th graders when we learned about the meaning of the prayer. It really makes you stop and think - Do I mean what I say? or am I merely doing my Christian prayer obligation?

And so, I would like to start this Wednesday by offering up a simple prayer:

Dear God, Please help us to take the time to pray with meaning and to work to live out our prayers and relationship with you in our daily lives. Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Little Bit o' Nostalgia and Hope

It's a day like today - a perfect Fall - that fuel the soul.

It's a day like today that remind you of the more important things - friends, family, good conversation & company, etc. - in life.

It's a day like today that make you nostalgic for things that have been and hopeful of things to come.

Today was a pretty historic one for me - first time apple picking. Ever.

(Yes, I'm 27 years old.)

Growing up in Florida, I never went apple picking. Strawberry picking? Absolutely. But apples, no.

It was so much fun! And the weather was absolutely beautiful - not too hot, not too cold. (All you need is a light jacket.)

Here are pictures from the day - I will spare you my apple jokes...

There will be many an apple in my lunchbox this week...

She looks so "Midwestern", doesn't she?

Yes, I even picked my own pumpkin to carve. It's sitting in the corner of my living room by the window - I'm hoping it will inspire me to carve something brilliant...or, at least, something cute.

And I will definitely be roasting (and eating) the pumpkin seeds.

There was a sign that pretty much summed up my feelings for the day pretty perfectly:

Oh, yes indeedy...

Weather or Not...But Lucky Us!

I can't believe how well my school lucked out with the weather yesterday - we held our annual Fall Fest, complete with bouncy house, obstacle course, magic tricks, pumpkin painting, and more!

(Let's just say, it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun inside or in the rain.)

I'd never been to Fall Fest before, but I went yesterday in order to supervise the 8th graders who are earning hours in preparation for their Confirmation this year. So, I was back and forth among the different stations making sure the 8th graders were working hard and doing all right - for the most part, I think they enjoyed themselves. (They even got to try out some of the bouncy stuff.)

As soon as we were done packing up all the stuff, the skies opened up and it began to rain and lightning. Boy, that was timing it. (I made it to my car only getting mildly wet.)

I'm glad I was able to spend time with the families and students yesterday. And last night, I went up the street to a local bar to hang out with my sister and some friends from Church for the Notre Dame game. And today I'm going apple picking for the first time ever!

(Speaking of the Notre Dame game, this week's "What Are You Fighting For?" ad was for ACE!)

So much excitement in one weekend has left me little time to lesson plan. I guess I better get some of that done now before we head out. More lesson planning and Mass tonight when we get back!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, October 4, 2013


Happy Friday! Yes, there's a whole day standing between us and the weekend, but we're almost there!

The morning will hopefully move along quickly for a few reasons:

1) Spending time in Adoration with the 8th graders. (10 minutes of silence in Church will probably seem like eternity for them, but they have some resources and prayer ideas, so here's hoping it's at least a little meaningful...)

2) Fire Drill - I personally hope this happens when we are at Church for Adoration. :)

3) CPR training for 2 hours in the middle of the day - yes, I am only teaching about 1/3 of my 7th grade class period.

I hope you have a lovely, fast-moving Friday and a slow-moving, fun- and family-filled weekend!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

No Time...?

In 7th grade this morning, we were talking about the Resurrection of the Dead and the implications of only having one life...yes, YOLO. After reading a few articles, I shared with them a poem (see below). It made them stop and think - there is time...always...but how are they spending it?

How are you spending your time?


No Time To Pray

by Kathryn Neff Perry

I knelt to pray but not for long,
I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work
For bills would soon be due.

So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,
And jumped up off my knees.
My Christian duty was now done
My soul could rest at ease.

All day long I had no time
To spread a word of cheer.
No time to speak of Christ to friends,
They'd laugh at me I'd fear.

No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.

I went before the Lord,
I came, I stood with downcast eyes.
For in his hands God held a book;
It was the book of life.

God looked into his book and said
"Your name I cannot find.
I once was going to write it down...
But never found the time."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The best part about having students lead prayer is that I just never know what they will prepare or lead.

Today was no different.

In my second 6th grade class, the students leading prayer were debating among themselves if the video was appropriate for class. "It's a talking vegetable!" one said, while another assured him, "It's just Veggie Tales."

I'm so glad they resolved to show the video.

It's just so cute - I definitely teared up, and we all laughed a little here and there.

And so, I asked my students how they find these videos for prayer...

I google "prayer" videos.

I think of the topic I want to "teach" and then google that. For example, if I want to talk about helping other people.

Sometimes I pick videos I have seen before.

I really is amazing to see some of the stuff they come up with. (It's much better than me leading prayer every day, I can tell you that much.)

It's good to let go...even on small things like daily prayer.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October - What a Beautiful Month!

Today marks the beginning of October - what a great month!

October 1st is also a special feast day in the Church - it's the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (the little flower). I had my 8th graders watch a video by Fr. James Martin, SJ at the end of class - I think it's important to expose them to as many great Saints as possible before they choose one to take as their Confirmation name.

Speaking of Confirmation...Call me a Catholic nerd, but I definitely chose to celebrate the occasion, donning my Confirmation earrings (a gift from my Confirmation sponsor) and (almost) matching flower cross (a gift from my parents).

(Yes, Mrs. Hosack, I still have them.)

For me, taking the name of St. Therese has been such a blessing. While I originally took her name in memory of my cousin who passed away very young, I have come to know and embrace this beautiful Saint for helping me grow closer to God. Her idea of doing little things with great love is something I strive to do every day. And, I can't write this post without acknowledging that her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, is one of the most incredible, honest, and life-changing books I've ever had the privilege to read.

Okay, enough gushing in one post, right? I'll leave you tonight with some of Therese's own words: