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, July 15, 2017

The Ripple Effect

Tucked below the Basilica is a replica of the Grotto in Lourdes, France. Visitors and students alike frequent this spot to pray under the gaze of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and to offer up intentions by lighting a candle. And facing away from the Grotto, if you walk up the flower-lined path, are two small lakes, each surrounded by a shaded running/walking path and brimming with wildlife (mostly geese, ducks, and rabbits).

One day, after having dinner off-campus with a friend, I (stupidly) decided to go for a run. (I say stupidly because I was extremely full from the delicious Mediterranean food I had just scarfed down less than an hour prior.) But run -well, it was more of an uncomfortable jog - I did. After covering ground around the perimeter of the campus, I found myself by St. Joseph's Lake. At this point, I decided it would be in my best interest if I slowed to a walk. I came up to a break in the bushes and trees, where I was facing the Holy Cross seminary. I stepped off the path towards the water. Right at the edge, instead of grass or dirt, were pebbles. Without thinking I picked up a pebble and lobbed it into the lake. When it hit, it did what we often visualize pebbles doing: it made a ring of ripples.

I am not sure why this struck me, as I have seen ripples in a pond before, but I think it was because I've had some doubts this summer. With so many things to remember and so much content to pack into our brains, it becomes overwhelming in the sense that, in the face of it all, it makes me feel like I'll never be able to balance it everything as a school leader. It's easy to feel like I'm not cut out for this after all.

But then, I saw the ripples from one small pebble. I saw how far they reached, and I thought about all of the people I am able to touch in this program alone. And I know it makes a difference. When we collaborate and learn from one another in class, we all become better at what we do, even if we don't realize any one person's contributions aside from the group as a whole. I thought also about my students and my colleagues - we're all pebbles sending out ripples, affecting the lives (hopefully for the better!) of all we meet and with whom we interact.

As I walked over to the Grotto after my pebble enlightenment, I said a prayer of gratitude to Mary, thanking her for the opportunity to physically remind myself of our roles as Catholic leaders and educators. We don't always realize it, but the ripples are there...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

ACE Phoenix (partial) reunion!

One (4 day) week down for grad school this summer.

With a 3 day weekend, it did leave some time for relaxation today (after working pretty diligently on Friday and Saturday).

What did I do?

I'm so glad you asked! It turned out to be an amazing day - one of my ACE housemates from Phoenix is in the leadership cohort below me, so he and I went to the dunes to meet up with two other ACE housemates from Phoenix who were on their way back from a family vacation in Michigan with their two kids. REUNION!

(Yes, I definitely repped the ACE shirt.)

Such fun. Laughs and updates, sunshine and splashes in the lake. Feeling rejuvenated. Here we go for week 2...

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Unwrapping a Gift

Every day is a gift.

When we get out of bed (and throughout the entire day), we have a choice - do we unwrap it and smile, thinking 'How can I best make use of this today?',


do we unwrap it and toss it to the side, thinking 'This is NOT what I wanted!'...?

I don't know about you, but I want to be the former. God has given us this beautiful world, and even in tough circumstances - because we know everyone is fighting his/her own battles and demons - He wants us to enjoy it and share His love with everyone with whom we interact.

Happy (daily) unwrapping...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Unexpected Graces

I had my plan made up in my head - I would go for a run, shower, go to daily Mass, head to the coffee shop to finish my book, and then come home. And all went according to plan...until the end of Mass. A friend from Bible study started talking to me and invited me to join the weekly prayer group that meets to talk about the upcoming Sunday's Readings. She had asked me once before, and I had said no, but I had no real excuse today so I figured, why not?

And I am so glad I went. First of all, I met some lovely older parishioners whom I had seen around the church before but whose names I didn't know. Second of all, a few people in the group were women with whom I visited the Holy Land three years ago. They are such wonderful people, so it is always a pleasure to spend extra time with them. 😀 To top it off, at the end of our time together, we celebrated one woman's 83rd birthday with cake, song, and conversation. Such joy!

Our discussion centered around the nature of hospitality and also Jesus' oft-considered harsh command that if we love our mother, father, sister, or brother more than Him that we are not worthy to follow Him. I shared a brief overview of the homily I had recently heard from Fr. Mike's podcast, where he said we need to ask ourselves two questions each day, one at the beginning when we first wake up and one at the end as we prepare to go to sleep: 1) Who do I want to live for today? & 2) Who did I live for today? Inevitably, we start our day with our eyes set on Christ, but decisions and actions (no matter how seemingly small or insignificant) lead us away from that goal. But we should keep striving each day to live for Christ. (I recommend you listen to his full homily here: 6/25/17.) I definitely need to put up post-its to remind myself about asking those questions (until it becomes a habit).

I like to make plans and to follow them. But I also like the flexibility to adjust my own schedule when opportunities arise. By saying yes, I felt that, in a small way, I was aligning myself more to God's will for my day by spending time in fellowship and Scripture reflection. Yes, I left church about 2 hours after I originally intended, but God is so good like that. And I still had plenty of time for a last-minute Target stop as well as time to finish my (for fun!) book. (I did regrettably discover that the book is part of a 4-part series, so the rest of the books have to wait till after grad school; though, I am eager to know what happens!)

Please keep me and my classmates in your prayers these upcoming weeks as we take our grad school classes. Happy summer!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Art of Getting Rid of Junk

It all started when I decided to take a walk by the lakefront this morning. With coffee in hand, I more or less walked at a brisk pace, stopping now and then to admire the ducks, sunshine, and solitude.

When I got back to my apartment, I got the "cleaning bug." I attacked the bathroom first - lots of scrubbing, one sponge, 1/2 a bottle of Drano, and 3 kinds of shower spray (couldn't figure out which kind worked best) later, our shower was mostly mold- and mildew-free.

While I felt accomplished, it wasn't enough. I had the time, I decided, so my room would be next. Out came all of the tubs under my bed and the boxes in my closet, out and into either a trash bag or a bag for donations. What an accumulation of junk! (Well, it wasn't all junk, but I certainly wasn't going to look at some of that stuff again...) I think I went through 5 trash bags and filled 2 bags for donations. Phew.

I did feel a lot better after that. A purge of stuff is good and makes one think about becoming less dependent on material things. (Though, it's probably better to purge more often and in smaller amounts.) After that I went to the donation center and then ran a few errands before coming back home, talking to a dear friend on the phone, making dinner (oh, the ease of frozen pizza), and reading my (for fun!) book.

I'm not sure what's on the docket for tomorrow - let the "chronicles of Kelly's boredom before grad school starts up" continue!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Alone Time

It's been a fun couple of days around here. Last night was a free concert in Millennium Park, which I attended as a birthday celebration for a friend, and then today a little further north was a music festival at which one of my all-time favorite artists, Brendan James (!), performed. Music is wonderful for the soul, and it's even better with friends.

It's weird to actually be alone right now. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn't have much alone time. Now, I find an abundance of it, and I know I should soak it in while I can because starting next Friday my life is going to get a whole lot busier once grad school summer starts up. But it's so different - the people who used to fill my time (students & co-workers, ex-boyfriend, roommates, etc.) are not around, and my routines are completely thrown off...

But mostly I just don't like the waiting phase. I know I've talked about this before - at least to people through conversation if not on this blog - the waiting phase is like that time in the airport from where you get dropped off and through security to when the plane actually takes off. Let's just go already! It drives me nuts. And I know that's where I metaphorically am right now - the in-between of I just ended school and am back from road trip but not quite ready to start grad school yet. I'm ready for the change of scenery...now.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The (Quiet) Beauty of Daily Mass

As I look ahead to grad school, one of the things I am actually most looking forward to (aside from seeing all of my classmates) is the opportunity for daily Mass. Heck, twice a week it's scheduled into the mid-morning for us as part of our course-load, which is pretty amazing if you ask me.

Here in Chicago there are a LOT of opportunities for daily Mass - one only needs to seek out an appropriate time and location. And so, I did. As I entered into the church (a mere 1-2 minutes early), I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. It was silent and cool. It was perfect.

One of the feasts we celebrated today was that of Thomas More (love that saint!), and the Gospel was the one where Jesus taught his disciples to pray using the "Our Father." I've been trying to pray a lot more recently (though, admittedly, I am trying to pray through the intercession of Mary), so today's Mass was right up my alley. And then, after Mass, I was ready to go on my merry way (after speaking with the priest briefly). I finally tried a new coffee spot right near church, and I nearly finished that second book I am working on for grad school. (Spoiler: It actually got more interesting!)

Later it will be time for a haircut and then who knows... I still have some grad work to do before next week, but I think I'll tackle that tomorrow before a friend's birthday get-together in the evening. After all, in building up mental stamina to prepare for this summer's workload I can only handle so much a day...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Ho Hum of Summer

Not much happened around here today... I went for a run - well, truth be told, it was more like a jog...with breaks - for the first time in over a week, which was due to my road trip; sat sipping an iced Jasmine tea in Argo Tea while reading The Power of Habit (for grad school); read some more at home; started putting things in piles for grad school; started reading another book for grad school (which is far less interesting and not nearly as well-written as the previously mentioned text); and met up with a friend for dessert at a local establishment.

It's that in-between time for me - just got back from my road trip and not quite leaving for ND. I like not having a lot to do, but I seriously get restless. (Maybe it would help if I was reading a book for fun...)

Tomorrow I am going to try to go to morning Mass, check out the new coffee shop (conveniently located by the church), and get my hair cut. I will also try to finish that second (boring) book.

Man, it's hard being a teacher - many of my teacher friends are out of town (or working a summer job) and the rest of my friends work during regular hours...

Well, happy official start to summer!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Road Trip Fun (and LOTS of photos)

My road trip this past week ended up being perfectly timed - I needed to sort a few things out, and nature (and the car over MANY miles) is a good way to do it. The end of the year came so fast that I got caught up in just moving forward, swimming with the tide; I didn't have time (or energy) to evaluate if I was moving in the right direction. But God is good, and I feel at peace where I am (metaphorically speaking) now.

So many adventures...let's start at the beginning... (Please forgive me for so many photos!):

Stop 1: St. Louis - We spent the afternoon and evening at the Shakespeare Glen (right by the art museum) paddle boating and then seeing "A Winter's Tale" (but only the first half because it rained at intermission and wouldn't stop) - our friend works for the Shakespeare company down there. 

The following day we caught up with one of my old roommates who recently moved to St. Louis and enjoyed Ted Drewe's famous frozen custard - yum!

Stop 2: Cape Girardeau/SE Missouri - Before getting to our destination in SE MO, we stopped at the Trail of Tears state park for a hike by the creek, Pickle Creek to be exact! It was a sunny afternoon, but we had a lot of shade from the trees... 

We then made it Cape Girardeau, where, it turns out, my uncle played football for SEMO quite some time ago. As luck would have it, we decided to dine at a cute Mexican restaurant right across from the stadium! The following day we found another hiking trail, a couple of wineries, and a free concert downtown.

Stop 3: En Route to the Ozarks - We had a brochure advertising Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Shrine about 30 minutes from our hotel, so we decided to head there on our way to the Ozarks (after running into a pretty large biker "fair"/festival on our way for coffee), but the Shrine had just closed for renovations, so we didn't make it inside. We did, however, get to browse the gift shop, where the nice clerk gave me 44 blessed miraculous medals to share with my students next year. 

We then continued on our way, stopping off at Laura Ingalls Wilder's house/museum - she's the author of the "Little House on the Prairie" books. It was neat to tour the house(s) and see some of her things!

Stop 4: The Ozarks! (and a side trip to Oklahoma) - We got up before dawn on our first day in the Ozarks, and in the dark we navigated some VERY bumpy and curvy gravel roads. (Poor car...) There was a TON of fog and also signs for bears (ah!), but we made it. And it was beautiful! 

Then, it was time for Mass. We took a wrong turn at some point, but we got to the church right on time. It was a pretty small parish, offering only one Mass (9 a.m.) and advertising only 47 people in the town. 

It was supposed to rain later in the day, so we took a mid-day break before heading to Oklahoma to visit the Tahlequah Bathtub Rocks and eat some BBQ. We may or may not have also stopped at a Cracker Barrel for dessert...

The following day we squeezed in two hikes before driving to our final destination. The hikes were shaded, and by that time I had gotten mostly over my unrealistic fear of the black bears. There was a small waterfall, which we walked a ways to try to find the source for (but never did), and some beautiful overlooks.

Stop 5: Kansas City - My sister spent her ACE days in Kansas City (the KS side), but there's nothing to do in Kansas, so we hit up Missouri, including one of the ACE house's favorite spots: Sol Cantina. Best chicken nachos ever. Mmm...tasted just like 7 years ago...(wow, that long, huh?) We did make it into Kansas to take a drive by Marisa's old school, and then we cleaned up before going to the Power and Light District in downtown KC (MO side).

On our way home... We found cows. No big deal...

Now I am home sweet home (for just about one week), and then it will be time to head out for one month of grad school. Here goes nothing...