Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

May your new calendar bring you even prettier pictures and/or funnier comics than all your past ones combined!

Peace and blessings to you all .... thanks for giving me such a fine BlogWorld Welcome.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.
And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.
~ M. Louise Haskins

Friday, December 30, 2005

Weekend Wonderings, Year-End Edition

Yesterday was someone's birthday here at the monastery, and there was some battling going on -- she turned 44, but someone was spreading rumors that she actually was 50. I went over to her table at dinner right after we sang and said, "There's some debate going on at our table" and, before I could say anymore, she said "44. 1961." (All this while the sister next to her is mouthing behind her hand "No, she's 50. Old.") When I went back to report to my table, one sister was trying to think of where she was in 1961, and commented that we should all be able to have one thing from each year that we could remember, that would set each year apart.

So .....

What is your "One Thing" of 2005?
Could be good, bad, indifferent, but .....
What will set 2005 apart for you?

Whaddya Think, Round Two

Thank you all for your comments.

For the record, the white-on-black seemed like a cool concept back when I started this blog, but at that point I went for the dots. Now, I decided to ditch the dots, because they sometimes seemed to interfere with the text. I saw the plain back and thought that might help as at least a transition stage, but as I looked at it in reality, I realized that it bugged me to actually read off it, much as it did for you all. I guess the dots also helped break up the white-on-black effect a bit.

My concern, though, was all the previous posts, where I've used colors to set off block quotes, and wanting to find something that could accommodate them without having to go back and re-do everything. Otherwise, a lot of my archived stuff is gonna show up as, well, nothing. Also, I sometimes have issues with a total white screen (at night, when it's dark), so I that's why I went with more of a gray-ish/snowy background color.

That, plus, well .... I gotta be different.

I actually had a different template I wanted to adapt and make my own, but I didn't have what I needed here to make that happen. So, this might be more of an interim-type template (until my next round of exam-writing-avoidance!).

But, my background is nowhere NEAR anything of the designing realm ..... so, again, any comments on anything would be once more appreciated.

Thanks for the feedback so far!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Whaddya Think?

So, I had lots of time at the computer at switchboard .... two exams to avoid writing .... and a very cool book that finally gave me the guts to try something new.
I can even do fancy-schmancy block quotes now!

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated .... colors, layout, throw it all away, run away from the computer forever, can I pay you millions to fix mine up half-as-pretty, like it matters .... anything like that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

You know you're living in 2005 when ....

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.
8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.
11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )
12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.
14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list.

This was passed around at school. Any additions to be made?

Sittin' Here at Switchboard

This is how I spent yesterday from noon till nine, and will spend my today from noon through nine: "Sisters of Saint Benedict .... one moment please .... I'm sorry, she's not answering her page, would you like her voice-mail?" Yesterday went better, though. For some reason today, people aren't realizing that I'm on vacation -- they keep calling! How rude of them!

Anyway, one of the tasks of switchboard operator is to let people know when packages arrive for them. Excitingly enough, one was for me! Christmas presents from my gazillionaire brother. So, when the phone lets up enough for me to open the package, what to my wondering eyes should appear but these two gifts. Isn't it wonderful to see what respect my family has for the higher calling their baby sister has chosen to pursue with her life?

And, for those of you who have never seen these before ....

On the left, we have the Boxing Nun: She's got a habit of fighting for what's right! Suited in her traditional habit, our most popular punching puppet comes out swinging with finger-activated arms that move independently and a spring-action head that bobs and weaves. 12" tall. Bagged with a black and white punching nun header sporting our "fight for what's right" motto.

And, in the right corner, we have the Sister Discipline Bop Bag: This unruly, ruler wielding, woman of the cloth, will give you flashbacks to Sunday school! Sister Discipline is made of vinyl and a nice fixture to gaze at and laugh when you are not punching it. She has a sand filled base to keep her on her toes. With ruler in hand and frowning uni-brow, something tells me she is not in a happy mood! At 18 inches, the desktop Sister Discipline is perfect when you need something on your desk to punch out!

My point of curiousity about this whole thing ..... I wonder if Bill remembers when we were younger (well, he's eight years older than me, so when he was in high school and I was a kid) that for a while he was giving me "boxing lessons," complete with ski mittens "boxing gloves."

Ahhhh, family. If you can't get love and respect from them .....

And people wonder why I'm such a freak!

The Feast of Saint John

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.
~ 1 John 3:1-3

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint John. However, there's a lack of clarity as to which John we celebrate. Some sources say John the Apostle; others say John the Evangelist; still others say they're one and the same. 1900 years later, it's hard to know if the "John" that wrote the gospel is the same "John" that wrote Epistles, or the same one who hailed from Patmos and had some Revelations. Is it the same John that's listed as one of the Twelve? Or was this author part of the Community of the Beloved Disciple?

Or .... does it even matter? We celebrate today the individual(s) who gave us both a Gospel and three letters where the bottom-line message is love.

And really, isn't that what it's all about?

Plus, as an added bonus, on the Feast of Saint John, we get wine with dinner here at the monastery. I'm not quite sure what the origin of that tradition is, but hey, it's wine, so who's gonna complain? :-)

Today also, therefore, happens to be the feast of a good friend of mine, who is currently visiting family and thusly isn't here to celebrate [HA! I get wine and you don't! :-Þ] -- a good friend who, for some reason, everyone at the monastery (and elsewhere) gets mixed up with me (just cuz we're both about the same height, same color shortish hair, glasses, musical -- I just don't get it). So, since I'm sure I'll be receiving plenty of feastday greetings on your behalf (and trying to figure out if I should correct them or not!) I figured I'd take this opportunity to publicly pass them along to you.

So, Happy Feast Day, ummmm .... Steph? Jeana? Itch&Twitch?

And for the rest of you out there ..... well, play nice and love each other!

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
~ 1 John 4:7-12

Monday, December 26, 2005

Lest We Forget ....

It has been a year full of natural disasters .... earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, affecting multiple continents, nations, and peoples.

One year ago was the first of these. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs was visiting his brother, out for a morning swim when the tsunami hit, which has involved him in personally working to rebuild one of the fishing villages.

One year later, there is a bittersweet peace. The rebels have put their efforts into relief services, and a truce has been brokered. But, as one man said, "What's the point of peace if you don't have a family?" How does one move on from such tragedy?

The Post has photos and video of Aceh: One Year Later. Today's video addresses the 70,000 still living in tents.

A year ago, this thing was huge. A year ago, we thought we'd never seen anything like it; we thought we'd never forget.

How quickly "never" arrives.

[Cross-posted to Sollicitudo Rei Socialis]

Sunday, December 25, 2005

[Insert your holiday name of choice here] Blessings

As we Catholics celebrate the Solemn Feast of the Birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I would like to take the opportunity to send wishes for blessings, peace, joy, and well-being to all you folks out there in BlogLand and Beyond .... regardless of which winter holiday you celebrate or if you celebrate one at all, or if your "winter holidays" don't show up for another six months or so (given our societal northern-hemisphere bias) .... regardless of whether you subscribe to a smitething God or a loving God or the Dude of Bigness or some something or nothing .... regardless of where you go on Sunday mornings or how you live the other 6.9583 days of the week .... regardless of if you're married officially or unofficially, in a committed relationship or not, regardless of who OKs it or not and/or what body parts your partner does or does not have relative to you .... regardless of where you stand on any number of political, life, social justice, educational, or other various problem-causing issues .... regardless of whether you think God hates certain people or you think God hates people who think that God hates certain other people .... regardless of where you went to school, if you went to school, what color your skin is, what country your great-great-great-great-great grandparents came from, how you tie your shoelaces, whether you believe the toilet paper should go over or under the roll, how many toes you have on your left foot, or any of the other absurdly ridiculous things that we manage to come up with to allow us to like or dislike other people.

And ya know why?

'Cuz Jesus came for everyone. That's what we Catholics believe (even though we don't always act like it). He hung out with sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors and lepers, and he talked back to all the official church folk. The rules that said you shouldn't care about certain people, Jesus said to ignore. Jesus' two greatest commandments?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.
The second is like it: You should love your neighbor as yourself.

Those commandments are followed up by the question: "But Lord, who is my neighbor?"

Jesus answers with a story about how it's the most reviled and horrible person who is the one who most acts as "neighbor." Not the priest, not the rabbi, but the hated Samaritan. He's the one who showed compassion, mercy, and concern. Think about it ... if the Judeans hated Samaritans, the Samaritans probably didn't think to kindly of the Judeans. Yet, the Samaritan helped him anyway.

Who is my neighbor? The smelly homeless guy on the streets ... the illegal alien sneaking across the border to "steal our jobs" ... that crazy lady upstairs with the sixty-two cats ... the guy on death row ... those demented Democrats .... the raving Republicans .... the Iraqi insurgents ... the folks displaced by Katrina ... the folks who say that the displaced folks deserved it .... the suicide bombers, their families, and their victims .... those who say theirs is the only way to go ... and those who argue against them.

We are all neighbor. By Christian teaching, we are all daughters and sons of God; that it is through Christ's actions that we have become adopted children of God.

Not just Catholics, or Methodists, or Baptists, or Lutherans, or even Christians. Not just Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, or anyone else.

All means all.

So, even if you don't subscribe to the idea of Jesus and all that, I do. And that means I need to see all as my brothers and sisters.

Thus, I take the occasion of my own personal faith-tradition holiday to send much-needed wishes of grace and peace to the rest of the world -- because grace and peace are gifts that are not limited by denominational boundaries ... nor are they limited by months on the calendar, either.

So, to everyone out there ...
May peace, blessings, grace, and joy find their way into your hearts.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Stuffmas*

* derived from the American "stuff" meaning, well, "stuff" and the Spanish "mas" meaning "more" ... or, to quote Animal [from the Muppet Show] MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE (which then sends my mind to the Simpsons: "Gee, I wanna go to Mount Splashmore. Take me take me take me take me now. NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!" [although the clip has a different melody than the one my brother and I always sing] {and googling to find the jingle brings up a nice article on the effectiveness of The Nag Factor, which seems fitting for Christmas, sadly enough!})

Interesting thoughts I've had with all this talk of how wishing people Happy Holidays is such a horrible heathenistic thing to do. For one thing .... would it be better if I wished them a miserable holiday? I mean really, how is this any worse than "Have a nice day"? I'm sending them good wishes for the period of time in our society that involves a little extra time off work which, by definition, is a holiday. Think of all the Europeans, "going on holiday" somewhere. It's like "Have a good vacation." Does this mean I'm going to [the bad place] because I told my students to "Have a good break" as they headed out of the classroom last Friday? In my mind, it's the holiday season, which, even if you take the "strictly" Christian perspective (which, incidentally enough, tends to omit Advent), still includes the great-and-wonderful New Year's Eve (which, if Christians really stuck to their liturgy, they would have banged their pots and pans and Syned their Auld Langs a month ago, before Advent).

My bigger point of wondering, though, comes from who's making these arguments. These wouldn't, by chance, be the same people who get so up at arms about how commercialized Christmas is getting, would they? I certainly hope not. After all, how exactly would that work? "Stop taking advantage of the Baby Jesus' birthday by pressuring people to buy more and more unnecessary bits of junk. But, if you must pressure them into spending their money so frivously, by all means, make sure they know that it's all about Jesus!" So, you shouldn't take Christ out of Christmas by turning it into a money-making scheme, but you shouldn't take Christ out of the money-making scheme by saying it's a holiday sale instead of a Christmas sale?

Seriously, in all honesty, you cannot tell me that the fact of a few stores saying "Season's Greetings" is the singular cause of our nation's turning away from all that is good and moral.

We get so upset over losing the sanctity of the season, and yet we must be doing something to allow Sara at to never seem to run out of possibilities for her Cavalcade of Bad Nativities, Angels We Have Heard Are High, The Passion of the Tchotchke, or, probably most tragically, the Stations of the Kitsch (which opens up with a beautiful commorative dinner plate of Jesus presiding over the trial of OJ Simpson .... and we're worried about a little "Happy Holidays" diluting our religious convictions?!?!?)

And, as I type this, I get a sense of the absurdity of the fights that are erupting over how you can and cannot send wishes of well-being and peace to one another. How messed up is that?!?!? It's almost like my two nieces who got into this whole argument one night before dinner over who got to say grace: "I wanted to pray first!" Talk about losing sight of the message!

One of the three Christmas CDs that has been very much in the rotation for me these last couple weeks has been David Haas' Star Child. And yes, while I readily acknowledge that people sometimes have strong feelings one way or another towards him [and for those of you who don't have a clue who he is -- he's a big-name Catholic liturgical musician], he's got some very cool stuff on this CD.

One of the many tracks on the CD that gets me is one called Child of Joy and Peace, and it especially struck me today as I was dropping people off and the airport and navigating shopping-mall-parking-lot-overflow traffic jams. Liner notes are, of course, not here with me, and lyrics are non-existant (I thought that everything was supposed to be on the internet!), so this is the best my transcribing skills could produce. You can hear the second verse here; take that melody and instrumentation and mentally translate it over to the lyrics of the last verse -- see if you get goosebumps too.

Child of joy and peace
Born to every race
By your star the wise will know you
East and west their homage show you
Look into your face
Child of joy and peace

Born among the poor
On a stable floor
Cold and raw, you know our hunger
Weep our tears and cry our anger
Yet, you tell us more
Born among the poor

Every child needs bread
Till the world is fed
You give bread, your hands unable
All to gather round your table
Christmas must be shared
Every child needs bread

Son of poverty
Shame us till we see
Self-consumed, how we deny you
By our greed we crucify you
On a Christmas tree
Son of poverty

Come on now, folks. Really, is the phrase "Merry Christmas" truly the biggest issue facing our celebration of this, yes, holiday?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

To the Newest Recipient of The Book

You know who you are.

I realize I was acting like a big ol' dork in your office today, but there's something incredibly heebie-jeebie-ing about "outing" your BlogDom self to people who actually know you in real life and whom you end up seeing every day on a semi-regular basis. The heebie-jeebies generated by my initial forays into the BlogWorld were one thing, but while people had my first name and could have theoretically figured out more specifics of who I am, I could claim some ignorance of you all as "random people out there somewhere." As I've gotten to know you all, though, I don't necessarily see you as pure randoms, and with many of you I've discovered some very cool connections and points of commonality. You all make me think, get creative, and have a little fun in the process. But for the most part, there's the whole element of mystery that accompanies different people's presentations on the official BlogSphere.

But you folks didn't know me "before," and may or may not know me in the "after" should this site ever cease. But ..... real-life people, who knew me outside the context of a BloggerMeetUp .... that's a whole different story. These are especially the ones who generate the internal questioning of "What will they think? Will they take issue with how I've presented [insert whatever situation here]? Will they be upset at having been anonymously quoted? Will they think I'm too silly? Will they not approve of the peer pressure involved in my various shameless plugs?

Will they take the opportunity to throw my own words back in my face whenever I go to them in moments of great stress, as they are so skilled at doing? (Of course, Susan Rose did a pretty good job of that herself the other day!)

Seriously, though, it's one thing to throw your thoughts out there to people who don't know you, in whose opinions you're not fully invested. But to have someone you respect and admire stop by for a visit ....

And even if you like what you see, and approve of what I say ... how does that fit in with my self-proclaimed "Self-Esteem of a Toothpick"? Then what?!?!?

So, please know that I will be sitting here squirming, in true Psycho-Steph fashion, until either (1) you read this and agree with me that I'm a total idiot and that I should shut up for good, (b) you read this and tell me how awesome it is and try to convince me to agree with you, or (lastly) I get over myself and find something else to spaz about and don't even think of your eventual arrival here.

And, until then, I will proceed to the next Stress-Inducing Trauma Of The Day .... practicing piano for Evening Prayer. At least I don't have to worry about oversleeping and missing practice and having no time to get my brain and fingers to cooperate like I did this morning .... {sigh}

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I agree wholeheartedly, with the initial reasoning .... but to believe the rest of it??? But I thank you for your continuing efforts to get it through my thick skull anyway.

And, yes, I'll keep trying to breathe.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Has anyone else noticed ....

.... that all you have to do is say "Al Qaeda" and you can do pretty much whatever you want? Well, at least if you're someone official, that is.
"Let us not become the evil we deplore."
Please don't take my lack of commentary to mean that I don't have any. Quite the contrary, I have to many thoughts on this to even attempt. Suffice it to say that most of them are based in frustration, aggravation, and, in many cases, pure disgust at the disconnects. And, ultimately, all thoughts end up in the general ballpark of "No wonder the world hates us."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Shameless Plug, Part II, Re-Deux

After my previous Benedictine Life Weekend shameless plug, I followed it up with this post, which links to various photos and other such goodies to help influence give people a visual sense of our place.

Well, I'd like to take this opportunity to invite anyone in the Tri-State region (for us that's Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky) to join us for The-Church-Service-Previously-Held-At-Midnight-That-Now-Is-Held-At-Ten-But-Is-Still-Referred-To-As-Midnight-Mass. Apparently it's always a huge event – our church is packed, and it gets broadcast live on WBDC 100.9 FM. In some respects this will be a first for me, since we've either been so monsooned by snow that no one came or else we didn't have the big public affair b/c our church was being gutted and rebuilt. So .... this year should be extra-huge, with the newly-dedicated Church and everything else. Prelude music begins at 9:30 Saturday night; Mass begins at 10. After Mass the masses of guests head off to the monastic dining room for various freshly-sister-baked breads, rolls, and other refreshments.

But wait, there's more. Come this year and you'll get to hear yours truly on the piano (along with other various instruments, thank God. Especially since I haven't really touched a piano since moving to Loovul and didn't look at the schedule enough to notice that I was down to play until last week. Hence, this week will be spent locked in a practice pod. But I digress.) Seriously, though – handbells, pipe organ, beautiful singing, wonderful acoustics, magnificent worship space, excellent community, great yumminess. I seriously recommend it.

Other recommendation ... give me a heads-up if you are in the area and do want to come – then I can see if I can do anything to help make sure that you have somewhere to sit. Oh, plus it'd be nice to meet you!

Where do you fit in God's journey?

Susan Rose has a lovely little post about coining the phrase "Groovy Sisters." Reading her post took my mind back to a time when I asked if other people out there were jealous that they didn't have any groovy sisters of their own (or, in Susan Rose's phrasing, Grovvy Sisters -- not that I would make fun of you, though!).

If that's the case, then have no fear, for your perfect Christmas dream is about to come true. See, we tend to put a lot of emphasis in our society on Christmas with the coming of Jesus and all that, but at that point he was just a yelping little tyke who just laid there in his crib. Folks in Latin America, they emphasize the "Little Christmas," with the arrival of the magi.

Now, I know you folks out there -- you're pretty smart. In fact, from some of your comments, I wouldn't hesitate to say that you're actually quite wise. What better way to celebrate your geniusness than by paralleling that journey of so-long-ago?

That's right .... just as the wise men travelled to a stable out in the tiny town of Bethelem to witness what was to come in their religious lifetime, so you too can travel, as a wise woman, to a monastery out in the tiny town of Ferdinand to witness what may come in your own religious lifetime.

We've got a Benedictine Life Weekend coming up on January 6-8. Even if you're not interested in attending (although I can't imagine why you wouldn't be interested), you should at least follow the link, because there you will discover a photo with not only myself (top middle person, basically all you see is glare off my glasses) but also The One, The Only, Natty, of WhereToNowGod fame (top left) [better picture is here]. Now, Natty has this crazy idea in her head that she wants to be a Dominican, but she came and checked out the Benedictines, just to see. Something about being open to the journey.

See, 'cause here's the thing. Much as I like doing the peer pressure thing, really, in all honesty, I believe there's a right place for everyone, and that every place can be the right place. It's all about who you are. So some of these groups that are possessive and even, to an extent, competitive [sounds crazy, but I promise you, there are some out there like that!] about the women who are discerning with them is just ridiculous, in my mind. I know, I know, I keep threatening to post my vocation story and I never follow through, but the thing of it is .... it is complete total pure unadulterated accident that I am here among the cows of southern Indiana. Total chance. Wasn't looking at communities. Knew exactly where I'd enter and what I'd be doing. And yet, here I am. For other folks, like Natty, it was in visiting my community that helped clarify for her what was really drawing her to her community. If a vocation director is doing her job right, in my humble opinion, there ought to be openness and even encouragement for the discerners to look at other places too.

See, 'cause it's not about the community. It's about God. It's about where you can love and serve God and become the best you that you can. Whether that's in the cloister praying all the time, or out on the streets of Calcutta, or in a high school classroom, or wherever ... whether that's following the Rule of Benedict, or Dominic, or Francis, or Ignatius, or whoever. It's about "Where is your call." Not who wants you the most. It may seem exactly as you envisioned it; it may seem like the most bizarro-world possibility for you ever. It's about being open to the journey. It may be for life; it may be for a few months. It's about being open to the journey. If you're open to the journey, then it will all be right, even if it seems "wrong." If it's for a few months, that doesn't mean it's a mistake; it means that there was a special lesson for you to learn that was best learned at that time in that setting.

Being open to the journey.

Unfortunately, that's not always the reality we see. If it doesn't work out, it was a horrible mistake. If you're even considering this, you must just be distraught over your lack of a boyfriend. If you don't enter this specific community, they will wither away into nothingness. If you return the postcard to that community, it's the equivalent of signing a contract for life.

That's not how it works. It's a journey, a quest, a lifelong process.

Heck, the whole theme of our vocation program is "Your Invitation to Exploration."

Yeah, sure, I give Susan and Natty a hard time about not being cool enough to be a Benedictine, but it's all in fun. Quite frankly, if they think they truly have a sense of where they're being called, I wouldn't want them here. That's not to say that I don't think they're awesome and I'd love to have them around .... but I want them to be where they can become their best selves. Plus, with the face of religious life today, and how it is continuing to shift and evolve ... somehow I don't think the differences of OSB, CSJP, OP, RSCJ, FMI, SSND, SSJ, (or any of the gazillion other options in the world), will really matter in the long run. There's so much intercommunity collaboration that goes on ... if nothing else, it will be good for me to have these connections in the broader scheme of things.

Because, as I said, it's not about the community. It's about God.

And, really, because of that ... it's not even about "community". It's about God. Can you serve God best on your own, without any external ties or commitments? Then go for it. Can God use you better in an exclusively committed relationship? Then that's great. That's just as awesome as being in a broader-based communal relationship.

And the only way you'll find that out is by looking, and searching, and asking the questions, and trying on different options, and searching, and asking the questions .... and repeat the process over and over. As a very wise woman once told me: It's a lifelong journey.

Where do you fit?

So ... feel free to come check out our Benedictine Life Weekend, or don't. I would recommend reading my shameless plug from before, because that's where I get into all the specifics. Also, I'm sure Natty would be willing to answer any questions you might have. If nothing else, she can at least verify that she survived the experience.

Also, feel free to comment and/or e-mail me. I'm sure Susan Rose and Natty would make the same offer. As I said before, this is one of those journeys that is one that requires "been there done that" status to really be understood. So if you ever need a been-there-done-that ear, feel free.

And, of course, be open to the journey.

New Improved Headline

Redskins Rout Dallas, Inch Toward Playoffs, 35-7

'Nuff said.

Hope I'm not premature with this, but ...

... as of the start of the second half!

And it's televised here in Loovul, so I get to watch .... and it's early enough that I can yell as needed. YAY!!!

Update: My brother Chris is director of music ministry of a parish back home; my brother Ray has had season's tickets to the Redskins for the last four or five years (having been on the waiting list since 1983 -- 'Skins seasons tickets are hard to come by!). My whole family are born and raised Redskins fans, so the fact that Gibbs came back was huge for us, and the fact that there are games worth watching makes our fidelity to the team that much more important. And, for those of you who don't know, Redskins–Cowboys is the thing, even though there hasn't always been much to see. The bumper stickers were "I cheer for two teams -- the Redskins and anyone playing Dallas." Oh yeah, and should I mention that today's game is at FedEx field? Hometown game for the Burgandy & Gold?

Given that background, I found this e-mail I just got from my mom extra-entertaining:
Tonight is the annual Christmas concert at Christopher's parish; it is also the Redskins/Cowboy game here. Raymond gave up his tickets in order to attend the concert! Is that brotherly love, or what??

Bet Chris is gonna owe Ray big-time! Tivo just ain't gonna cut it for him.

This is awesome ... big time blow-out game, and I, 600 miles away, am the only one seeing it.

Not that I would gloat or anything .....

Saturday, December 17, 2005

MAJOR prayer request

There's this family that my family pretty much grew up with. Darlene was around the same age as my sister Maria, Janette same as my sister Helene, Joey matched up with Bill, and Danny matched up with Chris. That's not exact, but it gives a sense of the similarities. They all went to school together, and the connection between the girls held a lot longer than with the guys -- in each other's weddings, etc. Especially with Darlene and Janette, with my sister Helene. In fact, Janette's two girls are the same age as Helene's two girls, with their moms being best friends, it wasn't too big of a stretch for the kids to be best friends with their counterparts either. Granted, they were at different parish grade schools, but the connections continued with the fact that my dad taught at the school where Janette's kids went. Always made for some good times when the St. Martin's/St. Mary's basketball games would happen. Not only were the best friends pitted against one another, but my dad had to balance between cheering for his students and his grandkids.

But really, the two families are very tied together. The Kane parents moved to the beach several years ago, so our family always gets together with them when we go for our annual vacation. My sister-in-law is an avid volleyball player; for several years she and Janette were on the same rec league team.

Wednesday before Memorial Day 2001, I got a phone call from my parents: "Janette has cancer; she's having surgery Saturday." Huh? As my sister put it, Janette did everything right. No junk food, all the volleyball and other exercise -- she was in the prime of her health. Besides, she was only 38. Wouldn't we have heard about this before? And to do the surgery over Memorial Day weekend?

Apparently she had a routine doctors appointment on Tuesday, they called her back in on Wednesday, and scheduled the surgery for Saturday. But, on the good side, it was colon cancer. Really, in the grand scheme of cancers, colon's not too bad to have.

Except, when she had the surgery on Saturday, the surgeon could tell that it was no good. Even without it being sent of to the oncologist for the biopsy, he could visually tell that this was not a good situation. At that point, it was on her liver.

But, living in suburban Washington, DC, there are options. You've got both the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University right there, some top-notch places for cancer research. She could get in on one of their studies and get top-of-the-line care without as much expense.

Except .... she was too sick to even be admitted into any of Hopkins's programs. At that point, she was ready to give up, but she finally tried and got into a study at NIH. It was this thing where she had a chemo pump that was either continually administering chemo or saline, something like that. Major good blessing of fate is that NIH is probably a 25-minute drive from where she lives; most people in the area think nothing of driving that distance, it's further to go "downtown" into DC. So, it was no problem for her to go back and forth for appointments and treatments; she could be at home with family, friends, and "normal" routine during this whole time.

It was a tough time, though. At the time of her diagnosis, I believe she was given six months to live. Her daughters were going into 1st and 3rd grades, I think; I just remember that she was upset that she wouldn't even get to see Meghan's First Communion. She fought and she battled, and she made the absolute most of her time. My mom was amazed at all she was packing in there; my dad and I thought she was just making the most of what she had left. They went to Disney World and Ireland and I don't even remember where else. Some trips and/or events had to be postponed because of how her treatments were going, but she beat them out on that six-month call.

All the while, my sister Helene was in many respects the primary caregiver. Ken, Janette's husband, was working, and my sister worked from home. Since the kids were best friends anyway (as were Helene and Janette), it just made perfect sense that Helene would take the kids a lot, or drive Janette to her appointments, or whatever else.

I entered the monastery in 2002, and Janette was still fighting her way along. She even threw a surprise 40th birthday party for my sister, and I seriously considered trying to see if I could go home for it, even though I had only been in the monastery two months by then. The oddest point of it, though, was that if I went, it wouldn't be for my sister; it was more the chance to see Janette one more time -- we never knew how many "one more times" we had left. Fortunately, my sister was able to return the favor the following November.

February 2nd, 2004, Janette died at her home. Even though I was a novice, and technically novices are supposed to stay at the monastery (according to Church canon law), there wasn't even a question. Although I had always hesitated to ask the question of my novice director, simply because I didn't want to voice the possibility, both she and I knew that, when it happened, I would want to go home. True, she wasn't an immediate family member, but I didn't care, and there was no argument against my going either.

The big reason for my going, though, wasn't so much for Janette. It was for my sister's sake, who had been the main caregiver throughout this time. It was for my two nieces, who had spent these last couple years watching their mom's best friend and their best friend's mom fade away. And, most importantly (in my mind), it was for the two girls, to whom I showed no mercy whenever there'd be family gatherings -- I'd torture them just as much as my own kids when we'd be at the beach.

I also went for the kids of the school, where I had worked just two years before, and where my dad still worked. Janette did as much for the running of St. Mary's as Helene did for St. Martin's. Summer of 2003, Janette told the kids that if they worked all summer on a play, she'd let them put it on as a "real" play in August, with admission and refreshments and everything (smart mom -- saved her from having to sit through daily "new creations" by the kids!). There ended up being an article in the diocesan newspaper about it, written by my then-sixth-grade nephew, in which he shared how the kids tried to decide what to do with the money they earned. After discussions of Disney World and the like, they ultimately decided to donate the money to cancer research, because "our friend Janette has cancer." Not "our friend's mom" or "our mom's friend." No. Our friend. That's who Janette was to these kids.

That was a little over a year and a half ago. Meghan and Kelly are going into their second Christmas without their mom; Mr. and Mrs. Kane are going into their second Christmas without one of their kids.

So what happens now? Apparently yesterday, Joey (Janette's brother) went out and did the perfectly normal thing of scraping ice off his car. He came back in and didn't feel super-great.

Then he dropped dead from a massive heart attack.

38 years old, I'm guessing. Two kids, ages 4 and 6.

The family still hasn't recovered from the loss of Janette, and they had three years to get ready for that one.

So, prayers for Mr. and Mrs. Kane, who have just lost two of their children in what, eighteen months? For Meghan and Kelly, who are still dealing with the loss of their mom and now suddenly lose Uncle Joey too. And for Joey's wife and kids, who get to go into this last week before Christmas without dad.

Ah, yes. Tis the season to be jolly, to celebrate and spend time with family. Too bad that, for so many, that's more of just a slogan that you hear on commercials instead of a household reality. Every class of mine begins with prayer requests, and for so many of my kids there's divorce, or custody battles, or family disputes, or money problems, or too much "togetherness", or relatives in Iraq, or family in the hospital, or any number of other things that get in the way of "the holiday spirit" -- my heart just goes out to them all.

Peace to you all ... may you be able to make the most of it while you can. And if you fit in any of the categories listed in that last paragraph? Then extra prayers of peace to you -- good luck with the season.

Scripture Reflections

Our monastery has reflections by sisters for every day of Advent this year. Mine was today's ... begun at 9:45 last night; finished and posted at 10:30. Way to wait till the last minute. But, for what it's worth, here it is. Who's your daddy? :-)

Weekend Wonderings ... Worthy?

There is a very cool Christmas song out there by Amy Grant called Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song). There are apparently various other individuals who have performed this song, but there is something quite haunting about Grant's spare orchestral backing (complete with my favorite -- the oboe); and, quite frankly, I'm not sure how many of the other "professional versions" I've actually heard. When I think of this song, Amy Grant is the person I hear in my head.

A couple years ago, while I was getting back into the idea of religious life, this song was to be a part of my church choir's Christmas concert. I got up my nerve and did the pseudo-audition for it (with the added detail that my brother is the choir director). I had two reasons for doing it: (1) because the song spoke so strongly to where I was at that point, and (2) I didn't want one of the "standard" soloists to merely "perform" it. Silly me, I should know by now to trust my brother. He didn't pick me, but he also didn't pick one of the automatic standard soloists. The woman who sang it was actually in the process of trying to handle her husband's very deep depression, keep the little kids going, and keep herself from falling down in the pit behind him. Her situation led her to put a spirit into that song that far surpassed anything I or anyone else could have done. Thinking of it now still brings me goosebumps.

At that time, I was in the middle of my on-again-off-again relationship with my seeming-vocation to religious life. I'd alternate between ignoring the call and obsessing over it. The Christmas of that concert was the season where I finally "jumped in" and was led just a few weeks later to the monastery web page where the rest, as they say (not that I've written it so that you could say -- one of these days I'll get to it, I promise!) is history.

This song, along with one other, were constants on my stero. "Who the hell am I? I'm not a nun. I'm not all holy and pious. And yeah, while I know nuns aren't like that, there's at least some element of the God-thing. But me?!?!? God must really be smoking something."

But then there are these lyrics .... knowing where Eileen is coming from as she sings this song ... my brother a.k.a. Piano God accompanying her .... awesome oboe lady adding the perfect mournful haunting lost longing whatever it is that only an oboe can add ... all the while listening, singing the underlying harmonies with which we supported Eileen, and thinking of my own fears around this leap I was soon to take ...

I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your son.

I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now.
Be with me now.

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.

Breath of heaven.

Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be.
Help me.

(Chorus twice)
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.

I think then my thoughts really centered around the first two verses, the fear, the potential aloneness, the sheer terror involved in being "chosen."

I remember being particularly struck by that sequence "Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me." How merely dropping off one word each time turns it into three completely different pleas.

I think my ultimate resting place with the song was in the "I have no clue what you're doing and I think you're crazy for asking, but if you insist, then I guess I have to do it."

Time passes, I lend my CD to someone and don't get it back, and I don't think much about the song.

Until ...

2005 Christmas Concert at some unnamed Catholic high school that happens to have some non-nun as a religion teacher.

Student sings this song.

No oboe, but the spare piano filled out with the absolutely masterful harmonizations by the rest of the girls counts enough for major goosebump potential for anyone.

But then, there also happens to be the aforementioned non-nun listening.

The same non-nun who has been especially plagued by all sorts of non-bloggable nun-related thoughts recently, as she struggles through the transitions of full-time-ministry, no-longer-new-kid, moving-off-the-hill.

The lines that leap out and attack me aforementioned-non-nun this time?

Do you wonder as you watch my face,
if a wiser one should have had my place?

Still too fresh to say more.

The Wonderings?

Thoughts on the song, on the message
on the ability to do or not
on mistake or not
on questioning
On wondering.
(And, on throwing all the really raw crap out there before it's even formulated in here. Definitely not a normal thing for me!)

Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Last Week's List Update

Haven't updated it .... lots has been done, but there's still some to do. Still have some school stuff hanging, but at least I don't have to go back in for a couple weeks. I'll just be real glad for the downtime once I head back to the hill for break.

But, I did just want to take this occasion to publically acknowledge certain folks who made me decision to attempt public accountability that much more stressful (in a good way). HeyJules with her threatened examination of her sitemeter definitely kept me away from her blog, which will only make things that much worse when I finally return because, like I said, I always have to think when I go over there. Folks like Elizabeth and Lucy commenting in the midst of their own procrastination made me feel not-so-alone-and-freakish (although I am still freakish), although I was slightly discouraged to see how BrightStar blew through her list. Someday, maybe ....

The best, though, was SeekingSomething, with her laying-down-the-law. For someone who's so obsessive about not wanting to get in trouble and wanting to do the "right" thing (major people-pleaser, can ya tell?) .... her directness definitely got the guilt kicked in. Jeana even said tonight that she noticed things drop off after her comment.

And, for the record, this critical comment was .... Much as I like your blog, cut the cord, Steph. No electronics until you get your critical stuff done. While I couldn't cut the cord completely, it still made me pretty conscious of what I was at least putting out there (pay no attention to the memes in the "Draft" column of my Dashboard!). My whole problem comes from the fact that I can't say no electronics, when it's stuff I have to type for the kids and/or post online. It's too easy to just open up another browser window while you're researching the differences between the four evangelists and take off when a school-related site has a very cool-yet-ultimately-non-school-related link that screams out my name while it's wresting the remote out of my grasp.

So, thanks for the support. Like I said, still more to do, but at least there's a little breathing room now. And, hopefully, I'll get myself more on track next time. Every little shift helps ...

RevGal Friday Five

Not the most exciting answers, I'm sure, but at least I get to answer! (And let the record show that, annoyingly enough, the computer thoroughly crashed earlier today when I was just finishing this post, so I'm attempting to recreate it. And, stressingly enough, I think the computer did more than crash -- I think I actually heard it wimper as it at least seriously considered rolling over and dying. I'll find out more when I get back to the house.)

1) Have you ever gotten a really good kiss under the mistletoe? Tell the truth. Spare no details. Was the mistletoe real, because kisses under the fake stuff do. not. count.
Well, if we're not counting parents .... then I don't think I've even gotten any bad kisses under the fake stuff, let alone good ones under the real stuff. Sigh. Such a deprived childhood.

2) Do you know anyone who makes real eggnog, not the stuff from the carton? And if so, do you actually like it?
Well, it depends on what you mean. It wasn't until I reached the monastery that I realized that I have a very different concept of what this stuff is like for "most" people. See, while our eggnog does originate from the carton, I've always only experienced it with my dad's adaptations. And no, I'm not talking the spiked version (although he does that too). No, the way real eggnog (in my mind) is created is you take a half-gallon of the "fake" carton stuff, and then mix it in with a softened half-gallon of french vanilla ice cream. Stir it up all nice and creamy, throw it in the fridge, and pour yourself as many little glasses of thick creamy almost-milkshaky eggnog yumminess as your tummy desires.

Once I discovered that other people don't make eggnog the way I do, I've appointed myself eggnog-master. I can't drink that thin runny straight stuff. But daddy's version? MMMmmmmm, rich creamery goodness! (insert Homer Simpson drool noises here)

3) What's your favorite Christmas party album/CD ever?
Off the top of my head, I think I have to go with John Denver and the Muppets (although note that this link apparently isn't the full/"real" version. Really, ya gotta have Rowfl and Dr. Teeth!). I can never sing (or hear) The Twelve Days of Christmas without automatically adding in Miss Piggy's "Ba-dum-bum-bump." However, the last couple years have found my brother creating various volumes of "A Youstronian Christmas," for which he raided my dad's record cabinets and compiled all the Christmas "standards" of our growing-up years in this household. Some songs are fun; some are fun to make fun of. Either way, good memories. (And the liner notes? He also raided photo albums!)

Course, then there's also Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, which I don't think has a soundtrack (if it does, please tell me!!!). But, with the wonders of my brother, we now have a decent portion of it on his Christmas compilations. Great songs, all of them! What an unknown classic for so many!

And, as I type this, there's also Handel's Messiah, more for the memories it conjures up -- annual tradition for as long as I can remember (and has had our family in attendance for almost its entire history) [and has now been passed on to the next generation] has been the Kennedy Center Sing-Along Messiah. That many years combined with that many of my family equates out to loads of wonderful mental connections to each piece of that oratorio. (Heck, even just the early-December pilgrimage to get the tickets has become immortalized in my clan!) The best, I think was the Year of the Three B's -- boobs, butts, and batons. Feel free to let your imagination run wild -- it might not be that far off-track! I figure, if nothing else, this will be a good way to discover if any of my family has found their way to here yet. So YP folks, if you're reading, feel free to comment on the wonders of The Three B's. Otherwise, I might just have to explain it myself. Or just leave you hanging. Hmmmm......

And, given my musical obsessiveness, I'll just stop now, and say that there are plenty more CDs that have been left off this list for no other reason than to spare you further boredom!

4) Does your office/workplace have a party? Do the people there ever behave the way people in movies behave at office parties, which is to say, badly?
Not having worked in a real "office," my experience has been more with the "faculty Christmas lunch," which usually ends up being after dismissal on the half-day that sends the kids into Christmas break. Speaking at least for me, today, I was too wiped out from trying to get everything done to even think about dancing on tables. Besides, there's something psychologically wrong with wanting to dance on tables at an hour that, on any other day, would have students eating their peanut butter and jelly and spilling their sodas. Granted, one of the assistant principals is having a party next week, but I'm guessing that'll be more of a standard family/friends Christmas party than "the office party." I'm sure a lot of it, though, has to do with the fact that the workworld of the teacher is a whole different beast than the workworld of the worker.

5) If you have to bring something to a party, what is it likely to be? Do people like it?
Good question. Any suggestions, folks? Cuz I need to figure out what I'm gonna make for my house's party on Sunday, and then I think we're supposed to bring something to the assistant principal's too.

If it's a case where it's convenient and appropriate, dad's eggnog tops the list (I already know I'm doing that on Sunday!). Generally it's more of the fun-and-probably-bad-for-you variety -- carrots and celery sticks are too non-fun, and a bag of chips is too non-creative. So, if I ever show up to a party with those (without it having been specifically requested), know that I'm either way too stressed, or I ran out of time, or I'm just not too invested in it. Because, really, who doesn't want to have the thing that everyone loves at the party? And how often do people talk three weeks later about "Man, did you see those baby carrots? Weren't they awesome?"

I also try to do stuff on the creative side -- again, it's all about the attention. I've got my previously-mentioned snowman soup (complete with a very awesome and distinctively-me poem that gives the directions), but that works better for gift than party food. Then there's my very technically named "Chocolate Peanut Butter Goop" ... or my "Lemon Bar-Brownies Things" (not quite lemon bars, not quite lemon brownies, but a mix of the two ideas) .... or this awesome "Mint Pudding Oreo Layer Thing" (notice a trend in my names?) .... and a couple months ago I discovered this awesome foccacia recipe that I've thoroughly redesigned and made phenomenal pizza crust, or the very cool party element of these "Parmesean Foccacia Bread Bites" (when asked to describe them, I explain that "Well, they're these bread things and they're really good"). Oooh, and then there are the cookies .....

I've already got a taker on the previously offered snowman soup. Perhaps for an appropriate bribe, I might find it in myself to share some more. Or maybe I'll just be evil and leave you hanging with boobs, butts, and batons, and no yummy bread bites to distract you!

And now that I'm thoroughly hungry and drooling ..... I guess I'll just head to bed and dream of ..... I don't know, food stuff?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Not Fair!!!!!

Why, oh why, did I have to move away from home? Stupid monastery ....

Wintry forecast prompts most schools to close early

Two Headlines before school

Two headlines that caught my eye this morning:

Iranian President Calls Holocaust a 'Myth' ~ According to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: In Western countries, "if someone were to deny the existence of God . . . and deny the existence of prophets and religion, they would not bother him," Ahmadinejad said. "However, if someone were to deny the myth of the Jews' massacre, all the Zionist mouthpieces and the governments subservient to the Zionists tear their larynxes and scream against the person as much as they can."

I'm sure this will be helping further the cause of peace in our world, and that violence will not increase as a result of his statements.
At a conference aimed at reducing extremism ... he said that Israel should be "wiped from the map." ~ Yeah, that's definitely a good example of why we should reduce extremism.

Other headline ....

DNA Tests Exonerate 2 Former Va. Prisoners ~ Two guys, one served 11 years, the other 20, both for rapes they didn't commit. True, neither was eligible for the death penalty, but it still raises very significantly the question of how the system works.

And now ..... off to school.

Quickie Plea for Prayers

Still swamped under the list ... some has been done but just not crossed off, but more still is yet to be done -- in some cases by first period today. However, I just wanted to throw out a quick shameless-plug prayer request for me -- I've been doing this constant off-and-on back-and-forth about the same stuff that I finally [didn't] blog about two weeks ago. But, in the midst of absolutely having to create a study guide for an as-yet-unknown exam so that it can be xeroxed and distributed in just about seven hours, it all reared its ugly head once more. Now, I'm planning on taking some down time at the monastery over break where I head out to camp with just me and my journal, throw a fire in the wood-burning stove, and figure out what the heck is going on in my skull, but in the meantime .....

I really need to get this work done!!!!!!!!!

(Speaking of camp --- Jeana, can you check if it's open maybe Thursday or Friday and sign it out for me? Also, I was gonna put a link to it from the virtual tour, but it's not on there, not even in the arial shot.)

Oh, and as an aside, my mom thanks everyone profusely .... she had a doctor's appointment Monday, a mere ten days after her surgery. Instead of another week of staring at her toes and two months of no driving, she received the go-ahead to both lift her head up and drive. So she's a much happier camper now. She won't know for several months how much of the vision will return in that eye, but .... at least now she can point that eye in more that one direction!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stanley "Tookie" Williams, 1954-2005

I've got a post on Sollicitudo Rei Socialis about it.

Please .... check it out.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

MMmmmmmm, milkshakes ... (insert Homer Simpson drool sound here)

You taste like a milkshake. Your frozen malts send
a delicious thrill across the tongue. Your
sweetness and innocence are bared for the world
to suck up with a straw... and you love it,

How do you taste?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, December 09, 2005

Weekend Wonderings – or maybe I'll wait ....

Periodically updated in green
So, I didn't get my snow day. Which means that I didn't clean my room and do all my grading and all the other work I needed to do. Yeah, right. Like I woulda done it anyway.

See, here's my problem. Procrastinitis.

It doesn't help when people like HeyJules constantly post all sorts of turbo-thought-provoking thoughts. Or JaneDark points out good avoidance tactics like Kingdom of Loathing, "an RPG where you fight cans of tomatoes, and possessed stalks of asparagus." And then there was I think the first post of eb's that I commented on, of 20 Things to Keep You Busy. (And then trying to figure out how I came across eb in the first place eats up a little more time.)

It's not like I don't have my own collection of world-wide-web-time-wasters.

Not to mention reading the paper or looking for resources for my classes.

Plus, that non-existent snow day.

Oh, and then all the blog-hopping that's possible. You know, you read comments on one of your "regular" blogs, then you click on the profile of another commenter, check out their blog, follow some links from them, and let the cycle continue.

Anything to avoid grading.

Or lesson-planning.

Or cleaning my room.

Or cleaning the bathroom.

Or anything else, for that matter.

But, this weekend it must be done. Yes, I know, I say that every weekend. But I really mean it this time!!!

So ... the question for the week:
What is your most-favored time-waster?
Your modus operandi of avoidance?
Your most-propelled-to procrastination practice?

Or, perhaps ....
Your most avoided task?
Although, the question I really should be asking ....
How you do get yourself to DO IT ANYWAY???
(the avoided assignment, NOT the method of misapplying your mind)

See, a BIG part of my problem is the fact that I tend to only accomplish things when I don't want to be doing something else. For example, my room is an absolute pit of despair, and has been for quite some time now. As such, it has driven me absolutely batty. Do I clean it? No. But this weekend, now that I have school looming over my head ... I guarantee you that my room will finally find some order by Monday morning.

Rewarding myself when I finish the task doesn't help, because I know I'll do whatever the reward is anyway. The whole "If I get this much done in an hour, then I can watch Law & Order" doesn't fly, because if it's Law & Order time, I'm gonna be watching. Self-discipline is not always my strong suit.

I have found that external accountability helps sometimes, which is why I'm thinking I might take the lead of WhatNow, RussianViolets, and other various types (that I've just wasted more time looking for) who post some sense of a to-do list, to be updated as necessary, so I'm thinking I might give that a shot.

And here's (at least some of) what's gotta get done.
••• Create wrap-up notes/handouts for two classes
••• Create study guides for two classes
••• 90-minutes/class sub plans for Tuesday (sophomore retreat)
••• (Ideally) create exams for two classes
••• Develop (and post) rubric for Gospel project
••• Empty the ever-expanding-bag-o'stuff by grading: It's at least sorted & organized now
»»»»» Welfare video reaction
»»»»» Chapters three and four review questions
»»»»» Chapters three and four wrap-up work
»»»»» Jesus' questions & your answers Thus concludes my sophomore grading ... until their next assignment, anyway. But on to the juniors!
»»»»» Retold parables These are, if I may say so myself, some of the most amazing writing since their Prodigal Son papers! Such good kids have I!
»»»»» Highlighting quizzes ever-so-slowly progressing along
»»»»» Gospel of John vs. synoptics another 1/2 inch of paper outta the way. Course, this round took longer because it's amazing the differences some kids were able to discover by just reading the passion narratives. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for me), kids today aren't too into the book-thing. Which means, if they want some "additional assistance" on an assignment, they turn to the very same Google that I can turn to. Didn't take too excessively long to find out where the work really came from. But, then I had to dig back through the pile a few more time, since things on the website were sounding just a little too familiar to me. Ultimate results? 4 sites, 5 papers (at least). Then there are the two papers that I know came from somewhere, but I'm thinking I should only spend so much time on the search. Something about the synoptics "never [having] any passage that suggested what the emotions of Jesus were" and/or that "in this unique Gospel, John puts forth the idea that Jesus is the light that overcomes darkness, meaning that whoever believes in Jesus will overcome darkness" and that instead of parables, Jesus focuses on teaching about relationships. Not that any of those are bad ideas, but the phrasing seems kinda off, especially considering the other ones that have been tracked down. Sigh.
»»»»» Gospel logs the most formidable 2 inches of paper I've ever seen. Bonus shipment of Snowman Soup to whoever can explain what the heck I was smoking when I thought having each one of my 83 kids read either Matthew or Luke in its entirety, and answer several questions on every three chapters. Questions like what happened, who's involved, what do you think, etc. A nice idea, in theory, but then what was I doubly smoking when I decided that I had to read through all of them at the same time? Gets a little old ..... BUT, it's done. And now to Church!
••• Post grades and missing work

Home/Non-school (or at least, non-paycheck-riding-on-it):
••• Order medicine
••• Make snowman soup
••• Figure out student Christmas ... whatever
••• "Faculty Buddy" gift
••• Write scripture reflection for
Monastery website
••• Monastery/Loovul Christmas plans
••• Christmas stuff for home folks
••• Christmas card innards (and outtards) very cool poem written, to be posted once schoolwork is done and I'm ready to do cards
••• Read about "monastic dress" for discussion (which involves finding papers about monastic dress) and now that that's settled ... until the next discussion ... and the community discussion ...
••• Grocery shopping Should I find it horribly unfair that I'm ADDING to the list more than crossing off?
••• Deliver recycling one of the many unknown/unexpected/unplanned tasks
••• Unclogging a toilet another one of the unplanned projects, which took probably seventeen-thousand times longer than it would've taken any of you, since I have this deep-seated terror of all things toilet-trouble-related
••• Clean room as good as it's gonna get, anyway! At least I have a chair, and desk, and bigger bits of floor than before!
••• OK, and I'm gonna stop this part of the list here, b/c it's too skeery!

So if you see me hanging out here or on your blog and the list isn't cleared out? By all means, please please PLEASE climb your way through these fiber-optic cables and rip my hands off the keyboard.

Thank you.

RevGalBlogPal Friday Five

I'll humor SongBird, even though my LACK of the first good snow is still causing a bit of bitterness within me ....

1) Snow: love it or hate it?
Love it -- especially if there's the option of curling up under a blanket in front of a fireplace with a big ol' cup of hot chocolate and a good movie [not that I have a fireplace]. Course, then there's also sledding, and snowballs, and wandering with my manual-everything camera with its 70-300 mm zoom lens around the magnificently snowy monastery property [not that I'm anywhere near the snowy monastery property].

2) First snow memory
Not sure if this is the first snow memory, but I remember when I was really little and there was a monster snowstorm (blizzard of 77 or 79? which means I was 4 or 6) ... I remember being afraid to go outside because I was afraid I'd get lost in the snow because it was so deep.

3) Best Snow Day ever (actual or imagined)
Maybe a year or two before I entered the monastery, I was teaching at an all-girls Catholic high school just outside DC. It was a Monday night in January, and one of the folks at choir practice told me as I was leaving to check the weather report; which, obedient little person that I am, I did immediately upon my return to the apartment. [OK, I admit it. Obedience had nothing to do with it; wanting out of school did.] Turns out there was this massive storm that they had completely missed until maybe 9:00 that night. Nothing like an unexpected snow day. Not only that, it was one of those real biggies where they were cancelling school the night before. Plus, it was right after grades had been due, but before the semester had really started, so it was a nice little vacation with no work hanging over my head.

4) Best use of snow in a movie, song, book or poem
Not thinking of anything off-hand, so I will do tribute to my friend Jeana's favorite childhood book of Kenny's Window by Maurice Sendak (his first, by the way), wherein "It smells like winter."

5) What you are planning to do today, with or without snow
Not that I'm bitter, but since my plan of staying curled up under the blankies got cancelled (nargh!), I instead took the non-plan route of going in for an entire day of school (not even a late opening!) and finished watching the don't-have-sex movie with all my kids and then discussing it. So, just like "Nothing quite says 'Happy St. Nick's Day like three straight hours of genital warts" (which, I must say, won me the "Elevated Risk of Mullet" Award at PhantomScribbler's Wednesday Whine!) ... nothing quite says "Happy Non-Snow Day" like three straight hours of discussing genital warts. Sigh.

Of course, it didn't help to open an e-mail first thing this morning in which a friend from the monastery (yes, it's that evil Jeana again) wrote last night that they had already cancelled daily Mass today at the monastery b/c the priest wasn't gonna be able to make the 10-minute drive from Meinrad. Thus, they were going to operate on a Saturday schedule today (which means sleeping in). That, and a gift-shop sale for the sisters since no one else would be coming into the store. Oh well. Guess I'll just have to give it up for the poor souls in purgatory ....

But ... we're heading over to the other nun-house in Loovul for a game night soon (there are about 13 of us OSBs who live here, and so we've got a house on either end of town), so Weekend Wonderings will have to wait till I get home.

Feelin' Snarly

No Snow Day for Steph


guess i'll have to do all my planned posting after school

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wish Wish Wish Wish Wish

As stressed as I am about getting everything in during these next few classes that I have with the kids, I really wouldn't complain if Mother Nature decided to interfere a bit.

make-your-own snowflake provided by
snow dance provided by ... all my bloggy-buddies in BlogLand? Please?!?!?!

Another cool snowflake that I made is here ... while easier to make cool designs, I couldn't save the pic to post (not easily anyway)

Of course, you'd think with all this stress I'd be grading papers instead of searching for virtual snow dances. But who ever called me logical???

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

I've been invited to be a contributing writer for Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, a collaborative blog that addresses various current events through the lens of Catholic social teaching. My first post is up and running over there -- actually, a re-post of Friday's entry on Seminary Teachers. But, yesterday was a dedicated day for posts regarding the Vatican document on gays in the seminary, but because of schedules, it's overflowing its day-long time-frame a bit. So, if you want to read more than just my various ramblings about it, then by all means, check it out.

Who'da Thunk?

Saw this at BrightStar (B*) ...

You Have a Melancholic Temperament

Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything.
You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life.
You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you.

Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace.
You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life.
Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times.

At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you.
You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others.
You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Any evangelicals out there?

Although I know that this is a very broad classification, I didn't know if anyone more knowledgeable than I on this topic (which would be just about anyone out there, probably) could help me make sense of this. Please understand that I mean no offense with this question, not trying in the least to be snarky .... I'm really wanting to figure it out.

So, on the way to school this morning, I heard on the radio that the big megachurch in Lexington, along with various other megachurches throughout the country, will be cancelling their church services on Christmas Day (because it falls on a Sunday) so that the staff can spend the day with their families.

Now, I like the idea of making sure they have family time, but I wasn't sure about how they were making family time. For us, we've got our twice-a-year Catholics, who only show up to church on Easter and Christmas, so the idea of not having Christmas services is kinda mind-boggling to me. Is there a different level of emphasis for whichever evangelical groups sponsor the megachurches (see, I don't even have the right vocabulary to use!), or does the idea of "going to church" have a different spin than it does for us Catholics?

Thanks for enlightening me!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thanks for the Peace

I just want to send a big ol' thank you to everyone's words of advice, support, and encouragement to my last post. After having a long talk with our vocation director this afternoon (to clarify -- she has no "official" role with me anymore except for very close and trusted friend), I'm feeling a little less panicked. It helps a lot to get some of my struggles out there, and have her tell me that (1) it's all good and (2) to take my time with it all and (3) the first year, no matter what, is hard. [As an aside, she's also the very wise woman whom I quoted in blue with regards to my first monastic profession.].

It's interesting ... Benedict uses Chapter Seven of his Rule to address the twelve steps of humility:
The fifth step of humility is that we do not conceal from the abbot or prioress any sinful thoughts entering our hearts, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly. Concerning this, scripture exhorts us: "Make known your way to the Holy One and hope in God (Ps 37:5)." And again, "Confess to the Holy One, for goodness and mercy endure forever (Ps 106:1;Ps 118:1)."So too the prophet: "To you I have acknowledged my offense; my faults I have not concealed. I have said: Against myself I will report my faults to you, and you have forgiven the wickedness of my heart (Ps 32:5)."

Joan Chittister, OSB, of the Erie Benedictines, says in The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages:
The fifth rung of the ladder of humility is an unadorned and disarming one: Self-revelation, Benedict says, is necessary to growth. Going through the motions of religion is simply not sufficient. No, the Benedictine heart, the spiritual heart, is a heart that has exposed itself and all its weaknesses and all of its pain and all of its struggles to the one who has the insight, the discernment, the care to call us out of our worst selves to the heights to which we aspire.

The struggles we hide, psychologists tell us, are the struggles that consume us. Benedict's instruction, centuries before an entire body of research arose to confirm it, is that we must cease to wear our masks, stop pretending to be perfect and accept the graces of growth that can come to us from the wise and gentle hearts of people of quality around us.

Humility such as this gives us energy to face the world. Once we ourselves admit what we are, what other criticism can possibly demean us or undo us or diminish us? Once we know who we are, all the delusions of grandeur, all the righteousness that's in us dies and we come to peace with the world.

I've not felt and/or understood that before. Perhaps it's because my sharing has been more out of obligation and "trying to do the right thing" than from truly reaching out for help and guidance. I've discussed struggles and trouble-spots with both my novice director and the prioress (and, in fact, the whole formation team) as I've journeyed along this road. Going to the prioress is especially hard at times (even though she's incredibly kind and loving, it's still intimidating), but "that's what I'm supposed to do."

But the conversation today .... it's been the first time I've discussed some of these things with someone who's not in a "need to know" position, and has been around long enough to be able to offer some guidance and advice. And, as hard as the conversation was to initiate .... I truly do feel that sense of "confession is good for the soul."

She didn't have any answers for me ... yet. But she assured me that it's all good, that she'll think on it for me, and that it will all work out somehow.

So I'm now much more at peace. Nothing's resolved, but at least I'm breathing again. Less panic-striken, more able to focus on these last two weeks of school. (Yeah, like this is why I'm behind on my grading...)

I realize that, even in the midst of saying "I'm not sure how much to share" that I've answered my own question to a great extent. My concern hadn't been about what elements of the "shadow side" of religious life to show; it was more "should I even show that there is a shadow side." So I thank you all for your wonderful kindnesses and support, and ask for your prayers as I continue to discern where my call is and how to make that happen in the best and most authentic way that I can.

And I thank my senpectae, those "wise elders" who offer encouragement, comfort, and support to the "wavering" monk (RB 27)... though not always "elder," they are an incredible blessing.

Disclaimer: I'm realizing that some of this could sound like I've been being a "bad nun" -- that's NOT the case. But, for me, brown-noser that I am, to feel negatively about certain aspects of community life even counts as "bad nun." Hence, my hesitancy to make myself "look" bad to "other people."
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