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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quick check-in: Feelin' Good

Just finished YEAR 8 of teaching...
About to embark on 6-state (4 of which are new for me!) road trip with a friend...
Going to start classes for my Masters of Educational Leadership in less than 2 weeks...

Feeling pretty good. Bring it on, summer!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Flashback Part II

Here we go again - Part II! (Apparently THIS was happening in England at the time of my travel, but I didn't have much of a clue at the time, really no recollection whatsoever.)

A Quick Hello (August 9, 2006)
Hello!  Just wanted to write a quick note - I've been in the computer lab for the past two days during a bit of the afternoon working on my papers (my response ones are almost done - perhaps a bit more editing, and I am collecting and prepping for my research paper - hopefully will have a rough draft within the next few days).  BUT, I have had a chance to enjoy some of the shops in town (although there are still a few things that I am waiting and looking around for) as well as the market and some of the amazing other colleges at Cambridge (although I have not been in any others yet).  And later today we are going punting (but we are having a guide so we don't tip ourselves over - haha).
I have to say my calves are KILLING me!  Ah - we went to the Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-Lee) last night in Cripps Court and danced for like 2 hours!  It was so much fun!!  I took some video and had some people take pictures with my camera too, so can't wait for you to see those.  But it is Irish and Scottish folk dances and they are a lot of fun - not that I will be able to use my new dance knowledge anywhere back home but it was awesome!  We were all so sweaty and tired afterwards that we rushed back to the showers.  Crazy night...
Oh, and tomorrow we may go see "Comedy of Errors" in one of the College gardens and I will be going to buy a bus ticket for my way back to the airport (I think some of the people I know here will be going home on the same plane - yay!).  Well, off to meet the others for punting!
Love and miss you!

August 11, 2006 (Cheers Volume III):Hello!  I hope you are quite well.  The time has passed so quickly here - I cannot believe I am finished with my first week of classes!  But that does leave that we are entering the weekend, which promises to be simply amazing (please pray that the weather cooperates) as I go with some other students here to medieval Norwich on Saturday and the Globe in London on Sunday to see Antony and Cleopatra!  I'll try to be brief with everything that has been going on this week (and this may be aided by my poor memory at present) but I hope to present at least the highlights.  Right - shall I do subheadings again then?

A Variety of Plenary Lectures

Each evening in Lady Mitchell Hall, which is really a small auditorium, a lecture series takes place after dinner.  I am pleasantly surprised that I have been to 3 lectures so far, all of which have been quite interesting (ranging from European politics to questioning that the earth revolves around the sun).  It is nice that they are early in the evening - 8 p.m. - so that there is time to either visit or work (yes, remember I am taking classes!) following the presentations.  And so far I have not attended a lecture on my own - someone is always interested in going along as well.  I could go into details on the lectures, but I feel that may provide a bit of more boring reading, while you would probably rather hear about all we've been doing around the lovely city of Cambridge!  :-)

An Exhilarating Ceilidh

On Tuesday night, Selwyn College hosted a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee <-- weird, I know) for the students.  A Ceilidh is a type of Scottish/Irish folk dance with wonderfully upbeat Celtic music (trust me, we got our workout - my calves are still sore from all of the spinning and skipping!).  It was a lot of fun.  We learned about 6 or 7 dances in all, many of which I cannot remember completely, but that does not really matter, seeing how I probably will have no use for the steps back home.  :-)  Lessons, anyone?  Just teasing.  We had an amazing time, except for the fact that the room was absolutely boiling (and the dancing didn't help either), so that was the only thing that was rather uncomfortable.  Most everyone picked up on the dancing quite easily after a few demonstrations, but as you can imagine, there are always a few people who find it particularly troubling, so I did my best to try to help them out without getting frustrated - it was much more fun just to laugh it off instead!

Classes...and papers

Once again, I will not bore you with the amazing things I am learning here, but my classes in British politics and Autism have truly been eye-opening.  There is such a unique experience studying here with students from all over - it brings together a lot of different perspectives and ideas that would probably not be considered in a usual classroom setting.  The hour and a half sessions are rather long, but the professors usually leave some 20 odd minutes or so at the end for questions and discussion.  In fact, in my autism class today we spent the entire period in discussion about a film we watched yesterday and some of the other current theories of the disorder.  I am truly amazed!
In order to participate in the program, I agreed to follow the curriculum set out by USF - to write 2 reaction papers and one research paper on one of the subjects (I chose Autism) in order to receive credit back home.  I am happy to say that I have turned in both reaction papers and have completed my first draft of my research paper!  It has been challenging at times trying to balance between going out and working on my papers, but I think I've been able to manage it quite well so far.  Plus, with most of my work behind me now (and just tons of revisions ahead), I will be able to relax a bit more next week as well.

Punting on the Cam

Yes - we punted (for those of you who don't know, it's a flat boat on the river that someone guides by using a long pole in the water), and on such a glorious day too - the weather was perfect for it!  We decided to hire a boat with a guide (instead of attempting it ourselves), so no one fell in the water.  :-)  There were so many punts out, many of which were stuck or in the process of colliding, but it was very peaceful.  From the river we were able to see a number of the colleges - King's, Emmanuel, Trinity, Clare's, etc.  Hopefully next week we'll be brave (that, or stupid - hard to tell the difference) and try to punt ourselves!  I'll let you know how that develops.


You would think that the British people are the hungriest people alive, honestly - there is so much food for both breakfast and dinner (3 course meal) at the dining hall!  I have definitely strayed from my normal American breakfast and have taken a liking to cooked tomatoes (pronounced to-MAH-to), beans, and mushrooms along with some fruit instead (apparently beans for breakfast is quite common for breakfast over here).  Dinners have ranged from beef to prawns and even roasted duck!  And I have never in all my life seen so many ways to cook potatoes! - Boiled, chips (aka fries), mashed, and duchess (which look like potato dollops - whoever thought potatoes couldn't be cute! lol) to name a few...Truly amazing.  At least I'll have some ideas for cooking next year, right?  And the desserts are amazing!  The first night I did try scones with jam and coddled cream, and some other desserts have been an amazing chocolately mousse thing, apple pie, and a lemon dish that had the consistency of butter (but was actually quite good).  It's a good thing I chose to attend only the 2 week program...lol

Words for the Day (British to American)

holiday = vacation
trainers = sneakers

I hope you are doing fantastically well and have some lovely plans for the weekend!  It is hard to believe that while I am getting ready to go to dinner and all of the shops in town are closing up (hardly anything is open past half five!) that you are probably on your way to your lunch breaks!  Lenghty yet again - please forgive my wordiness!  Please keep all of us over here in your thoughts and prayers - our director is keeping everything under control for us, but needless to say the situation with the airports has been quite scary.  Take care and have a wonderful weekend!

Cheers (again)!

Weekend Excursion Update (August 14, 2006)
Hello!  Hope you had a nice and relaxing weekend.  Mine was jolly good indeed, except for the frightful rainy cold weather - but as the chap behind me in line at the Globe yesterday pointed out, it is England after all.  What can I say - I'm just a girl from sunny Florida!  Anyways, I went on two excursions this weekend - one to medieval Norwich and another to the Globe Theatre in London! 

I do not believe walking tours are ever a clever idea when it is wet and rainy outside.  It seems quite odd that the weather decided not to cooperate this weekend while it was perfectly sunny during most of our classes (which are indoors) last week - hmm...Well, after an extremely long bus ride to Norwich (really BAD traffic), we did a very brief walking tour of the city, which is much larger than most people would suspect, so we only saw a very small area.  We went by numerous churches and old houses - a lot of history.  Our guide was Brian Ayers (you probably wouldn't know him unless you read up about the areas in England), and he was quite good.  However, we were rather rushed for time.  We were given a short period for lunch, and my friend and I ate in a little cafe called "The King of Hearts" - it was really quaint and they had WARM soup (so good after being out in the cold!).  Following lunch, we met up with the group at Norwich Cathedral - it was amazing!  The spire is one of the tallest in England!  The architecture and detail were simply breathtaking (although we had to pay a fee to take pictures inside).  And then our final stop was Norwich castle - not very impressive from the outside, but it was a rather neat experience.  So, overall, it was a very nice day, but the weather and rushing were a bit disappointing.  Oh well, just might have to go back some day! 

The Globe
Without a doubt, this was probably one of the best things I have done in England - brilliant!  We started on the bus pretty early after having inhaled our breakfast.  When we arrived in London, we were dropped off across the embankment and down a ways from where the theatre was, so we needed to make our way there in a few hours time.  It was raining lightly and I had this lovely (well, not really) red poncho that I had luckily found in the Norwich gift shop to protect me from the rain.  On the way up to cross the bridge, I looked up and there was Big Ben!  I mean, wow!  I also passed an art museum featuring Salvador Dali (made me think of Florida!), Tate Modern, and (would you believe it!) Foyles Bookshop!  I was so excited that I had someone take a picture of me in front of the sign - it's not every day you find a shop of your name, right?  When I came to the Globe, which was right across the river from St. Paul's Cathedral (although it is blocked by buildings) I spent some time in the gift shop before getting in line for the yard area. Yes, I had decided to have the full experience as a "groundling".  With the rain coming on and off, I thought this was perhaps a mistake, but it most assuredly was anything but that.  I was quite early in the queue, so I was able to get a place right up near the front stage right in a corner where another piece of the stage projected out, so I was able to lean in multiple directions, which helped prevent me from getting tired of standing.  The scenery was beautiful!  And the theatre was so intimate - I had imagined a much larger space, but everything was much closer together.  And with the actors practically on top of you, well, I guess that helped as well.  The play was Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra", which was one I had not yet seen, so that was quite good.  The actress who played Cleopatra was amazing - she pretty much stole the show (which is probably why the actor playing Antony (who I felt was much too old and small for the part) was not so impressive).  I loved every minute - even when the rain came.  If you ever get a chance to go to that theatre (and enjoy Shakespeare even remotely), then do!  It was a perfect day! 

Words of the Day
queue = line
lift = elevator (of which many are not used in England!) 

Well, it is Monday, so I was back to classes and such this morning - only 4 more days of class to go - I can't believe it!  Have a wonderful week!


Final Installment (August 19, 2006):
Hello!  It is hard to believe that just a short time ago I was across the pond, but I must say that I am quite happy to be home.  I shall (try to) give a brief recap on the week and travel, but this is just to mainly let you know that I have safely returned.  :-) 

Botanic Gardens
During one of my free afternoons this week, I decided to take a walk to the Botanic Gardens - they were beautiful!  Many of the flowers were in bloom and the weather was simply perfect (no rain!).  It was so peaceful - I probably could have stayed in there for hours! 

Biking in Cambridge
Almost as essential as cars in Cambridge is one's bicycle.  Being the tourist that I was, I decided it was of utmost importance to rent a bike during my stay, so I did for one day and went out to Grantchester with my friend Marissa (from PA).  We biked mainly off the main roads, so I was not too nervous, although it was a bit bumpy.  The part that scared me was how close the buses and cars came up beside me while I was biking as well as crossing the roundabouts (which I find hard enough to do in a car!).  I am really glad I took the time for biking because it certainly was quite the experience. 

Fish & Chips, Scones with Jam & Cream, and all that Tourist-y stuff
How would a trip to England be complete without the traditional fish & chips??  Our thoughts exactly, so we decided to find some for lunch on our last day.  We ended up in Quinn's Irish pub, where we received quite a large portion complete with smushed peas and all.  Later that afternoon, a group of us met at Auntie's Tea Room for afternoon tea and scones, another British favorite!  Yum!!  We had a very nice time indeed, sipping our coffee and enjoying our scones.  And yes, we all took lots of pictures! 

Final Dinner & Departure
Friday night was the closing dinner for our program - it was a beautiful evening (the rain even stopped before we had to go down to dinner!).  The tables in the dining hall were set with candles and we enjoyed our typical Cambridge 3 course meal.  After dinner, there was plenty of hugging and picture-taking well into the early hours of the morning.Our train was due to leave at 5:30 a.m. (and our taxi at 5), so I didn't get much sleep.  It's a good thing I woke up, however, because two of the others from my program had overslept (and our professor still hadn't packed).  Being the punctual person I am, I became very nervous that we would miss our bus, but we made it (with a little time to spare).  However, there were some mishaps - our bus broke down and my friend's luggage got lost!  The airport itself was quite busy, especially the security checkpoints, but check-in was relatively painless.

The flight home went rather quickly - I was able to sit next to my friend, Nicole, from the Florida program, and we were seated next to another college student on her way from Germany to an international university in Largo to study for a year. So yes, I am here, and still amazingly awake (I have no idea what time my body thinks it is - jet lag is a wonderful thing! haha).  I hope to be putting some pictures online shortly. 

Word for the Day
Mind = Watch:
By popular demand, we turn to the word "mind".  The use of "mind" in a phrase is similar to the American "watch" (i.e. "watch your head").  So, you "mind your step", "mind your head", and at the tube station you..."MIND THE GAP"! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers (and for taking the time to share in this journey with me)!  It was such a wonderful experience - one I would not trade for the world! 

(And yes, I can now say I am a Cambridge alumna ;-)...)

And there we have it. Pretty amusing, indeed. I REALLY got into the whole "talk like a Brit" thing, didn't I?

Flashback to Cambridge - 10 years ago!

This past weekend I was in Ohio visiting a friend I met 10 years ago while studying (briefly) at the University of Cambridge in England. I was thinking back on the trip and decided to go through some old emails I sent. I'll post the emails somewhat separately over the course of today and the next, as to post at once would be SUPER overwhelming - the emails bring back good memories and, if nothing else, are good for a laugh. (Please overlook the frequency with which I used the word 'quite'...)

Here are the first two email installments:

August 4, 2006:
Hello!  I trust everything is going well for you.
Sorry I have been out of touch for the past week - I have honestly not had access to the internet before today, so I apologize ahead of time that this email will probably be quite lengthy - may I suggest reading it in segments?  :-)

The flight over to this side of the pond was quite lovely, and I did manage some sleep on the plane (about 4 hours off and on).  If I may suggest for anyone traveling on a long flight soon, do not sit near the bathrooms - while it is nice to have them close by, it is not helpful if you are stuck by the window and cannot get there because your neighbor is sleeping, nor is the noise from all of its users much conducive to sleeping.  :-)  Well, a lesson learned, I suppose.

As many of you know, I have been staying for about a week's time with some family friends, Debbie and Alan, here in Bournemouth, England.  They collected me from the airport when I arrived, and we were on our way.  We made a few whistle-stop tours of some small towns and villages on our way home, making sure to stop for a coffee (nothing like caffeine to fight jet lag!) and some lunch at a cute Spanish restaurant.  When we got back to their house, I was able to settle in and get cleaned up (a hot shower works wonders for jet lag too!).  By the time dinner was ready I was quite sleepy, as you can imagine, but sleep was quite out of the question until a bit later.

I slept in until about 10 the next morning (which, as many of you know, is QUITE unusual for me) and then got ready for the day.  I was still a bit sleepy, but I feel I recovered from the effects of jet lag quite nicely.  We went to Breamore House, an Elizabethan manor built in the 1500s and still being lived in today by the same family that has lived there for over 200 years!  It was a beautiful manor with an even better view!  When we turned up the main drive, I felt like I was walking straight into the pages of a Jane Austen novel (although no Mr. Darcy as luck would have it!).  It was unbelievable!  There was so much history in the manor, which I cannot possibly write about all here, but everything from haunted rooms and portraits to where the kitchen pans came from!  One of my favorite stories was that one of the portraits hanging in the Great Hall (such a long room I have never seen!) became haunted when that lady of the house was murdered in the house.  It was said to be cursed so that anyone who touched, moved, or removed the portrait would die within 24 hours.  The curse was so well-believed that it was the only piece of art that remained on the wall in that room during wartime!  I am not one to believe in curses, but I don't think I'd fancy moving that portrait either!  And, once again, I stress the amazing view from every window (of which there were quite a lot) of the house!  On our way back to the house, we made a few more quick stops at local villages - so I could get an idea of the countryside and the towns.  We also drove by Stonehenge, so yes, I have seen it (and took photos of it), but only for a quick stop.  ;-)

That evening after dinner I was in for quite a treat, "The Vicar of Dibley", which is a hilarious popular tv show around these parts.  While I did not catch all of the British humor, it was rather funny.  As you can imagine, my friends are making sure I have a complete cultural experience while I am here.  ;-)

On Wednesday I went to downtown Bournemouth with Debbie's daughter, Lexi, and her friend to do some shopping.  The stores are quite different over here - I could not even recognize most of the names!  But then of course there are Starbucks, McDonald's, Pizza Huts, and other favorite American stores and restaurants.  Although, I have found, when you try the local favorites (as I did when we went for milkshakes), you find some much better choices (and prices!).

That evening we met up with Debbie and Alan in Poole Quay for Granny Cousin's Ghost Walk.  I tell you, it was honestly the funniest ghost tour you could imagine!  We had quite a big group on the walk with us, but there was no trouble seeing or hearing our guide.  She was very quick on her feet and had the most amazing memory!  And she especially liked to act out the blood and guts parts of her stories - quite funny indeed.

Yesterday was Bath - amazing city!  We took the double-decker tourist bus tour around the city first off, to catch a quick glimpse of everything.  And we dined at the famous Sally Lunn's.  What is she famous for, you may ask? - her buns of course!  It was seriously the lightest bread I have ever tasted - delicious!  Then, Lexi and I did the guided tour of the Roman baths and spa (fortunately, I was not forced to drink the spa water - while it is supposedly good for you, I was warned that it is completely disgusting).  I rather enjoyed the tour - we were given these audiophones (quite similar to the set up in the Florida International Museum) that you hold up to one ear and dial into to hear commentary about certain sections in the baths and museum.  There was simply too much to see (and listen to) to look at everything, so we picked what we thought were some more of the interesting parts.  :-)  What I found rather funny was that the numbers were so random - for example, you would be listening to "42" and then the next one would be like "119" or something like that.  In addition, they had two other tracks - one for children and one that was more like a personal guide reflection - that were offered on the audiophones.  While I enjoyed the statues and other pieces in the museum, my favorite part was, of course, the baths themselves.  There was one part where you could reach down and touch the water and do you know what? - the water was warmer than I take my bathwater at home (and it was just naturally heated like that!).  There was just so much to take in and so many amazing things to see, like the fact that the plumbing system was still intact from the Roman times and things like that.  It was simply beautiful and amazing!
On our way home, we stopped in Bradford on Avon (which is on a different Avon river than Stratford on Avon - confusing, I know), where we walked up the hill to a glorious view of the town.  I honestly don't think the pictures I took will do anything justice, but it was just breathtaking.

Today, I am going with Debbie to see another manor, Kingston Lacey, and then this evening we are all going out to an island in Poole Quay for a picnic and Shakespeare performance, "Much Ado About Nothing".  I am sure I will be in Cambridge before I know it, which is rather exciting as well.  On Saturday Debbie and Alan are taking me for a drive around the country to see more of Dorset (the county we are in) and to Corfe Castle, and then it's on to London on Sunday before taking the train to Cambridge.

As far as everything else goes, I am still getting used to the whole driving on the "wrong side" of the road (and on the wrong side of the car) - don't worry, I'm not the one doing the driving- and looking right-left-right when crossing the street to avoid any collisions with cars.  And you think American drivers are crazy!  hah!  I must admit, my English vocabulary is improving and growing.  Here are just a few things: In the morning you have to bring a "jumper" (sweater) for layers, and in the car you put things in the "boot" (trunk).  You are "collected" (picked up) by someone at a location, and when you answer the phone you say you are "jolly good" (if in fact you are doing well).  You say things are "lovely", and when departing it is ESSENTIAL that you say "cheers", rather than drive safe or see ya later.

Well, I better be going.  I hope to hear from you all soon.  Sadly I do not have a phone number to be reached at.  :-(  I love you all much and hope you have a fantastic weekend.  Sorry this got a bit lengthy, but I tried to keep it short - honest!


August 7, 2006:
Hello again!  So, as I have heard from some that my divisions should be divisions (thanks Anne and Mary ;-)), I have decided to provide a more easily readable format (with captions and all) for your reading pleasure.  I hope you may take as much joy in reading it as I do in writing it.  Right...
Much Ado About Shakespeare
Picking up from my first installment, I attended a Shakespeare performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" on Brownsea Island (near Poole).  There were 6 of us in our party, and we packed a picnic dinner to eat over on the island (except by the time we got over there, we only had about 15 minutes to eat, but it was quite good!).  The play itself was very good - a few of the actors were especially fun to watch.  I must admit I had to stifle my laughter a few times - apparently not everyone was as familiar with the play as I am, so some parts were not as funny to most people, so I did not wish to laugh by myself.  :-) 

The theater was set up in a circular format with the stage at front and in the middle and the bleacher chairs around front half.  After the show was over, it was a mad dash to your picnic supplies and back to the ferries - this was the part where you could tell the regulars of the annual performances because they knew they had to run to catch the first one back or else there would be a LONG wait.  (In a way it reminded me of Shakespeare in the Park, if you have ever been, except the rush was to leave rather than to the seats, which were reserved.)  Anyways, it was fun!
Driving Around Dorset
Saturday morning, Debbie and Alan showed me around the county of Dorset, starting with Corfe Castle.  Because we were seeing so much, we were not able to stay very long in one specific place, but I was able to get through the entrance and take some photos of it.  :-)  Unfortunately, the weather that day was quite hazy, so most of the lookout points were not as picturesque as they could have been, but still quite amazing to a girl from Florida who is used to nothing but miles of flat land.  ;-)  We went to some other amazing places as well, but unfortunately I don't have my cheat sheet right here with me, so I cannot tell you the names at present.  Afterwards, Debbie photocopied the pages from the map and highlighted where I had traveled with them over the past week - amazing how far we went!  England is a BEAUTIFUL country!
A Busy Day in London
On Sunday we had an early start to London in order for me to get a taste of the city before I headed off to Cambridge.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I imagine that if I had to navigate it myself I would get lost within a few city blocks - it is HUGE!  But what was even crazier was that London was packed with tourists - more so than usual, I am told.  We could not figure out what was going on!  And a lot of the streets were closed too, so it was quite difficult trying to get near Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, among other places.  I was in the back of a Toyota Selica trying to get pictures of everything from the car (since we were unable to park anywhere), so I hope they came out all right.

For lunch, Debbie and Alan treated me to Dim Sum, which is quite the dining experience!  And it's a good place to go if you are particularly hungry because the food service is immediate.  It was quite good.

Because of all the traffic, we decided I should take an earlier train into Cambridge.  Alan helped me inside with my luggage and buying my ticket and then we pretty much ran to the train.  Just as I got on the door closed (almost ON my arm), so I literally just made it.  Well, the only problem is that Alan had gotten on before me, so as you can imagine, yes, he was stuck on the train.  I felt pretty bad about that actually.  However, the next stop of the train was not too far down the way, so he was able to hop off at that stop. The ride to Cambridge itself was not long at all - only a little over an hour, so that was not bad. 
Well, as you have most likely been able to infer by now, I am safely at Cambridge and having a brilliant time!  When I arrived, I was able to find a taxi and get myself to Selwyn College.  I got my room assignment, which was a bit disappointing because one side of the Court has an amazing view of the chapel and grassy area in the middle while the other side (where I am actually) has a view of Grange Road.  Lovely!  Ah well, it is not too long of a walk, I have decided, up and down the three flights of stairs to make it outside.  ;-)

Once checked in, I had about a two hours before dinner, so I walked into town to a convenience store and bought a phone card.  Well, the man at the store told me it was for 2000 minutes, but it was only for about 23 - lovely!  At least I was able to call home and talk with my family (once my dad realized it was me - lol).
I walked around Selwyn for a bit before dinner, but there was no one else around.  Luckily, dinner was in just a short while, so I made my way to the dining hall (once I found out where it was - they told us to eat in our colleges, but they neglected to indicate where that actually was!).

You would not believe that the first person I ran into was from Florida (and Tampa no less! - she goes to St Pete College), so that was rather random and quite odd.  At dinner, I sat with two girls from Canada, Nicole (the one from Tampa), and a girl from Italy.  There is such a diversity of people here!  Anyways, after dinner I ended up going up the road to Selwyn Cripps Court (where some of the other students are staying) and we sat around and talked on the lawn - everything from movies to music to languages - it is really quite amazing!!  One of the girls is from Pennsylvania, two from Japan, two from Germany, and one from Italy.  We are already quite close and planning to do some events together - I think it should be much nicer to have people to enjoy your experiences with!  I think we will be quite a nice group - I consider myself quite lucky indeed.

It was getting to be about 8:45, when I suddenly realized that I was supposed to be at a meeting with the Florida group studying over here at 8 p.m. (and Nicole as well!)!  So, we literally ran back to the Old Court to find them, but they were just leaving!  Oh no!  We went inside and spoke to Ben, our director, and he was just happy we were there safely, etc.  I cannot believe we missed it!  As those of you who know me even remotely well would never expect me to be late for something (or rather forget it altogether!) - such a memory I have here!  lol  It's all right though - apparently we didn't miss much.  After we sorted things out there, Nicole and I went back to join the other girls (who were glad to find out that everything was all right).  Then after a while, it was off to bed.
Day 1
Right...my day began at 6:15 this morning (I forgot to close my window curtain the entire way), and I hurried to the shower (we have two showers on our floor) to make sure I could get in and out before there was any kind of a bathroom rush.  Packed my notebook and class stuff, grabbed my umbrella, and headed out to breakfast.  I must admit, not very nice weather this morning - misty rainy - not enough for an umbrella but enough to make it feel kind of depressing - you know how it is.  Just to give you an idea of the diversity here, I had breakfast with a high school English teacher from New Hampshire, a guy from Brazil, a guy from Belgium, and a girl and her brother from LA and Kentucky (respectively).  The food here is surprisingly good - they even have the cereal I eat back home!  :-)

We had a brief introduction to Internation Summer School Term 2 in the lecture hall, and then were off to our first classes.  One of the girls I hung out with on Sunday evening was in my first class so we both sat together.  We also met a guy from Honduras and two girls from Washington D.C. (one who is a psychology major as well).  Our professor (who is quite good!) took roll and asked us what we knew about Britain and their relations with Europe.  Well, once she had gone around asking us about this, one girl came in late.  So, our professor proceeded to ask her what she knew about Britain and Europe.  When she said, "I love it - London is the greatest place!" I almost fell over laughing - I actually turned to the girl next to me and said "She must be an American" - we had to hold back our laughing because our teacher was even rolling her eyes.  Now, it may not seem that funny in writing, but as Saiko can tell you it was hysterical - definitely my laugh for the day.
My second class was wonderful as well, although there are only about 8 of us in that class, which makes it nice for discussion purposes.  Our teacher is quite funny (and he actually uses powerpoint!).

For lunch, we just grabbed some sandwiches at the local food place, the Buttery, and then some of the other girls went back to class (but I am done for the day, well until lecture tonight).  So, I am on a mission now to finish this email, print off a paper, and go to the post office (all within less than 1 hour - lovely!).  Sorry that this got a bit lengthy again, but segments are now possible ;-).
Words for the Day (just for fun! - You too can learn British!)
speed bump = bollard
Love to all!  Cheers!

Sunday, June 5, 2016


By breaking down the Serenity Prayer, Fr. Jonathan Morris (author of The Way of Serenity) shows us practical and meaningful ways to follow the three parts of the prayer. He reminds us that we should ask God to "replace stress with a 'heart at rest.'"

This book is full of so many gems, and I'll probably go back to it from time to time to read, at minimum, the parts I underlined and annotated.

Here are a few of my big (and little) takeaways:

*If we see life as everything depending on us, that is a heavy burden to bear. Give your worries, stress, and hardships to God (Mt 11:29-30).

*Ignatius of Loyola has an awesome quote (which I actually have hung in my classroom the past few years): "Work as if everything depended on you, and pray as if everything depended on God." In other words, we need to try our best, but, at the end of the day, we need to realize that God is the one who will do the rest and bring our work to fruition.

*"If we choose to let things bother us, we will never be at peace" (p. 29).

*In the words of the "Our Father," we ask God for our daily bread, as in, what we need one day at a time. In the olden days, bread only could last one day and then it would be thrown out. Therefore, in that same mindset, we are fed by God one day at a time - we receive "grace from God for the present moment" (p. 37).

*God wants us to be uncluttered and insecure so that we learn to rely more on Him and His goodness.

*We are pilgrims just passing through; our final destination is heaven.

*"Life is like photography: we use the negatives to develop the picture."

*We have a CHOICE to be thankful, in good times and in not so good times. (I've recently taken this to heart with the "5 Minute Journal App," which I got for free through a Starbucks code redemption. In the morning I note three things for which I am grateful and three ways I will make it a great day. Then, at the end of the day, I add a photo, three amazing things that happened that day, and one way I could have made the day better.) There is something to be said for gratitude - it opens us up to beauty and love!

*Little things CAN make a big difference. Many prayers and poems remind us that we cannot do everything, which is a very freeing thought, when you think about it. In the book, Fr. Morris mentions a children's book "The Land of the Blue Flower" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (which I proceeded to download and read immediately - it's relatively short but not as short as a picture book) - the prince who becomes king is told that he cannot help all of them, but he knows he must do something. In the end, his little action makes a huge difference in the kingdom.

*Our faith lives and relationships with God are journeys that take continuous effort and attention. Nothing can be "fixed" or "solved" in one moment, day, or even year. Perspective is key.

*In the Gospels, God calls us to be light, salt, and yeast - all of these things do not exist for their own sake but to change things (or, the world) around them. Therefore, we are not here for ourselves but for others, to get them to heaven and to make our world a better place.

*God whispers - we need to LISTEN.

*"Things are to be used. People are to be loved" (p. 236).

Again, these are just a few takeaways from the book. It's definitely worth the read. I am so grateful to my friend who literally put it into my hands as a birthday gift a few short months ago. I believe it has helped me slowly start my own heart's conversion, which, as mentioned above, is not a one-and-done process.

I'm on a lifelong journey...and so are you. Join me in starting with one small step today.

Ice Cream Crawl Success

First (annual) ice cream crawl was a success!

STOP 1 = Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Brambleberry Crisp and Churro for me

STOP #2 = Scooter's Frozen Custard

selfie stick in action - look at that!
STOP #3 = Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery

We tried to split a small among three people, but the ice cream won...

Stop #4 was supposed to be Oberweis, but we'd all done ourselves in by then and couldn't make the move to the fourth location. (Four was a little ambitious, I guess.)

The rain held off, the ice cream was delicious, and, most importantly, everyone seemed to have a good time - this event brought people together who had never met before. (NEW FRIENDS!) It was a really fun day.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Let Them Go

It's hard to let go. There are probably an unknown multitude of reasons why that is so for any given person. This feeling was all too real last night at the 8th graders' graduation.

In attempting to pinpoint why letting go is so hard for me, I came to the conclusion (at least for now) that it's not knowing where those you've worked with will end up in the long run. (Personally, my hope for all of my students is heaven...but I hope that's a long ways off.) What will they do in the immediate future as they move on to high school? Will they remember to pray? to go to church? to help those in need? Were they really listening in class these past few years...?

It's hard because you love them enough to let them go - to try their wings and fly. (That kinda sounds cliche, I know. But it's true.) I love these 8th graders so much - they were my first class at my current school when I came in as a fourth grade teacher, and I've taught them in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade for religion class too. They've caused me a fair share of headaches and anxiety, but they've also brought me so much joy (especially the ones who've been in service club). So, yes, watching them walk down the aisle and receive their diplomas last night was very hard, indeed.

In the poem attributed to Oscar Romero, he states, “We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.” This is what I hold onto. This is what I believe we do as teachers and those who work with (and/or raise) young people.

I thank God for the opportunity I've had to work with these remarkable young men and women. I pray for them as they start the next chapter of their lives. I'd like to think I taught them a lot these past few years, but I realize that they've been the ones teaching me all along.