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, January 27, 2016

Are Our Hearts Too Hard for Jesus?

Ultimately, this is the question that is begged to be answered in today's Gospel. At our weekly school Mass today, our pastor enlisted the help of four 4th graders to act out the story of the sower and the seed. With some prompting, the students "fell" on the ground, were "choked" by thorns, and "took root" in good soil. It was quite entertaining...and also memorable.

After the homily, he asked us to think about if our hearts are ready for Jesus - or are they too hard? Good to think about...hmm...

Mixing it up at Mass - nice one, Father. I think the kids are more likely to remember this Gospel passage now that they've seen it with their own eyes.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It only took a moment

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." (Aesop)

I firmly believe that. And that was affirmed for me today, when one of my 8th graders brought me a card. This is what it said - I'll let it speak for itself:

I had noticed she was on the brink of tears (or had already been crying) the other day, so I had simply asked her to stay after class so I could have a word with her. I just asked if she was ok, and she told me yes.

And then I got this note.

I had almost decided not to say something. But thank goodness I did.

We all have the power to bring about a change (large or small) in someone's life on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

Just think about that.


We all are gifted with so many moments each day - let's make sure we don't miss them. Let's make each one count to bring God's love to one another.

Wouldn't the world be a better place with a little more compassion and love?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Transforming Before My Eyes

Teaching middle school is a whole different ball game from teaching elementary school. You don't need to be (or consult) a rocket scientist to figure that one out. And I'm not here to argue if one is better or easier than the other.

What I would like to point out, though, is the opportunity to witness growth over a two- or three-year period with the students in your classes as a middle school teacher. (Yes, you can witness growth of students when they remain in the building and move on to other grades, but it's not quite the same as interacting with them every day.)

Recently, this thought came to my attention because I realized how much one student in particular has transformed over the past two and a half years. I'd like to think I have had something to do with it, but I realize a lot of it came after her summer internship experience working with the homeless.

She was one of those students who originally got on my nerves, making comments that seemed to reflect a desire for attention and for everything to be related to her. Honestly, I used to get irritated. When I would think of my "favorite" students (ok, let's be real, we have no favorite students as teachers, right?), she used to not be one of them.

But, again, it's funny how time and experiences shape us. Now, this young woman is helping to start a service club for students at our school. She even asked me to write a letter of recommendation (a secondary one for her character/faith) as part of her high school application process (and then proceeded to write a sweet thank you note - see below).

The girl I knew in 6th grade is no more. She has transformed before my very eyes. And, if I stop to think about it, each of my students has changed quite a lot since they entered my religion class. (I sure hope I've contributed even a tiny bit to changes for the better.) Some still irk me (and some irk me more than they used to), but they are all on their way to finding their identities and preparing for their future education and careers.

I'm very proud of all of them. I hope they continue to grow intellectually, emotionally, and in their faith lives.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What is Mercy?

This question was posed to our young adult retreat planning committee a few short weeks ago, and we all sort of just "verbal vomited" until we had a rather large list scrawled on a poster. Our list ranged from relevant scripture verses to the works of mercy, from giving someone a second chance to being in a state to receive God's grace/being merciful to self.

I think mercy means a lot of different things. Or, maybe what I mean to say is that mercy takes various forms in different situations...

For me, mercy today (and tomorrow) means giving my 8th graders a clean slate. In the words of one student (who wished to have her same seat next to her friend tomorrow), "Isn't God one of second chances?" Yes, He absolutely is. And that's what's so crazy. Even though these students proceeded to talk for most of today's class period (now, granted, it was last period - not that there's any excuse), the expectation is that tomorrow looks a h*** of a lot different. I've already spoken with fellow faculty about logical consequences, and I know I need to enforce a few things. In addition, I plan to offer up the Rosary tonight for them, and I know many of my own (and their) friends and family are praying for these kids too.

Mercy for me meant going to Target after school and spending my own money on snacks and drinks for the 8th graders' retreat. I did this even though these kids really pushed my buttons today. I did it even though I believe that they'll be students who complain about the snacks I picked out or that there aren't enough drinks.

Maybe it's mercy. Maybe it's just plain crazy. But Jesus wants us to be prodigal (wasteful/lavish) with our love and mercy - to love the sinner not the sin, the student not their impulsive actions. God knows there are things people need to be merciful towards me for, so who am I to decide who deserves God's mercy? When it's easier to snap back or be sarcastic with a student, I am asked to hold my tongue and pursue the better road.

Lord, we ask you to shower us with mercy today and always. May we, in turn, be fountains of your mercy for those we encounter, especially those who need it most. Amen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tick tock goes the internal clock

Internal clock, why must you be so precise, on such a schedule?

Hadn't you heard? Today is a holiday. No school. Ta-da!

Get up or you won't fall asleep tonight...
Better drink your coffee before 9 a.m. or you'll be up past your bedtime...
No napping or your whole week will be thrown off...

Such were a few of your messages today - messages, which, thank you very much, I heard loud and clear.

On the flipside, I do suppose I can be grateful to be forced to keep such a schedule. After all, I managed to go for a quick run at the gym, watch episode 3 of Downton Abbey, read over half of an Advanced Reader copy of a soon-to-be-released children's book, packed tomorrow's lunch, and got a few things done for school. (I still have a retreat meeting to go to, but that's another story.)

Oh, and I may have just realized that the latest episode of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! had Sutton Foster as the guest. Guess what I'm listening to in just a few minutes...

But in all seriousness, internal clock or not, I am grateful for the day off from school. This weekend was much needed.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Quotable Inspiration

Sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned inspirational quote. Or a handful.

I was scrolling through Pinterest this morning, killing time before braving the brutally cold elements to go to the gym, when I came across some of these gems - enjoy:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What About a Slow Down?

Talking out loud - no real direction of my thoughts, just throwing it all out there into the open air of my car. Cruising down Clark Street, I was never so glad to have foggy windows. Although nowadays with technology that allows people to talk on the phone via Bluetooth or speakerphone, one hardly has to worry about a passing driver's unsolicited judgment on one's mental state.

It felt pretty good to just send my brainwaves into the void. I didn't get any answers, but I'm pretty sure my head felt even the slightest bit lighter. And, more importantly, my mood improved. (That could have been due to the change in radio tunes - suddenly there was a real driving beat coming through those speakers.)

To the point, though, I have more "to-do"/reminder post-it notes on my desk at the present moment than some people gather in a semester-long period. I send more emails to myself on any given day than I send emails to my fellow faculty members combined.

Face it - working ahead doesn't always help; sometimes it even ends up bringing on more work/stress.


When will it all slow down?

I'm praying that Confirmation is the "magic slow-down point," but then I remember that following shortly thereafter is the end of the trimester, which means report cards (and report card comments), parent/teacher conferences, and other meetings signaling we only have one more trimester to get our butts in gear.

In reality, there probably is no be-all, end-all "magic slow-down point" (except when we die, and, who knows, maybe not even then), but, rather, we get all these mini slow-down moments instead. A weeknight here, a long weekend there, a cancelled meeting at school...you get the idea. We gotta seize 'em when we get 'em.

How do we seize them? We do it by being in the moment, by breathing, and by slowing down. We seize them allowing ourselves to laugh and to not take any one thing too very seriously. We seize them by thanking God for all the opportunities that get us so busy in the first place - some people never even get these chances...

Sometimes, you just have to make your own "slow-down."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Not so ordinary

I'm practically 30 years old, and I've lived my whole life without realizing where the ordinary of Ordinary Time comes from/stands for...until today.

ordinary - as in, ordinal - as in, numerical order/sequence - as in, this is how the Church proceeds to tell of Jesus' public ministry and miracles through the numbered Sundays (e.g. "The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time") and the respective daily/weekend readings.

Mind blown.

One of my teachers must have covered that at some point in my 13 years of Catholic education, right? Must not have meant much at the time.

The trap I (and probably a lot of other people) get into during Ordinary Time is reverting to the thinking that it is plain and ordinary, that nothing special is celebrated in the Church and that we need to wait in expectation of the next BIG thing.


Ordinary?! Jesus' public ministry was ORDINARY?? No! It was far from it. But, again, without the special songs, beautiful lights, or difference in liturgical colors, it's easy to fall into the humdrum pattern of daily life. It's easy to go with the flow, taking each week as it comes, thinking "Oh yes, I've heard this story before," and then moving right along to the next week/thing.

But we've got it all wrong.

EVERY day - ordinary time and special liturgical seasons alike - is miraculous. Each reading from the Bible has a message for us, whether we've heard it one time or ten thousand times.

So, during this next (albeit short - Lent comes early this year!) season in our Church, I challenge myself and you to look for the extraordinary in the Ordinary (ordinal/sequential) Time. God enters into our lives each day, and we find Him when we open our eyes and hearts to the beauty around us.

Remember, this Ordinary Time is only ordinary in the sense that it tells of Jesus in order. Other than that, there's nothing ordinary about it.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Wait for it...

We did WHAT on a Thursday night?

If you were to ask me about my Chicago bucket list (which, actually, is non-existent), going to the taping of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me would be on it (if, again, it existed).

Check that one off!

Though some of my all-time favorites like Paula Poundstone and Tom Bodett were not present, it was a pretty entertaining evening. Listening to the broadcast on NPR today was definitely a deja vu experience. It was also interesting to hear what parts they deleted and what they kept. For example, a whole rant about Jeb Bush's secret guacamole recipe as well as jokes (at length) about the people in Oregon did not make the final cut.

dining options in downtown Chicago = awesome
That. Was. Awesome!!! (I apologize - it's hard to contain my enthusiasm for public radio.)

Friday morning was a little rough...but an extra cup of coffee never hurt anyone...

P.S. The 6th graders took a grammar quiz on Friday - it was on appositives. The final prompt (which you can see in the photo below) asked them to create their own sentence using an appositive that was about school. This was, obviously, my favorite response - she even used the appositive correctly!:

Ms Foyle, our LA teacher, is the best teacher at our school.

Happy weekend-ing everyone!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Back to Basics for 2016

No BIG plans for the new year. Let's face it, if they were TOO BIG, I'd never achieve them.

So, let's keep it simple and bring it back to the basics:

1. Invoke the holy mother of God: Mary, help of Christians, pray for us! My first goal is to offer up everything to (and through) Mary - the Salesians helped me develop a deep devotion to our blessed mother in high school, so it's about time to renew and strengthen that relationship. I will pray one Rosary each day, and I will make an intentional effort to end each prayer in Mary's name.

2. Get healthy. This second goal is not about losing weight...it's about feeling better from the inside out. This is inspired by my mom (who's been really into reading labels) and some other friends, blogs, etc. If I feel at my best, I'll be less likely to get sick and more likely to be 100%.

3. Read. And make it a variety this year - I'm starting out with a memoir about a girl who moved to Uganda after going there on a mission trip...and we'll see where we go from there. I had a pretty good year in reading in 2015, so I hope it can only get better! (Recommendations are welcome.)

Yes, there it is. Pure and simple. (I'll probably add #4 Learn Guitar just for kicks - one of these years I'll actually do it!)

Oh, and here's my bonus list (taken from Pope Francis himself):