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.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Old Habits

I arrived "home" to my sister's house in the Republic close to 2am after a full night: some competitive frisbee and a rousing game of Marco Polo, immediately followed by basketball-watching and movie-watching with a home-brew in hand, with a bit of simultaneous "hands-on-a-friend" physical therapy practice.

I felt like I should call someone and tell them I got home safely.

But my cell phone's in Colorado, and nobody needs to know, anyway.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Forced Vacation

I accidentally left my cell phone in Denver for the "whole seven days" that I'm in the Republic. This means the lack of a morning alarm clock, as well as the absence of a back-up to check what time it "really" is (I can never remember, is my watch set 2 minutes fast, or 4 minutes fast? or did I set it 15 minutes ahead when I switched to Central Time?)

Fortunately, my sister and brother-in-law do not need to wake up until 6:25am, and ideally, by that time, I am in the pew at the local monastery for Mass. So I've been in possession of their pager alarm until I get up in the morning, at which time I reset it and place it gently next to their bed. (Except, of course, for the day where I forgot to set the correct date on the pager alarm and was awakened by my guardian angel at 6:31am--quickly resetting the alarm for 6:35am and placing it gently,...etc)

The advantage of not having my phone is that I'm starting to memorize a few phone numbers again. It's nice to know I have not lost that ability.

Tonight, after a gathering at my sister's house of old and new friends, one of the girls asked me for my phone number so that she could contact me in the next few days. It was strange giving her my sister's home phone number, as if I'd known it for a long time. I actually just learned it last Wednesday, when I called my mother on my way to the airport to tell her I did not have my cell phone. (My home number is one of the few I still know by heart--lucky for them at 5:30 in the morning!)

The disadvantages to not having my phone? Well, I don't hear my ring, As Time Goes By, at random intervals throughout the day--although sometimes I still think I do! Other than that, complaints. It's rather nice having a break from always needing to remember to bring it with me, always looking at it to see if somebody's trying to reach me.

I still take my sister's cell phone with me when I run out to the grocery store or go to visit friends. But somehow, it's not the same. It has the same temporary "borrowing" feeling as driving her car while I'm here: it's in my possession now, but it won't be for long, so I can't become attached.

One thing I've learned from this experience: I do not like my voicemail message. That will have to change when I get back to Denver!

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I have posted plenty in my head, but I guess that doesn’t really count!
I shall now give a quick summary of “life since April.”

Highlights from April:

One spontaneous road trip with my boyfriend down to Dallas for Easter. I not only spent time with my sister's young family of five children, but I also met some excellent people, and had fun hanging out with a few old friends.

One last large presentation of the semester successfully presented by myself and three faithful study-buddies to the rest of my classmates and professors.

Finally, the spinal cord rehab unit of the curriculum—what I’ve been waiting for all year long! It only lasted three weeks, but it was so much fun; I loved it. I also got the opportunity to join in on an informal wheelchair rugby pick-up game with members of the New York and Connecticut wheelchair rugby teams. “C’mon! Get in the chair! We’ll go easy on you—promise, you won’t get flipped out.” (I didn’t; they were very nice…)

One gorgeous wedding, the groom being a member of my Connecticut Italian family, and the bride a beautiful, creative, and holy young woman who has become a great friend of mine.

more Update(s)

Highlights from May:

END OF SCHOOL!! Hurray! And I passed everything (come to find out later). I was able to enjoy a few days of freedom and relaxation even while I was packing up all of my belongings to get ready to …
COME HOME!! Sweet, mountainous Colorado, home of the purple Columbines and expansive blue skies. Mom flew out, and she and I made a quick road trip of it, only taking two and a half days to travel more than 1800 miles. Neither rain nor heat delayed us. We arrived in time to catch the second half of my youngest sister’s last soccer game of the season. I immediately made it a point to connect with all my friends who have had babies since I was home at Christmas, and introduce myself to said babies as a potentially influential character in their future lives! =b

I also made it a point to attend as many of my youngest sisters’ concerts and activities as possible before it was required of me to …

RESUME WORK at both of my old haunts: as a barista at the antique-furnished coffee shop, and as a bartender/waitress at the beautiful, historic Inn and Restaurant in the little hippy-town next to us. Before my schedule became too packed up, however, I took a few personal days and …

VISITED SOUTH DAKOTA to visit some college friends and see their beautiful, quickly-growing children. I could only spend about one day there, but it was worth it to connect with the family before they move to California this summer. My name to the adorable little girl on Mommy’s right was “Dish.” I think she was going for at least one phonetic sound she recognized. On my way back from South Dakota, I stopped in Denver to go for a run at least once with my one of my previous roommates in preparation for our Memorial Day …

10K RACE, which we ran with her fiancée. It was so much fun, after not doing it together for two years. Certain traditions die hard, and that includes the Bolder Boulder. We woke up early, toasted bagels, and gathered our running paraphernalia as if we’d never lived apart. Across the aisle from one another on the shuttle bus, we read each others’ thoughts as if we were speaking out loud (dramatically).
“We’ll be late for our start time, but it’s ok! We’re doing this for fun.”
“Yeah, but we paid money, we got up early enough to get here on time, and they start our individual times when our wave starts.”
“Our goal isn’t to make a certain time; we’re doing it together again. It’s just a great day to be together and running a race after so long. I’m not used to this altitude running yet, anyway.”
“I just don’t want anything to go wrong today, and it’s getting off to a sketchy start.”
“We can run to the start line when we get off the bus.”“I have to stop at the bathrooms.”
And a good time was had by all. In fact, when it was over, we decided to register together for a half marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota in October—something to work for, something else to look forward to! On the last day of May, I …

HIT A VAN with my faithful little Count Von Count. The other driver decided to make a left turn in front of me from the opposite direction (while my light was green). Count took it bravely, only allowing one of his headlights to become completely smashed in (“one beautiful headlight, ah, ah, ah!). However, it was a pain and very upsetting, as I was on my way to a friend’s birthday party, and still very much out of luck on the financial side of things. Poor little Count is still being fixed by our trusty auto shop.

Recent Highlights:
On the first day of June, my true love sent to me: just kidding. But I did have a phone conversation with my boyfriend that ended with the addition of his name to my growing “ex-boyfriend” list. On the bright side, it is one of the most peaceful, friendly break-ups I’ve experienced. I look forward to resuming our friendship when I return to Connecticut.

On the second day of June, I received an email from a friend I haven’t heard from in several months, telling me he’ll be out of the Army in July and living back in Colorado by mid-August. Seeing him again is something to look forward to. It’s an interesting exchange; I’ll teach him swing dance moves and tell him more about my Catholic faith, he’ll teach me random Arabic words and tell me about the contraptions he’s built in his house. Aside from being extremely intelligent and funny, as well as musically, mathematically, and athletically talented, he’s one of the most humble individuals I’ve ever met. He is one of those people of natural virtue that makes you imagine with thrills where the sacraments might lead them, if ever they were to accept them. And I keep praying….

Now I’m in Dallas again, visiting my sister’s family “for seven whole days!!” my nieces and nephews keep reminding me. “Mama, has Auntie been here for seven days yet?” Today I tried to “help out” and sponge-paint the dining room walls of some friends’ apartment. Aside from their assurances and reassurances that the walls look fine, I must say that my first attempt at artistic interior design is doomed to look like polka-dots. Ah, well.
There is talk of having a general barbeque-like gathering of Dallas friends—old and new—this weekend at my sister and brother-in-law’s house. We’re also looking to take the kids and go see one of my cousins play collegiate league ball. He’s in Texas again this summer, and playing at a relatively nearby field tomorrow night.

Stay Tuned:
My dear friend and old roommate is getting married at the end of June. I cannot wait; she and her fiancée were definitely intended for one another from all eternity. I love it when you can see that in a couple. The reception will be wrought with Polish traditions—much of which involves breaking things, as far as I understand! It also involves polka, which will be a lot of fun!

My outpatient orthopedic clinical rotation begins July 3rd. I’m hopeful that it will be a great learning experience; I especially hope that I will put my heart into it, despite the fact that being home gives me plenty of opportunity for distraction, including practical family schedule considerations.

By September, it will be time to drive back to Connecticut again for my last year of graduate school…ever!!!
But … “give us this day, our daily bread,”…

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Sometimes I check my own blog ... to see if anyone has posted anything new on it.