Thursday, December 16, 2004


Every final exam I've ever taken has been a big deal at the time.
And whatever happened, life went on.
I take a final today, and the same will happen: life will go on. Somehow, maybe not the way I'd have chosen, but then again, who's steering this boat?
Clara's got a good point. Practically speaking, what's the sense of worrying?
And on a higher level, knowing that God is in control can take a whole lot of anxiety away, if we just remember that fact.
As my dear friend told me, "Study like it depends on you; pray like it depends on God."
If anyone else would care to pray for me, I would greatly appreciate it.
And in 5 years, Clara, maybe I'll be treating y'all in my PT clinic!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Non-commital Update

Yes, I did at one point (ok, several points) within the last year or so state emphatically that I would forevermore "stay away from military guys."
But there's always the exception that proves the rule. (How many Marine pilots own a Breviary, I mean, seriously?)
As per usual, my cross seems to be the distance between current states of residence (states meaning, Connecticut vs Washington STATE).
Dreaming on, ....

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Understanding Providence

I am constantly reminded that God places people in my life for different reasons, not all of which I will ever know. But the more reasons I do know, the more grateful I am to Him.
It's the week of my final, but I'm still able to enjoy the company of friends--good people whom I've just come to know in the past few months through my dear friend, Sharon. Last night there was a Christmas party at one of the resturants, thrown for all their customers as a "thank you" for their patronage. Several people from the parish came; and I at least recognized most of them, thanks to the tireless introductions Frank and Sharon have consistently made these past months. It was a truly enjoyable time, just being there among good, kind people--listening to their stories, laughing with them, and then sincerely looking forward to seeing them again.
Yes, graduate school is difficult; and if I'm not supposed to continue, God will let me know. But at least I also know that there's more here for me than school. I have gained so much from all these people I've come to know, even though I've known them for a short time. Their generous kindness and warmth have given me comfort and encouragement I never thought I would encounter so far away from home. And if I'm not meant to continue here at school, whether after this semester or after another, I will never regret having been here.
Thank you, Lord, for the people you place in my path to make my way easier.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

My 11th son

I have come to love so many different names. This is because I like some names because of the beautiful sounds themselves, and others because of the people they have named in the past. For example, everyone who knows me wells is aware that my first son will be named Caleb, the stud who stood by Joshua in the Old Testament even after all the rest of the Israealites flaked out on him. By the time I get married, I'm going to need about 37 children, just so I can use all my "favorite" names!

New one today: Anthony. I really don't like the nickname "Tony," and even Anthony was on my secondary, or "middle name," list.

But the exam I was really worried about today? Mom told me she prayed to St. Anthony to help me "find the right answers." How appropriate, since that's literally what these multiple-choice exams require. (I never knew it could be so difficult to take an exam where it's 100 questions with the answers right in front of you.) I just looked at my grade: YESSSS!!
I realized, then, that St. Anthony is probably one of my most-invoked saints. I admit this is partially a reflection of my absentminded and ditzy tendencies. But seriously, if his intercession can find missing car keys, cell phones, airline itineraries, and important legal documents,* why shouldn't he be my patron for anything else? I mean, every prayer request is a "search" for something. I'm looking to "find" my way through graduate school, I pray for friends to "find" comfort in the midst of tragedy, I long to "find" my vocation, ...etc.

Today I finally came to the full realization that the name Anthony belongs to a very special saint. I don't know where I am in my list of names for my future children--I think around my 11th son. Even so, I might have to insert this one into my line-up directly after Caleb.

That's right, still second to Caleb. I mean, really; let's not get carried away.

*yes, personal experience, all of them.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

My new Favorite Thing

Recently, I've become very good at going to bed early.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

There have been countless times in my life where I've stood beside my sister.

I cannot remember the two years of my early life without her; she's always been next to me, as far as I can recall. We stood together during the rough times in elementary school, with the ups and downs of homeschool intensities. We stayed side-by-side in junior high, braving the parochial school after several years of homeschool. Our increasingly contrasting personalities made our alliance in junior high rocky, but we felt the need to maintain it, and did so even against our own inclinations. And when our family moved to the Philippines in our early teens, we had each other to cling to during the ensuing culture shock. Upon our return to the States, our friendship grew deeper, and we cultivated it further through daily prayer together during high school. I went away to college; we wrote letters. She came to college; we caught up with each other over the holidays. Then I left and we grew closer again.

There's been a pattern in our relationship: our love is most palpable when we go through the most difficult of seasons.

But it was my honor and joy to stand beside my sister on her wedding day in November: to love her without also shielding her from the attacks of outsiders, without ducking around our differences, without sobbing on her shoulder or holding her sobs in mine. ...With pure joy in her happiness and contentment in her peace. To say she was beautiful, to say she was radiant, to say she was in love, ...yes, all true... but what was most brilliant about her on her wedding day was her peacefulness.

As I stood beside her that day, I felt a different kind of closeness, as well as a new distance. We've bridged our distances in order to stand together in the past. This time, she built a bridge and crossed over it. And all I could do was thank God for her joy and His love made evident in the person of her new husband.

My God continue to bless you, my dear sister, and may we stand together again and again through this rugged journey of life.

Calling All Angels

If you see this, please pray for me...
I've got to do well on some big exams tomorrow and Thursday, which themselves are only preliminary to the final I have to do well on the following Friday.

What I Shall Have Decided To Do

I keep telling God, "If You want me here, You'll help me get through (this semester, these exams, this class, ...)"
So far, I'm still here.
Just now, I decided what I will do if I don't pass my finals these next few weeks: I will fill out an application to be an "inflight crew member" (aka: stewardess) on my favorite airline, JetBlue.
Despite my desire to be a physical therapist, it's kind of comforting to have a backup plan.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Well, look at that

I find this result truly fascinating...

You surround yourself with art and music and are constantly driven to express yourself. You often daydream. You prefer honesty in your relationships and belive strongly in your personal morals.

Find out your color at Quiz Me!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ever wonder?

No matter how much you dread a certain pending situation or event, somehow you end up getting through it just fine. And the dread isn't really serious dread, after all: you weren't really afraid that your mortal life would be over, or that you would become seriously injured or deformed, at least in most cases. You're nervous, you're anxious, you're worried, but it's a "comfortable"--for lack of a better term--level of apprehension. If you don't think so, just try to imagine what your job would be like with no co-workers to deal with or problems to solve; or what your studies would be like with no exams or difficult concepts to work through. ...Yuck! There must be some level of stress in order to keep life interesting. Likewise, there must be some level of apprehension to accompany the more stressful times.

Many of my friends tell me they're happy. I don't have any millionaire friends among them who sit around and do nothing, so I can't speak for them. But everyone I know seems to be overcoming difficult things on a daily basis. It seems to be part of humanity to undergo and then overcome stress. After all, it also seems to be part of humanity to welcome a "break." What's a vacation unless it's a "break" from something, whether interpersonal relationship dealings, or complex tasks, or the unending routines of household management?

I was talking with a few friends over Thanksgiving, and we happend upon the concept of fulfillment--specifically in lieu of C.S. Lewis's "Surprised By Joy", which I haven't read. I think I want to read it, though, because it sounds like it might speak to this issue of life as we live it. There has to be something to hope for, but as a hope--not as an actuality--because any fulfillment that can be attained in this life will be dissatisfying. So hope is the better thing, at least as long as we're still on earth.

As far as overcoming obstacles, all of these small accomplishments are like small foreshadowings of the great obstacle of death that we are to pass through. Perhaps that is why it's so difficult for us to remind ourselves that we can never "deserve" or "earn" heaven; it's just not possible. We'd like to think we can.

Just like we like our anxieties and worries to be taken seriously, and we like to be applauded and congratulated (or at least we congratulate ourselves) when we overcome them.

But can you imagine what real dread is?
How about dread of something that really cannot be overcome by our power?
How about dread of the loss of heaven--something we cannot attain by our own worthiness or our own justification?
Lasting dread: not just a stress to make life interesting, but rather, eternity without God.

I don't know but that it must be some kind of virtue to even partially comprehend this type of dread--and then more virtue again to accept God's mercy in its stead.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Back to the Music Box

It's like riding on a Merry-Go-Round that takes forever, but you know you're back where you started when you see the music box.

I've just gotten over the worst bout of homesickness I've ever had in my whole entire life. And now I'll be going home for the weekend. So I'm gearing up for the distinct possibility that the same severe homesickness will be back after this trip.

But Thanksgiving was great--old friends, new friends, and awesome food.

In recent news, I'm considering the pros and cons of Dallas In The Summertime--wouldn't that be an uninspiring song title! One major problem is the color of my car: black. My sister suggested carrying around oven mitts with me, in order to get in and out. hmmm.... Also considering the pros and cons of Washington DC In The Summertime.

At present, just trying to finish up these last few weeks of an almost-impossible semester, or so it seems. Prayers are, of course, always welcome and never wasted!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Moving Out

A man moved into the room adjacent to mine in this small upstairs boarding house.
Which means I'll be moving out.
In the span of less than 30 minutes, I met the new tenant, talked to my mother, gave notice to my landlady, and arranged alternative accommodations for next term.
Meanwhile, I'll be moving my stuff and my-self out of this place as quickly as possible!

random concerns

If something happens to me and I die suddenly, how will my parents log onto my computer, if it happens to be shut down at the time of my death? Is there a way to by-pass the password? Also, I'm not a minor, but I don't have a will. Is my dad automatically granted POA, since he's co-signed almost every financial endeavor I've taken in my entire life? Would my banks give him a hard time if he tried to go and close out all my accounts?

This is along the same lines as my continual concern about whether I should carry some form of ID when I run. In case something happens, the police will at least have some idea of who I am.

The things I ponder, even as I force myself to read about the metacarpophalangeal joints....

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Buddhist Baptisms

"Bye, now! We're going to attend a Buddhist Baptism!" yells the man who is married to one of my best friends, as he jets out the front door. I am left alone in their house to chuckle at the suggestion implied by the sarcastic comment. What isn't funny is the truth contained within the joke.
The truth is that the baptism is at a Catholic Church--at the parish across town, where we would never think to go for Mass, except in extreme circumstances. One of those Catholic parishes that seems to hold onto the fear that it will be "too Catholic" for its parishioners. Because of this, everything that happens takes on a form of relativism, modifying practices and rubrics--sometimes even doctrine--to meet the perceived comfort level of the parishioners. The currently popular but misguided principle takes effect: If we do not clearly tell people the difference between right and wrong, less harm will be done.
This philosophy finds its origin in the observation that people are often attracted to a perceived good that is not necessarily in union with the objective, or actual, Good. This reality, however, is due to our fallen human nature. It is one of the effects of sin. It should not be encouraged or exploited by our Church, which St. Paul refers to as The Pillar of Truth. Rather, the goal of each parish should be to educate its parishioners so that they may recognize the difference between a perceived good and an actual good. And then after that, encourage them to seek after the actual good.
Fortunately, the Roman Catholic Church herself stands firmly in the Truth, as she has from the beginning. But she is ailing, suffering from a sickness in her members--a disunity in her body.

And thus, the Buddhism analogy. The first precept of Buddhism is to abstain from harming living beings. This includes killing animals, insects, plants, etc: anything that has life is put on the same level of equality. There is no distinction between vegetative, animate, and rational souls in the Buddhist system. In fact, one of the highest forms of "blessedness" in neoBuddhism, according to my friendly source of Buddhist information, consists in starving oneself, since eating anything inevitably does "harm" to some living being.

So the analogy is quite simple: Buddhists actually believe that all living things should be treated with the same reverence, simply because they are living. Some parishes in the present state of our Church operate on the principle that all parishioners should stay at their own comfort level, regardless of whether they are in accordance with objective good.

Thus the term "Buddhist Baptism."

They just came back.
"How was the baptism?" I asked.
"It was valid," came the reply.
Sad that in these times, that's often the most we can hope for.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

PT dancing

You should see the moves...

We've got sequences made up for all sorts of stuff--

-motions in each of the cardinal planes and the axes that correspond
"Sagittal! Sagittal! Sagittal! Ci-i-i-rrrcumDUCTION!..."

-motions tested for each of the motor nerve roots
"C5. (clap). C7. (slap). C5,C6.C5,C6...."

-contortions for special tests at each of the joints
"Patrick's! Straight leg RAISE! Kernig, and Alternate Sign?..."

Yeah, we'll be a popular crowd out at the bars!

My angel called

I studied in the PT lab at school this evening with one of my classmates, Michael. He's a really good guy; we actually studied "together, separately," which is effective for both of us: we both concentrate on our own studying, but there's also someone there if we run into a question or problem.

As I shut down all my computer windows at the end of the "session," my desktop background (one of my Garden of the Gods photos) popped into view. I moaned. "I just wanna go home," I whined to Michael.
"Sephora, if you go back to Colorado, I'm going back to Boston!" he countered with impeccable logic.
"Huh?? Why does that make any sense at all?" I snapped back, irritated that I was not being allowed to sink into self-pity, due to the skipping and jumping of my cognition neurons at the incongruence of the statement.

Michael has a girlfriend at home, with whom he is very much in love; he has told me on a number of occasions that he'd rather just get married and forget these next three years of school. I continually tell him that he has a responsibility to be able to provide for his future family, and that getting this degree is the best idea at this point. This is what he really wants to do for a career, anyway.
So apparently, my feelings are so strong on this point that I will stay here in school just to make sure that he does, ...right.

Anyway, I walked out of the building into the dark, crisp air of the emptied parking lot. Somewhere in front of me, a very sweet guy named Michael was calling his girlfriend in Boston. Somewhere 1800 miles west of me my family was settling down after dinner in a cozy mountain home living room. Somewhere 3 miles east of me lay a lonely bedroom, a pile of books, and a full coffeepot. ~sigh~

I got in my car, and checked my cell phone. 2 messages.

The first was from my very good friend, just back from the trip to my sister's wedding and the extended vacation into Kansas to see relatives. Yay! She's back! I'm feeling less lonely.

The second was from an "unavailable" number, who called twice, one minute apart. "Hey, at least whoever this is left a message," I thought.
A young man's voice spoke kindly in my ear, "Hi, Sephora; I think I have the wrong number; but, may God bless you, too, and have a great day.... Bye."
I saved it.

As I drove home toward my pile of books, I started to wonder how many people in my neighborhood must be far away from home; how many are in agonizing relationships they can't bring themselves to leave; how many of them don't have anyone, here or miles away, to love them or miss them. I essence, how much I actually do have.
That guy and girl in the car behind me--where are they going, and why? Are they borrowing a car for a study break / donut run, or are they just coming back from a day of sightseeing in the City?

God loves me so particularly, He sent me a message through a stranger. Sure, the stranger said it was a wrong number, but God knew I'd hear Him: "Behold, I have given you all this, and you still consider yourself oppressed?"

I think maybe it was my angel.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


I'll see my first patient(s) today. It'll be at a walk-in clinic, so not even the Clinical Instructors who work there know who I'll see. Kind of scary; I've been in school for less than three months, and here I am, about to go out and do examinations on people. Today, if I get to do a spine and a shoulder exam, I don't have to do another clinical on December 1st! That means I'll have that day off. (which means I might change a certain airline ticket so that I can be back in Colorado Springs a few days before my friend's wedding...)
So I guess today is the first real test of my clinical knowledge. As my clinical advisor at school said to us, "The proof is in the pudding. This is the pudding."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Church Suffering

Yesterday I was a special witness to a great day in the lives of my sister and her new husband. A great day for them, for each of our families, and for the Church.
The experience of attending this kind of wedding--and even participating as a member of the wedding party--is a certain euphoria. Because it's such a good thing for the world: two good, Catholic people come together as one to follow Christ through the vocation of marriage. So incredible, this witness to Christ's love for His Church.

Welcome to the family, Matt! Now I have three brothers!

After this great event, I was a witness to a scandalous occurrance at anticipated Sunday Mass up the road. For the Communion Hymn, instead of singing the "Litany of the Saints," the music ministry sang the "Litany of Souls." Names that were mentioned between each "pray for us" were members of the parish who had died in the past year and beyond--names of relatives and friends given to the organist by parishioners. Even Ronald Reagan was in there, according to friends of mine who were listening more closely than I.
"Last year, All Souls Day was on a Sunday, and we did this. It was such a hit, we do it every Sunday in November now," the organist told me after Mass, when I went over and asked her "[just exactly] what was that?"
So now a letter to the parish priest is in order, who unfortunately, concelebrated at my sister's wedding, and knows my family. It's kind of difficult for me to speak up when things like this go on in the parishes around my home, since my parents both work for the Diocese.

But I figured that eventually, the day would come.
It has.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Nighttime Productivity

I've marveled before at the disproportionate amount of time that seems to be contained in the hours of darkness when sleep is the natural activity.
This evening, I have reconciled myself to the fact that I'll be awake most of the night, doing work for the rest of the week before I leave for Erin's wedding. As a consequence of this plan, I am sitting on the bed at 1am with my laptop in my lap, but no work done--barely any work started. I have time...I have all night, after all.

Me: I can't wait to come home.
Mom: I'm so glad you're looking forward to it. But you know, there's going to be a lot to do. I'm going to need you from the moment you arrive.
Me: That's fine. I don't mind. That's why I'm coming. In fact, I wish I could've been there to help you out over these past few months.
Mom: No, no, that's fine. Just as long as you're aware that it's going to be crazy-busy when you do get here.
Me: I understand. I do need to get some work done for school, though, while I'm home.
Mom: Umm...well, hmmm. ...Can you do it on the plane?

Hence, the all-nighter before I leave Connecticut!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bukas na Mukha

There's a pretty even distribution among my friends who tell me
1. I'm really hard to get to know
2. My life is an open book
In fact, the same friends have made both observations!
I guess both can be true, since actually knowing a person doesn't have much to do with what they choose to reveal at any given time.
In the Philippines we used the phrase, "bukas na mukha," which meant, "open face." It didn't refer to a type of sandwich; it referred to the ease with which others could tell what was on your mind. Even there, I received both comments 1. and 2. from the same friends.

I think part of it is that when something makes me happy, I feel the need to tell others about it, whether or not they care. When I'm upset, I usually use all my energy up being upset, and don't save any evergy with which to hide the fact.
Yet still, those who don't know me well do not understand why I am particularly happy or sad or angry: the thought processes that bring me to those points. What I value in life and in people--things that attract or repel me--and what I look forward to from day to day, are secrets hidden from all but my close friends.

And so here I am, not three months into my graduate program, and I find myself in this bizarre social dynamic with my classmates. It's the unique character of early relationships which combines a superficial friendliness with the closeness that follows from sharing one anothers' joys.
I can't even count the number of people who greeted me today with, "Are you excited?" or "How's your sister?" or "Two more days! Do you have your dress ready?" or "Isn't it snowing now in Colorado?"
Most of them don't even know my sister's name--although some do!--but they all know that she's getting married this weekend in Colorado. And they know that while I'm home, I'll be seeing my newest neice for the first time; of course, they all heard the news when she was born a month and a half ago!

It's not really a bad thing. Weddings and births are exciting occasions, and well-wishes from strangers are generally sincere and gracious. Plus, there's no question in anyone's mind that I should be allowed to miss half a week of class for such a joyous event.

As long as I get my work done. ...hmmm. better get to that...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Never in a million years did I think I would ever hear what I heard last night: an argument that President Bush is actually the primary enemy to the promotion of a culture of life in our country. Statistics came from I-don't-know-where describing

how many people die every day from bad air and water
how many innocent Iraqi civilians are murdered every day
how many children die every day from lack of health care
how many senior citizens on Social Security will suffer under Bush's policies

"...and I hold George W. Bush personally responsible for all these murders and injustices."

versus how many abortions are performed every day (4,000) and why in the balance, since this number is smaller, the culture of life is not determined by it.

It became clear to me that although this man understood by natural law that murder was wrong, he had no sense of the fundamental versus the secondary. So I said I understood why he voted the way he did. I did not tell him he was blinded by his agnosticism and deceived in the assumption that this life is all we have to look forward to.

But he persevered in questioning me about the Church. What does the Church say about gay marriage? Which led to, how can you assume that an "is" leads to an "ought" (the natural order of things and how structure determines function)? Then finally, if we concede the "is-ought" relationship, what does that have to do with eternal salvation--is that man's natural end?
I felt like I was taking a cummulative exam of everything I've learned in philosophy and theology. But it was great. I enjoyed the conversation because it was real. He was really asking me, really wanting to understand. And his questions presented in the most logical sequence one could hope for. So I knew he understood what I was saying. Problem was, what he wanted to understand was why I think the world should be a certain way--not whether he should think so. What boggles the mind is that some souls are so hardened against the concept of objective truth, that when they hear the truth, it makes sense to them, but they can't embrace it. It becomes another line of reasoning that follows logically if you assume the principles; but then, so many different perspectives out there do the same, and they are all equally valid.

After the evening ended, I realized the gravity of our discussion. Although I prayed ceaselessly to the Holy Spirit throughout the evening, and asked friends and family to do the same, I did not comprehend the seriousness of our conversation until afterwards. My heart began to ache. There are people who are so well-intentioned, but so misguided.... And so outspoken. He would be a great Catholic, if he ever were to convert. There are some things that are so fundamental that it's difficult for me to argue that they're fundamental--just because I never try to question the fact.
Last night, when abortion was put on the same level as the Clean Air Act, I felt sick to my stomach. After the fact, when I recognized the importance of the issues we disagreed on, including gay marriage, I shook my head in amazement that I could have been so calm. I guess that was part of the graces I received through many prayers.

It's the old saying, which means much more now that homosexuals want to get married, adopt children, while thousands of others are killing their own in the womb. Scary in this light, but still true.

"The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Inexpensive Luxuries

The knowledge (by Faith) that a 54-day election novena must take effect, either way, to protect our country.

The completion of a major school project before midnight the evening before it's due.

The discovery, upon attendence of some senior graduate students' defenses, that my two huge graduate school "capstones" will be proposals for studies, and not actual studies that I will have to carry out.

The joyful anticipation of my visit home, less than two weeks away; not to mention the excitement contained in the wedding to be celebrated at that time!

The purchase of a bigger, fluffier pillow PLUS clean sheets PLUS flannel blankets PLUS shaved legs ... what more could I ask for, really?

Life is good.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Cereal with soy milk

Much has happened.

Primarily, I had a curious "meet the parents" experience last Sunday. I say curious because it might have been classified as the most encouraging "meet the parents" experience I've had yet. This is saying a lot, since I've never had a bad experience in this regard. In fact, every time I've had the opportunity to make the acquaintence of a significant other's family, I've looked forward to it, and have subsequently stored it in my treasury of pleasant memories. So the "curious" part is this: This Is Not A Significant Other. I capitalize for emphasis, and in order to forgo repetition, especially for all those friends and family members who might still be unconvinced. Contact me personally if you need to hear the specific reasons why not; I've come up with several reasons. ...
So hopes are high that the overly-positive encounter with "the parents" is merely a cultural norm. Or if not, at least it is merely an indication of over-enthusiastic parents in the presence of a "nice girl." I probably won't know for a while if there is an essential misunderstanding between my friend-who-is-not-a-significant-other and myself--because I'll never ask. And given his low average rate of vocal utterances--partly due to shyness, partly just who he is--it'll be a while before he arrives at that topic.
Funny how what might have been the best experience I could have hoped for, turned out to be a source of analytical agony, slightly abated by Mom's wisdom, "Don't worry about something that hasn't happened yet."

Next thing on my mind these days is the Maria Goretti Society, which Sharon and I are to lead this year. It's a group dedicated to the spiritual formation of girls, from the Confirmation class -age up through high school. Our first meeting is next Wednesday, so we've been trying to get organized. Basically, neither of us know what we are doing. We only know it should be prayer-centered, and that it has to be put in God's hands. Because we don't know what we're doing, especially with this age group. Funny, since we used to be high school girls--together!--and a saintly woman somehow related to us in order to provide spiritual formation.
"How did she do it?" we wondered out loud about a month and a half ago, both agreeing that either of us in her position would have gotten highly annoyed. We decided that we shared the mentality that junior high and high school girls were not our preferred bracket.
And then we accepted the leadership of the Maria Goretti Society. Go figure.
But as St. Paul says: in our weakness He is strong.

And finally, this program that I'm in tends to have exams pretty often. So studying for those is an underlying theme of the soundtrack of my life.

By the way, James Taylor is great background for most New England autumn drives.

I figured out that in order to regularly enjoy my cereal and my lattes, I have to keep 2 cartons of Soy milk in my refrigerator. Problem is that my refrigerator in this bedroom is the size of a cracker box. So I don't eat so much cereal; after all, priorities define coffee as ruling way high over cereal. As a result, I'm starting to build up quite a collection of different kinds and flavors of breakfast cereal. It's good. Someday, when I'm out of espresso, I'll have a bowl of cereal. It's great comfort food. Especially with soy milk. But I digress. The point is, I need a bigger refrigerator.

(p.s. Mom, don't send any more cold cereal...)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Be Careful What You Pray For

They always used to tell me that.
It's true, though. Speaking of the Great Designer...
I prayed for humility. Then I got my most recent test score back.
I think I'll wait until the end of this first semester until I resume my prayers for humility!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Great Designer

I find myself cringing at the off-handed joke, "Everything's relative."
"But it's not," I always say.
Then I get the look I used to give my Dad when he would ask us about the sanctity of beasts after any of us said, "holy cow." The look that says, "Why is she responding as if I was at all thinking about what I was saying?"

I can give some credit to the fact that Catholicism--or at least monotheism, which is a good start--finds easy acceptance in PT. I don't think it's only at this school which happens to have a Catholic name; the name seems accidental at best, as in many cases, to the affiliation of the school itself.
But it struck me yesterday when our class was discussing the muscles in the area of the hip. This concept in particular came up:
There are no muscles whose primary purpose is to internally rotate the thigh because functionally, we don't really need to do that very much.
Nobody flinched. But look at the assumptions there!
1.) Muscles have primary, and secondary actions, and they are classified as such. Why, you ask? Because of the orientation of their fibers, of course! Nature acts for an end....
2.) A muscle will only perform an action to the extent that we need to function with that action. Again....
I don't know if anyone besides myself is consciously aware that this is what we're basing our discussions on. As far as I can tell, it's taken for granted.
Another discussion began when the teacher asked, "If you were the Great Designer, and you wanted this muscle's only action to be to flex the knee, where would you attach it? ...And yet, where is it actually attached?"

I don't know if "Great Designer" was capitalized in his mind as he was asking the question, but the assumption that muscles are there because somebody put them there for a reason is about as solid an assumption of a Creator as you're going to get. Let me assure the world, this branch of science can't be confused to contradict the Church!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Where your STUDIES are, there will your heart be

Funny how during my undergraduate years, I found myself thinking about essence and attributes and miracles and Divine Will when I was alone (ie, in the shower!).
Now, I find myself thinking about muscle forces and moment arms and therapeutic exercises in my "down-time."
I think there's something to be said for studying Theology, because whatever you're studying is what your mind is used to contemplating.
Another reason to keep up on my spiritual reading... .

Monday, October 18, 2004

'Twas the Season

for hot cider and football games.

I woke up on Saturday and thought, "This is the perfect day for a football game."

So I drove down to Hofstra University, in case their oft-injured quarterback, my cousin, was playing. A lot of my relatives were at the game. Turns out he was still injured, but he was going to start, anyway. It was Homecoming; he had to play. With a broken rib (which the opposing team didn't know about, thank God) and a re-injured knee (which the other team did know about, 'cause everyone does), he couldn't run. But his passing has always been strong, and he's one of the best college quarterbacks in the nation because of it. Saturday, though, he couldn't plant his leg to throw. What I saw was not the best he's been--not even close, according to the family. And when I felt his mother clinging to me after a play, and following her frowning eyes, saw him on the ground, I knew he'd been tackled. And during the tackle, his knee had given out.

And that's probably the end of the season. For him, the end period.

Poor guy, I feel so bad for him. In a primarily baseball-driven family, he's been the brightly shining football star.

My uncle, his father, turned to me and said, "I think this is the day of Bobby's retirement."

I'm glad I got to see him play.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Critical thinking and BIG words

One aspect of my tutorial class in graduate school that didn't happen in undergraduate school is the peer evaluation.
Each session we have, we verbally evaluate a member of the group. Since there are only 5 students per tutorial, and we meet twice a week, we evaluate each other several times throughout the semester. In our group, we made it a general rule that we each have to make one complimentary statement and one constructive statement, and then beyond that as needed. The person being evaluated also has to verbalize a self-evaluation. I actually look forward to the days when I get evaluated--it's good to get continuous feedback, plus it helps all of us find ways to challenge one another.
It was funny today, though, when one of my classmates was trying to come up with a constructive criticism for me. "I guess, maybe you could try to put things into your own words on your hand-outs," he suggested.
I laughed. Then I apologized. Then he looked at me, incredulous, and interpretted my face: "These are your own words. Aren't they. Oh. Ok." (he proceeded to re-read my entire handout while the rest of the group did their evaluations.)

Over the next few evaluations, an encouraging discussion developed that made me realize the difference between an Exercise Science major in a PT program and a Liberal Arts major in a PT program. There are advantages! I think I needed that lift. Truly, the comments that were made can only be credited to the intellectual formation I received at TAC. "Critical thinker," excellent questions," "makes me re-examine my research with her points," as well as the old mantra from Don Rags, "try to speak up when you do understand, not just when you don't," etc.

But my first classmate's comment reminded me of an experience I had when I was at the community college last year, preparing for grad school. I was required to take a Psych elective, so I chose Child Development. As part of the course, I had to write a research paper. For the amount of work I put into it, I was relatively pleased with the outcome. When I got it back, I flipped through to read the red markings. On one page, in the margin, was scrawled, "use your own words." The word in my paper that was circled in red pen next to the comment was "posit." I was speaking about a child development theorist, and explaining what his principles were for how children learn. "He posits...etc." Not only was I shocked at the mark for what it actually said, but I was also indignant at the implication that I would plagiarize! Talk about a test of humility. I think I must have failed. My ego is generally too selfish to allow for grace in moments such as these. I approached my teacher, and explained as politely as I could muster that I was not a childcare provider, taking her class in order to get certification to run a daycare. I had a prior degree, and in the philosophical setting where my intellect was trained, "posit" was no less common than "challenge" as a descriptive verb. "It's my word; it's been one of my words for the past 6 years!"
Her response was, "Well, I didn't know what it meant. I had to look it up."
Well, that's hardly my fault now, is it.

So now I've been officially named "Vocabulary" in my tutorial. Compared to most of my friends, I don't think my vocabulary is that impressive, actually. But I'll take the compliment.

Meanwhile, I'll work on using short words for my hand-outs!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The difference between John Kerry and me

John Kerry, despite what he claims about Faith and Works, obviously has a difficult time incorporating his "Catholic" Faith into his everyday life of political action. According to him, it is not paradoxical to have an interior spiritual life, expression of which displays oppositely when brought to the exterior political and social life. He may very well understand the "go to your room and pray to your Father in private" part of things, but he's leaving out, "go out to all nations...baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Whatever you do, don't impose your Faith on others--or let it influence anything you do that might affect others. (p.s., the immorality of abortion is not, as he refers to it, an "article of Faith;" you don't need Faith to arrive at the conclusion that the principle of human life is something sacred and worthy of protection.)

Anyway, the contrast I wanted to make is this: my exam on Friday is what I should really be worried about. But I've been letting my Faith-based activities come first this week. Not only come first, but get in the way of what I'm primarily called to do at this point. I didn't study last night because I spent the evening in NYC with a friend, watching the film Therese. I didn't study tonight because I went to a special Mass in honor of the 87th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima's last apparition. Tomorrow is Theology on Tap, which I'd hate to miss.... Friday will soon be here, and I will pray to my guradian angel that he gives me a little extra help on this one.

I think I need to re-group and re-assess my priorities list here pretty soon.

That might be a healthy exercise for Senator Kerry at this point, as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Chilly trees

I peek out my window
and let my eyes linger
on the dancing shadows in the street.

Still bright the tall lamps standing guard along the sidewalk's edge.

Quiet and still the motors of a busy day, ready to rev
when the sun reveals the colors of the shadows.

But for now the shadow are black, and dancing

And I watch the rhythym of their dancing
and know after one moment, ...maybe two, ...wait for the third,

yes, the day is one of autumn--
of breezes and dreams of hot cider.
Of crunchy carpets and smoky smells.

And I should wear a sweater.

Monday, October 11, 2004

On a lighter note, a little

comic relief.... I tend to relate to Satchel.

Wrong analogy

I had the pleasure of speaking to an old high school friend on the phone last night. He was just like I remembered him--funny and witty, albeit a bit more serious now that he's married with a baby girl.

This friend left the Church shortly after I left for college--due to the tragic state of the diocese where I grew up, I'm sure. Many families in the area have left, and even my former youth group leader doesn't attend Mass anymore. My friend is now a youth pastor at a church in Maine, doing all sorts of good for the high school kids there, and loving all of it.

I figured I'd ask: "Do you ever miss the Eucharist? The sacraments?"

It took him a while to answer. He said it was a fair question, he just had to think about it. He said that the reason he left the Faith was that he never really "got" it, so it's kind of hard to miss it. Finally he gave me this analogy: "It's like asking an unbeliever if he misses God. Well, of course he doesn't, because he's never known God."

As I thought about it later, I started wondering about the analogy. There was something seriously lacking in it--something truly sad about my friend's situation that isn't so sad within the analogy of the unbeliever. The breakdown is here: the unbeliever has yet to encounter God, yet can still be given that opportunity. But my friend has already had the opportunity to live a sacramental life, and has turned away from it, looking elsewhere for holiness.

Because of this, I find another analogy much more suitable: it is like asking a starving man, "Do you miss food?"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

October 7th

Another beautiful Feast Day. What a great month: St. Therese, then the Archangels, then the guardian angels, and now Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary! The power of Our Lady is so great; I recommend this beautiful entry for a short meditation. And feel good stories are favorites of mine, as well.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

In my loaded up arms

The real story here was that I found rambutan in the produce section of the store today. That and pomegranate juice (I was reading today that it contains lots and lots and lots of anti-oxidants, so I picked some up). These were my two special finds. And both prompted discussion at the register. The bagger-lady wanted to know whether pomegranate juice should be drunk straight--to which I replied that I think it's better if it's a little bit diluted. But awhen it came to the rambutan, everyone was involved--the cashier, the bagger, the woman behind me, the man behind her,.... So I gave General Instructions on how to eat rambutan, then how it tastes, then where it comes from, then why I know that, and finally where I found it this evening. (It's a FRUIT. So it'll be next to the other FRUIT. It's UNUSUAL. So it'll be next to the UNUSUALS. Look for the starfruit and the papaya: UNUSUAL FRUIT.)
I had to dig through my groceries when I got home, to find where the bagger-lady hid it all. I was so excited to try one! The first little guy I opened was bad--brown gunk instead of white juicy sponginess. But the next two were good....

Good? Amazing. Brought me back to days of loitering on the stone balcony off of the overcrowded classroom in Alaminos; made me want to hail a tricycle and ride past the hayfields in Dampay.

I gotta save a few for Sharon....

Second Floor Rule

The rule is this:
If I live alone on the second floor, I can only make one trip, whether coming or going.

Although I just "discovered" this rule today, I've actually been abiding by it for the past month and a half. Usually, I'm completely loaded up with stuff (why do we always say "loaded down"? I refuse...): backpack, purse, water bottle, oversized binder that doesn't fit in the backpack, leaky travel mug with coffee, keys. Add to that image the burden the occasional mornings that I need to take out the trash, and you get a picture of my hardcore fundamentalism. But I have not wavered!

I have adjusted, however. My Weekday Missal and October issue of Magnificat have their own shelf--the passenger seat of my car! One of my sweatshirts "belongs" in the back seat--I always need more layers, now that October is here and they've turned on the A/C at school.... =b Two six-packs of coke sit in my natural refrigerator--the trunk. My laundry detergent is there, too, since I'll have driven to Sharon's house when I next need it. I also keep my sleeping bag in there (just in cases!) and my bike rack (because it doesn't fit anywhere else!)
So yes, part of my life remains in my car. But that's just a necessary corollary to the Second Floor Rule.

Of course, this rule does not limit the number of times a person can set something down. I tend to set things down several times before the final "drop," especially coming home.

Get out of the car with and grab all my junk.
1 Set something down to lock the car doors and close them.
Walk to the outside stairs.
2 Set something down to check the mailbox.
Climb the stairs.
3 Set something down to unlock the door.
Enter the apartment.
4 Set something down to twist-pull-wrench keys out of the door, close it, and lock it again.
Kick off shoes and walk up the hallway.
5 Set something down to unlock the bedroom door.
Enter the room, and ...DROP

(Yes, I do pick everything up again as I go. Except that later, I usually have to look for my keys for about ten minutes before finding them in the bedroom door.)

Someday, this rule will reveal itself as a useful discipline. Since it's not exactly time-efficient, though, I cannot imagine what the utility will be.

I just keep on following the directions shouted at me by the obsessive murmurings of my brain:

Testing, 1--2--3

I just had my first OSCE today (pronounced AH-skee). It stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination. The 2nd and 3rd -year students pretend to be patients, while we, the lowly 1st-years, come and do tests on them. Each of us reads an outline of a case, makes a hypothesis as to what's wrong, does some tests on the "patient" who pretends to "test" a certain way, then writes whether or not we're changing our hypothesis, based on the tests.
I think mine went well. I had to take someone's blood pressure three times because I couldn't hear her heartbeat on the first two tries! I didn't know I was nervous until I started doing the tests and realized my hands were shaking! (ever try to wrap a blood pressure sleeve around someone while your hands are shaking?)

Then my classmate, Michael, and I got together and learned how to test ankle strength--we have to teach the class tomorrow. I always wondered how I would react to touching somebody's foot in therapy. But context is amazing--I had my hands all over his foot, feeling around for the different tendons. Great stuff. It's amazing how, with practice, I'm starting to map out what's going on beneath the skin, using my sense of touch! And I love it that each of my classmates gets so excited about it, too. "I found it! I found it!" is a common exclamation in the lab. Or, "Here, feel hers--it's really prominent..."

The natural high that accompanies discovery, the brisk autumn breeze flipping through the changing leaves around campus, the awesome care-package that just arrived from home... I'm definitely in full-on student mode!

Oh, the irony

I have been trying to get my hands on student loan money for over a month now. Finally, I am told that next Tuesday, my refund will be ready (so I can pay all my bills!!).
Yesterday, I received an email from my lender. They informed me that, to date, I have accrued $5.25 in interest on my loan. If I would like to pay that now, I could save myself money later.

Can you identify my frustration? I don't even have the money yet, and I'm already paying interest on it!

Meanwhile, the bills are piling up, and I can't even look at them until next Tuesday.... Yeah, I wanna start paying interest!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Darkness holds less valuable minutes

I hold the satisfaction of a particularly good weekend, the perfect mix between visiting relatives on Long Island and spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon meal with new friends in Connecticut.

The price I pay is the same as every week before this: Monday night is a long night. I remain "awake" for the greater number of dark hours, staring at my computer screen and wishing I had eye-glasses with which to replace my burning contact lenses. I've been able to finish by dawn every week up to this point. The question that sits immediately behind the frontal bone of my weary skull is this:

Is it impossible for me to use daylight hours to finish my tutorial presentations?

Obj. 1: It seems as though it is not impossible to use daylight hours to finish schoolwork, for there are more daylight hours than night hours in the waking span of a weekend. And the hour measures a constant time; therefore, it seems not impossible to use one daylight hour for activities heretofore reserved for one night hour.

Obj 2: It is not impossible to use daylight hours to finish schoolwork, for doing schoolwork is a part of learning. But learning has been proven to be accomplished during daylight hours, that is, in the classroom every day of the week. Therefore, as a part of learning, it is not impossible to finish schoolwork with daylight hours.

Obj 3: It is not impossible to use daylight hours to finish schoolwork, for as The Classmate said, "I finished my tutorial on Sunday afternoon."

Sed Contra: "Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man." Psalms 112:4

Time spent in my little hole of a bedroom is time spent in isolation from the outside world. When I am there, the hours do not seem to have daylight in them. So when I know that daylight hours exist outside my hole, I exit, in order to enjoy their brightness. But my computer is in my hole. And all my references. Therefore, given the circumstances of my living arrangement, it is impossible for me to finish schoolwork during daylight hours.

Reply to Obj 1: I never spend the weekends in my room. And I never finish schoolwork outside of my room. Therefore this argument is meaningless.

Repy to Obj 2: My classroom exists outside of my room, and is also a necessary prison, even when the sun shines brightly outdoors. It actually heightens the desire for time spent outside during daylight hours, since it offers reprieve from my hole, but without the daylight.

Reply to Obj 3: Some people don't need to see daylight so much, I guess.

In Conclusion, the coffee pot is full, and I'm in for a long night.
...haven't invested in gingko, yet; stand by for updates.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The edges

of these New England arbors are starting to show some color.
The days are crisp and cool--the kind of days where I like to open the sun-roof and blow the heat on my feet while I drive.
I sit here in my bedroom, looking out over the dimming street, watching the sun settle behind the rooftops of my residential neighborhood.
And I think.

Love, real love, uncontaminated love, does not require emotions. It is an act of the will.
So angels, since they have will--which is directed toward the ultimate good--can love.
Real love from the will is the desire for someone else's good.
My guardian angel desires my salvation, which is the highest good that someone can desire me to obtain.
So my guardian angel truly loves me.

It's comforting to know that I have a special spiritual friend dedicated to helping me obtain my salvation. And that, in carrying out the will of the Father, by dedicating himself to this task, he is assuming special responsibility for my soul. He loves me because the Father loves me, and his will is united to the Father's, yes. But it's amazing to think that, because his will is still other than the Father's, this created spirit loves me individually--not just generally as a part of mankind, but me myself, as one individual person in the history of the world.

If nothing else inspires me, I don't want to let my guardian angel down!

Friday, October 01, 2004

October 1st

Today is a beautiful feast day. And it happens to be the special feast day of my youngest, week-and-a-half-old neice!
I never quite understood why she was called the "Little Flower" until I saw the following quotation:

"Jesus set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers he has created are lovely. The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realized that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wildflowers to make the meadows gay.

It is just the same in the world of souls - which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice his eyes whenever he glances down. Perfection consists in doing his will, in being that which he wants us to be.

Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be - and becoming that person." ~Saint Therese of Lisieux, from Story of a Soul

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Mission Accomplished

Yes, my goal for the week was accomplished. And it's only Thursday!
Although somewhat out of context, I got a last name.

"I'm going home to NJ tomorrow, so I might not be here for Mass."

"Oh, ok, well if I don't see you, then have a great weekend. What's your last name?"

Lesson Learned

Next time I decide to drink two cups of coffee at night, in order to "get some studying done," anyone and everyone has the unalienable right to ask me, "Haven't you learned your lesson already?"
As Peter Dennis wisely suggested last night on the phone, being awake does not necessarily guarentee that the mind is engaged. Here I was, trying to learn all the different muscles surrounding the knee joint, when all of a sudden, I could not distinguish between them. The lower extremity all became one huge muscle, and the printed text, which was gallently trying to separate it out, refused to traverse the path from my sensation to my cognition. I put it all away relatively early.
Since I could still feel my heart racing from the caffeine overdose, I decided to calm myself with some Adrienne Von Speyr, a 20th century female theologian. One page, then half a page more, then incomprehension. I put that away, too.
And I was still awake.
I turned out the light at midnight.
During the course of the next hour, my mind shouted incoherent noise: "gracilis muscle-!!-medially rotates the knee-...-no, laterally-!!-no, biceps femoris-!!-attaches in two places...etc." It was almost painful. Now I know what people mean when they say they're tired and can't sleep. But I have no excuses; my experience was due to very poor judgement, and not a pathological condition.
I woke up exhausted, still maintaining a pulse rate of 80+.
"I swear by gingko," Peter Dennis declares.

I could swear by something right now....

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Informed Consent

There's this form that patients sign when they begin treatment for physical therapy (one of the many forms you sign when you go in for any medical treatment). Basically, it says that the clinician will try to help you, and with your permission, that he can move you this way and that, and perform the necessary tests to do his job, as long as you are aware and consent.
At orientation before our PT program started, each of us signed one of these Informed Consent papers. Not only can our teachers ask us if we will demonstrate something for the benefit of the class to observe, but our classmates also have our permission to move us around in order to facilitate learning.
In order for the clinician to comply with the regulations involving informed consent, he must explain to the patient what he is doing and give detailed enough instructions so that the patient cannot mistake treatment for abuse or assault. We do a whole lot of discussion about informed consent, learning how to give specific instructions to someone so that we don't end up hurting them.
For the students, it's a lot less formal. We've been putting our hands all over each other from day one, and we're all excited about learning this stuff. Letting someone palpate my greater trochanter on my upper thigh during a lab is no problem. The whole class is very aware of patient dignity, and when I let someone else "practice" on me, he has to pretend that I'm really a patient. Usually I know what he's trying to do, and if he does it wrong, I tell him.
But it's funny how this freedom with each other has extended beyond lab. I didn't understand a concept today during our group study session. So one of the guys came over to me, moved my arm into a compromising position, applied some force to it, and told me to try to resist it with a specific muscle group.
Sure, this was in the context of studying. But as I think about it, everything I do with these people during the next 3 years is going to be in the context of studying. Even if we're not techinically "studying!"
I picture a Friday night at the bar. One of the girls stands up to go get another beer:

Janel: "Hey! Sarah! Dude, what's up with your knee? Phil, did you see how she just stood up?"
Phil: "No, I didn't. Do that again, lemme see. [Sarah stands]...ooh. Looks like you've got some seriously limited extension there."
Sarah: "Yeah, recently I don't like to fully extend. It's not painful, but it doesn't feel stable, you know?"
Phil: "Wait, can I just--"
Sarah: "Yeah, go for it. [she sits back down and Phil kneels beside her] See if you can figure it out."
Janel: "Yeah, Phil. Can you try and extend it passively, maybe?"
Phil: "It's kind of a spongy end-feel. Here, Janel, you try it. See what you think."

Completely realistic, I assure you.
I love it.

Reality Check

The past few mornings, I've gone to Mass and prayed the rosary with a former member of the Olympic wrestling team. (??) pretty crazy.
And I still don't know his last name.
Let me just point out: it is commonly stated (at least in the herds I've run in) that friendships built on Faith are the best kind. This principle is always put forth in the sagest tones, with nods of approval all around. I always nod, myself, I admit. True, in principle. But now I must offer some perspective. It would be really nice to find some chunk of time when neither of us has class, so that I can actually sit down and have a normal conversation with this person. Right now, it's kind of akin to my gym partner during my junior year at TAC. I saw him from 5:00 to 6:30 in the morning, and then not much more the rest of the day. At least we had the car ride to build some sort of comradery!
So my point is, Faith is a good foundation for a friendship, if you're going to build one! Maybe I'm just impatient, and right now it's just a good thing to know someone's waiting for me everyday at Mass.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Another Chance

I once vowed never to ignore a person I recognize, even if I don't think they remember who I am. The immediate result of this decision was a dating relationship toward the end of high school.

Maybe now I should extend this vow, never to pass up the opportunity to meet someone who crosses my path more than once.

I should have met one particular person about a year ago. Meaning, I've known who he is for at least one year; always in the same section of the church at daily Mass, always staying for the rosary afterwards. It always struck me how young he was compared to the other daily goers--around my age, I guessed. But with a large frame and considerable height: my shy side always won out over my friendly side.
All I knew was his name; we had been formally introduced on one occasion, and that was all.
I remember thinking one day, as I walked past his pew on my way out of the church, "Next time I see him, I'm going to talk to him." I saw him once more after that, but didn't get the chance....

That was my last chance, I realized. Soon afterward, I left the state to make my way back East for grad school. I said a small prayer for him, and wondered if he'd ever wonder why I wasn't at daily Mass anymore.

God continually offers us more chances. That's the beauty of His infinite mercy--that He continues to forgive us, no matter how many times we fail. But besides giving us more chances to love Him, He sometimes extends extra gifts of opportunity. Some people get to survive incredible disasters or injuries, receiving what they consider to be "another chance" in life. Some people find the opportunity for human reconciliation, and rejoice in "another chance" for a relationship.

I got another chance today. In the hallway at my university, 1800 miles from home, our paths crossed again. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. He walked right past me! I continued walking for about 7 seconds, then turned around and followed him. I was not going to let this chance go to waste. There was no shyness to overcome; there was no thought of self-respect. Curiosity and incredulousness were my momentum.

"Excuse me, is your name ---?" ...

So I'll see him early tomorrow morning at daily Mass. And then we'll pray the rosary together afterwards.
The only explanation for this is some sort of Divine intervention. I am supposed to meet this person--and probably should have earlier this year. But since I didn't, since I wasted all my opportunities, God presented me with another chance. (hit me upside the head with it, actually!)

I wonder what the significance is? I wonder if this is the beginning of a friendship which will be a source of support for me throughout my time here? Or am I to be a source of support for him? Or both? Or are there people I know that he needs to meet in order to discover his vocation? Or vice versa? Or maybe this is merely a wake-up call to me: pay attention to people around you and extend yourself the first time it occurs to you!

It will be interesting to see....

Truth (in Color)

"Are you a vegetarian?"
"No, I just can't afford to buy meat."

"You seem pretty laid back about everything; still matching your colors, while everyone around you is wearing their sweats to class."
"Well, my undergraduate college had a dress code; I haven't bought many new clothes since then."

"You make such a sacrifice to come here for Mass."
(Actually, a twenty-five minute drive is nothing compared to the price that many have to pay for orthodoxy.)

What can I say?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Thinking Like a Therapist?

Fr. C, as mentioned in previous entries, offers Mass every weekday at the high school across the street from my University.
Saturday, I noticed that Roman calendar had an optional Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since I knew of a noon Mass where I attend on Sundays, I made the trip down. Low and behold, Fr. C was the celebrant!
This morning, I went to the early Mass at the same church, and there was Fr. C again!
After Mass, he asked me, "Are you getting sick of seeing me everyday?"
I assured him I wasn't, and asked what hand he wrote with.
Apparently he wasn't expecting that question, because he hesitated before answering, "my right."
me: "What hand do you throw with?"
Fr. C: "My right."
me: "Huh. I've seen you a lot recently, and I've noticed that you seem to use your left side more than most right-dominant people generally would, but then I see you doing things with your right hand, too, ...."
I was shocked by what he told me next:
"Maybe because I had surgery on my right knee--what was that, 17 years ago now. And I had to adjust for a while and shift a lot of things to my left side. My right knee is still much weaker than my left...". (what had confused me most was how he always genuflects on his left)
I was amazed; our professors told us that we'd start noticing how people moved, and start guessing as to reasons for it. But I didn't think we knew enough yet. Here I am, thinking I'm confused about Fr. C only because I don't know very much about gait analysis.... It's really neat to be able to receive confirmation like that. Yes, this PT stuff can be for me.
Fr. C: So, is this bad in any way?
me: Oh, no! I'd only want to know if I were going to treat you.
How awesome that someday soon I'll actually be able to treat people....

Minute Triumphs

How do you distinguish in writing that you mean "my-newt" and not "minnet" when you write "minute"?
My recent "my-newt" triumph: I have recently realized that I get a lot more studying done at Frank and Sharon's house (house with the picnic table overlooking the Sound) than I do in the comfort of my bedroom abode. Especially when they're busy or not around.
This observation regarding efficiency is something of a triumph, wouldn't you agree, since some events require higher efficiency levels than others.

Leisure of the Best Kind

I was sitting outside my friends' house early this morning (even before they were awake!). The picnic table in their backyard looks out over Long Island Sound. I watched the gray sky turn a fuzzy yellow as the breeze started to nudge the clouds back over the horizon. Turning the page of my Joint Structure and Function bible, I pulled my sweatshirt on over my Sunday dress. With every paragraph I returned to, I learned more about my own knee joint, and consequently, the knee joints of all mankind.
My assignment for tutorial class on Tuesday is to present on normal knee joint motions, and then those of a knee whose ACL has been torn.

Who would have thought I could "get into" this! I thank God time and again for my degree from That Anonymous College--the place where I really learned how to "get into" learning. The amount of reading was always overwhelming to me, as I used to demand understanding of every phrase before continuing. They used to tell us, "A life of study is a life of leisure." I would always mutter some retort such as, "If I don't get it, I'm not having fun." So, a fortiori, Finals Week was the period of maximum leisure?? hmmm...which premise is "off," there?

But what excellent training all of that was! Primarily, I'm grateful for the substance of knowledge I gained. But without realizing it, I was also being trained in the method of obtaining knowledge.

I dreaded opening Joint Structure and Function this morning. Although I knew it had the information I needed, all I've been hearing from my classmates is, "It's so dense; it's so hard to read; I fall asleep after 3 pages..." anon anon anon. Gee whiz, folks! Ever try reading Hegel on a Sunday morning? Ok, let's keep it to science...Einstein? This is pleasure reading, for goodness' sake! Sure, my professor put substance into every single sentence when she wrote this book, but that just means you have to read every single sentence. Yeah, what a drag.... =b

So as I'm sitting at the picnic table, looking out over the Sound, I realize that there's nothing else I have to do today. This is my job--my vocation right now is to be a student. I can sit here all day and read about the knee joint. And by the way, I'm loving learning about the knee joint. Because I've been trained to read so as to learn. (slight stylistic plagiarism from St. Paul)

So because I'm excited about physical therapy and all the knowledge that I need to understand it more, studying about it is how I want to spend my time.

That's the kind of leisure I'm talkin' about.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Ask Dad

If you've ever seen the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," you remember that part where boyhood George Bailey is in a predicament, knowing his drunk boss has just asked him to deliver a wrong prescription to a sick woman. He's on the street in Bedford Falls, wondering what to do, when he looks up and sees an advertisement billboard exclaiming, "Ask Dad; he'll know!"
I feel like that's been the recurring theme as I phone-wrestle my bank lender, then my school, then my bank lender again, to get my hands on some loans I've been "approved for" for the past three months!

A few weeks ago, I personally visited my esteemed Director of Financial Assistance, who took my file out from the middle of a huge stack, keyed a few codes into his computer, and told me he'd send it down to "Keith," who would communicate with my bank. But we can't give you as much as you asked for. The most we can allow you to borrow is "x."
"O.k.," I say, remaining optimistic, "I think I can live on 'x.' I might be getting a job."
He responds sagely, "Can your parents help you out at all?"

Last week, I call the Student Accounts Office. I end up asking the poor woman there how I'm supposed to pay my bills until that point in time when "all the loans have arrived and the student account shows a zero balance, and then the extra can be refunded to the student."
Her reply: "Can you ask your parents for a short-time loan?"

Today, I go into the bank and talk to one of the tellers. She tells me I cannot cash the money order sent by my Dad, because I don't have that money in my account. I explain that I still don't have access to funds from my student loans, and meanwhile there are bills that have been mailed out with checks to pay them, and so soon there will be less than no funds in my checking account! So I ask, "Worse case scenario, what happens? What kind of fees am I looking at if my loans aren't in when those people ask for payment on those checks?"
"You shouldn't do that," she told me.

well, no s--t, Sherlock.

So I speak to the branch manager of my bank. Nice fellow, reminds me of my Uncle Frank.
"You know what? I don't know you," he says, "but I'm gonna take a chance on you. I'll cash this money order for you. Meanwhile, if there turns out to be overdraft on your account, take care of it within at least 15 business days, ok, sweetie?"
"Thank you so much," I say, as I clutch the rent money to my chest.

The bank manager's parting words?
yep: "And call your Dad--maybe he can send you some money to cover it for now."

What do these people think my dad does for a living?

I caved. I asked Dad.

Thanks, God, for giving me such wonderful parents.
And thanks, Dad.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Mae Therese, my most recent niece.... What a miracle every birth is!

Misdirected violence

I have this nasty habit of beating up my alarm clock in the middle of the night when I wake up to the sound of my cell phone ringing.
I could put partial blame on the annoyingly metalic quality of my cell-phone ring; it sounds like neither a phone ring, nor a soothing melody. I could also blame myself entirely for keeping the ringer volume on when I go to sleep, "just in case there's an emergency."
But what I've decided to do is thank God for the hardiness of my alarm clock, and practice my energetically awake-sounding "Hello?" for the moment at which I realize my phone is ringing.
(sorry, sis, if I was incoherent last night--I might have been trying too hard!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Speaking of prayers and exams,

Can I recruit some prayers this Friday as I take my first exam? thanks...

But, "Judge ye not, lest..."

Consider the dichotomy:
1.) Catholic-in-name university with an established "campus ministry" and two experienced resident priests: not only does not offer regular confession times, but still hasn't called back three weeks after I left a message on the machine asking to set up an appointment for confession.
2.) Catholic-in-name high school whose chaplain has been a priest for less than 6 months: offers Mass early every morning, even though only 2 people attend, one of which is a graduate student from the unaffiliated university across the street; offers his services as a confessor when noticing said student's abstinence from the Blessed Sacrament two early mornings in a row; informs student that Mass will be offered for her on a certain early morning, so if she has any special intentions, ...on the day that her sister happens to be undergoing a C-section for her 5th child!; privately asks for prayers almost daily as he leaves the chapel to teach his high school classes.

Hmmm. Spiritual nourishment sometimes flows from the most unlikely sources. But if I ever get a phonecall back from that university's campus ministry, they're in for...

"Everything in love," Dad gently reminds me.


I'm going to meet one of my classmates to study this afternoon. Guess where we're meeting? She picked it; can I just clarify that? Like I've said, I don't necessarily mind their coffee--just supporting them. But I guess they're getting some of my support today.... Starbucks: there's a monster on my corner.

Thoughts on Exams

This Friday, we will have our first exam of the year. It's the first exam of the program, actually, since it's the first year! Since last weekend, several of us have been preparing for it. There is a substantial amount of material to cover, even though we've only been in school for about 3 full weeks. I'm experiencing that in graduate school, the instructors present a concept in class and then give a list of books that we should look at on our own to reference this concept. So it's a lot of work, making sure that I understand everything that has been presented. I mean, how "full" is "full understanding?" Especially with a subject like physical therapy, where abstract ideas are difficult to think about without specific cases to reference. That aside, ...

One of my profs made an interesting, thought-provoking comment to us yesterday: "Guys, we hate exams, too. We hate giving you exams, because we hate to see what it does to you. You get all stressed out and worried, and we don't like to see that. But it's the best thing we have to measure everyone's progress through the program."

Of course, putting myself in his place, I saw what he meant. Yes, I believe he was being sincere. Our faculty wants us to stay excited about what we're doing--it's their job to help us learn, and no one likes to help someone who isn't willing.
And so I started thinking. Not only do exams show teachers where the students are in their understanding, they force the students to achieve maximum possible understanding. On average, who at that anonymous college would, every weekend, on top of their seminar readings and props, take time to get together with classmates and look at how everything fits together? Are you kidding me? It was more like, "If I read 3 pages a minute, I can be done by 7pm, grab a bagel with cream cheese, and head down to the Riveria."
Finals week was always a looming dread, but also, a unifying illumination. Sure, I pulled some all-nighters, but as I wrote those exams, I felt the never-to-be-duplicated rush, "YES! This is IT! It makes so much SENSE! Time is the MEASURE of motion!" --perhaps having something to do with the amount of sleep mentioned above, but still...unique.

I don't anticipate that type of rush this coming Friday. Somehow, I think it's different with multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank -type material. But I am enjoying the earnest discussions that are starting among my classmates and the productive study groups that are unified by the same end.

I don't think I'll ever look forward to exams, but I'm definitely developing a solid appreciation for the discipline they force me to have.

Friday, September 17, 2004


I finally tried the local coffee shop last night. A cute little place, but the tables are tiny, so it's not ideal for studying. When I study, I lay out my books across a 5-acre area. These tables were just big enough to fit a mocha mug on, if you place it carefully in the center.

Excuse me, not "mocha;" the correct word for what I drank there was a "mocha-chino." I thought I would order my usual favorite--soy almond mocha--but the girl at the register clarified, "Do you mean mocha-chino?"
"Uh,... yeah, sure," I say. After carefully watching her to see if I can figure it out for myself (I can't), I ask, "Excuse me; what is the difference between a cafe mocha and a mocha-chino?"
She explains, "A mocha-chino has espresso. A cafe mocha is just coffee with the chocolate."


So there you have it.... Case in point. Some people might find it annoying, but I think it's fun. Now I know how to order my drink there:
"I would like a soy almond mocha-chino, please; light on the flavoring."
It's a unique order from the one I'll place at another coffee shop:
"I would like a soy amaretto mocha, please; no whip, extra flavor."

And it's the same drink, with a touch of personality!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Wee hours

It being very difficult to convince my brain to think after 11pm, I have adopted an earlier bedtime during the school week. I have subsequently had to adopt the waking time of about 4am. This can be a gruesome schedule to maintain in the dark hours of early autumn mornings in New England. I foresee a special challenge right before or after a weekend--I don't generally plan to go to bed early on Fridays OR Sundays.

This morning, I heard my extremely atonal alarm go off at around 4:15. (Yes, Mrs. Gustin, I do maintain that a solitary pitch can be atonal!) My plan had been to get up early and read some material for class. As I laid there in bed with my hand holding down the snooze button, staring at the bright blue numbers, I wracked my brain for the reason why the first number was "4." I had completely forgotten my newly-adopted schedule, the fact that I had reading to do, and the concept that I really had allowed myself enough rest.
"What the heck do I possibly need to do that warrants getting up at this hour?" I distinctly remember thinking.
Nothing coming to mind, I moved the alarm time by two hours.

A few minutes later, I heard another "chime." This time, although I repeatedly slammed my hand down over the snooze button, it wouldn't stop. Then I realized--it was my phone alarm! I am not in the habit of cursing, which is beneficial in these types of circumstances. The mind isn't completely coherent, and habitual verbiage tends to take over. Mine was a mild form of sleepy frustration and again, bewilderment at what could possibly be so urgent that I should get out of bed....

So much for discipline. So much for going beyond "keeping up" with my classes.

Thank God for weekends!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Waiting for the other shoe

I hear people around here say that they bought this or that item at the "shoe market" or the "shoe store." Oddly enough, these items they're referring to are anything but shoes! They're holding up notebooks, floppy disks, decals, and sweatshirts.
When I ask where I should go to buy the requisite medical dictionary, I am told to go to the "shoe store." It's gotta be a code. A secret code.
"So, how do you get to the 'shoe store' again?" I ask nonchalantly.
Shoot. Too obvious. The person laughs as though I'm kidding (which is the signal that means, "caught your bluff but I can't give anything away").
So I wander around, looking for something that makes sense to call "shoe store" in code. Finally, I just make my way to the University bookstore, and they have it there, so I buy it. I hope the "shoe store" doesn't carry a better one....
Funny how acronyms can throw us ditzes into wild conspiracy theories!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Italian espresso...or not?

I have some very Italian friends. They're very Italian, and they're very much my friends. My very good friend Sharon, in particular, became very Italian, when she married an extremely Italian man. A man by the name of Franco--otherwise known as Frank. She became very Italian, but she's not extremely Italian...yet.

The evidence that she isn't extremely Italian yet is this:
Frank doesn't like the espresso she bought the other day. Apparently, the brand of espresso they usually buy at the local grocery store was discontinued. So she just grabbed a different, comparably inexpensive, container of self-declared "Italian espresso." When she brought it home, Frank did not approve. Said he didn't like that kind. If you're a regular espresso drinker (which she isn't) or extremely Italian, this mix-up doesn't occur.

Sharon and I went shopping today after the special memorial Mass at St. John's. We stopped at a store where she thought they might still sell the right brand. "But he drank the other stuff this morning, and didn't say anything, so I don't know...," Sharon thought out loud while she combed the shelves for an approved brand. She ended up finding it, so she bought it. "I don't know what we're going to do with that other one," she said. "Maybe I'll just switch it to this container!"

So while I'm hanging out at their house later today, drinking "American decaf," (I've learned to label it fully!) Frank comes home. "I'm going to make some espresso," he announces. "Would you like some?"
"No, thanks," I reply. "Your wife and I are drinking American decaf and hanging out."
After retreiving all the espresso-making paraphanalia, we hear Frank's voice from the kitchen, "Honey, what's this?"
Knowing that he's referring to the impersonification of "Italian espresso," Sharon replies, "Remember, it's that stuff I bought because they were out of the right kind...."
"Oh, yeah," Frank remembers. "Wait, is this the kind I made this morning?"
"Maybe,..." Sharon hesitates.
"Yeah, I didn't like it. Didn't taste good at all."
"Oh. Well, I found the right kind today. But maybe you can offer it up until this stuff is gone," his virtuous wife replies.

At which point, I volunteer to take the "wrong" kind off their hands. I don't know what will happen to me as I continue to spend so much time with these very Italian friends, but...

I'm not even close to Italian...yet!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A Breath of Roses

Happy Birthday to Our Lady!
I went to Mass this morning; Fr. C. is an obvious fan of Our Blessed Mother. Since it's early in the morning at a high school, he has a limited amount of time to offer Mass. He told me he's used to having time to say Mass, so it's a bit of an adjustment. But however short and summarized his homily was today, it wasn't lacking in substance or enthusiasm!
It's so beautiful to see such a good, holy priest so devoted to Mary. It's the same kind of virtue as that of a young man who "loves his mother." There's something very endearing about it because of the sincere humility it indicates. Generally, a son grows to be twice as strong as his mother; it takes a significant amount of maturity on his part to know that that doesn't mean he's twice as wise. The priests of the Church have studied Christ, His teachings, His instructions, and His redemptive mission. They have an intellectual grasp of theology far wider than most lay people. It is beautiful to see them still turn to Our Blessed Mother for guidance and intercession. "She has done so much for me," Fr. C. said this morning, in a tone that expressed both gratitude and the kind of pride a son feels for his loving parents.

It was a beautiful day. Besides Mass, I was able to go to him this afternoon for confession, and we talked for a while afterwards. He is a very very good man, and a holy priest. I am so blessed that he is here, so close to where I'm going to school.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Avoid the Monsters

As a former employee in a privately-owned coffee shop, I have come to understand the importance of supporting the small business owner. It takes special effort, but usually, that effort is rewarded with special services. For example, the atmosphere at our small establishment was conducive to relaxation, conversation, and peace, if not always quiet. It had a characteristic coziness to it from the moment of entry. We had our regulars, and then occasionally we'd hear little gasps of delight from people who were there for the first time.

I never had a problem with Starbucks until I started working at this place. It was only a matter of time before I started to receognize the impersonal, assembly-line attitude of a the Starbucks chain. Everything has to be the same, because the woman who is visiting Philadelphia from Sante Fe wants her "double-skinny-vanilla-mocha-no-whip" to taste exactly the same as it does at home. I agree there have to be standard procedures in coffee-making among all coffee shops. But the degree of creativity and specialty found in smaller shops will never be found at the local Starbucks chapter.

Some people dislike Starbuck's coffee. Personally, I never had a problem with the coffee itself. I just have a problem with Starbucks in general. It's a monster: the way it makes coffee into an efficiently-run monopoly instead of a specialized service. Starbucks realizes that people "need their coffee" in the morning. So "they" set up camp in key locations where it will be easy for people to drop in for their joe. That's a great business move; there's nothing wrong with smart business. And granted, when you need a jolt, you're not always looking for a sit-down "coffee break." But at some point, there should be a limit as to how many Starbucks establishments can sit on one city block. In the name of convenience, they're pushing out all the specialized shops that offer service. And I don't mean that this is just the natural trend of our fast-paced society (although that definitely contributes to the phenomenon). I mean that Starbucks literally threatens small businesses and tries to make them go away! I heard it from one of my bosses when I worked at the private coffee shop. "Oh, yeah! Starbucks hates us," he said. "They're trying to open a place right down the street, there, on the corner of . . . . Because we have a good clientele, they want to see us gone."

To a certain extent, no one "enjoys" having competitors that have to keep you on your toes. I'm sure it's only more frustrating to have a competitor which has an edge you can never take away or duplicate. It's one thing, in our capitalistic society, to try to outdo another business by good business sense. But to threaten the other company's existence? Just because you're bigger? That's being a monster. It would be nice if Starbucks could recognize the value of specialty shops and small businesses. Recognize the good aspects they possess. Maybe try to emulate some of them. But don't squash them just because it's possible to do so.

I avoid Starbuck's. I don't boycott it--at least not yet. I may get to that point eventually. (When traveling, they're generally the only coffee places that advertise on the highway.) But if I'm not on a road trip, or if I'm not committed to a schedule, I find the little coffee shops first.

I just looked one up this morning, actually, in this town where I'm going to grad school. So I gotta go check it out. What will the service be like? What will the specialties be? Isn't it more fun that way?

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Initial Sprint

It's Friday, but I've only been taking classes since Wednesday. Why does it feel like such a long week? The understanding of adjustment here is key. I've begun to realize how wise it is to plan the very first day of school in Kindergarten as a half day. And the first week each year be a half week. There's something tiring in the process of the encounter with something new--just taken all by itself. Nevermind the actual work you have to do--just getting the schedule and "swing of things" together is a project for the mind and body. Funny thing is, looking back the work we do in those first few days and weeks seems so simple. What a challenge for educators to keep it as such in order to allow adjustment to the learning process!

I've already begun to feel what I can only describe as "academic stress." There's nothing like it. If you forget some part of your presentation, or aren't sure about a certain thing that you're going to be tested on, there's no way out. You'd better make sure you did everything and you'd better find out how to understand something. There's no, "I'll talk to my boss and see what I can work out." And now in graduate school, you're never done. You can always research something else. (and this is just the first week!)

I imagine as adjustment settles in, the stress will also find its reasonable boundaries...

There's a queer feeling here stemming from several people already knowing one another from their undergraduate program. Dealing with cliques was never something I had to worry about at my tiny undergraduate college, because at the beginning of the year everyone was new, and then later we all knew each other. I guess that will happen here, too, with time. But for right now, sometimes I feel like the class as a whole has very immature social relations. Maybe I would act the same way, though, if I had a group of people I was already comfortable with. I hope that this will further teach me empathy for the outsiders I come across in life.

Again, the phenomenon with many things starting at one, to assume that the dynamics of today will not change three weeks from now!

Bizarre, waiting for adjustment; knowing that someday, it will all feel comfortable and smooth. Because right now, each moment of awkwardness or hesitation feels like a wide breadth of time.

Wait it out, wait it out.
It'll pass.
Prayer, trust, abandonment to the will of God....