Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Miracles

Christmas Miracle #1: Nutmeg, her DH, and their children (the "Grands") made it through the snowy roads up from Dallas to join us on Thursday evening for a cup of hot chocolate and some cookies before crashing into bed.

Christmas Miracle #2: Portia and her LH made it through the snowy roads from Las Vegas to join us very late on Thursday night for "a drink." I don't know the details--I turned in as soon as I got my hugs from the couple I haven't seen since last Christmas!

Christmas Miracle #3: Although his early Friday morning flight was cancelled due to the weather in Denver, Colin's sweet-talkin' smiles--Carolina style!--got him a confirmed seat on a flight that arrives this evening into Denver. He wouldn't pass up the chance to meet the entire family, all at once!

So a Blessed Fourth Sunday of Advent, and a Happy Christmas Eve to us all!

It's sort of a schizophrenic day as far as the Liturgical Season goes. This was reflected in the music at our little mountain chapel this morning, too. We started with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" as the entrance hymn, and for the recessional, sang "O Holy Child of Bethlehem." As our celebrant said, for many of those who are going to the Christmas Vigil, today is a "two-fer."

There is a lot of busy activity here in the house; Christmas Eve is winning out as the day's title. The special Polish Christmas Eve dinner, Vigilia, must be ready to go when the first star is seen in the sky! (Or, in other words, when Nutmeg, her DH, and the "Grands" get home from the 5:30pm Vigil Mass)! There were also breakfast casseroles to be prepped for tomorrow morning's post-present-opening hunger stampede.

So it's a busy, but also a waiting, sort of day. The "Grands" wander in and out of the kitchen looking for a glass of juice, a piece of cheese, a mitten for snowboarding, or permission to play on the computer. The fireplace is swept out and ready for another late afternoon fire. Nutmeg helps Mom brainstorm the logistics of the meal service.
Portia and her LH made an eggbake, then slipped out to see a dear friend in town. Unfortunately, dear brother is working and won't be coming up until after 9:30pm. He will have a late Vigilia, but Colin and I will join him when we arrive from Denver.

Christmas Miracle #4: Everyone will be here for Christmas dinner tomorrow night, for the first time in 4 years.

God bless us, everyone.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tree Angel!

Due to the number of questions posed on family members' blogs regarding whether or not we actually have a tree topper, Dad went out and bought a new one!
So now, there is a glowing angel at the top of our beautiful Christmas tree:

See, good thing we have these blog things.... What a great avenue of communication!

Friday, December 15, 2006

No more work:

I keep trying to convince Mom that cooking and baking all day for Christmas is fun, not work.

She and I started with pierogi's at 8:30am. When we had stopped for lunch, we had made the cheese pierogi's, cheese and potato pierogi's, blueberry pierogi's, prune pierogi's, and most of the cabbage pierogi's. After lunch, we finished up the cabbage pierogi's and started in on the baking.

By 4:15pm, we had successfully finished and stored away:
Rum balls
Snow moons
Peanut butter bon bons
Cow pies
Gingerbread cookie dough

On the list for tomorrow's baking agenda:
Gingerbread men (with the dough made today)
Oatmeal craisin chip cookies
Brownies with chocolate mint frosting

Off to check out the brother's new digs this evening.

It's so good to be home!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Peppermint Meme

I have been tagged! Since I'm still under the roof of the parentals, these questions will be answered accordingly. In other words, no surprises for most of my readers, who are related to me and have the same childhood experiences!

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?

Hot Chocolate--and make sure there's a candy cane in it! If no candy canes are available, a mint teabag also works well.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa wraps and puts the presents under the tree. He does this when we're all asleep, after an joyous but exhausting night of consuming the large Vigilia meal, staying up for Midnight Mass, staying up during Midnight Mass, then crawling into bed.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White icicle lights on the house, around the Nativity scene, and along the banister. We've done colored lights on the tree before, but I think we're doing white more consistently now.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No, but plenty of holly and evergreen.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
We start putting decorations out after Thanksgiving. The Christmas tree is sometimes up before everyone gets home from college, etc, but it's still usually one of the later decorations, to allow for maximum family involvement!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I love the pierogi course! But I also love the Christmas breakfast food--the special puff pastry that Mom makes is so yummy. I also love the ham at dinner... gee whiz, everything tastes good when it's eaten with family at Christmas!

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Getting up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to go to the bathroom when we were living in Gorham, and from the kitchen doorway near the stairs, seeing the Christmas tree lights peaking out of the living room. I have a distinct memory of seeing them twinkling, and feeling the magic of that night.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I heard that there wasn't a Santa, and asked Dad about it. He told me that Santa was not the one who came and left gifts Christmas Eve night, but that the "spirit of Santa" was real. I thought that was a lame answer at the time--I think I was about 9 years old--but now I understand St. Nicholas and the rest of the tradition...!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We used to open up our gift from Mom, when she would make us Christmas pajamas to wear that night. Now she makes us other beautiful things, and we open everything Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree
After the lights, we hang lots of beautiful ornaments, lots of child-crafted ornaments, lots of cultural collectibles. Then we put on the garland (used to do tinsel, but those days are over), hang the candy canes, and then the icicles go on last, on the tips of the tree.

11. Snow? Love it or Dread it?
Love snow, especially if we don't have to travel, and there's a fire in the fireplace!

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes. Also love that.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I love every gift I've received, except for the occasional itchy sweater. My favorites are the homemade gifts. Mom always gives at least one or two of those and they are so seical, because there is so much love knitted, sewn, or distilled (!!) into them! I think one of the best was the huge southwestern-themed poncho she made Portia and I one year for our "Pit adventures!"

14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you?
Going home--and having other members of the family come home. If not everyone is going to be home, the next best exciting thing about the holidays is ski-time!

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
The Polish cookies that I don't know how to spell, the peanut butter bon bons, the rum balls, and the mint-frosted brownies. I don't have one favorite...!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
The Polish Christmas Eve Dinner, Vigilia.

17. What tops your tree?
An angel. Unless she broke again... (?) Sometimes our tree is too tall to have an actual topper.

18. Which do you prefer - giving or receiving?
Giving--it's so much fun to watch people opening gifts that I've spent time and love picking out or, in some cases, making for them.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and The First Noel

20. Candy canes?
Yessss... especially in Hot Chocolate!

I hereby "tag" Tim and KT.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy Advent!

The tree this year is from Ridgefield, Connecticut :) .
I met Rosa at 5:30pm Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and we walked around admiring New York City's festive light display.
After a warm dinner in a cozy Irish pub, we took the train together back up to Connecticut-land. It put me in the "preparation" spirit of Advent!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Capstone II ... finished!!!

Our group of three was the only group who remained inside the 20-minute time limit.
Therefore, our Capstone presentation was a huge success! (just kidding)

But it actually went really well; we were able to summarize our semester-long project well enough for our class to understand. Our clinical preceptors were there; they were very impressed with us, and they expressed their glowing opinions to our advisor, so that felt good!

This picture is of the question and answer period afterward--there were only clarification questions, no questions suggesting edits or changes. So that means we don't have much more to do before turning in the final bound copy on Monday!
From left to right, it is me, Jene, and Marisa:

Today is my last tutorial. And not only the last of the semester. Colin reminded me last night that this is my last tutorial, EVER ever. He appreciates the ending of coursework--he says that the last day of his coursework was one of the happiest days of his life.

In tutorial today, we have to compile some evaluative surveys of the class' perception of this past semester (it's the first time this semester has been done before--this is the only one that the faculty had to make from scratch for the new doctoral program). After we're done, we'll be going out for some adult beverages as a group!

Bittersweet, this close of the last semester of coursework. More sweet than bitter, though, at this point!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The joys of packing...

I recall my freshman year at College, when my roommate and I came back to the dorm room from Thanksgiving break, dumped all of our stuff onto one twin bed, and slept together in the other twin bed until we left again for Christmas break. It was only after returning from Christmas break that we resumed our normal quarters.

This may seem extreme, but I feel the same now--that if I unpack my suitcase, I will only be packing it up again in a few weeks. So what's the point, really?

My room is the strange combination of utter disaster with belongings strewn across the floor, and open emptiness with most of my wall-hanging pictures in storage bins in North Carolina.

There's a shopping bag in front of my closet, overflowing with old clothes, that's bound for Goodwill (at some point in the next few weeks), two bookshelves half-full of books that I will take with me, books in piles all over the floor that I will need to place in storage, empty cardboard boxes that I will use to pack my things into, six home-brews sitting in a cardboard box with stickers that say "David" across the top of them, to designate that they are from my professor's batch and not mine, and my suitcase, still full from this past Thanksgiving weekend.
My bed, I made sure, is completely clear of clutter.

Which is why, instead of tackling the mess, I am now falling into bed!
Mmhmm; nice clean sheets after a hot shower and a glass of sweet orange juice. What more could a girl ask for at 7:30pm after a long day?

I'll start packing tomorrow.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


After dinner Saturday night, on the terrace of his parents' 18th-floor apartment, overlooking Washington D.C. ...

Colin: So, do you believe me now, that I am who I said I am?
Me: Yes.... I think I always believed you. I just didn't believe I could be so lucky.
Colin: Well, you're a special person. Sometimes, good things happen to special people.
Me: I also can't believe that you've come this far without somebody else snatching you up.
Colin: Like I said, I'm a pretty average guy. No one really notices me--there's nothing all that special about me--
Me: --yes, there is.
Colin: Well, I guess I just fly beneath the radar.
Me: You flew straight into my radar.
Colin: Yeah, I guess I was just lucky, then!

Around midnight Saturday night, after several spine-crushing hugs and a few goodbye kisses...

Me: Colin, am I your girlfriend?
Colin: Can I be--I mean, ...can you be my girlfriend?
Me: Yes!
Colin: Good, 'cause I don't wanna leave you hangin' out there. (in his very cute quasi-North Carolina accent)

The next day, on the phone, ....
Alissa (laughing): Did you tell him that you didn't want to be kissed?
Me: No, ...because I did!

And a few minutes later, on the phone, ...
Me: So, did your parents have anything to say?
Colin: They loved you! They told me I have to always tell you how wonderful and refreshing you are.
Me: Wow. ...that's really nice of them.
Colin: Yeah, so I guess I just have to tell you everyday, so you don't forget.

Friday, November 24, 2006

November 24th, 2006

It was the best day; one of the best days, ever.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend Means...

...I have some time to blog!!

This past Sunday, my entire class (with the exception of two members) met for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone brought a dish or a drink, and we gathered for a noisy night of laughter and conversation about everything other than physical therapy, while the football game blasted in the background. There was everything from the traditional turkey and cranberry sauce to butternut squash soup, baked ziti, and Irish soda bread. Surprisingly, there were not many leftovers! It was a fun evening--the video camera was going, and there was much creative brainstorming about our upcoming "skit night" on December 7th, where we all get together with the faculty to make humorous commentary on the past few years.
In some ways, it's super-exciting to be almost finished, but at the same time, it's going to be sad to leave all my classmates, with whom I've spent so much time and shared so many trials these past 2 and 1/2 years.
Everyone agrees that leaving this Christmas break is going to be a bittersweet experience. Our class has become very close; although there are close friends and less-close friends, there are no real cliques among us. Graduation in May promises to be an emotional reunion and farewell for all of us.

On another note, I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn yesterday morning to bring my car in for a "trip-check." Thankfully, everything is in good working order--I have no problem paying $40 for peace of mind while driving my 103,000+ mileage car at night by myself! By 8:45 last night, I was on the road to Washington, D.C. for a weekend of fun with friends, both old and new!

Perhaps it is because this year I am almost finished with all of my coursework, but I've noticed that I'm really able to tune in and really possess a profound sense of gratitude this Thanksgiving. Yesterday I was writing my personal message for our class yearbook, and I was overwhelmed to the point of tears at how many people I owe thanks to, for helping me reach this point (the end!) in my program.

[note: being overwhelmed to the point of tears--even when they are tears of gratitude--is not generally recommended when sitting in the middle of a class discussion about marketing principles for physical therapy!]

But honestly, that list alone is gigantic. Then there's the list of circumstances and people that I'm grateful to God for placing in my life, even if they are not directly involved in where I am in my educational process. Friends that I have met, friends that I have kept, places I have been fortunate enough to live in, experiences I have been fortunate to have, accidents and injuries I have been preserved from, tragedies I have escaped.... I am probably not even aware of half of the blessings I've received.

Although I'm not able to be with family this year, there are other blessings afoot. As Nutmeg assures, there will be plenty of stories to exchange after this weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

And if you're reading this, then you're probably one of my blessings. So, ...

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Well, here it is! Finally, the family has added a dog to their clan....

He's a yellow lab--very lively, but also not wild. He'll run around with Ellen for a bit, and then contentedly settle down on the floor in the kitchen, watching the goings-on.

I was asked to take him out for a walk this evening, and he was so good!

{sigh} ... I want one.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I can multitask when I have different windows open on one computer, one being a conversation, and the others being schoolwork.

I can multitask--to a lesser extent--when I am typing on the computer and conversing with others in the same room with me. (this applies well when taking notes in class, or doing projects with classmates)

I can multitask when listening to others on the phone while cleaning, driving, folding laundry, dressing, applying make-up, cooking, etc.

I cannot multitask worth beans when listening to others on the phone and trying to do school work on my computer.

Consequence: I woke up early to do a lot of my school work for today!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not doing work,...

There are so many uses for these school-issued computers...

My roommate, Sarah, passed by my room this evening.
"Oh, my gosh, Shannon. Look at that grin on your face!"
Next thing I knew, she came back and took a picture of me.

I'll give you one guess as to what I was doing.... **

**note: the above challenge is meant as a hypothetical question, and is not intended to elicit comments, speculations, or musings about any persons or places related to the above photo.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If it weren't Sunday, ...

...we would have known it was the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila.

I'm sure I've posted it before, but it's always worth hearing / reading / saying again:

"Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass.
God does not change.
Patience achieves everything.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
Christ has no body on earth now but yours;
no hands but yours;
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes
through which the compassion of Christ
must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet
with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands
with which he is to bless his people."

Friday, October 13, 2006

I'm so proud of him...

My little friend, Andrew, is a celebrity this week in his local paper.

Well, actually, he's a celebrity wherever he goes.... He tends to make friends with whomever crosses his path!

Here is just one example...
One afternoon a few weeks ago, Andrew and I took a trip to the library. His mom thought it would be a good idea to find some books on tape, and to couple them with the actual books so that Andrew could follow along. Since she could find neither Andrew's library card, nor her own, she asked if I would mind asking for new ones while we were there.

Andrew and I arrived at the library in the family's handicap-accessible van, and bee-lined it for the juvenile fiction section, using a ramp to the lower level. We successfully chose two books on tape that I thought would be appropriate for his reading level and that he thought he would like to read. We picked up the book and the tape for Mary Poppins, but just the tape for Charlotte's Web, since he told me he had the book at home. I told him he should browse the shelves for a few minutes while I went back upstairs to check the books out, since it would be boring for him to wait at the desk with me while the librarian re-issued two library cards.

The new-library-card-process took much longer than I thought it would. I started to worry that Andrew might wonder whether I'd forgotten about him...or that he might knock something over trying to maneuver his power wheelchair through a narrow aisle. Since Andrew is easily distracted in new places, I was even concerned that he might accidentally run into someone while intently perusing the shelves. The protective side of me was also anxious that he would encounter other children who would stare at him but not talk to him, or worse, say something degrading to him. I did not want to leave him alone for too long. (I should have known not to underestimate Andrew's suave and charm!)
Fortunately, the check-out desk at the library was on a balcony, so I could walk a few feet and glance down at him every once in a while. Hoping the librarian did not think I was rude or trying to rush her, I paced back and forth between the desk and the balcony's view several times during the course of the new-library-card-process.

Finally, I hurried down the stairs to the lower level, and met up with Andrew driving his chair out from between some of the bookshelves. Behind him was a boy of approximately his own age, carrying three books under his right arm, and one book in his left hand, which he offered to me.
"Here you go," the boy said, and Andrew continued for him, "I would also like to get this one out, please," (then turning his head to the boy who was now next to him), "Thank you for helping me."
"You're welcome," the boy said softly, as he turned to walk away.
"That was so nice of you; thank you," I commended the boy, impressed with his matter-of-fact attitude about coming to Andrew's aid.

Next on the agenda was homework.
"Andrew," I explained, "we can do your math homework here, but we need to find a table big enough for your chair." We both looked around doubtfully at all the low round tables scattered throughout the juvenile section.

"Excuse me, sir!" Andrew said out loud, before I realized there was another young boy approaching our spot in front of the shelves.
"Yes?" the boy looked at Andrew and then at me, a little doubtfully--a reaction, probably not only to Andrew's obvious physical disability, but also to Andrew's use of the word "sir" in addressing him!
"Could you tell me where we might find a table big enough for my chair, so that I can do my homework?" Andrew asked innocently.
The boy shifted his weight from one leg to the other, apparently thinking seriously about his answer. "Well," he responded with some authority, "you might be able to find some tables on the other side down here..." (at this point, it took too much energy for Andrew to keep his head up and turned in the boy's direction, so he slowly let his chin drop to his chest).
The boy then directed the rest of his answer to me: "If not, I guess he might be able to use one of the study tables upstairs."
"Thank you very much," Andrew graciously replied, lifting his head a little bit.
"You're welcome," the boy said amiably, and continued on.

I led Andrew over to the tables in the periodical section, where the boy had pointed, marveling at his social magnetism. These kids aren't cruel to him; he's so polite, so unassuming, so vulnerable.... Somehow, they sense the goodness in him.

And he becomes a celebrity.

I love Paris in the Springtime...

...But I love New England in the Fall!

The leaves are turning, and it's a crisp 53 degrees outside.

Late this morning, my Capstone II group (yes, I have another huge project this semester...) drove up to the community hospital we're working with, about 40 miles north of school. The Merritt Parkway was stunning, with firey red, orange and yellow leaves dancing their shadows across the road in the bright sunlight. I kicked myself for not bringing my camera. The further north we drove, the more lovely the foliage became.

Autumn is my favorite season anywhere; but it's just the prettiest up here in the Northeast. I am blessed to be able to enjoy it for another year.

(this picture is from last year, toward the end of the season, when many of the leaves were on the ground...I'll have to post some pictures from this year soon!)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Long weekends...

Unfortunately, the reason I get a long weekend right now is the same reason everyone else does: it's a bank holiday.
Which means, of course, that EVERYONE had the idea to turn a 5-hour drive down to Washington, D.C. into a 7-hour drive! However, seeing friends is always worth the trip. (once I finally arrive!)
I must admit, studying and working on my school projects is much more enjoyable when done by the side of Katie, my nursing student buddy! And even more enjoyable when done in a vibrant, wireless-enabled coffee shop in Virginia, where people-watching every ten minutes breaks up the monotony.
Not fun, though, to have to manually repair my wireless adapter on my computer; something is wrong, but I'm not savvy enough to be able to fix the root of the problem. I need to get that fixed on my return to school.
In other news, I will know my clinical internship placement by the beginning of November!

Prayers are appreciated!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I'm glad somebody finally said it out loud (dramatically!)
Exactly my sentiments--to which my younger siblings will attest. But I could never have said it better than this. In fact, I think the best I've ever done is mutter, "atheist commy" under my breath when I've heard that song--and promptly changed the station!
Read it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

First country music, then blogging

Country music, over the course of about ten years, took over my family.
There was no specific pattern--I started listening to the stuff while rooming with a lovely girl from South Dakota at That Anonymous College. South Dakota and country music somehow came in the same bundle. "The lyrics are generally pro-family, and the music is just fun!" she taught me. I got used to it, then started singing along to it, then started having favorites.

Then my family moved to Colorado. I think Dad was the first one who recognized the easy transfer from folk guitar to bluegrass banjo. I don't know how it started, but I noticed one summer that the pre-set radio buttons in his car led to our major country stations.

Mom, whose folk music taste had more of a Joan Baez, Judy Collins flavor, took a little longer. "It just sounds!" she tried to explain her aversion to the twang and the fiddle. Little by little, though, the smooth croonings of Alison Krauss teased her into the greater realm of country genre.

My younger sisters and brother were not to be moved. Portia, who was always our eclectic member, liked bands I never heard of and listened to music I never recognized. My brother, by some bizarre twist of nature, liked rap and hard rock--two of my least favorite sounds in general. And my youngest sisters were continually excited over pop rock and cheesy boy-bands.

My older sister, though, the big BNL fan, stopped me when I started singing along to a country song we overheard one day. "This is a great song isn't it? It's one of my favorites. See, this is country!" --as if I didn't know.... but I didn't know that she had country music favorites, and told her so. "Oh, wait, it's not you. It's Portia that doesn't like country music," she remembered, referring to our next-youngest sister.

But Portia came around by her junior year of college. She first admitted liking the Dixie Chicks, and has since broadened her country tastes. There were several country selections on her wedding reception music list, as a matter of fact.

Two summers ago, I heard my two high school -aged sisters playing country music in their room. They still played a lot of other music that made me cringe, but at least some small movement in tastes occurred, and it made me smile.
My youngest sister is still not completely converted, but she has her picks of country that she enjoys. And as for the older of the two, I hope her appreciation for these types of tunes remains, since I included plenty of them on a CD I burned for her when she left for That Anonymous College this year!

The final step, however, was when I overheard country music drifting out of my brother's room this past summer. I actually knocked and asked him what it was all about. He said that guys he played baseball with liked to listen to country music, and so he heard it all the time when they carpooled to games. "I kind of got used to it, and so I listen to it sometimes," he concluded. Noting that he was in his bedroom at the moment and not anywhere near a carpool or a baseball game, I nodded reflectively and backed out.



My "Favorite Family" blogroll is growing. Check out the latest addition, which I was only just made aware of: my brother's blog!

However, I must here include a Warning!! Do not read this when you are supposed to be doing something else (such as paying attention to a class discussion on the VA System of Healthcare in the United States). I almost cried reading one post, then almost burst out laughing a few different times while reading another post. He's a great storyteller.

So, when are Mom and Dad going to start blogging?

Monday, September 18, 2006

growing so fast

I was finally able to see my friend Sharon's little Maria in New Jersey yesterday, at Sharon's parents' house. We had a barbeque and celebrated Sharon's doctoral status!

This is Maria (with her mom) when I last saw her, at 8 months of age:

and this is Maria yesterday (with her oldest and youngest cousins), now one year old!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Like a River

Coming back to school after a summer away is not just about taking different classes. The entire environment has changed. Different roommates, a different neighborhood, and friends in different places. No, it's not bad--just ever-changing, and a continual adjustment. Like a river (hello, Garth).

Of course, this heightens appreciation for the things that do not change.

My best friend, although recently named a "Doctor" by the psychology department at St. John's University, is still the loving, supportive, fun, Irish-German-but-becoming-Italian girl that I can talk to about anything. Her extended family, who have welcomed me into their lives, have developed and ended relationships, acquired new jobs, given birth to more children. But their homes are still the loving havens that they were when I left.

The family I work for is growing; everyone is one year farther along in school, a bit taller, a little more mature around the eyes. Andrew has a walker now that allows him to really move around and use his leg muscles. But he still laughs hysterically at my feeble quips, and wants to talk about Disney movies well past bedtime.

The children I used to babysit on weekends are looking forward to seeing me tonight, after a 5-month hiatus. I emailed their mother this morning, assuring her that I would love to come, despite some head-cold issues the household is having. This is the email I got in reply:
"Oh, if you could have seen the two girls dancing with delight as I read your e-mail out loud to them. (Jason and the boys are out running errands or they would surely be dancing too)." I'm sure there will be plenty of vertical growth there, as well, accelerated by their sunshine-filled family vacations. But I take pleasure in the knowledge that we will likely have Uncle Joe's take-out pizza for dinner, and the two oldest will chat my ear off about their summer adventures, and eagerly soak up my stories from home. The little 6 year-old will resist going to bed, and the smallest son will capture my heart with his sweet smiles.

My wonderful spiritual director, although in a different parish, is the same priest with the same gentleness and loving guidance. Today he reminded me (again) that for me and for who I am, a true union of human hearts presupposes that the other's heart is sincerely in love with Christ through His Church. Fr. PNC was firm, but expressed his point in such a gentle, fatherly way that I found myself agreeing with him from beginning to end--including the necesary conclusion. Small ouch, but again, I'm moving on.

My roommates are friends of mine from the program. So we've been school buddies for two years now--going on three. I finally get to live with them, which inevitably reveals other sides of ourselves to one another. I laughed when one of them told me she didn't think of me as a morning person--she was under the impression that I'd like to sleep in all day, everyday, if I could. That's one impression that isn't going to take long to change! She also thinks of me whenever she sees this commercial, so wonders never cease... :)

I saw another old friend for breakfast this morning--the sole returning teacher for some families in the parish--along with a "new" friend, who is also teaching this year. Some of the children have gone on to high school, but most are still part of the Academy. And I look forward to hearing new stories with familiar names and circumstances.

Funny thing, how in a way it's the same, and in another way, completely new.

Like a river.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Making Friends"

My CI (clinical instructor) this summer would use this term a lot when he was "backing off" a particularly uncomfortable manual treatment, or when he was providing a soothing, or pain-relieving treatment.
For example, taking someone's shoulder movement through the maximum available range (to the point of pain) almost always elicited at least an "Argh" from the patient. After doing a series of mobilizations to effect the greatest range for the day, my CI would then immediately revert to gentle oscillations--which does relieve pain through stimulation of the joint's mechanoreceptors--and announce, "and now I'm making friends."

But in this case, I am using the term "making friends" in reference to my bed. Already, in barely the third week of September, I am returning to the school-year pattern of daily excited anticipation about my time spent sleeping in bed at night. How sad--looking so forward to rest. I don't want to wish my last semester away, really.

I have spent the greater part of the evening figuring out international adoption regulations, as well as healthcare insurance policy for adoptive children of such circumstances. This research has led me to 4 conclusions:
1. There are a lot of beautiful children all over the world that I would now like to adopt.
2. My bed is really soft and warm and inviting.
3. Children who are adopted from overseas are legally covered under their adoptive parents' health insurance.
4. My bed wants to make friends.

So now that I've figured out the solution to my tutorial groups "problems" for tomorrow, I'm going to bed!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts about Sundays

"Is it good to be home?"
My friend, Rosa, asked me this question yesterday after our Sunday dinner at her mother's house. She immediately caught her mistake and said, "Well, I guess this isn't really home for you...but you know what I mean."
"I loved being at home this summer," I explained to Rosa. "It was really difficult to leave. But now that I'm here, it's good to be back. And when it's time to go again, it will be difficult to leave."

But I did know what she meant. In fact, eating the traditional "Ragu" with Italian-speaking friends after a beautiful High Mass at St. John's was, in its own way, like coming home. I told her mother, Maria, that tasting her Sunday sauce was like "tasting" home--the home that's been made for me here in Connecticut.
"I knew that's how it would be," Maria nodded. "That's why, when I saw you at Mass, I thought, if you're not doing anything, you should come join us."
Her son Frank (who is married to my dear friend Sharon) says that even just the smell of the Ragu is a comforting thing for him. It carries with it both memories and promises of family time together on Sunday afternoons, time to take a break from work and enjoy one another's company.

Alex, still in high school, excused himself from the table immediately after the meal.
"Where are you going?" his father, Tony, asked.
"I have to finish my Chemistry," he explained.
"You're getting to be just like Shannon," said Maria, referring to my computer-toting, study-between-activities habits of last year's Sundays.
"No, no,"I shook my head. "I'm taking Sundays off this year. They are really going to be my days of rest."
"Yeah, right," Alex challenged.
"I'm serious!" I exclaimed, trying to convince him.
"How long is that going to last?" he retorted.
"All year," I said. "I promise. You can call me on it."
"Don't make promises you can't keep," he continued to tease me.
"I'll keep it. You wait."

I have been appropriately challenged by friends to honor the Lord's Day in all practicality, with all the sacrifices which that might entail.
"It's like tithing," my friend Erin explained to me a few weeks ago. "What makes people think, if they 'cannot' tithe when they're making a few dollars a week, that they're all of a sudden going to be able to tithe when they make a decent paycheck?"
What she was telling me is true. What makes me think that I'm ever going to wake up and say, "Now my life is not as busy; I can start honoring the Sabbath."?
There will always be responsibilities; there will always be more to accomplish. Even when the day comes that I work "normal" hours, I will have to find time to clean house, buy groceries, do laundry, shop for birthday presents, etc. But Sunday is an open day reserved by God for rest, in His honor. What a temptation!
People have done it. It takes time management and determination.

And, of course, plenty of prayer.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Home - (sniff?) - Home...

I made it across the entire country! There were even fireworks in Indianapolis to celebrate my one-night stay there with my former clinical instructor and some of her family. (well, maybe that wasn't the only reason for the fireworks...)

Sunday morning at around 8:30am, after passing a sign in Ohio pronouncing "Columbus 25," I asked my mother at home in Colorado to go online and find me a 9am Mass there. Please realize that this was 6:30am her time! After some searching, she adeptly located a church and gave me precise directions from the highway. As we were saying goodbye, I was exiting I-70. I arrived in front of the church about three minutes later with plenty of time to spare! Definitely a recommended adventure. It turns out that this parish is the oldest one in Ohio, established in 1848, and it is still rather beautiful. Stained glass windows, a beautiful altar, murals behind the altar, and only 250 members in the parish! When I heard that (the priest was giving the annual "Sermon on the Amount" report, as he called it, after Mass!) I realized that everyone in attendance must be certain of my visitor status! They were all very welcoming and friendly later over in the church hall for (free!) coffee and donuts. =)

Saw friends in D.C.--some of whom I haven't seen for almost a year. That was great. I overslept on Labor Day, so I did not leave for Connecticut as early as I had planned. But it gave Katie, Erica, and me some "girl time" on the back porch of their house that morning--complete with cups of coffee and plenty of laughter!

Our new place is live-able. Three of my classmates and I have the upstairs 4 bedrooms of a 7-bedroom house, and then there are people living downstairs. It's not exactly two separate apartments, but we do have our own kitchen upstairs, and we will just hang out in each others' bedrooms for socializing! We each have at least a full-sized bed provided, and we've been settling in as quickly as possible, since classes have already started.

The living room downstairs pretty much belongs to the two guys living down there, and now also to the girl who just moved into the other bedroom down there. The downstairs contigent keeps to themselves for the most part, but their very rich-smelling living room "social smoke" drifts upstairs almost every evening. The first few nights I had what I now call a secondary grass headache, which I never before experienced. In fact, one of the first nights here, I started to smell it while I was on the phone. I asked my friend on the other line, "Hey, can you tell me what weed smells like?"
"Given my limited experience with the odor," he began, involuntarily reassuring me by his uncertainty, "and my dull sense of smell, ...I would describe it to be what burning crab-apples might smell like."
I thought it a thoughtful, perceptive analysis. But being that I have never even tried to imagine what burning crab-apples might smell like, I was still unsure.

So later, after my roommate Marisa had arrived home, and when I was walked through a cloud of nasal ambush at the top of the stairs, I asked her, "Is that what it smells like?" Her emphatic reply in the positive only served to increase my headache that had begun a few hours before. Yes, it is unpleasant, to say the least. If our housemates continue to pollute the entire house with it, despite our gentle protests, we'll have to get the landlord to intervene. Which might be interesting, considering he's about our age, if not a little younger. Who knows whether he cares that it's going on.

As you may guess, there are definite advantages to only living here for the next 3 and 1/2 months. On the other hand, it is also very exciting to be living with classmates again--and such clean, responsible, fun, and studious girls altogether! The "clean" characteristic, in particular, is good, since we do not have a dishwasher--everyone likes to keep the sink empty, so there's no foreseeable conflict there.

Classes are going to be fine this semester. No exams, just projects, which is great. And they are all relevant projects, as well: we'll be working with actual clinical sites to help install programs or solve problems. Class time this semester is really reduced, since we don't have labs, so that gives ample time for projects, career planning, and part-time work!

We also need a lot of money as a program and as a class to fund activities surrounding graduation next May--in particular, the annual Dinner Dance. So I'm going out (as in, on the town!) tonight--something I do more in graduate school than undergrad, as it turns out. As a fundraising tradition, the Student Physical Therapy Association is always bargaining with places to collect their cover charges! And guess who--just today--was semi-appointed, and actually semi-volunteered, as a result of being present at the semi-opportune moment, to spearhead the rest of the fundraising for the semester? Yep, yours truly, the one whom everyone is always surprised and excited to see out at a bar. I guess I don't quite fit the "type."

So, you ask, will I be negotiating with bars and other places of drinking and debauchery? No way; the revenue from such has not been very beneficial, as far as percentage. Not worth it, in my opinion--although it's a good excuse for the entire program to get together and hang out, so I'm sure someone will continue organizing those nights. But as for fundraisers, my first official idea for implementation is a class-wide yard sale, so we can get rid of all of our junk accumulated over the past 2 years. After all, we'll all be leaving in December for our last clinical internships--who wants to deal with all this stuff? Two weeks from tomorrow, then, our backyard will be converted into Tag Sale City--100% of the proceeds going to the SPTA fund. In this case, our junk will also be our treasure!

This weekend being the first in the final semester--not very busy yet, in other words--I am heading down to New York to see the relatives on Saturday.

Then next week, the projects start in full-swing, and although I will attempt to be semi-regular in blogging, I make no promises!

Prayers are appreciated, as always....

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Saying Good-bye

It's difficult to say good-bye to friends, but even more so when there are small children involved. Three and a half months is not a long time in the span of a lifetime, but when it's the difference of six months old and ten months old, that means missing out on a lot of goings-on!

Here is the son of my dear friends, Sarah and Mike: little Alex, whom I have had the honor of spending time with at least once a week this summer. I wish I could take everyone with me whenever I leave.

I'm always leaving, it seems.

The funny thing is that there are babies where I am going, as well. I miss home already and do not want to begin the drive tomorrow, but I know it will be difficult to leave Connecticut again when that time comes. I will miss the children that I babysit and play with and spend family dinners with. It happens that I tend to build my nest wherever I land, but soon it's time to fly again.

Over farewell dinners this past week with friends, I realized how transient this time of life is. I'm mobile; I can visit people on my way across country. There is nothing necessary or definite about where I will be living at this time next year. But right now, I have the privelege of being with close friends for extended periods of time. I should be grateful for my flexibility, because when you combine that with a motorized vehicle, great things happen.

Christ was 30 years old when He began His public ministry, and I'm sure He was not complaining before that time about His situation. He was not concerned about whether the Father was calling Him, or how He would know for sure what He was supposed to do. Even in this way, He is an example for us. Do not worry about what the future holds, for we know Who holds the future.

And on that note, I'm off again: Connecticut-bound!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another Summit

Here I am, surrounded by members of Erin's family, at the top of another mountain in Colorado!

The summit shot for Grays Peak (14,270 feet) displays the sky behind as deceptively clear. During the course of our hike, everything from rain to snow to hail fell, and fog continually drifted around us. We learned to be quick on the draw with our cameras, since minutes after a photo-op sighting, views would be engulfed in white clouds (see below).

Although freezing cold--literally!--we had a great time together, and completed the ascent and descent in less than 6 hours.

I was able to make it back home for a shower before work at the coffee shop last night, which was definitely a plus.

I've discovered that slightly overcast days for hiking are my favorite, since I tend to squint a lot in the sun, and end up giving myself a headache. It's also nice not to be dripping with sweat while enjoying the cool breezes at the top of a mountain!

So out of 54 fourteeners in the state of Colorado, I've now climbed five. Woopie. No plans to conquer them all, mind you. But it's fun to keep a check-list!

This is my last weekend in Colorado for the summer, and I'm convinced that climbing a mountain was the perfect activity for a final hurrah.

The good news is that Erin's family will be renting a condo in that area again over Christmas break, when it will be ski season! So of course, the hope is that I will be back there again in just about 4 months =) ....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bear Peak

This one was only eight thousand - something in elevation, but it was described as one of the most "prominent peaks" in Boulder, Colorado.

I hiked this one with my latest "married friends" couple, Erin and Bryce.

We hiked there Saturday because the weather deterred us from tackling a fourteener.

There were signs all along the trail warning that the area was popular among black bears, but unfortunately, we saw none.

Come weather or will, we are climbing a fourteener this coming weekend, called Grays Peak. And it will be quite a crowd on the expedition: 7 of us in all. So I hope we summit, and then I can have an even 5 bagged before my return to Connecticut in a few weeks!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Site of the week:

Go here for a quick but humbling read, as well as a request for any assistance you can give. The letter at this site is from a college friend who is hoping to enter a fantastic religious order this fall.
Please take a moment and pray for continued grace for him during his discernment at the novitiate.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Playing with Babies...

Besides clinical work, that's what I'm doing these days... Alissa's little Johnny is definitely happy here (he's smiling on the inside!).

I've been able to see this handsome boy several times this summer, driving up for Sunday Mass in Denver when I'm able.

Pictures of other friends' little ones definitely will appear throughout the rest of the summer!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Weekend Fourteener

This adventure occurred a few weekends ago--July 22nd, to be exact--but I just finished the write-up now. Enjoy!

fourteener (fore TEEN er) - in mountaineering, a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet above mean sea level

It looks fake, but honestly, this is one of the views from atop Mount Sneffels in western Colorado. Dear Friend and I are pictured here after an arduous climb!

But let me begin at the beginning:

Chapter 1: The Springs to Montrose

We left Friday afternoon, after my Dear Friend's husband finally arrived home from work, later than expected. We packed up the car, complete with the three of ourselves and their little 4 month-old son, and began the 4-hour drive to Montrose, Colorado, at about 7pm.
About an hour away from Montrose (where lives Dear Friend's mother) we stopped for gas. The attendants were closing up shop, but graciously let us use their restrooms for much-needed restroom usage, including diaper change! However, after filling up the tank, the car refused to start. Dear friend's husband tried to push-start it by popping the clutch--with all of us, and the luggage, inside--after a full day's work of landscaping with an already-sore back. We were not sure what he was doing until after he tried, but by then, he had really twisted his back and was hurting. Unsure if a push-start would help the situation, anyway, my dear friend called the towing company.
While we waited, Dear Friend's husband leaned over the trunk of the car while I stood on the bumper and tried to manipulate his thoracic spine. (must've looked quite professional, I say!)
The gentleman that came to assist us helped get the car push-started (which we should have tried again, but oh well) and then charged a $35 service fee! We actually had to follow him to his office so that he could run the credit card! Grrrh.
Finally on the road to Montrose again, we got pulled over by a policeman. Since dear husband's friend was not sure of the speed limit, he was going a little over 60mph. Apparently, the limit was 55mph. Fortunately, Dear Friend herself had just replaced Baby Boy into the carseat in the back right before we were pulled over. The officer was very kind and only gave a warning--after asking how our trip was going so far!
We arrived in Montrose around midnight Friday night / Saturday morning, mindful of our original plan to leave the house at 4am to start hiking up the mountain.
I prepared myself for bed, and on emerging from the bathroom, noticed Dear Friend walking up her husband's spine! It worked--she was able to crack it--but he still had a huge knot from the rotatory strain he gave himself trying to push the car from the driver's side door. I worked on it for a while before bed, but it still was not completely gone after thirty minutes.
We modified our plan, deciding to leave at 5am instead of 4am, and wished each other a happy few hours of sleep.

Chapter 2: Montrose Morning
I awoke at 4am to hear quiet murmurings from the next room. Dear friend and her husband were talking. I was soon informed by Dear Friend that his back was still killing him, and did not feel up to climbing a mountain that day. We, however, were to go without him. After making sure she wanted to go without him, I dragged myself out of bed. I began to wonder if God was trying to protect us from hiking the mountain at this time. Saying a prayer that he would make it clear if we were not to proceed, I toasted some bagels and organized my water supply. Unfortunately, I discovered at that time that I had left my sunglasses in my car back home. I dismissed the memory of sunburnt eyes while doing another "fourteener," reminding myself that that one had had snow on it, which was reflecting the sun into our eyes. This one would not.
Dear Friend and I gathered our things and loaded everything into her mother's Suburu Sport, which we were allowed to borrow for the day. We began the hour and a half drive to the trailhead a little later than expected: 6am we were on the road.

Chapter 3: Finding the Trailhead
Oh yes, we had a guidebook, and it warned us of the dirt road. It describes one stretch of it as "spectacular shelf road." There was more than that one stretch, however, that I would call shelf-y. Our guardian angels must have summoned a certain white passenger car with Oklahoma license plates that guided us up the winding path, picking the trail over every rise and fall so that we would see where to maneuver. When it got to be too rocky, soft, and pot-hole strewn for even the Sport, I jumped out of the car and directed Dear Friend as she performed a most-impressive 23-point turn amidst rocky terrain in the manual stick-shift vehicle. We found a place to park off of a side road further down, and gathered up our gear.
This was when I realized that my 2.5 liter water bladder was leaking--all over my backpack! I had noticed minor leakage while going on short runs and hikes at home, but this was serious. The bladder was only 2/3 full, and I had filled it all the way that morning. Clearly, something had happened where the leak had grown bigger, and the bladder was not usable on the hike.
However, Dear Friend and I had talked and decided that the final mishap that would keep us from hiking was if we did not find the trailhead until 8:30am. It was only 7:25am now, and we were parked and ready to hike. So I took her Nalgene, filled it up with what remained of my bladder, and put it in my backpack. Then we started the trek up the road.

Chapter 4: The First 2.5 miles
The trip was described as 7 miles, round-trip. So we deduced that the distance to the summit was 3.5 miles. We actually parked at around 10,300 feet, so there was only about 4,000 feet of elevation gain. After a quick stop at the wooden outhouse and picture of a roaring waterfall, we started the steady uphill trail hike. It was beautiful--flowers everywhere, streams flowing across the trail because of all the recent rain, and blue skies all around. We talked and joked, and also took time to walk in silence. There were several people on the trail all around us. We had assumed that we were getting a relatively late start, but everyone else was doing the same mountain that we were. Our spirits were high, and we soon removed our jackets as the sunlight and exercise warmed us.
The guidebook that we used had commentary on the back which praised it for being so descriptive and minimizing detours. However, neither Dear Friend nor myself are very confident when it comes to topographical maps, not descriptions of distances when hiking, nor what "leaving the trail" is supposed to mean. The book told us to leave the trail at a certain point. We later realized that we leave what is called the "Blue Lake Pass Trail," which we were only half-aware we had been following in the first place! There was actually a sign with arrows, clearing marking "Mount Sneffels, this way" at the point where we were supposed to "leave the trail," according to the guidebook. We vowed after that point not to consult the guidebook again on the journey, and just hike what we saw as the trail.

Chapter 5: The Rocky Mile
At last, we came upon the sign that proclaimed we were 0.9 miles from the summit. Ahh, cake! Right? Wrong!! That last mile took just as long as the 2.5 miles preceding it. We climbed up and up over rocks because we did not want to traverse straight up the scree. And it was steep--the kind of steep where you're careful not to dislodge any loose stones, because they'll fall and hit someone below you (such as your Dear Friend).
There was a point of "exposure" near the top that we had been warned about, where we had to climb up through a V-shaped portal next to a hundred-foot drop-off. However, that "crack," as we called it, was nothing after the tedious climbing that we had to do to arrive there. It had plenty of footholds and handholds. It was like steps after the pile of rocks-on-a-hill. But like I told my Dear Friend, this was really "climbing a mountain!"

Chapter 6: The Summit
It took us 4 hours to hike 3.5 miles. Every 14-er I "conquer" gives a sense of accomplishment, but also a renewed respect for altitude and the power of terrain. And how ironic: two young ladies up 14,150 feet in an area of about 15 square feet with 15 other hikers. Both are terrified of heights. We planted ourselves against some rocks and pulled out lunch, but Dear Friend started feeling nauseous from the height we were lounging at. I was nervous about the weather, since it was close to noon and some dark clouds were starting to gather. So after a few pictures and a few bites of sandwich, we decided to hold off on hunger and start eh descent.

Chapter 7: The Long Descent
If the way up took 4 hours, the hike back down to the car took 5. We walked in silence. Dear Friend felt queasy from the height-plus-hunger phenomenon, and I had a pounding headache from being dehydrated--not having the full 2.5 liters of water that I usually carry. We picked our way down some of the big rocks, then let ourselves slide, bit by bit, down scree and more rocks, catching ourselves when we could.
Right before we hit tree-line again, we were temporarily hailed upone. It lasted but 5 minutes, and was gentle enough--nothing major, no lightening or thunder. By the time the trail widened to a semi-accessible 4-wheel-drive road, our knees were weary of the downhill slope, and the air was becoming warmer with the descending altitude. Rocks along the road were small compared to what we had encountered that morning, but each step reminded us of our tired legs.
We saw rodent-like animals that Sarah called "pichu"s, but I'm not sure what they really are. They look like something between squirrels and mice--like oversized hamsters. They're really fast, and successfully avoided being captured by my camera. One ran across the path with dried flowers in his mouth. We joked that he was bringing them home to the "Mrs." It looked so funny when we thought of it that way. He was probably building his nest and had no use for our exhausted, hilarious notions. But it amused us.
When we came upon a fork in the road, we deliberated for a full two minutes, not wanting to make a wrong turn and have to backtrack on our tired limbs. We chose the path that made more logical sense (to two young women without much sense of direction at all!). Fortunately, a few fourwheelers came up the road and we asked if we were on the road to Ouray--the town at the base of the route. The lead driver told us yes, and filled us with relief. He neglected to inform us, however, of the creek overflow they had driven through around a curve about 150 feet ahead of us. When we rounded the corner, we both started laughing at the stream, which only rose about 5 inches at the deepest part, but was flowing quite hurriedly across our path. "Um, sir," Dear Friend said out loud to no one in particular as we approached the water, "didgya forget about the river that you just four-wheeled yourself on through? Or were you merely thinking we'd fly across?" She had her water-proof hiking boots on, and my trail-runners found most of the small rocks that were sticking up out of the water. However, we decided that the other part of the fork would have been the one to take in order to bypass the crossing!
At the bottom of the trail, there was an outhouse and volunteers. We availed ourselves of the one, and conversed with the others--older gentlemen and ladies whose primary job, they told me, was to keep people from picking the flowers. I was grateful then that Dear Friend had resisted my urging to pick "just one" and press it into our guidebook as a momento.
After the rest stop, our car was still about a half-mile down the road. That last half-mile was the home of mosquitoes and buzzing flies. They were attracted to us even more because at this point of the journey, Dear Friend changed her mind and decided that a small bouquet of wildflowers would be a great idea to bring back to her mother. I told her what the ladies had said to me, which only resulted in my "hiding" the bundle of blossoms under my jacket with every jeep and four-wheeler that passed. Boy, did those mosquitoes like my arms!

Chapter 8: The Way Out
Point being, we did make it out alive. I told Sarah at one point that yes, she had plenty of room to get past a jeep coming up the other way--he had graciously pulled over a little to let us by between him and the cliff. Once she began pulling aside to go around him, however, I started screeching, "But don't go that much around him! Omigoodness, omigoodness, ahhhhh!!!" I was laughing hysterically in my panic, leaning away from the cliff on my side of the car, practically hanging on the back of Sarah's seat. I must say, even better than manuevering the car, was her skill dealing with my temporary insanity on the edge of a cliff!
When we arrived back at the house, I was completely dehydrated with a pounding headache. But Sarah's mother had made this amazing sausage soup that hit the spot.
Then it was an early bedtime for all, and a drive back across Colorado the next morning.

Next mountain?

We're hoping to do one in a few weeks--maybe the last weekend of August.

Any joiners? :)

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

This Week's Spotlight:

I shall now direct you to one of the best blogs around--one of my "imaginary friends" along the sidebar--Assimilatio Dei. Although I know who the writer is, and exchanged brief "hello"s with him at odd points during college, we were never what I consider to be "friends." Hence, the Imaginary category. However, his writing is both personal and profound--a thing of beauty when you have a few minutes to stop and allow yourself to reflect.

He has written several posts, both recently and throughout his archives, about St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the best and holiest thinkers of our time. Here, A.D. describes a mental exercise he performs, which our tutors actually encouraged us to practice during college. I am sure all of us who have tried this particular game have experienced the same feeling of, "oh, yeah--not quite." It is an exercise that re-acquaints us with the intellectual and spiritual void that looms between ourselves and the mind of the great saint.

With every post about St. Thomas Aquinas, A.D. calls to mind that not only was the man one of the most intelligent thinkers in the history of philosophy, but he was also a very humble, childlike person. He writes a beautiful reflection summarizing St. Thomas' intellectual achievements and spiritual greatness--accompanied by his humility, confirmed by his confessor on the occasion of his death: "It was the confession of a five year-old boy." Although I cannot locate the post now, it is my favorite of his.

I like to read what he has to say, because I have encountered the assumption (more than once) that if you use your intellect to understand Truth --specifically, Truths about the Catholic Faith-- then you are automatically conceited and uncharitable. Not only was this not so of the greatest apologist that ever lived, but it is also untrue of many who study and follow his philosophy. This week's spotlight blogger, for example.
Most who delve into the study of philosophy and theology quickly become aware of their littleness in the company of giants. However, they also become very excited about what can be known through reason--and the fact they are allowed to understand things alongside the giants. For some, this excitement leads to pride. For others, it leads to awe and humility. But those who fall into pride make it difficult for the rest to share their love of Truth.

We learned in college to listen to the truth of an argument, regardless of who was speaking it. This is more difficult than it sounds. But those who were most successful at it were able to recognize truth when it was presented and synthesize conclusions more quickly than the rest of us. It has become more and more clear to me that politics--whether in government or in the workplace--would benefit greatly from this lesson.

Someone said to me recently that all arguments are personal, because what you bring forward is your personal belief. This has echoed in my head for several months, and I still disagree with it. As A.D. pointed out in one of his recent posts, all arguments must start in agreement. And if it is assumed that both parties are truly searching for truth--and not to "win the argument"--then the attachment to personal opinion is only present insofar as it aids the journey to the rightful conclusion.

Read Assimilatio Dei's work. This man is truly searching for Truth, and will banter with the best and worst of us.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

10 Rounds of Applause...

1. Please join me in welcoming my most-recent blogging sibling to the sphere (note the updated sidebar). She happens to be gifted with a refreshingly enthusiastic perspective on life, and is also an entertaining writer, worthy of periodic pageloads and comments!

2. A Connecticut ex-roommate and her husband recently found out that she's pregnant!! Hurray for Kyla! And they even started a baby blog for updates! Please keep them in your prayers...

3. A very dear friend and Colorado ex-roommate was married to this new-"er" dear friend last weekend. They are now touring Ireland and the Netherlands before finishing up another year of graduate school and then saving what is left of the civilised world. Please take a moment to say a prayer for them, for a lifetime of blessings and love.

4. On Father's Day this year, another Colorado ex-roommate and her husband welcomed a little son into the world! Awesome name, Connor Patrick. Her mother arrived for a visit this week from missionary work in Singapore, so it looks to be a joyful July for that family!

5. Some disappointment for another Colorado ex-roommate (gosh there are a lot of them!), her husband, and their son, that moving to Scotland will not happen this year. However, that means I get to see them a lot this summer. Little baby Alex and I have such fun together. Hurray for friends' babies! There are so many around this year--wherever I go!

6. Starting today, smoking is officially illegal in all public places in the state of Colorado. Say what you will of constitutional rights and Big Brother nonsense--it's gross, smelly, and unhealthy--here's to cleaner air and more fun without the secondhand stuff in my face.

7. Finished a long, extensive email recently in reply to a request for explanation about the Brown Scapular I wear around my neck. With prayer to the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, and St. Simon Stock, and with the Catechism open next to me, I think it might have been writtten coherently for one who is not Catholic. We'll see. In the same email, I also tried to explain how it might be possible to build an ice sculpture to include fire--kudos to Portia for that one--and I actually expect to see it one day, when this person gets his engineering degree! That's not the craziest thing he's built....

8. This was my last week of consistent work as a bartender (translation: last week of getting paid for working!). My clinical rotation begins Monday. I am undecided as to whether I should send out email updates this summer. I am living at home, and besides a few dedicated souls who assured me of their patronage, I am unsure if many except my mother read through my entire emails last summer. ...we'll see.

9. Mom and Dad have the entire day of July 4th off, and I (as well as at least one other sibling) have the evening off. I am so excited to celebrate at home this year with a barbeque, rather than by myself in a Kentucky apartment or with co-workers at a restaurant somewhere downtown!

10. Happy 4th of July, everyone! Have a blessed and safe weekend.

Friday, June 16, 2006


I've discovered that if I can just convince myself to put my running clothes on, I will actually get my run in for the day. The climax is when I put my running shoes on--because then I just want to GO!!

This morning, I was running up the hill-from-a-high-mountain-in-Dante's-Purgatorio. I don't know what the actual grade of the hill is, but here are some judges of steepness:
1. It starts at an altitude of about 7500 feet and goes to about 8200 feet
2. I've clocked it at about 1/3 of a mile
3. There is a sign about 2/3 of the way up that warns vehicles not to go any higher during winter weather
4. It takes me a solid decade of the rosary to run from bottom to top

As I plowed up this morning, I wondered about a theory that's been developing in my head. I don't know what to name it. Maybe the Graduated Fitness theory. It seems that every time I return to this hill, whether I've been running regularly or not, it takes me less time to "conquer" it. In other words, I am able to run up the whole thing sooner upon my return. This last time, when I came back from Connecticut, I ran up the hill the first time I went out (which was the morning after my arrival). Is there something like muscle memory that increases the body's ability to adjust to workouts, even after some dormancy?
Something to support this theory might be the way we "can tell" that someone used to be an athlete. No, they probably cannot run a 4:30 mile now, but there's something about the way they move that clues us into their athletic tendencies.

If there is any truth to this theory, then it brings with it hope for those of us that have sporadic lapses in workout determination. This extends to pregnancies and other situations of life that come up.

Thoughts, anyone?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The high life

I have returned to the mountains. I felt like I could smile broadly at them early this morning (after a 7am dentist appointment!)

In other news, I found my "free wireless" hangout spot today--finally!
It is at large hotel downtown where my relatives stayed during my sister's wedding. I don't have to pay anything besides the parking meter, and even that is negotiable after 6pm, the time when I will be doing a lot of my school postings later on this summer.

The lobby is big, and people just come and sit; I do not anticipate any questions or disturbances about parking in an easy-chair with my laptop. There is a bar closeby if ever I need a refreshment, but it's not mandatory that I purchase a single thing. The hotel actually advertises their free wireless. Of course, because it is in the middle of the executive downtown neighborhood, the snatches of conversation around me are about collateral, company mergers, and is that really a good idea at this time, Fred. But I can make myself conspicuous. I'll just be "dressing up" a little this summer to go login--business casual!

Tonight, though, it's back into the grind, with a dress code of black, black, and black, with a black tie and black shoes. Although I'm not exactly looking forward to bartending again this weekend, I've had a refreshing vacation, and I'm ready for the rush!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fun At The Ballpark

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An American Game

Monday evening, my sister's entire family and I went to watch my cousin play baseball. It's about an hour's drive away. We took a friend with us who is very good with all of the children, and whom they all love to have around.

The game starts at 7:05pm. We arrive at about 7:30pm, at the beginning of the second inning. It's great. We are handed plastic seat cushions on the way into the park with the team's name and colors on it (which we get to keep!). The announcer calls out the name of each player and the school he is from as he goes up to bat. It's very exciting to hear my cousin's name (with my last name!) called out with pumping music to get us all cheering. The Mascot is a close presence for all of the kids, and it seems like there's a fun little spectacle planned between each inning. Still, my nieces and nephews become restless after they finish their slushies and are familiar with which baseball player is their cousin.

My sister took the two youngest "for a walk" almost as soon as we all sat down--they were eager to explore the place and climb what they could find!
In the middle of the 4th inning, the older boys ask their Papa if he'll play catch with them for a while.
Around the beginning of the 5th inning, my 5 year-old niece informs me that she needs to use the facilities. I excuse her and myself, and leave our dear friend to sit with 8 seats of water bottles, snacks, car keys, purses, and free seat cushions--"Enjoy the game!" I joke with him.

We pass by my sister walking the other way in the space underneath the bleachers. It seems like we haven't seen her in a while; her five year-old runs toward her, arms waving like the doggie paddle, shouting excitedly, "Mama, Mama! I have to go to the bathroom, and Auntie is taking me there!!!"

We receive directions from "Mama" and quickly find the door "with the girl on it." We push it open, and are soon successfully inside.

The bathroom is impressively clean, for a ball park. There are tile floors, shiny mirrors, working sinks, full soap dispensers, and latches that latch. The long corridor of open stall doors show that the place is, for the most part, empty. The larger, handicap-accessible stalls are immediately to our left as we enter, and these doors are closed over. My niece decides to check and see if these are empty, as well. She squats and bends her little body so that her rear is almost touching the floor on the back side and her head between her legs is almost touching the floor on the front side. "Is --uh-- there --anyone? --uh-- in this --one?"

I point out all of the other wide open doors, and tell her to just choose one of those. But by that time, she has discovered that the first stall is empty. She enters, closes the door over, and I hear the "click" of the metal latch. I strolled over to the sink and started washing my hands while I wait.

"Oh no!! I can't go to the bathroom in here!" I hear her shriek from the first stall. There's a rustling and bustling and little feet scurrying.
"Why not?" I ask, preparing for a complaint such as "no toilet paper" or "the toilet is clogged." I am immediately in front of the latched door.

"Because there is a Lith-al,..Dead,..Baby..Crock-Roach in here!!"
"A little what?" I stand waiting for her to unlatch the door.
She does, and as the door opens, my niece is standing there, pointing to a corner of the large stall. Sure enough, a tiny, dry cockroach is lying on its back, legs up and curled over, very still. Yup, definitely dead. It's very small, but my niece was unlucky enough to notice it, and I understand her not wanting to stare at it--especially when there are so many other open stalls.

So we move down a few doors to one of the narrower stalls. "How about this one?" I suggest, automatically scanning the toilet for cleanliness and the metal fixture for toilet paper."

"Okay!" she cheerfully marches in. She almost has the door closed over again when she pauses, "Uhp! Nope, not this one, either! There's another dead baby crockroach in here!"

And so there was. Some pesticide must have been working really well that day! On the next attempt, I went into the empty stall first--to do recon. When I am sure that there are no crockroaches, dead, baby, or otherwise, I back out and sent her in. Of course, she still has to confirm the choice of stall with her authoritative report: "Okay, there are no crockroaches in this one. {sigh}"

At this point, I decide to avail myself of the facilities.
"Sweetie," I call, "I'm in the stall right next to you."
"Whaaat?" she says.
"I'm going to the bathroom next to you."
"Next to me?"
"Well, I'm in the room next to you--the one with the baby cockroach in it."
"There's a crockroach in there?!!"
I can tell that she is concentrating on talking to me, and hasn't even touched her clothing yet.
"Honey, just go to the bathroom, okay? I'll wait for you."
"But where are you?"
"I'll wait for you by the sink."
"Um, okay."

The sink is another adventure. She does not quite understand the concept of sensors; I watch as she pushes the black dot on the faux marble to make the water shoot out. It's like magic when I hold my hand there and allow her a full rinse. "Oh!" she exclaims, delighted.
After soaping and a full rinse, my niece looks around for a towel.
"Come here. This is nifty," I lead her to the hand-sensor towel dispenser, having only figured out where the sensor is myself immediately before the first cockroach discovery.
"Put your hand in front of this black square here," I tell her.
She moves her index finger toward the indicated shape, as if to press it, but the towel dispenses before she makes contact. "Whoa!" she squeels, "Lemme get another one." She points again, looking comically like an amateur magician, commanding the box on the wall to obey.
Again, a paper towel rolls out. "Awwwe-some! That's so awwwe-some!" she breathes, yanking the seond towel down and rolling it into the first.

I follow her lead out of the restroom. The sun has set almost completely and the resulting dimness gives the huge ballfield lights an exciting importance. My niece sees the rest of her family on a patch of grass behind our cousin's dugout. She runs for them, calling her youngest sister's name. I return to the bleachers, where our dear friend still sits alone.
"Sorry," I feel bad that he gave up his evening to watch a college baseball game--and now by himself. "Are you ok?"
"Oh, yeah!" he says, unphased.
Then he points down toward the dugout entrance. There is my five year-old niece looking up, obviously scanning the seats--presumably for me. We start shouting her name and waving our arms, but it's getting darker. And she has her pink-rimmed sunglasses on. After a few more seconds, she turns around and rejoins her family below.

Soon the boys return and recruit our friend for a game of catch.

Now it's my turn to watch the seat cushions--er--I mean, the game.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


"You are the salt of the earth ..."

I remember a few years ago when this passage came up in conversation in the apartment I shared with four other Christian girls. The discussion centered around what the analogy of "losing flavor" could refer to. (If salt loses its taste, how can it be made salty again?) Well, we know that we can be forgiven for our sins, so that cannot be precisely what it's referring to. And if we lose our direction or enthusiasm for evangelization, that can also be restored through prayer. We explored the use of salt in Jesus' time--how it took the place of refrigeration and had to be tossed out after a while because all of the flavor went into the meat or whatever food it was keeping. "So, ...the earth is like the meat or the food, and we are the salt... so we should not let our flavor out into the earth? But that’s the opposite of what being the salt of the earth means!!" So that did little to help us understand the analogy. Instead of looking it up in a commentary on the Scriptures, we eventually let the conversation trail off as each of us retreated into our own thoughts.

This morning, however, the passage was read again at Mass, and it fell on some fertile ground in my heart that was not there before. I understood that Jesus was referring to the responsibility we have to keep our hearts pure and innocent and holy for Him. There is a difference between 1.) giving of ourselves in the spirit of evangelization and 2.) letting the world suck what is good and holy out of us.

When I was younger, my parents and other adults in charge of my spiritual formation would warn us about something called “desensitization.” I knew they meant that we should avoid environments where swearing and violence were commonplace because eventually, we would cease to be scandalized by it and slip into it ourselves. I knew they meant that sex was not something to be watched in movies, because there was the grave danger that we would lose sight of its sanctity and true purpose within the bonds of marriage.

But this morning, I meditated on a different kind of desensitization. We live in this beautiful world that God created, and should be grateful for it and constantly in awe of His goodness. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of imperfection in the world, especially in dealing with humans—with ourselves and with those around us. It is so easy to let ourselves become disheartened and discouraged. Our frustrations tempt us to “give in,” to lose the flavor we have acquired through grace. They tempt us to harden ourselves, to desensitize our hearts, so that we are not vulnerable to hurt or the criticism.

To truly be salt of the earth, we have to leave our hearts open for the possibility of great love, no matter how discouraging or hurtful the apparent failures may be. Temptations to bitterness and resentment are temptations to let the world invade us. Instead, we are called to bravely invade the world with the love of Christ. This is the flavor we must maintain; without the capacity for love, we become bland disciples. And how difficult it is for the saltiness to be restored, if we have allowed ourselves to become desensitized to His love and holiness.