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, November 15, 2017

Ready to go

Only two more days until Thanksgiving break...by Friday at 3:30pm the students and their families will be on their merry ways, and we, the teachers, will be packing up and heading out for ONE. WHOLE. WEEK.

In teaching there are so many ups and downs, not only from day to day but also from class period to class period. Something goes amazingly well or the students are extra attentive in the morning but by afternoon you feel like you're ineffective as a teacher because kids can't seem to follow directions or sit still for more than two minutes at a time. What a roller coaster. I'm certain that mentally, physically, and emotionally I am so ready for this break.

My family's heading up north to us (well, within driving distance) for the holiday, so, alas, the warm weather of back home will continue to beckon to me until January (and only then for a weekend respite on retreat). But before I join them, I am heading to the opposite coast for some much needed visiting with friends. I have never spent much time in that part of the country. (Let's face it, Phoenix, AZ, is it's own beast. And I mean that in the best sense.) To say I'm excited would be the biggest understatement of the year.

My bags are packed, and my grad school work for the week is (mostly) done. Let's get this vacation started! (But let's forget about the grading that's starting to pile up...it'll be here when I get back, right?)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Oh when the Saints come marching in...

As we were cleaning up from a Confirmation parent meeting, I told the eighth grade teacher today that if the upcoming 8th graders (this year's 7th graders) know nothing else, they'll know the saints. And we're not just talking the most well-known ones like St. Patrick, Mary, St. Joseph, St.Francis, etc. - no, we're talking as little known to as famous as you can get. In fact, a handful of students are obsessed with Padre Pio due to a simple "Think About the Saints" Tuesday prayer journal activity and me sharing about my trip to the north side of the city to see the relics (which I actually didn't end up seeing because I only made it in time for Mass). It's crazy what sticks with them!

This week, though All Saints Day is behind us, we spent some time with the Saints through an art project posted originally on the Look to Him and Be Radiant blog. I pared down the amount of Saint artwork for each student (from nine to three), and instructed students in the methods for carrying out the project. I encouraged students to do some lesser known Saints, which observers would be able to identify through the objects/symbols and dress/garb included in each image.

Here's what happened - can you recognize any of them?:

The Saints are now all over my cabinet - and it's absolutely wonderful!

So...happy belated All Saints Day! What good reminders of striving daily on this earth so that we may one day meet God in Heaven!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How do you "capture" a novel?

7 Riddles to Nowhere... I've posted about this book before, as it was a new addition to our 6th grade classroom this year. There's definitely some changes I will make when using it next year, but, for the most part, it was a worthwhile read and focus for my students.

When I first introduced the novel to the students, I had no idea what the end project would be (bad teacher move, I know), but as I thought about it, an idea came to me that I thought just might work - take the social media with which many of my kiddos are familiar and use it as a medium for the kids to show what they know. Thus, the "Day in the Life...Instagram Style" project was born.

Nothing fancy, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. I was blown away by some of the creativity in the posts, user handles (or whatever you call them on Instagram), comments, etc. Some kids got creative doing it digitally with an app called "Juxtaposer," where they would put the characters onto a photo (from the internet) of one of the churches in the book.

Later this week we will take a field trip to the cathedral to see some of the objects and structures described in the book, and our book study will officially be at its conclusion. I hope that the students take away at least a few important lessons about the Church from the book - how the people are its treasure, how we are called to give back to the church as stewards, and more. Time will tell...

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Good things come to those who wait

Good things come to those who wait.

I always thought this line was so cliche, or that it was just something used as a way to cushion the blow for those who never quite got what they wanted when they wanted it. It was a mother's way of enforcing patience, or it was pulled out to support those working really hard to achieve something.

Today, this phrase held new meaning for me.

I did a lot of waiting at the mobile food pantry for OLA this morning... My group waited in the church for directions on where to begin our day and how to dodge the biggest downpours of rain. I waited in a line that stretched on forever with several people getting their food for the month from the pantry. I waited outside a particular spot of the whole process as a mother and her three small children sorted through clothes for about 15-20 minutes. And I waited with two of those same children as their mom went to pull the car around to load everything.

In the end, though, the waiting was beautiful. As I stood with the young children, the girl, aged 4 - I know because I asked her and she showed me on her fingers - used a chopstick she had taken as a wand to count my fingers from 1 to 10. As she counted, she smiled up at me and I couldn't help but smile right back. She was as cute as a button. As other people were rushing to and fro right by us, I got lost in those moments. While my intuition told me I needed to be productive and help carry things or sort things, my heart told me I needed to be with that little girl (Rose) - she needed me more. I stood with her for probably 10 or so minutes, and when her mom finally pulled up outside, I walked out with her, and, as we descended the steps, she reached up for my hand. My sister was close by, and when I caught her eye, we both smiled because it was such a beautiful thing. As I helped the mom load up the car, the girl smiled and waved through the backseat window.

God wants our attention; He wants our patience, our presence. And He reaches out for us at unexpected times. We have to decide to answer Him with a firm yes - we have to stop our normal "busy" routines to hear His gentle whisper, to meet Him in our neighbors with compassion and love.

Good things come to those who wait...and who, when the time comes, recognize the opportunity to say YES.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wait for it...

Once every so often you get lucky enough to secure tickets to a taping of "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me!" here in Chicago. But even more amazing than getting tickets is getting tickets for a night that Paula Poundstone is on...

It was truly a great night - so many laughs! I am so grateful for the five of us who were able to attend together. I love having friends here in Chicago who are always up for an adventure!

Even when weeks are busy with the day to day and grad school, there is time for some fun. We are living proof of that.

Make sure you listen in to the show this week - you're in for a good one!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October Consolations and Joys

October has been a blur. So I wanted to take a moment and reflect on some moments of consolation and joy, from small to medium-sized things...

1. Student responses on assessments and projects --> It always brings a smile to my face when students recognize certain things, especially those things about which I am not explicit...even if they get the test item somewhat incorrect...

2. Gratitude journal --> I've taken up this practice during the school week, as I keep the journal on my desk. It helps me focus on the positive in my day and to keep an eye out for things that happen that are worth adding.

3. Grad school reminders --> Yes, we have weekly assignments and long-term projects, but what is it, exactly, that I committed to in the first place? This was a wonderful reminder, as I found it on accident fishing bobby pins out of my purse for a co-worker. God shows up in the most mysterious ways!

4. The Chicago Theater Scene --> Tickets for $10 each?! We'll take 'em! On Friday night my sister and I saw a unique take on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," which was set in the 1920's during the push for women suffrage and the passing of the 19th Amendment. There were a lot of Chicago references too. I highly recommend it!

5. BONUS - Beautiful Sunsets --> Admittedly, this means I've been in my car going to meetings, volleyball games, etc. far too late in my evenings, but I'm rewarded every once in awhile with the natural beauties of our world. Again, God shows up. I'm on the lookout!

I'm excited for November - a retreat, a trip to the west coast, Thanksgiving with the fam... It's going to be a wonderful month ahead. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pumpkins, Buildings, and Baking...Oh my!

Saturday was a wash, weather-wise. It poured on and off for the entire day and through the night. So, it seemed like a good idea to carve my pumpkin. The only problem was that I didn't have one yet. This meant I had to go to the store and carry it home, it under one arm, my umbrella in my other hand. It was a little uncomfortable, but it worked.

I had a few hours on hand before I would be going with a friend to some sites involved with Open House Chicago, so I sat down and started transferring my design to the pumpkin. (The "Harry Potter" marathon on Freeform was on in the background.) Then, it was time to scoop and clean the pumpkin seeds. So far so good...

The carving went well; though, it took a lot of patience because of all of the small cuts where the knife was almost too big.

When the final cut was made, I turned down the lights, put in the candle, and lit it. Magical.

The timing could not have been more perfect. As I finished cleaning up my mess and drying the pumpkin seeds (for later roasting), my friend called and told me she was at my apartment. We were ready to go. We ended up heading up to Evanston, checking out "The American Toby Jug Museum," the Alpha Sigma Epsilon building (at Northwestern), and the Baha'i temple. All were quick stops, but it was definitely worth it.

My friend invited me to go swing dancing, but I passed this time around. The weather was swaying me in the other direction. But I will go soon - I love dancing!

Later in the evening I baked those pumpkin seeds. And, because the oven was on, I baked some cookies for my faculty too.

When the cookie recipe calls for softened butter...you hold it in the oven, naturally!

I must say, it was a delicious way to end the day. As for today, I got a run in this morning (though there were many puddles!), and I'm off shortly to see "The Princess Bride" and to attend the opening dinner and Mass at my church. Happy Sunday!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Columbus Day Weekend - Marathon, Ice Cream, and Reading!

Columbus Day weekend means two things in Chicago:
1) Marathon time!
2) No school (if you're lucky)

It turns out that I knew quite a few people running in this year's marathon (none of whom are pictured below - those are random people who happened to run by as I decided to photograph), and it was exciting to cheer them on as well as the tens of thousands of other runners. What a great day!...even though it was probably 20 degrees too hot for the runners...

After we finished watching (but before the clean-up crews came), I went with my sister, her fiance, and another friend to brunch at the cutest French bakery. We had actually just been there Friday night for a girls' happy hour, but clearly it was that good we wanted to come again right away! It was still as delicious round #2.

The way I ate on Sunday you would have thought I ran the marathon... Later in the afternoon, I met up with Marisa and her fiance for ice cream at one of our favorite spots. The weather was perfect for ice cream-licking on seats just outside the building - we had shade from the buildings and L stop, and it was not quite hot enough to melt the ice cream before I finished the cone...

I did try the pumpkin...mmm...

Today I was one of the lucky ones to not have school. I did get up early (so as to not mess with my ability to fall asleep tonight) - I went to the gym, got some grad school work done, and then went to daily Mass at my church. Daily Mass is probably one of my favorite parts of the Catholic church...I just wish I could do it more often. (This will probably be one of my action steps for Advent this year - finding a church with daily Mass that is either early enough to go before school or late enough to go after school.) Today's Gospel was about the Good Samaritan - it's always a wonderful reminder to hear that one! After Mass I got my daily cup o' Joe at the coffee shop near church, and on my walk home I caught up with a friend who recently moved to another state. I tell you - so many wonderful things before 10 a.m.!

Upon arriving home, I did some additional work for grad school and regular school (lesson planning for next week) until mid-afternoon. At that time, I decided to get some fresh air, so I walked up to the park, where I knew I would find some peace and some shade.

It was glorious! My book of choice was Tattoos on the Heart, which I have read before but felt compelled to read again. I'm glad I decided to pick it up - so many heart tugs, so much wisdom, so much love. If you haven't read it before (or even if you have), I urge you to read it (again). One line in the preface (photo included below) particularly caught my eye: "If there is a fundamental challenge...it is to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives." How beautiful and how true! As Christians we cannot think any life is worth less - we are all loved by God. (I also included a poem from the end of the introduction below - read it slowly, and then re-read it.)

Back to reality tomorrow when the alarm sounds at 4:45. It's a 4-day week...I totally got this!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A man named Jerry

I pass by him almost every time I walk to church. He sits in a wheelchair right outside the Walmart food market. As he asks for money, I usually just shrug and say I don't have anything and keep walking.

But for some reason, when he asked me to help him get some money to buy food today, I stopped, turned around, dug into my wallet, and handed him something to help him get what he needed. It wasn't a lot, but it would help. He smiled at me and thanked me. He shook my hand and told me his name was Jerry. He couldn't hear very well, so I had to repeat my name four or five times. I turned to walk away, and he called out "thank you" and "have a beautiful day" after me. I smiled and kept walking.

I can't imagine living on the street, begging for money, having so many people walk by and either ignore you or look at you with disgust. I guess I figured that in some small way I could treat him like a human being. I have no idea what he'll actually use the money I gave him for, but, in all honesty, I probably would have used it on something less important or necessary if it had stayed in my wallet.

I am grateful to people like Jerry who remind me of Jesus' call to see him in each person, especially those among us who are poor or neglected. My 7th grade students have taken to asking me almost daily if I want to be a saint. I always tell them "Yes, one day." Some days I am more successful in working towards this goal then others. But I'll keep trying, one interaction at a time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ice Cream!!!...and football

It was a picture-perfect, beautiful fall day - plenty of sunshine and a hint of cooler temperatures (60s)! Good thing we were heading to Notre Dame.

We did make one detour first - we stopped for frozen custard at Ritter's. How has it taken us this long to figure out this is the BEST place to start our ND game day experience?

Campus was filled with students, alumni, visiting team guests, and more. We saw more than one friendly face at the ACE tailgate - it's always fun to catch up!

When we got to the stadium, we soon realized we had been put in the freshmen section. (Oops.) Luckily, it worked to our advantage, as we made our way to the top of the section, strategically placing ourselves in front of a wall on which we could lean. Score!

The ND band always has something new up their sleeves - this week they celebrated the eclipse, complete with shifting a moon over the sun (and then running in a circle to make it spin when it was on top). I forget the name of the song they played, but it was pretty fun to watch and listen.

We ended up leaving the game a little early. In doing so, we missed a lot of traffic and were able to get dinner. But more importantly, before we left campus, we were able to find some peaceful moments at the Grotto. I love that place more than words can begin to come close to describing. It's absolutely wonderful, and it brings such a sense of peace to spend time in prayer there to our Blessed Mother.

And I am now about to hit today running (literally). I'm off to the gym, and then later today I am excited to witness the Baptism of my goddaughter's sister at Mass. The rest of my day will be spent preparing for this week at school and also getting some grad school work accomplished. The long weekend for Columbus Day will surely be welcome after the busy week that lies ahead.

Notre Dame our mother, Pray for us!