I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Brace Yourself: The Stress is Coming...

End of school year = stress

Brace yourself.

Well, I suppose I should phrase that as "brace myself" or "brace yourself to see evidence of stress overtaking my life." I can't really explain it, but the inevitable and quickly approaching "pack up, clean up, check off, and get out" strikes a chord each year.

Seeing as I have finished all immediately required tasks and grading (at least, I think I have), I chose to put my stressful energy to creative means. Please realize that I am no artist - I'm definitely not claiming to be one - but I think it's helpful to have artistic hobbies...

(image of girl adapted from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/72/2a/25/722a2564afdfeafed27c978fbc0fa51b.jpg) 

Bring it on, end of the year. I'm ready for you...

I think...

One Year Later - Reflections on Our Pilgrimage

In light of reading about Elijah in this week's Bible Study for Church, I took out my journal from my pilgrimage to the Holy Land yesterday afternoon. (It's hard to believe it's nearly been a year since I was blessed with the opportunity to journey on a pilgrimage with others from my parish to that sacred place.) In particular, I was searching for my notes about Elijah's victory over the false prophets of Baal, but I slowly found myself reading through all of my notes and reflections. (I did end up reading about Elijah too.)

It was moving to read through the insight I had gleaned (and written down) from our tour with Josef, and I was filled with many memories connected to the sites and history of Israel. It's been good from time to time to reminisce with stories, pictures, and prayer...

It's one of those things where the impact and understanding of it all hits you more and more after you've returned home. There are some aspects of the trip I am still attempting to comprehend and fully grasp. And there are other aspects of the pilgrimage that leave me in tears, realizing God's goodness and unending love.

Yes, our trip was (nearly) one year ago. But the journey continues today. And we must continue to remember, to celebrate, and to believe.

God is so good.

On today's (5/31) feast of the Visitation, let us entrust our hearts to Mary, the mother of Jesus. And let us remember how we are all united as God's children. Amen.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

magically swept away

How very true that statement is. There is something that simply sweeps the audience away. 

In terms of theater, then, living in Chicago has its perks, as there are so many venues which boast such talented directors and performers.

Just this year alone, I've seen "Q Brothers Christmas Carol," "Newsies," "Sondheim on Sondheim," two Catholic grade school productions, and now "Sense and Sensibility."

While each of those shows was magnificent in its own right, this latest one (program pictured above) definitely became one of my all-time favorites. (With a discount through the theater, my sister and I only paid $20 each for tickets!) The actors/actresses were witty and charming; the comedic timing was on point; and the music had both striking melodies and command of the English language. (To cap it off, it's a Jane Austen novel - what's not to love?)

As they say in theater, "there's no business like show business"...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Under the What?

Do you like mystery novels?

What about mysterious artwork - missing and unidentifiable?

Does history of WWII intrigue you?

Do you enjoy reading about pesky neighbors and kids who seem to know better than the adults around them?

If you answered yes to many (or all!) of the above, then Under the Egg is the book for you. (Yes, it's geared toward 5-6th graders, but it's definitely a worthwhile, page-turning read.) Surprisingly enough, I just handed my copy off to one of my 6th grade boys - I think he'll enjoy all the Monuments' Men stuff.

Man, I wish my next book didn't have to be for professional development...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Everyone Should Read This

This is a story for students who have ever felt stupid or left out.
This is a story for teachers who have tried to make a difference or who need to be reminded of the fact that each student is talented and has potential...it just may show up differently.
This is a story for parents to be open to getting their children the help they may need...it's not going to stigmatize them for life.
This is a story for everyone.

Albert Einstein was a genius. He apparently also had dyslexia...and so does the main character (Ally) in Fish in a Tree. (It just doesn't get a name/diagnosis till over halfway through the novel.) This story makes you laugh, especially with Albert's (a regular child genius, if I do say so) quips/thoughts and Keisha's comebacks. (Albert and Keisha become Ally's best friends.) It also breaks your heart to see the bullying of kids who don't treat those who are different with any lick of respect or kindness.

Over the course of the novel, Ally grows in her understanding of the difficulties she faces in school. She also learns to appreciate those things at which she is talented, such as art. Her teacher, Mr. Daniels, guides her in striving to reach her potential and persevere in learning how to read.

Did I mention this is one of our incoming 6th graders' summer reading books? Pretty pumped about that...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Paint Me Community

Community looks like teachers and students walking up and down hallways,
sticking student artwork with masking tape and posting it to the wall.
It looks like helping hands and thumbs up signs,
pats on the back and smiles.

That's what community looks like.

The hallway rings with thank-yous and laughter,
as teachers hum and sing songs
that are stuck in our heads from the spring show.

That's what community sounds like.

Wafts of pizza hit us,
a nice gesture of thanks from the art teacher.
Iced oatmeal and chocolate sandwich cookies
are sweet and crunchy.
The perfect snack.

That's what community smells and tastes like.

It feels just right in that hallway.
No one is cross,
Everyone is helpful,
asking where things go
and what can be done next.

That's what community feels like.

Last night I had the privilege of helping set up the student art show and then attending the spring band/choir concert. It was beautiful to witness so much talent (and talent-in-the-making - think "Music Man" beginning band...and try not to chuckle). I just loved being a part of it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Walk With Me

With the end of the school year dawning (ever so slowly) on the horizon, it's impossible not to start thinking ahead - to summer...to next year... And with that thinking comes a slow realization that a lot of things are about to change, some things in small ways and some things in larger ways.

Recently, one of my co-workers explained how her husband received one of those "make him an offer he can't refuse" job opportunities, and that's incredible. But, sadly, it means she and her husband are packing up and moving to Ohio. I was pretty upset when she sat me down to tell me a few weeks ago (though I was trying very hard to remain visibly calm and happy for her), but it sure hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. And I cried. I mean, I really cried. (Thankfully, I was the only one home.) This woman was my co-teacher for two years when I first moved to Chicago and taught in 4th grade, and we've been friends for nearly four years now. She's such a calming, welcoming presence at school, and it's very difficult to imagine what it will be like day in and day out without her next year.

It's important to take a step back and realize, though, that when you sign on to a school (or any job, really), you have to realize that people's life events will bring them in and out of your own. Some people are with you for a long time, and some remain with you for only a short (or relatively short) while. And each time change happens it usually brings various strong emotions right along with it.

But, as the quote above states, "change is inevitable" - it's always going to happen, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. We can't control others and their decisions, and we just can't control our own lives, as much as we like to think we are able to do so. But what we can do is make sure that with each change we take time to reflect on what certain people have taught us while walking alongside us in our journeys.

My co-worker taught me patience and compassion, especially toward our students. She helped me realize that it's never possible to have enough hugs. Together, we found something good in each day in the classroom, and, when I moved into my current middle school position, she supported and encouraged me 100% because she knew it would be the perfect position for me.

I know I'll see her again - her sons still live in Chicago, so I know she'll come back to spend time with them and that she'll pop in the school too. And we have our common Michigan ties, so maybe we'll run into each other on Mackinac Island again one day. (That's a story for another day.)

To be cliche and to borrow from Wicked: "Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

Let us be grateful for those whom we walk life's journey with, whether it be for only a few steps or for many miles.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rain Will Make Me New

There's something about rain...
It reminds me of being a kid in Florida, convinced I could dodge the raindrops and of watching "Singing in the Rain," never tiring of Gene Kelly's dancing antics...
It brings a smile to my face when I remember how mesmerized I would get whenever it rained in Phoenix (because it hardly ever happened)...
And I have to admit that I get excited for the fact that I finally own a raincoat and rain boots...
But perhaps most of all, rain brings the promise of spring and of beginning again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

In the Imperfection

While driving back from Cincinnati, a semi pulled in front of me and (unintentionally) sent a decently sized pebble shooting into my windshield.


Though it wasn't of huge width, my windshield now sported a rather deep "crater" about the size of a quarter. Needless to say, I was shaken up and upset.

Fast forward to one week later.....

Safelite was pretty fast about filling in and fixing up the windshield. (To quote the Safelite guy, "It's not the worst I've seen, but that's pretty deep.") And, while you can still see remnants of the crack in the glass, it's not so terribly bad.

And it got me thinking - sometimes the imperfections look bad at first; they remind us that things (and we're) not perfect. But there's something freeing in that. My car, for example, still drives fine from point A to point B, and its new imperfection isn't that visible unless you're up close or looking for it. The thing is, now I don't need to worry about keeping it perfect (though I'll still try to keep it as good as new as I am able).

Maybe it's a stretch, but we, likewise, have many imperfections, be they large or small, and we're not going to be perfect (though we still need to strive for heaven), no matter how hard we try.

And imperfections are like scars - therefore, I'd like to leave you with the words of Chris Cleeve in Little Bee: "We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."

So, when things get tough or something comes that you weren't wanting/expecting (e.g. a rock in your windshield), smile when it's over, look at the "scar," and look to the future. We've all got scars - some people are better at hiding them; some people are better at remembering and learning from them...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The iPad and the Wireless - A Modern-day Parable

I am the vine and my father is the vine grower...

Thus began today's Gospel.

But Fr. Larry wanted us to relate this metaphor to today's society:

You (congregation) are the iPads. I (Jesus) am the wireless and my Father is the server. Without me, you cannot check email, surf the web, be connected. Without my Father, I cannot serve you...

He went on a little further, but I think this serves his point. It's easy to lose sight of Jesus' meaning if we're not familiar with the imagery he used (e.g. growing vines), so it's important to "translate" his message into the everyday of our lives.

Well played, Fr. Larry. I think we all really plugged in to that one...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pigs Fly and Dreams Come True...in Cincinnati

3:57:10...It was a hard-fought battle (for me - just ask my sister), but we did it. Pigs really do fly...at least once a year in Cincinnati...


While at times I felt like I wouldn't be able to finish (at least not in PR fashion), my sister kept me going. (Trust me, she had it in her to go much faster - 3:45:00, easy, I'd bet.) She kept turning around with that look of "you better get yourself moving, you can't give up." And so, even when I started having chills at Mile 24, I kept going. Thank you, Marisa, for pushing me to beat my personal best. (And, more importantly, for making so we don't need to sign up for another marathon any time soon.)

post-race, after chugging multiple water bottles

post-race, post-shower ice cream treat at the one and only Graeter's

Thank you post card to our parents

The weekend would not have been complete without our parents' visit - they flew in and out of Chicago to make the drive to Cincinnati and to cheer us on for the race. They are the best fans anyone could ask for, and it was wonderful to spend some extra time with them, considering we don't usually see them during the school year much. (In fact, as I sat in Church on Saturday night, I was content to just be in the presence of God, and I was especially grateful to be surrounded by my family.)

Heck, we even made the local Cincinnati news - check it out around 1:20...