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 31, 2016

Best Nine 2016

Apparently there is something called "Best Nine 2016" for Instagram users going on right now. As I do not have Instagram, I figured I'd give a nod on this blog by posting my "Best Nine" blog posts of 2016.

 Note, these are not in a particular order, nor were they chosen based on views/popularity/etc. I chose them because I think they best reflect my 2016 calendar year.

1. It Only Took a Moment (January 25, 2016)
2. You Never Know (February 7, 2016)
3. Growing in God's Mercy (February 28, 2016)
4. What's With the Paper Clips? (April 28, 2016)
5. Calling All Catholic School Teachers and Youth Ministers (May 8, 2016)
6. Let Them Go (June 5, 2016)
7. Five Lessons from Summer Studies (July 25, 2016)
8. A Simple Poem for My Ninth Year (August 18, 2016)
9. The Art of Pumpkin Carving (October 22, 2016)

And there you have it. (The fact that I had a significantly small total of blog posts this year did help me narrow down my "top" ones quite nicely. What can I say? Maybe I just don't have that much to say these days...or maybe I'm saying it in other ways.)

Happy New Year - Cheers to 2017!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

You can call it wonderful...

Those who know me well (or even somewhat well) know that "It's a Wonderful Life" is my favorite movie (and definitely favorite Christmas movie) of all-time. It gets me every time Harry Bailey says, "A toast to my big brother, George, the richest man in town" and everyone bursts into "Auld Lang Syne." Pass the tissues, please.

I'll admit that as I learned more about the Catholic faith, the whole idea of Clarence being an angel did irk me (considering that after we die we believe in becoming Saints, not angels who are separately created beings), but I don't hold that against this movie because I think the message it sends is so very important...and, I mean, who doesn't think of Zuzu's classic line about the ringing bell meaning an angel just made it (wing-wise)?...

"You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"

Wabam! You tell him, Clarence.

This whole idea of being able to realize, first, that each person's life affects others and, second, that each life affects others to both small and large extents that we may never fully realize or understand. It's quite incredible and humbling, all at the same time.

"Comparison is the thief of joy." Ever heard that one? In the age of instant gratification and social media, it's easy to get caught up in what appears to be important and popular when, instead, we should be focusing on that which can't be measured by likes or swipes. Each person's life is, in fact, wonderful, not by comparison to anyone else (for in that it loses its wonderfulness - the grass is always greener, you know?), but just on its own, this "one wild and precious life" (Mary Oliver).

So, thank you George Bailey and Clarence for the reminder that comes (at least to my house) every Christmas - mine (and yours) truly is a wonderful life.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Magic of Some Good Old Christmas Fun

24 Christmas carols
15 young adults from church
a couple dozen nursing home residents
1 piano player
hundreds of homemade/store-bought cookies
loads of smiles and laughter

I love the holidays - snow or no snow (although, we are currently getting hit pretty hard), it's a magical time of year.

This morning I had the privilege to drive out to a Catholic nursing home in the city for a delightful visit, which was centered around the singing of Christmas carols. While we were not always in tune, we did keep smiles on our faces and twinkles in our eyes. The residents were so welcoming and grateful - it was really neat to meet them and sing for/with them. (We even got a special request for "Feliz Navidad.")

O Little Town of Bethlehem...Little Drummer Boy...Jingle Bell Rock...Silent Night...We Wish You a Merry Christmas... all the classics.

I cannot think of a better way to have spent the morning. And soon it's off to my sister's holiday party. I'm book-ending my day with incredible friends and fun.

So grateful. So joy-filled. So hopeful. All things Advent should be...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Memories

Ah, November - what a beautiful month you've been so far...and it's not even Thanksgiving yet! While school was super busy with end of the trimester report cards and parent-teacher conferences, I still found time to share with friends (both planned and unplanned)...

1) One of my best friends from college and her husband flew in/out of O'Hare for a wedding (in FL) earlier this month - before heading back home, we got to spend a couple of hours out by the airport enjoying a delicious brunch and great conversation. I am so glad she texted that they'd be here and wanted to meet up. 

2) Just this past weekend I was blessed to attend the wedding of a fellow ACE grad (a few years behind me) - both she and her now husband have such love for each other and for God. They are wonderful witnesses for all of us! Dinner and dancing were fun too...but that was just a bonus.

3) My sister's kiddos had their Girls On The Run 5K race last weekend. After many weeks of mild temperatures, the thermometer plummeted, and we pretty much froze...but it was awesome. The girls were so cute, and it was fun to hang out with some of my sister's co-workers too.

And now it's off to visit family and friends for the holiday...

I hope you and your loved ones (near and far) have a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving! Advent is just around the corner...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Goodbye October

October, one of the busiest months of the year
It's hard to believe November is here...
So much has happened, so much's been done.
Lots of smiles and show-stopping fun.

Here are a few photos from a wedding and show,
as well as a shout-out to our team: "Go Cubs go!"

Chicago skyline on way to Adler Planetarium for wedding reception

inside, at the reception

the cake - one of the layers was pumpkin!

same night the Cubs clinched the NL division title

Hamilton! The night had finally arrived!

The Schuyler Sisters...and Peggy

waiting with baited breath

In honor of the Cubs, for Halloween I was the "#FlytheW" sign

Made it to Navy Pier on my run yesterday - they were flying the W flag too

Thanksgiving break is so close I can taste it
As a break from teaching and grad school, you can bet I won't waste it.

Happy November everyone!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Art of Pumpkin Carving

As I've likely mentioned before, I grew up in a family that practiced non-traditional pumpkin carving. So, after all those years of haunted houses, college mascots, favorite characters, and more being on display in your front yard for all the neighbors to marvel at, it makes me realize I will never be satisfied with a regular old jack-o-lantern.

To illustrate my point, here are the past few years of pumpkin carving (in order starting at the top left and going clockwise - Arizona cactus, my church, Olaf (from Frozen), and Mickey Mouse):

This year, I probably should have carved the Cubs logo for Halloween. (Or, I could have "flown the W".) Then again, maybe that would have given rise to the "curse." 

Since I am just slightly obsessed (if you didn't already know) with the musical, "Hamilton," I decided to not throw away my shot to capture the iconic cover art.

So, I made my (rough) sketch...

And I searched all over Trader Joe's for the perfect canvas - I mean, pumpkin.

I tried to be as symmetrical as possible...

And I made some pretty ugly sketches on the pumpkin...

Until I finally got the ideas I wanted translated onto the pumpkin.

And then, as much as I wanted to carve it right away, I decided it was better to wait for it because otherwise it might rot before Halloween.

(Alexander Hamilton, we are waiting in the wings for you...)

Finally, at one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine... there are 10 days till Halloween, I grabbed a few kitchen knives, newspaper (thank you, Chicago Tribune), and got to work. So messy, yet so wonderful!

My hands were covered in icky pumpkin slime, so I didn't get any pictures along the way - just before and after. As you can see, I was planning to cut out the individual Hamilton letters, but they were too small, so I made some minor tweaks.

And lights, camera, action!

The A.Ham pumpkin hasn't made it to the window yet, but I've been watching it burn while grading and while cheering on the Cubs, so it's served its entertaining purposes so far.

It's far from perfect, but it was really neat to be able to bring my idea to life. (Sometimes in the classroom, things look a lot better on paper and then completely flop...you know how it goes.)

Now it's time to sign off and get ready for some friends' wedding celebration.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant, KMF

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

On being a saint

A prayer used in one of my classes last week really stood out to me, so I wanted to pass it along - it's an entry from the journal of St. John XXIII:

From the saints I must take the substance, not the accidents of their virtues. I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect. God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances. If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way” (Journal of a Soul).

Have a beautiful day!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

One word: Joy

It's a great day for the Irish - well, it would have been a better day if we could have "flown the W" like the Cubs (holler!).

But talk about game day picture-perfect: amazing weather, plenty of time to tailgate hop with friends (it was a night game, after all), and lots of beautiful expected (and unexpected!) faces.

One word: JOY!

On Facebook, I posted these photos with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "I didn't find my friends; the good Lord gave them to me." This could not be more true! Days like yesterday remind me of this, and I have to pinch myself.

Now, as Sunday night is upon me, I look back with gratitude over my weekend experiences (except the part where I had to turn around after getting to the grocery store on Friday to get my phone I had left at school - ah!) and look ahead with hopeful anticipation. Let us keep one another in prayer.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Who is the one being ministered?

It had been far too long - over 4 months since I'd visited the nursing home to bring communion. But last Tuesday night as I was dropping my friend off after Bible study, he asked if I was going to start coming along again on Saturdays. With football games, weddings, shows, and other events taking up a lot of my upcoming Saturdays, I hesitated before saying yes. Even if it would just be for this week for now, it would be worth it.

I'm so glad I went. First, I did not feel pressed for time, which was largely due to the fact that I have a three day weekend due to the Columbus Day holiday. (And it's a good thing I wasn't in a rush because from the time we left the neighborhood, went to church to get the hosts, visit at the nursing home, and wait before returning hosts to the tabernacle after the 5pm Mass, it had been about 3 hours.) Second, I saw some old friends, some who remembered me and others who did not. But all were lovely and eager to receive Jesus. Third, one woman emphasized how privileged she was that she did not have to go "clump, clump, clump" all the way to church and instead we came to her. What an amazing perspective!

It's quite incredible - we are the ones called "ministers of care", but it is often the people at the nursing home who minister to us.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Itching to get back at it

It's a slow process, getting back out on the path for a run.

Today, I walked for a half mile, ran for a mile, walked for a half mile, ran for a mile. And I was huffing and puffing. And for the rest of the day, I felt extra pain in my foot.

Guess I'm still not ready.

But with the Chicago marathon tomorrow, I was itching just to get out there and try.

Baby steps. REALLY SMALL baby steps.

More physical therapy. More stretches. More massage. More pain.

End goal - think end goal.

All will be well. I will heal.

I just have to wait and work for it.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How do you like them apples?

Overcast with a touch of fall temps: 60s - not too hot, not too cold...(all you need is a light jacket...)

It was a perfect day for apple picking!

With apples and fresh donuts in hand, we made our way back to the city, and I now find myself staring at my computer screen, wishing these grad school readings and papers would take care of themselves. Since I know they won't, I have a lot to do before Mass tonight.

Hope you've been enjoying your Sunday!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Grading, Preparing, Football, and St. Therese

Where on earth did September go?

I know I'm not the only one thinking that because I've asked around.

I haven't been out of the house much today (which is good because the rain was really coming down earlier) - I've been watching college football, grading, and making slides/videos for the upcoming week of Religion classes. It was a lot of work, but I feel confident that I'll be getting the week off on a strong foot through the preparation.

"Exhibit A": my students' books on prayer with ND playing in the background...

(Tomorrow I will need to catch up with grad school stuff - and by "catch up", I really mean "get ahead so I don't get behind." Story. of. my. life.)

Last night was a ton of fun - I hung out with a few friends from church and also ran into some familiar faces (mostly other ACErs/ACE grads):

No complaints from the weekend so far. And with apple picking (and Mass) tomorrow, life is pretty darn sweet.

But before I close, I would be remiss to ignore the October 1st feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (better known to some as "Therese, the Little Flower" or "Saint of the Little Way"). Happy Confirmation Saint day feast to my sister and me!

St. Therese is such a great model of faith for so many reasons, and this year I joined others in praying a novena to her for vocations - it was helpful to have a way to hold myself accountable (even if it was through coloring):

St. Therese, pray for us!

One more day of the weekend before a short week with students - yay for professional development on Friday!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mistake Not Worth Making Twice

Pretty busy after school today (though, I have found a surprising few minutes to post), so I thought it would be in my best interest to fix my hair and wear a little make-up before going to school this morning, as I will be on my way (after physical therapy) to a gala for Big Shoulders later this evening.

Let's just say that was a mistake.

Considering I usually wear little or no make-up, the girls decided this was a big deal. These are a few comments I received.

Student A: "Miss F, you look nice today!"
Me (in my head): What do I look like every other day?

Student B: "Miss F, my aunt has one of those bracelets. She says they're really old."
Me (in my head yet again): Gee, thanks.

Student C: "Miss F, I like your purple eyeliner."
Me (in my head): Not sure what you're looking at, but it's black.

Student D: "Miss F, are you engaged?"
Me (in my head): Um, not sure how you jumped straight to that...

The boys were great - no comments, no side conversations, nothing different from normal. (Boys are easier.)

Let's just say I'll think twice before ever doing that again.

Ok, well, it's off to PT and then a quick turn-around at home before off to the gala. Let's get this weekend started!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No pain no gain

No pain no gain.

That thought just kept running through my mind as I started physical therapy tonight. The deep tissue massage on my right leg - holy cow, ouch! But the PT said it usually gets results, so I bit my lip and resisted the urge to ask her to stop (or the urge to scream).

No pain no gain.

I can't just want something and not be ready to work for it, especially when it comes to healing. I need to put in the work on the exercises she gave me. And I have to show up to my sessions. I have faith that hard work will pay off. She (and my doctor) seemed hopeful that I could start running again soon and even start training for a marathon.

So, my goals are in front of me, and I'm going to work for them. Let's do this.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lights Up...

Lights up on Washington Heights, up at the break of day 
I wake up and I got this little punk I gotta chase away 
Pop the grate at the crack of dawn, sing 
While I wipe down the awning 
Hey y’all, good morning

Before there was "Hamilton" (the musical, not the person himself), there was "In the Heights." With many overlapping stories of people living in the barrio in New York, the story, at its core, is about love, facing discrimination and inequality, and "paciencia y fe" (in the words of Abuela Claudia).

Confession: I've been listening to the music (LOVE the intentional use of Spanish sprinkled here and there as well as the cultural feel in the score - such high energy!) for over a couple of months now, and it makes SO much more sense when you see the show in person.

The main character, Usnavi (you've probably never heard his name - his parents named him after something they read on a ship...think about it...), immigrated from the Dominican Republic and has been living with the "grandma of the barrio," Abuela Claudia. There are the gossiping women who run the hair salon, the family owners of a car business (and their daughter, Nina, who dropped out of college at Stanford because she was unable to maintain the jobs to pay for books), the piraguero (frozen ice seller), and more. Over the course of the play, the characters bring you into their world and all of a sudden, you're a part of the narrative. Characters with whom you have no personal connection with at the start of the play are the very ones you are crying and laughing beside by the end. It's absolute magic.

The show exceeded my expectations and left me in awe, both of the show's content and of its performers in Chicago. If it ever makes its way to your city, "damn, (you) gotta get on that."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Love your WHY

In between the football touchdowns that Notre Dame has been trading with Duke, I've been catching up on reading assignments for grad school. After tough days of teaching where kiddos are bouncing off the walls or on days when things actually are executed as planned (and on every day in between), it's easy to get demoralized.

Therefore, it's nice to take the opportunity from time to time to remember what our role as educators in a Catholic school is really all about. One of the articles I read really struck me in this way. Here's one short quote (from the very short article):

"Take your passion, gifts and talents to inspire and to evangelize the next generation. Catholic school educators have a calling toward grace through their work with children. Live like the saints, emulate the lives of those that have gone before and be ready for not only your future, but like Archbishop Oscar Romero prayed, the future not our own. The future is our schools, our children, and our faith. Pray for it. Live it. Enjoy what you do every day. Trust in your knowledge and that you do know how to teach. Above all else, love why you do it. The grace of God's work is truly amazing.

(I added emphasis with the parts in bold.)

I don't believe I am allowed to post the article, but here's the information in case you want to look it up: "Love Your Why" / Beckley, Gary / Publication Title: Momentum / Volume 44 / Issue 1

We are in the "business" of Catholic education. We are building Saints.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cloudy with a Chance of Smiles and Football

Notre Dame football - it's more than the game itself (win v. lose). It's about the people you plan to visit/catch up with, happily run into, make new friends with, or with whom you travel...

one of my Remick classmates - we parked at her parents' house by campus!

Found my SJV pastor at the Holy Cross tailgate

getting a break from the rain...

our seats...in the senior section...?

mmm...only the best pretzels

view from our seats - we made some new usher friends (because our seats were apparently a little messed up)

lucked out with sitting/standing by the top of the section - something to lean on!

token picture with the field

lovely leprechaun from the ND band

and representing the band Chicago

Heath frozen custard at Ritters

and happy twins with their ice cream

perfect weather for a perfect day

So grateful for the beautiful day and wonderful people. Not sure where I'd be without ACE - definitely not in South Bend for Irish football games.

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame...

Happy to call this place home...