Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Five ~ Avoidance

Thus our Friday Five: name five things you do when you are trying to avoid doing what you really need to do.
~ Courtesy of Songbird on the RevGalBlogPals

The jury's still out on Sue's entry .... heeheehee!

I think I already addressed this issue back here, when I asked it as my own Weekend Wondering ... and I know it shows up elsewhere as well .... at least, whenever I got around to it, anyway ...

In reality, there's no easy answer for this question, unless maybe to say that I do whatever is NOT what I'm supposed to be doing. For example, I never quite get around to cleaning my room, although it drives me batty as it is .... but when it comes time to do a self-evaluation or write a test or something like that – WOW! Look how nice my desk looks!

And then there's anything on the web .... checking e-mail, blogs, games, looking for new e-mail, puzzles, googling old friends, blogs, seeing if there's any mail yet, newspaper reading, blogs, quizzes, blogs, e-mail ....

Generally, the name of the game is "Whatever I shouldn't be doing." If I need to write a letter, I'll clean my room. If I need to clean my room, I'll write a letter. And oftentimes I'm not even sure what I've done in all this time, except that I've done absolutely nothing. This whole "getting something done" is actually a serious annoyance/concern of mine, but oh well ..... maybe one of these days I'll try to figure out what's at the root of it.

In the meantime, I'll just finish writing about .... hey, look over there! :-)

You May Have Won ....

... some sort of rewardy prize! That is, if you're from Morristown, New Jersey, and if you happened to stop by last night at 11:15.

Why, you might ask?

Because you were my 10,000th visitor. Of course, you weren't really the 10,000th visitor ... it was a while before I started tracking, and I've got the monastery visits blocked, and some people visit more than once, but still .... you at least get listed as Visit #10,000, so that still counts, right?

So, Don, tell 'em what they've won.

Well, you've won ..... something. Not sure what. Need to know if you're even out there. But .... maybe I'll figure something out ....

So ... are you out there?

Weekend Wonderings -- Sin and Poverty

I have a post partially-written about my experience on the junior retreat earlier this week, but in the meantime .... two tidbits to share:

One of the leaders spoke of her friend Joe and his 5-year-old son. Every night they would say their prayers, which includes:

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; grant us peace.

One night Aidan asked his dad, "What's the 'sin of the world'?" Joe was stopped short, unsure how to answer. The next night, he told Aidan: "The sin of the world is not caring. "

We also watched a video/slide show with vaious images of poverty. Afterwards, we discussed what we felt and thought while viewing it. The other leader pointed out that, while we were watching the people through the camera ... what would the folks in the pictures think to see video of us?

So, my questions, thoughts, and wonderings?
What, for you, is the sin of the world?
What would "those people" think and feel to see a video of us?
Happy Sunshine, everyone!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Random Disappearance Thoughts

I'm on an inner-city immersion retreat with my juniors today and tomorrow, so don't miss me too much ....

Also working with my (sibling) sister for my flights for our family vacation .... is it a bad thing that I'm looking at layovers in relation to where I have BloggyBuddies?

And now to spend two days walking around outside in pouring rain. I hope we do the outside piece, though .... after all, the homeless do it rain or shine. Course, I doubt the kids will feel the same way ......

Scripture Scribblings -- A Few Sunday Leftovers

John 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Just a few quick thoughts before school ....

Maybe it's just my "Root for the Underdog" side coming out again, but does anyone else think that Thomas gets a bad rap in this gospel? After all, when Jesus first shows up, he shows them his hands and side; then the disciples rejoice at seeing the Lord. But when Thomas wants to see his marked hands, he gets rebuked by Jesus for his disbelief. How fair is that?

In 2001, I was teaching at a school just ten minutes outside Washington, DC; schools were closed on September 12, and on September 13 we were scheduled to have our opening school Mass. Instead, it shifted to a prayer service, and our chaplain took the opportunity to spread an excellent message to our girls. Using this gospel, he asked them: What was the first thing Jesus said to his followers after his crucifixion? Was it "Go out and get those guys"? Was it "Make 'em pay"? No. The first word Jesus spoke was "Peace." He did not send them out to get revenge; he sent them with a word of peace.

At first profession Saturday, our vocation director gave the reflection on this gospel. She discussed out the far deeper meaning of "Shalom" than simply "peace" ... completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. So, even more than a greeting of peace, it's actually a blessing.

The bigger thing that struck me about her reflection, though, was her pointing out the locked doors. After all, they're locked in the Upper Room out of fear the first time, then Jesus shows up, blesses them, and sends them out -- heck, he even gives them the Holy Spirit. And yet, a week later, they're still locked in the Upper Room. So I guess I shouldn't feel so bad about all my "kicking and screaming every step of the way" not-so-immediate response to "being sent" ... after all, even the apostles still locked themselves away and avoided for a bit.

Of course, not like the apostles are the best role models all the time ....

Whaddya Think?

As borrowed from Susan Rose ....

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.
Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.
Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.
You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

In witness thereof, I have written this document ....

On July 10, 2004, I made my first monastic profession. At this time, I promise[d] for three years stability in this monastery, fidelity to the monastic way of life, and obedience according to the Rule of Benedict, the norms of the Federation of Saint Gertrude, and the living tradition of this monastery.

Two of us entered the community on August 18, 2002. When my classmate left in the spring of 2004, I was "adopted" by the class behind me.

Well, this evening at Vespers, Jill and Jeana will be making their own first monastic profession. Theirs, of course, will take place in the newly restored church (as opposed to mine in our temporary prayer space), but they'll be signing the same document, making the same promises, committing themselves to the same life.

Congrats, guys .... I'm so thrilled for you!

Your Linguistic Profile:

70% General American English
15% Yankee
10% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Continuing the Sesame Street Theme .....

You Are a Chocolate Chip Cookie

Traditional and conservative, most people find you comforting.
You're friendly and easy to get to know. This makes you very popular - without even trying!

You Are Pumpkin Pie

You're the perfect combo of uniqueness and quality
Those who like you are looking for something (someone!) special

Your Inner Child Is Surprised

You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hey Kellogg .... Wanna Play a Game?

It goes like this, see? First, I say "I ONE the sandbox." And then you say "I TWO the sandbox." And then I say "I three the sandbox" and so on and so forth, and on and on and on and on and on, and on, like that. Wanna play?

[Nah, it's stupid.]

No, no. It's not stupid.

[Oh, all right.]

Okay. Goes like this. I was walking down the street the other day, and I saw a sandbox.


I one the sandbox.


Now you.

Oh, now. Okay. I two the sandbox.

I three the sandbox.


Script discovered here ... because I knew this wasn't the full deal ... but there's more coolness here, too.

All of which was discovered to thank Amy Kellogg over at for directing us towards a wonderful listing of Sesame Street video clips. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, from the accomplishing standpoint) youtube is blocked at school, so I had to wait until I got home. But it was well worth it.

Except ..... now I'll never get anything done!!!

Unfortunately, they don't have one of my absolute favorites from my Sesame Street records growing up (yes, I said records) -- "Monster Lullaby" from the Monster record. Of course, they've now even messed with the albums -- The Monsters of Sesame Street has become Monster Melodies, while shifting out some of the songs for others, but claiming it as the same album. Not that it can be the same album without "I Want a Monster to Be My Friend"... fortunately, my brother and I made sure we preserved them (esp. Monsters & The Count Counts) for posterity on cassettes. Ummm .....

But, I digress. The "Monster Lullaby" is an awesome song about this baby monster who's stalling bedtime, asking for water, that the light be left on because "Well, if the Easter Monster comes early this year I don't want him to trip over my toybox." After much coaxing from Mommy Monster:
There's .... there's ... there's a little girl in the dark.
No, there's not, Junior.
There is so, Mommy, and I'm frightened. She's really scary looking. You know something about her, Mommy?
She's only got hair on the top of her head, and the rest of her is all covered with skin. Oh Mommy. And Mommy, she smiles all the time .... Mommy, I'm frightened.
Junior, There's no such thing as little girls.
And instead of paws, she has hands ... and feet.

There, there, Junior Monster.
Unfortunately, I can't remember enough of the lyrics of the actual lullaby to make coherent sentences on here, and that sample of dialogue was the best I could find. It's an incredibly sweet song, though ....

And thanks, Amy, for reminding me of the goodness of monsters and other puppets!

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

Courtesy of RevEm ....

How to make a steph

5 parts friendliness

5 parts humour

3 parts leadership
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Serve with a slice of caring and a pinch of salt. Yum!

How to make a Sr. Steph

3 parts pride

3 parts silliness

3 parts joy
Blend at a low speed for 30 seconds. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of caring

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Too priceless to leave buried in the comment box ....

A, who just "crossed the Tiber" Saturday night, claims on his blog to have "nothing to say." And yet, he left me such a wonderful comment on my last post that I had to bring it out here into the light of the mainblog to share with the world.
Gospel of Mary J. Blige Chapter 1

  1. Hear me O Lord,
    And make me like unto Mary J Blige.

  2. Rain blessings upon her, for her mighty witness Lord.

  3. For she hath shown your servant the error of his admiration of the Bonhoeffers and Mother Teresas of this world.

  4. She hath taken a stand against all that is meekness, and lowliness, and she hath shown forth your bling, mighty God.

  5. Let the bling of her holiness shine, as the sun o Lord of Glory.

  6. In a world hungry for your love, let the bling cover the earth, as the mink covers her back.

  7. Who is like her o lord, who trods in Prada, and Gucci?

  8. Her fame is spread among the heathen, and her righteousness is shouted from the hilltop.

  9. Mary J Blige, shall reign in splendor, her fame shall be preached to the generations.

  10. From the lineage of Claimit.

  11. For Nameit beget claimit, and claimit beget Hagan. Now Hagan beget Copeland,

  12. and Copeland beget Paul, who looked upon Jan's pink hair and was pleased.

  13. Now Jan was found with child. And when the season of her delivery was at hand, she brought forth a daughter,

  14. And she wrapped the child in designer furs, and laid her in cash.

  15. And the child did grow in grace, and did teach the heathen, that it is the money that is salvation.

  16. Make me like unto Mary J Blige, o Lord.

  17. for she hath shown that it is not bread for your people to be without.

Ya Gotta Love the "Personal God" Idea .....

MSNBC headline caught my eye as I started up the computer this morning – God Wants Blige to Wear Bling:
Mary J. Blige says she has found religion, but she makes no apologies for her earthly materialism. In fact, she says God has willed her to wear bling.

"My God is a God who wants me to have things," the singer tells May's Blender magazine. "He wants me to bling. He wants me to be the hottest thing on the block. I don't know what kind of God the rest of y'all are serving, but the God I serve says, 'Mary, you need to be the hottest thing this year, and I'm gonna make sure you're doing that'."

Sleep is a Glorious Thing ....

..... I should do it more often!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Glad to know I have company ....

Looking for something to read the kids for prayer this morning and looked at The Cloister Walk chapter called "Triduum Notes." So, what does our good Benedictine oblate Kathleen Norris have to say about Easter Monday?
On Easter Monday, I learn a great secret about monasteries. It's not the strenuous liturgies of the Triduum, not even the complex turns of the Vigil, that monks have to worry about getting through, but Easter Monday. At morning prayer, a man who has been a monk for nearly sixty years has suddenly forgotten how to begin morning prayer. A jump-start is required; then we're off and rolling, into forty days of Easter.
Even the prayer-leader piece fits for this morning ..... {did I mention that I'm prayer leader this week at the house?}

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Easter Monday (aka The Morning After)

Was supposed to have speaker for sophomores all week .... got postponed till next week .... means 90-minute-lectures .... on something .... lots of prospective students visiting so need to impress them .... too tired .... can't ..... eyes .... sleep ..... must ..... wake .... must .... must .... ummm .... teach .... hitosry of ..... danacng ..... elphents ..... hedgpigs ..... carnivorous bunnies ..... hippoplatypus pluralized to hippoplatypi ...... sleep ..... want ..... moooooo ..... baby pterydactl .... sqwak .... seep ..... skool .... no ..... where's teddybear ..... seep ..... no .....

ghyjuyhgtmuyjnhuujyhgbbhjtrbj bhjmbftgfn ,l;'/';,l;l,';/,/,kfghfgh dgyhrjtdrvbgdhgv hrtbjhtrjrbgrtjmbgrthjg gyhjgjyuguyjg jyhgtjrgtjhmgbdfg jkjulhldkhtlh nkujhbgkhbdkrtgbhkdhgb hjdfgdfghkjdfghiuyiyikngf hjbg tjbgtjg hjgjhtgfhyjg fthgvftjgbfjgbvtfhgbjh fvghjgdfbtyjhb tvfghtvfjb gvhvfthgvfhvt btjhgb gfhnbjmrtfh fkj ft ht ghnfthgn fkhtkjfnt tjhgbmhj btgbhtjgbbhgyyjhgjugmmjrh tbgrjtgbmt rhbgrmgbrjm jnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nn nnnnnnnnnn nnnn nnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnn nnn n nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnn

{dead give-away head-jerk}


{sheepish drool-wipe}

{yawn .... stretch}

Well, at least I can still amuse myself! See, if I was truly blogging the Monastic Triduum .... I'd still be in bed. They don't start until 8:00 today! Sigh .....

Not only that, but I lose my planning today to watch presentations in an English class – I'll be far better able to handle my alleged lectures than to sit there and listen to kids talk for ninety minutes. I'm not sure how I'm gonna do it.

God, if you let me make it through today, I promise I'll make it up to you. Heck, I'll become a nun.......

Oh ..... wait. Ummmmmmmmm ............ oops.
(So that's why I'm here .....)

On that note ..... anyone seen the new Hoops&Yoyo?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Easter Vigil (Service of Light)

This is our 5:30 AM service, a continuation of where we left off last night from leaving church. Again, as I said, our Easter vigil is different than you'd find in a parish; this is Part II of our extended vigil service.

We begin outside, in the small parking lot in front of the monastery. It is dark at this point, but we have the light of the Easter fire (which apparently has been lit for the Sisters by members of this one family for I'm thinking forever). The fire is blessed, and our prioress will prepare our Paschal Candle with the alpha and the omega, the numerals 2006, and five grains of incense. This candle is then lit from the blessed fire. One of our sisters will then sing the Exultet, a glorious proclamation of our own Passover experience (sorry, it's hard to condense it into a nutshell blurb -- I tried. Besides, it's late!).

I don't remember if we do the Exultet outside or after we've processed into church (I'll edit after the service if I think of it), but at some point in there we each light our own candles from the Paschal candle, and we see the light gradually fill the church, which is completely dark (except for our candles, of course).

Until ....

We sing the Gloria. For the first time since the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we sing "Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to God's people on earth." And we don't just sing the Gloria. No, we let it all out. After all, Jesus has conquered death! We literally pull out all the stops. The pipe organ is wide open; the brass and timpani blare their praise; and all the lights come on full-force to show a church filled with candles, flowers, light, and glory. And the bells, which have been replaced by a wooden clacker these three days, ring out for the whole town to hear throughout the entire Gloria. It's been over six weeks since we've had a celebratory feel, and we make the most of it.

Especially after these three days of Triduum silence, a dark and barren church during services, small electric organ only for giving pitches .... you can't help but feel the difference, to realize that something truly spectacular has taken place. It all makes the 5:30 A.M. start time very much worth it.

We have a reading from Paul's Letter to the Romans (continuing last night's sequence of scripture), where we are told:
If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God.

Then, for the first time in over six weeks, we can say the forbidden A-word as the Gospel Acclamation. (And believe me, especially in the Liturgy of the Hours, we very much make up for lost time – we'll be saying Alleluia before and after every psalm for the next 50 days!). And we hear Mark's version of the Easter story, where the women discover the empty tomb.

While we don't have any baptisms, we still take the opportunity to bless the water of our font, and we all then renew our baptismal promises, professing our faith and renouncing evil. (Funny story about that ... when my one nephew was being baptised, my godson was two and in the back of church with someone. The priest asks "Do you renounce Satan and all his evil ways?" My godson, from the back of church, yells "Noooo." I'm so proud of him!)

And, after that, we continue with Mass "as usual" .... except for lots of big music, celebratory stuff, and songs with more Alleluias than any other words.

After Mass, we all head over to the monastic dining room for an extra-special breakfast, complete with tablecloths and jelly bean bowls on every table. Of course, there's lots of talking that takes place, and it's not until we finish our leisurely meal that it strikes us that on any other Sunday we wouldn't even be up by now! People then chill out for a while (or sleep!), and then we have midday prayer (which never happens on a Sunday except Easter), followed by the noon meal. Then there will be Bingo or Bunco or some other form of whole-community recreation mid-afternoon, Evening Prayer (complete with lots of Alleluias, of course!), and a "picnic" supper (part because we've had two big meals already, and part because that way our kitchen ladies can go home after the noon meal to celebrate with their families).

And, unlike folks at the monastery, who get a "delayed opening" tomorrow .... I get to drive back to Loovul and figure out what exactly I'm gonna talk at my kids about all day without falling asleep. And decide if I have grown-up clothes clean to wear to school. And remember that I'm prayer leader at the house this week, and that I need to plan out the hymns, etc.

One thing's a given ...... there'll be lots of Alleluia hymns in the rotation this week!

Happy Easter, folks. And if you're not an Easter kind of person ..... well, then, Happy Springtime Sunday!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Easter Vigil (The Readings)

Traditionally, the Easter Vigil is when new members are received into the Catholic Church, so the baptisms and confirmations are a part of the rite of the Easter Vigil service. However, we here at the monastery are not a parish and, as such, don't have baptisms or confirmations. Thus, we do our service a good bit differently than you would find at any church you might attend.

Most notably, we split our liturgical celebration into two parts: 7:30 Saturday evening, we gather to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word; then we depart in silence to wait in vigil through the night. 5:30 Sunday morning (time is set based around the anticipated sunrise time) we gather outside for the blessing of the Easter fire and the celebration of the Resurrection Eucharist. But, since it's not time for Part II yet .... let's not get ahead of ourselves!

One of the benefits of splitting the liturgy is that it allows us to not have the time concerns that affect folks in a parish. This gives us the freedom to fully engage in all seven readings as laid out in the lectionary, each with its own responsorial psalm and prayer; many parishes end up just doing a few of the readings, and possibly shortening them. We actually omit the prayer here, keeping with our Benedictine tradition of lectio divina, where we just immerse ourselves in scripture.

While this might sound like an awful lot of scripture, it's actually rather cool, because it takes us through "Salvation History In A Nutshell" .... and here at the monastery, the texts are truly proclaimed, so that adds to it as well – it's not just someone reading at us. (That's another thing I don't always appreciate until I'm somewhere where I don't have it – lectors who proclaim the scriptures instead of mumbling their way through it as fast as possible!)

We begin at the very beginning (a very good place to start. When we read we begin with .... oh, sorry.). We hear from the opening of Genesis:

In the beginning, God called everything into being. And each and every thing that God called into being, he found to be good. Except people. Rather than being called into being, God said, "Let us make humans in our image, after our likeness." So, when "God created human beings in the divine image, in the image of God they were created; male and female he created them" ... God found it very good.

Then we sing Psalm 33, with the refrain: The earth is full of the goodness of God, the goodness of the Lord.

We then move on to a story from a bit later in Genesis:

God puts Abraham to the test. Abraham proves that he is willing to give up even that which is most dear to him for the Lord's sake. And, while some people take issue with the fact that God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, God also sends an angel to be certain that Abraham does not in fact follow through with the task. Although I do often wonder about the conversation between father and son on the way home .... Regardless, Abraham does pass the test, wins favor with God, and is told that "I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore." Included, too, is my all-time favorite line from the Vigil service: "I swear by myself, declares the Lord." heeheehee

Psalm 16 follows, with the refrain: Keep me safe, O God, I take refuge in you.

Next comes the Exodus story, the freeing of the Israelites who are enslaved in Egypt:
Pharaoh has suffered the plagues, the Israelites have had their Passover, and they now stand at the edge of the Red Sea. The story begins with God telling Moses: "Lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two, that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land." It happens as God says, and the Egyptians follow the Israelites into the sea. God tells Moses once more: "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and charioteers."

The psalm response is actually from Exodus 15 – it is the song that the Israelites sing right after the Exodus: Let us sing to the Lord, who is covered in wondrous glory.

We then move into the prophets. First comes Isaiah 54:
The Lord promises fidelity forever. "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the LORD, your redeemer. This is for me like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; so I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you. Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you." This one always makes me laugh because it has the word carbuncle, which I always thought was just another one of my dad's made-up words.

Psalm 30 has us singing: I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me. I will praise you, Lord, for your mercy. I will praise you, Lord.

Our fifth reading is another passage from Isaiah, this time from Chapter 55:
A beautiful invitation, wherein God promises to provide for our needs. "All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare." After telling us to seek the Lord, God reminds us: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts." A bit later in this passage, God says "For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." Especially interesting if you consider that Jesus is the Word of God ....

Our response now is from Isaiah – With joy you shall draw water from the springs of endless life.

The sixth reading is from Baruch 3:
Israel is initially rebuked for forsaking the fountain of wisdom but is instructed to "Learn where prudence is, where strength, where understanding; that you may know also where are length of days, and life,where light of the eyes, and peace. Who has found the place of wisdom, who has entered into her treasuries?" The glories of Lady Wisdom are extolled.

Psalm 19 is sung – Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The final reading of this evening service, one of my favorites, comes from Ezekiel 36:
God speaks of how he scattered his people in punishment, but now "I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land.I will sprinkle clean water upon youto cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God."

We all sing Psalms 42/43 as arranged by Bob Hurd (and heard here) before we leave the church to keep vigil in silence.
Refrain: As the deer longs for running streams, so I long, so I long, so I long for you.

Athirst my soul, for you the God who is my life! When shall I see, when shall I see, see the face of God?
Echoes meet as deep is calling unto deep, over my head, all your mighty waters sweeping over me.
Continually, the foe delights in taunting me: "Where is God? Where is your God?" Where, O where are you?
Defend me God, send forth your light and your truth, they will lead me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place.
Then I shall go unto the altar of my God. Praising you, O my joy and gladness, I shall praise your name.

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Holy Saturday (As We Wait in the Silence)

Holy Saturday is basically the time to wait. Jesus has been buried, and we patiently await the pronouncement of the empty tomb. We have Morning Prayer in the same manner of the past two days; we have a brief Midday Prayer; other than that, there's nothing that goes on until this evening (except for practices, setting things up, and other sorts of logistical details. Oh, and if you're me, there's also lunch dishes to be done!).

As I think about the Triduum thus far, it's interesting to note my inner stirrings. Perhaps it's because we're back in church, and I haven't had Easter in our monastery church since the year I entered community. There's definitely something to be said for a "sacred space." Chapter 52 of the Rule of Benedict states: Let the oratory what it is called, a place of prayer, and let nothing else be done there or kept there. While our prayer space during restoration was also used only for prayer during that time, it was very much a converted meeting room. To be back in our sacred space, especially with how magnificently it has been redone .... it's a wonderful thing.

Perhaps, instead, it is the fact that I've been living on mission this past year. While I'm back at the monastery many weekends, and while we do the same prayers at my house, it's very different to be in that space, with the organ, chant, and whole community involvement.

Perhaps I've just settled a bit. There was a bit of a rough patch around Christmas, but I think things have finally begun to fall into place for me. I'm not as uptight about certain relationships as I have been (although I still find myself getting sucked into some of them more often than I'd like); I even found the courage to ask the "hard questions" and speak my truth to some folks (via a letter) during these days (of course, the silence probably helped with the courage peace, since technically no one should be talking to me about it until tomorrow! I'm still quite the coward; I just fake bravery well sometimes.).

I remember thinking last year how much more charitable I was feeling towards people during this Triduum time, but then I realized that it probably had something to do with not having to talk to them. It's a lot easier to not get annoyed by people when you're not interacting as much!

I was especially noticing it Thursday night during Mass, though. I got in from school just in time for music practice, so I pretty much dove full-force right into Triduum. The organ was doing the entrance hymn, so we (the "strings" group -- guitar/keyboard/bass) were able to be a part of the community procession into church; however, we went straight up to take our places on the altar. Standing there, a few steps up from everyone else, listening to the organ/brass/timpani hymn, watching the community process in .... I have no words to describe the feeling. Rightness, perhaps? Watching Kris wash the feet of our sisters, hearing her give us the mandatum to go and do likewise .... after all, she truly is our community's leader and teacher, and yet she serves us. Even walking towards the dining room for the Agapé meal, realizing how stupid the "Who should I sit with" thought was, that it didn't really matter where I sat — they're all my sisters.

It's interesting, too, my non-existent need for involvement. I played bass Thursday night, and that's all I've done for liturgy. (Well, that and I get to clack the clapper for Evening Prayer tonight, but that doesn't really count. And I've done dishes and will move plants, but those aren't really liturgical. Nothing like reading or carrying things or lighting things or stuff like that.) But it hasn't really been a huge deal. In fact, I've only really thought about it in the context that it wasn't bugging me. I didn't even worry about if I should be a temporary part of schola (the small group "choir" of sisters) or not. I've just been a general member of the community congregation, just taking it all in. Which for me is a big thing — not being annoyed at why so-and-so gets to read again or is the litugist mad at me and so that's why I wasn't asked or .... So it's a kinda cool state to be in. Just content with where I am.

I'm also not all hard-core high-pressure about what I'm going to do during these days, how exactly I'm going to best connect with and focus on God. Last year was pretty chill, too, and I did some cool art stuff around the significance of each day. I brought that stuff with me again this year, but haven't really done anything with it ... but that's OK. Haven't really done any major journalling .... but that's OK. My time in the chapel (hiding out in a corner of the balcony -- I love little hiding places!) during adoration Thursday night was focused on writing that letter, but I figured church was the best place for me to be gentle in my honesty. No expectations — I've just been. I haven't been as perfect with the silence as I had intended, but I'm not beating myself up over it; plus, while I have perhaps engaged in a teeny bit of conversation, it hasn't really pulled me out of the deeper sense of silence. (Besides, I had to offer a congratulatory hug, right?)

I've spent some time outside enjoying sunshine — wandering the grounds, sitting on the dock, hanging out on the colonnade. I've wandered methodically through the cemetery for the first time ever, reading the names of each of our sisters .... feeling bad as I catch myself making fun of some names, figuring out which sisters I've heard stories about, recalling some memories as I reach the sisters that I knew, surprising myself with the tears as I came upon the three from this past fall.

And maybe part of it has to do with that "rough patch" around Christmas ... somehow I weathered through my aggravations and frustrations, and maybe now I'm just a little more solid about being here, in this monastery, with this group of people?

Who knows?

But really .... does it even matter?

While I've had some struggles this past year .... while I'm sure there are still many more struggles yet to come .... right here, right now, I am content.

Right here, right now ..... I am where I belong.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Good Friday (A Time to Reconcile)

This morning, I realized that I had two things to clarify/add with regards to Morning Prayer during these days. For one thing, when I said there's no Lord's Prayer, I meant that it's not recited; rather, we say it silently. Then, I had forgotten that after the Benedictus (from Luke 1:68-79; Zachary's canticle on the birth of John the Baptist), we chant the Christus Factus Est (exactly as you see it in the link, Latin, chant notation, and all). It's the passage from Philippians 2:8-9; we begin it on Holy Thursday with Christ became obedient for us even unto death. Good Friday we add death on a cross; Holy Saturday repeats both of those elements and finishes things off: Because of this, God raised him and bestowed upon him the name which is above all names.

Mid-morning we have what we call our Reconciliation Chapter (basically, for the monastic community only). Unlike the official sacrament of Reconciliation, this is not a time where we go confess our sins to the priest. Rather, it's a time of prayer (what a surprise, no?) which includes an examination of conscience using excerpts from the 1983 document of the US Catholic Bishops entitled "The Challenge of Peace" and some questions for our own reflection on how we have contributed to disunity within the community through either what we have done or what we have failed to do. Our prioress also gave a wonderful reflection on the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, though it is often difficult and may take a long time to achieve. One of her most striking points for me (and this is my recollection of it, not a direct quote) was in looking at Jesus' words from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Perhaps Jesus at that point, beaten and bloodied, could not quite bring himself to forgive them. But he knew they needed his forgiveness and that he needed to grant it, so he asked God to do it for him. Perhaps that's what we might need to do at times. After the prayer and reflection, we then share a sign of peace with each other, asking forgiveness for any hurts we may have caused for that sister over the past year.

At 3:00 in the afternoon we gather once more for liturgy, this time to celebrate the Lord's Passion. As a continuation of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the service does not have an opening rite. The readings today include the Suffering Servant from Isaiah and the Passion according to Saint John; today, the Passion is sung by various members of the monastic community, which presents it in a whole new way to the listening ear. There is a period of quiet reflection, and then we have a formally structured set of ten extended petitions with a prayer for each of the following intentions: For the Church ... For the Pope ... For the clergy and laity of the Church ... For those preparing for baptism ... For the unity of Christians ... For the Jewish people ... For those who do not believe in Christ ... For those who do not believe in God ... For all in public office ... For those in special need ... (although I really like the fact that here we combine other Christians, Jewish people, non-Christians, and those who don't believe in God into one non-exclusionary petition and prayer). After these intercessions, we have the Veneration of the Cross, where we focus in a special way on the manner in which Jesus gave himself up to death. We then have a simple communion service, using the consecrated hosts from Holy Thursday. (While I love the guys who come over to say Mass for us, there is something to be said for having our own sister, one whom we have chosen to lead us as a monastic community, as the leader of this liturgical celebration.) After this, we depart in silence.

The rest of the day is spent in personal quiet and reflection (or walks and enjoying of outdoorsedness). We come together once more for the evening meal, but in terms of liturgical celebrations, nothing else goes on. Just a time to consider the darkness of this time of the cross.

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Holy Thursday (aka Bells'n'Smells)

The Triduum is where things really get interesting. Holy Thursday begins with a very different form of morning prayer than we generally have (and all this that follows is what we do here at our monastery; I'm not presuming to speak for all monasteries and such everywhere). Normally, morning prayer has a hymn, two psalms and a canticle, a scripture reading, the Benedictus, petitions, Our Father, and closing prayer. Holy Thursday has six or seven psalms, three readings, with no hymn, canticle, petitions, Our Father, or any doxology. So, it's substantially longer ... but the same basic drill for Good Friday and Holy Saturday as well.

It's very extra-cool, though. For one thing, entering into the solemnity, we get rid of the organ. One or two notes are played on the little organ (we also have a big pipe organ) to get us started, and then we're a capella from there. Now that we're back in church (with restoration, we've been in a converted meeting room for the past two years), the simple chant with nothing else going on is such an amazingly-missed sound. Then, while there are three readings, only one of them is actually read. We use the Lamentations of Jeremiah over the course of these three mornings. The first reading is a chant of part of the Lamentations done by the whole community; the second reading is another section chanted by a soloist; and only the third reading is read, and that is something from perhaps one of the prophets or one of Paul's letters.

Holy Thursday evening is when we celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper. During the reading of the Gospel, our prioress washes the feet of twelve members of the community. Benedict says that the abbot is to hold the place of Christ, and so it's an especially striking visual to have our prioress (basically, the female abbot) performing this service. Then, she concluded the reading of the Gospel once she finished the foot-washing, saying: "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." Coming from her, the one who has been such a great teacher and guide, at least for me, put it in a very tangible and real light.

The Mass this evening doesn't "end" ... in fact, the three Triduum services together, in some respects, are a single liturgy, with assorted absences of opening and closing rites. Basically, it's a very cool way to keep everything tied together. Since there technically can be no "Mass" on Good Friday (no consecration of the Eucharist), enough is consecrated on Holy Thursday to provide for both days. Then, after communion, there is a solemn removal of the Blessed Sacrament to some special place for adoration until midnight.

At the conclusion of the Mass and the "removal" of the Blessed Sacrament, we all remained in church for 5-10 minutes. While we sat, the liturgist and sacristicant and various helpers solemnly de-decked the altar in preparation for Good Friday. The candles, the altar cloth, the plants ... leaving behind a very stark, plain altar. After all, this is the night that Jesus is praying in the garden and getting arrested — not exactly a time for pretty flowers.

After Mass, we all went into the monastic dining room for the Agape meal. It's a special meal, with tablecloths, candles, wine and tiny loafs of bread on each table. As Jesus celebrated a special meal with his community, so too do we. There's a special meal prayer that we use to bless the bread and wine, and it's just a good time for fellowship with one another.

Besides the good food, there's an added reason for the extra-special fellowship — after the meal, we enter into the Triduum silence. Now, we have silence at various points around here; for example, once a month we have what we call "Sabbatical Saturday" where we get to sleep a little later, have a nice brunch, and then are quiet until Sunday Mass. Retreats are theoretically silent. But there's something very special about the silence of these days. Perhaps it's the solemnity of the church services. Perhaps it's because those of us if there might happen to be anyone who does not adhere completely to the silence (which we would never have anyone like that around here!), there's a little extra effort to really make it count. Sure, we talk whisper as necessary, but .... it's just a very cool time that I can't quite put words around.

Part of the monastic silence is that we don't even ring the bells. We have three bells that are hand-pulled (unless someone tips the third bell, in which case we need to climb up to the bell tower and un-tip it) five minutes before prayer, for three minutes (we also toll them when a sister dies and at her funeral, but that doesn't really apply to now .... hopefully!). Summoning us to Holy Thursday Mass was the last we'll hear of the bells until Easter morning. We have a wooden "clapper" (and no, it's not "As Advertised On TV") that someone will use while she walks around the monastery; the little clack-clack sound is the new call to prayer.

Which brings me to the add-on part of this post's title. All the ritual of Catholic liturgy is sometimes disparaged as "Bells and Smells" for the bells, incense, and other such elements. But there is something about using those elements to set apart certain occasions as extra-significant. Part of the Holy Thursday Mass, for example, involved incensing the altar, gospel book, and people; it's not an ordinary part of the everyday Mass, so it adds to the element that "This is a special night, a solemn feast." And with the bells — it's their absence that is most noticable (along with the organ); after a few days, though, we'll kinda be used to the silence — just in time for the silence to be shattered by the bells, organ, brass, and light. But that's not until Sunday morning .... I'm getting ahead of myself. This is only Thursday, after all.

Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Prelude to Holy Week

Triduum ~ Latin for "Three Days." Within the context of the Catholic Church, these three days leading up to Easter are the most high holy days within the liturgical season.

I'll try to explain what I'm talking about as I go along, as best as I can, but I'm not really sure what aspects are "common knowledge" among other branches of Christianity, or even for my not-so-religious readers, for that matter. So, if I confuse you, or there's something you're wondering, just leave a question in the comment box and I'll try to clarify myself.

Officially, Lent ended Wednesday night. Ash Wednesday kicked off the season of Lent, a time to renew our focus on God and the things that we should focus on all the time, but since we're human, well ... at least let's make a special effort during these six weeks. After all, think about what Jesus did for you; the least we can do is cut back on the chocolate for a couple weeks, right?

Within the liturgical celebrations, Lent takes on a rather solemn tone. During these six weeks, the Gloria is not sung, nor are we to use the word alleluia (my brother got in trouble with a second-grader once as he was running a practice for children's choir: "Mr. Chris, we're not allowed to say the A-word during Lent!" So he had to explain that if you're practicing music for Easter, then it was OK to say it!). Here at the monastery, we simplify down the music we use — no brass or other fancy instruments, no music at the Offertory or recessional — and simplified decorations of perhaps a bowl of ashes or crown of thorns and nails. Our Liturgy of the Hours is different from Ordinary Time, with special antiphons before each of the psalms, and a different cycle of psalms to be recited. At the monastery, we also have one evening a week with a simple meal and silence after the meal to help provide a little additional space for reflection.

Then this past Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. There was a bit of discussion over among the RevGals as to whether they were going to celebrate Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. With us Catholics, we do both. Here at the monastery, we begin by gathering out in the courtyard for an opening prayer, reading of the Entry-into-Jerusalem Gospel, and a blessing of the palms. Then we processed in to the Church, where the liturgy resumed, using the Passion from Mark. Generally, the reading of the Passion is done by three people: one is a narrator, one reads the lines of Jesus, and one reads the lines of all the other people; the congregation also joins in for certain "crowd" lines. While it is Lent, it's a very triumphant day, so we had a brass-organ-timpani processional as we came into church. Other than that, though, it's primarily a "normal" Mass.

Quickie Thank You

All the WishWishWish thoughts that you all sent out were very successful and are greatly appreciated — the principal wants to hire her!

But now back to quiet time. I've decided that I probably will at least throw something up here, but first I need to go enjoy some sunshine.

Happy(??) Good(??) Friday!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Entering into the Silence .....

I'm back at the monastery for these high holy days; celebrating the Triduum at the monastery includes an extended silence to truly enter into the sacredness of these days. As part of the silence last year, I steered fully clear of the computer and newspaper during the full three days. I still would like to stay off my standard distractions (web et al.), but now that I have the blog going, this week I've been thinking of sharing with the blogosphere what all goes on in a monastery (mine, anyway) during this special season. During Mass tonight, though, I'm not sure. If nothing else, I'm not sure if I can avoid that most evil blogroll over there on the sidebar. Plus, I'm not sure if blogging the time would help make me reflect more on the experience or pull me out of it. Not sure. I'll just have to wait and see. As will, I suppose, all of you. So, if you don't see me here for a bit, you'll know why. And if you do see me here, I guess all this is a moot point. Otherwise, you all better not see me over at your places these next couple days, otherwise I might have to beat myself up. :-)

In the meantime, I'd like to leave you all with an interesting little reading I used as the opening prayer for my classes yesterday and today. Some good food for thought, even if you're not too into the "religion thing." It's one of the readings in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter; it's written by Morton Kelsey and is titled The Cross and the Cellar.

And, on that note ..... I'm signing off. If I don't show back up ..... blessings on your Triduum, Easter, Passover, and/or weekend, whichever it is that you choose to celebrate.

Peace out.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bawdiness and Benedictines

Susan Rose e-mailed me this link, which she got from her brother .... she commented that the last line sounded like me. It's an article about Dolores Hart, who starred with Elvis in movies and then became a nun (which I had heard about before). However, though she is prioress of her cloistered abbey, she has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for quite some time; she takes pride in this membership, and votes every year for the Academy Awards.
Does that mean she sees all the nominees, no matter how bawdy?

"Yes, I do," she replied with a smile. "If you're a Benedictine, as I am, you're supposed to be capable of integrating anything."
This speaks to the humanity and wholeness and "moderation in all things" of our Holy Father Benedict. Glad to know that his non-judgmental non-absolutedness reaches far and wide.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Prayer Requests ....

...... Unfortunately, more of the same.

I mentioned earlier about Barbara, my mom's best friend since high school (if not before that), and how she was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My mom sent out an email saying that "Barbara is asking her friends to pray the following prayer that, through the intercession of John Paul II, she may be healed and provide the second miracle needed for his canonization." Now, I know there are folks of all different religious stripes out there, and that the whole praying-to-saints thing is a sometimes–misunderstood idea, so if it's not your thing .... no problem. But, if it is your thing .... wanna help storm heaven?

Prayer through the Intercession of Pope John Paul II

O Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of your fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.
Trusting fully in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.
Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

And, also on the mom front .... You may or may not recall that she had eye surgery right before Christmas for a macular hole in her left eye. Well, while the surgery was theoretically a success (they closed the hole), apparently the hole ended up being closed with scar tissue .... so now she can't even see the big E at the top of the eye chart. Not super-good, of course, but managable. Except that Friday, they did an "Oh, by the way, you have the same thing in your right eye." Good news is that insurance has already told her they'll pay for her to see a specialist at Johns Hopkins, but she's not sure when she'll be able to get an appointment yet. Hopefully, though, Hopkins will be able to do a little more for her. But she could use some prayers for herself, too.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Problem with Acronyms

As forwarded by a friend:

The story is told of a lady who was rather old-fashioned, always quite delicate and elegant, especially in her language. She and her husband were planning a week's vacation in Florida, so she wrote to a particular campground asking for a reservation.

She wanted to make sure the campground was fully equipped, but didn't quite know how to ask about the toilet facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word "toilet" in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old-fashioned term BATHROOM COMMODE. But when she wrote that down, she still thought she was being too forward. So she started all over again and rewrote the entire letter referring to the bathroom commode merely as the BC. "Does the campground have it's own BC?" is what she actually wrote.

Well, the campground owner wasn't old-fashioned at all, and when he got the letter, he just couldn't figure out what the woman was talking about. That BC business really stumped him.

After worrying about it for awhile, he showed the letter to several campers, but they couldn't imagine what the lady meant either. So the campground owner, finally coming to the conclusion that the lady must be asking about he local Baptist Church, sat down and wrote the following reply:

Dear Madam:
I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take pleasure in informing you that a BC is located nine miles north of the campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away, if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late. It is such a beautiful facility and the acoustics are marvelous. Even the normal delivery sounds can be heard.

The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now a supper is planned to raise money to buy more seats.

I would like to say it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly, but it surely is no lack of desire on my part. As we grow old, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather.

If you do decide to come down to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go, sit with you, and introduce you to all the other folks.

Remember, this is a friendly community.

Campground Owner

Friday, April 07, 2006

Weekend Wonderings --- Pseudo-Anatomical Analyzings

Very long day today .... it began with me kicking myself as I awoke at 5:45 this morning, having not turned the alarm on last night. Which in and of itself wasn't really a problem, since I woke up in time for what I had to wake up for. But it wasn't exactly the time I had planned on getting up for.

See, a certain good friend of mine had her first "real" (nunly) job interview this morning for a job that she REALLY REALLY REALLY wants. And, since we were initially going to go shopping for a dress for her First Monastic Profession today (all sorts of excitement heading her way, no?!?), we figured I'd go with her to the Big City for her interview and then do the dress shopping. However, with Time Zone details (to be ranted about in a Coming-Soon-To-A-Blog-Near-You post), distance, and early morning appointment, we were scheduled to leave here at 6-ish. No problem, right? After all, I've perfected the SpeedyWakeUp (see Insomnia and Time I Wake Up answers here).

But, it is a problem when I had these great thoughts last night to make some yummy muffins and her favorite coffee and bring it down to wake her up as a little special Good Morning & Good Luck Surprise (although, I ended up deciding eggs and toast might be faster --- plus, I'm not sure if we had muffin ingredients down here on the floor, even though I found some yummy-looking recipes. But, I digress.). But, 15 minutes before departure-time (not including my own clothing & teeth-brushing time) was a bit late to be working out logistics for a Breakfast in Bed delivery.

She was cool with it, though, and made up some feel-good-line about how not having her normal morning routine would have thrown her out of whack or something like that. It was a nice try, anyway! :-) But, we found a car with a CD player, threw some fun tunes in the car, and drove off into the sunrise.

When we got to the Suburb of the Big City for the school, we discovered that it took WAY less time than we expected, but that was partially good because we had to do a slight turn-around off the interstate since for some reason they decided that it wasn't important to put exit numbers or road names on the particular ramp that we neded to use. After our extra-scenic route we found the school, and then she drove a little bit more down the road and shoved me out of the car at a McDonald's and told me that maybe she'd be back to pick me up later, if she was feeling nice. So I sat there and attempted to get some work done for school (very important because it wasn't until I had been sitting there for an hour and a half trying to figure out how to condense 1100 years of church history into 12 class periods or less that I looked at the calendar and realized that, in actuality, it's only 7 class periods -- and that includes any tests I'll give them, final exam prep, etc.! Stupid way-too-long abstinence class! But that'll be a later rant as well!)

But it was a very effective time for me -- I had forgotten how my most productive planning and grading before I entered happened at the food court of the local mall --- just enough chaos around that I didn't have to look for distractions, but an unfamiliar enough setting that there wasn't the "run down to the kitchen and grab something to munch" every two minutes.

And so I proceeded to sit at McDonalds from about 7:45 until 10:20, which at any other time would have driven me absolutely batty, but in this context it was more of a "Yay! She's still there!" So everyone send lots of WishWishWish thoughts her way, and telepathic "Hire Her" messages to the principal!

After much rejoicing over how well it seemed to go, we then got down to the original planned purpose of this expedition: a plain black skirt or dress.

Now, keep in mind that we were in Suburb of Big City, and then quickly went into Big City itself. And I'm not using those terms to make fun of Nowheresville -- we were truly in Big City. And keep in mind, too, that, while we are living in a monastery, it's a rather progressive monastery. We wear Real-People Clothes and even go out and interact with Real People on occasions. And I'd like to think that I manage to keep at least semi-okay tabs on the events in our world, and my friend gets the New York Times daily e-mails and works in our Communications Office, I guess we're a bit more isolated than we would have thought.

Because, apparently, we both missed the memo about the addition of skirts to the Endangered Species List.

Even in the Business Coordinates section .... it was shorts. Long shorts are now business attire?!?!? Don't get me wrong, I'm all about casual comfy, but to not even have the option?!?!? And yeah, sure, I've got a nice stock of dress pants, but shorts???? Not quite.

And we'd scan racks in gazillions of stores, look for black, think "Oh, this could be good" .... only to realize that it was hung in such a way that it only looked like a skirt. Which the abnormal freak that I am quickly morphed into not just saying "Oh wait, it's just pants" .... no, I had to point out the difference between pants and skirts/dresses......

Which brings us to the Question of the Day:

Why does everything have legs?!?!?

We've decided that there might be a summer project in learning how to sew. At least something simple like a straight black skirt. Maybe the stuff my sisters tried to teach me when I was little sunk in a bit ....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Flawed Alphabet

As swiped from Natty, who swiped it from Sr. Claire Joy, who got it from her daughter-in-law who apparently never had anyone say to her: "Now I know my ABCs, next time won't you sing with me?"

Accent: Dunno. People have sometimes been surprised when I say I'm from DC – "Really? You don't sound like you have a Boston accent!" When I did my internship in Milwaukee, some folks thought I was from Iowa ... maybe those college years in Dayton did it? I don't think I have anything too pronounced — I'm definitely avoiding the southern Indiana thing where people apparently pray to the Lard and where Jesus was barn in a barn (one friend of mine would joke about how the poor Israelites wandered in the desert for farty days and farty nights).

Booze of choice: One of the top questions I get with vocation talks is "Can you drink?" My response always is: "As long as you make a distinction between 'having a drink' and 'getting plastered'." I'm not much of a beer person (maybe I've just not had the right stuff?), but I'll do wine, margaritas (margariti?), daiquiris, hard lemonade, that kind of flavored stuff. Before I entered a friend got me into Root Beer schnapps with Coke, and peppermint schnapps always added a nice touch to a cup of hot chocolate (or a milkshake!).

Chore I hate: Most generically, cleaning. Especially when I'm in an extraordinarily heavy German-Catholic atmosphere where it sometimes seems like the phrase has morphed into "Godliness is next to cleanliness." I don't know, there's something about cleaning non-existant dirt that can come across as mildly annoying, especially if you have differing opinions of "clean." And while I do understand that it's nice to have clean sidewalks ... leaves may occasionally fall on them — that's the nature of outdoorsy locations. (There's the story of the time when we still had the boarding school and some of the girls were helping out on our Grotto Hill, but after a while they began to wonder about their assigned task of raking leaves .... in the forest!) But, truly, we do have a beautiful place that lasts because it's so well-maintained — I'm just not so into the elbow-grease side of maintaining. I do like polishing and stuff like that. Poopy diapers and puke, though, not so much (although somehow I've managed 14 nieces and nephews without a single diaper change!).

Dog or cat: Cats can have nice snuggle-factor, but are pretty stand-offish. Dogs acknowledge your presence once in a while and want to play, which is very nice. Of course, then you have ones like Tigger, the cat who thought he was a dog (came when you called, ran to greet you, etc.). We've got both here at the monastery, although nothing super-snugglable. I did dream once that I had a pet puma ....

Essential electronics: There was a lot more to this list before I entered (sigh!). Palmy has remained a big one, but now he sometimes decides to just arbitrarily reset himself and clear out his memory, so I can't depend on him very much these days -- and haven't figured out fitting a new one into my monastic budget. I do have a digital camera, but my non-electric all-manual Pentax K1000 is definitely more essential than Digi. (The names Palmy and Digi are registered trademarks; swiped from my brother, who also has Lappy and I'm not sure what else.). Oh, and do CDs count? (iPods are another desired-yet-non-monastic-budgetary kind of item).

Favorite perfume(s): Ummmm .... it's been a while. So much of a while that I don't remember the names of the ones I liked. Not that I wore much anyway.

Gold or Silver: Silver ... although I've had to shift to a gold chain for my "official" Benedictine medal.

Hometown: Rockville, Maryland (suburban Washington DC), with a more recent "home" of Columbia, Maryland (straddling the line between suburban Washington and suburban Baltimore). Now .... Middle of Nowheresville, Indiana.

Insomnia?: Generally, I don't have a problem falling asleep. Sometimes I have a problem going to bed .... but the bigger issue is what goes on at the morning end of the sleep cycle.

Job Title: Theology Teacher

Kids?: 14 nieces and nephews. I remember my brother calling after his daughter was born: "Steph, whatever you do, don't have kids. It sucks! I'm used to playing with them, and then when they start yelping, I hand 'em off to someone else. Now they're giving her to me! I don't want her when she's all stinky!" This way is great. I get to have "Most Favorite Aunt" status without the diapers or discipline. Of course, with the 108 kids that I have on a regular basis, I'm not so off-the-hook .... at least not with the discipline.

Living Arrangement: House in Loovul with four other sisters (nun-sisters, not sibling-sisters), with lots of stops back at the Monastery for weekends, vacations, etc. I see it kinda like when I was in college, where the dorm was home, but I'd go home to my parents' house; I have a home in Loovul, but home is the Monastery.

Most Admired Trait: I'm not sure how admired it is, but .... causing trouble? Although, for as much of an instigating troublemaker as I claim to be, deep down I'm such a brownnosing goody-two-shoes at heart it makes me sick! But I do have a decent sense of humor ( I think so, anyway) .... poetic ponderings .... good listener, observant, good people-sense .... I don't know, maybe Jeana can help me out with this one .... please? I even made you a hedgehog!

Number of Sexual Partners: May I refer you to Elizabeth's question ...

Overnight Hospital Stays: Two rounds, but neither for me. One was when I worked in the boarding school and I had to stay with one of my kids who had been coughing so much she ripped a hole in her throat. My only question was why they felt the need to empty the trash can at 2:30 in the morning? And do lots of shaking open of the plastic bag? And clanging the can? As tall me attempted to sleep on the little chair next to the kid's bed? Not that I'm bitter. The other time was this past fall, when I went to go sit with Terence through the night.

Phobia: Puking. Truly. Phobic. Not just sympathetic puker, not just "don't like it." Truly truly phobic. I realized that when I worked at the boarding school – one of my kids was really sick and I was there in the hallway thinking "She really needs some help" but being thoroughly paralyzed to do anything about it ... even though it was my job. Then one time a good friend and I were camping and she discovered half a moth in her mac&cheese (the other half was in the bite she took). She bolted to the bathroom and I bolted in the opposite direction. After a while of beating myself up for what a horrible friend I am as we're out in the middle of the woods and she's (I'm guessing) puking her guts out and I can't even see how she's doing? After all, she was gone a while. But, even still, I could only make it to the edge of our campsite. I hadn't thrown up since fifth grade, and then a couple years ago I threw up once in my brother's driveway and wouldn't eat for several days because I was so wigged out (it was the family holiday illness -- another brother ended up in the hospital from it); then just two months later at a retreat I did again, and was super wigged out. I dread flu season at the monastery, because down in the building I stay in around here we have communal bathrooms, and I can't even hear it without freaking out. Even in January this year, when I got sick at school – I thought for sure I was going to lose it, but just opening the door to the bathroom I knew I just could not bring myself to "assume the position" (neither of my two semi-recent times did I use an appropriate receptacle), so I dove on the couch and remained absolutely still until someone drove me home. My ultimate paranoid and paralyzing phobia. But .... enough puke talk, no?

Quote: This, along with X, is my add-in. I'm always up for cool quotes. Which of course makes this a little more of a challenge for me to pick just one, but I'll have to go with one of my old standbys .... in AP World Lit senior year of high school, Mrs. K. got mad at us because none of us could tell her what the peasant philosophy of Anna Karenina was – "It's on page 26!" (She didn't like our class too much – especially when it got to the interpreting poetry section.) Anyway, apparently the peasant philosophy of Anna Karenina is "It will all come right somehow." It's gonna happen the way it's supposed to happen. Or, as Jeana's quote from Julian of Norwich says: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Religion: Catholic, but probably shattering just as many Catholic stereotypes as I am nun-myths.

Siblings: Three brothers and two sisters; some lurk around here but don't show their faces .... but I know you're out there!!!

Time I wake up: Let's see .... is this "time my alarm[s] go off", "time I should wake up", "time I do wake up", "time I wake up the second [or more] time", or "time I actually haul my butt out of bed"? (See Insomnia question). At the house we have morning prayer at 6:20 during the week; at the monastery it's at 7. I've perfected the speed-wake, though, and can leap out of bed and up the gazillion stairs to the monastery church in five minutes if necessary; I prefer a little more time, though, if possible.

Unusual talent/skill: Apparently some people would say it's when I "give them the eyebrow." And then other people, who shall remain nameless, insist that it's my "talented toes." I, however, always claim my ability to make my tongue into a W (one of these days I'll take a picture and post it) — I've found maybe six other people who can do it. Janelle Lee in third grade could do it and I thought it was the coolest thing so I practiced lots and lots until now I can do it without wedging my tongue between my teeth, staring in a mirror, or even thinking about it. See all the great things you can accomplish with a little determination???

Vegetable I refuse to eat: Hmmmm .... lots of possibilities here, unfortunately enough. I have problems with cooked spinach sometimes (it's too stringy to chew but it's also too stringy to just swallow down whole), but I think the hands-down unfavorite would be lima beans (no matter what's been done to them, they still are drier than a desert on the inside) and/or brussell sprouts (there's even just the whole smell thing going on there. That, plus my sister had her kids convinced for a while that there actually was no such thing as Brussell Sprouts – the vegetable that becomes the humorous centerpiece of our family Thanksgiving table).

Worst habit: Well, Natty said procrastination, but .... I'm not sure. I'll have to think about that one for a bit. Oh wait, but first I need to go scrub out some tile grout ..... oh shoot, have I not answered that question yet? There are just so many less important things that I have to do before I can get this one major thing finis......

Xenophobia or Xenophilia?: I suppose I'd say xenophilia. Although I found lots of very cool X-words to use (since this was one of the neglected letters in the original), I figured this was the most appropriate question-type set of words. Check 'em out, though .... lotsa fun!

Yummy foods I make: In my "former" life at the apartment, I had a speciality in burgers (special ones, though, extra-yummy) and milkshakes (best milkshakes anywhere, still are!). Now some of my specialities include my mom's lasagna and her Crown Coffee Cake; what I call "Gretchen Cassarole" since I got the recipe from my college roommate Gretchen when we made it all the time; I've got an awesome foccacia recipe that I've adapted and turned into a top-notch pizza crust; plus, my patented Snowman Soup (yes I know I still owe you some, Andrea!), Chocolate Peanut-Butter Goop; ummmm .... lotsa options. Nothing overly healthy, though (see Vegetable question). JJ ~~ Care to add your favorites? (I should have put "Inability to Make a Decision Without a Consult" up there with "worst habit"...)

Zodiac sign: Scorpiogo to main page

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