Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Laugh to Close Out the Year

In case my little fit of epileptic joy has you in need of something both worth seeing and stationary, I link you to Dave Barry's year in review. The whole thing had me in stitches -- stitch-es. Here's a teaser for you:
JULY . . .

Barack Obama, having secured North and South America, flies to Germany without using an airplane and gives a major speech -- speaking English and German simultaneously -- to 200,000 mesmerized Germans, who immediately elect him chancellor, prompting France to surrender.

Happy New Year, everyone! Blessings and laughter to you in barrels.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Look Back, a Little Early

Just like last year, here's a photographic, slightly epileptic, look back at this year for me. Highlights:
  • My 2nd VIDES formation camp, this time having a clue
  • My 2nd semester teaching, still without a clue
  • The St. Vitus Fools, our drama club, and our production of "Looking Glass Land, which was a sucess largely because no one could tell none of us had a clue.
  • More nuns, all indescribably wonderful.
  • Leaving the nuns, with a full heart and some tears...
  • ...and arriving at Notre Dame to start ACE...
  • ...where I met some of the most incredible people ever, and certainly the heaviest concentration of awesome I've encountered yet
  • My second convent full of community mates, this time unconsecrated my own age
  • My second year of teaching, with a little bit of a clue
  • And meanwhile, my family continued to be awesome and weird

Please note: There are two people who were as important in my life this year as anyone else, and more important than most, even though I only saw them once in April for a few hours each (hence the painful dearth of pictures and sinful under representation). You know who you are. This year would not have been nearly as wonderful without your constant long-distance support, laughter, and presence. Thank you. I love you more than I know how to say.

All the pictures in the movie are available here, should you be inclined to take a more leisurely look.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Hear the Truth; It Liveth!

This song has been in my head all week. They sing it pretty often at the basilica at Notre Dame, which is where I first heard it. There's one line where the choir director always stomps his foot so loud it sounds through the whole church. That's my favorite part, and I confess I miss it sometimes.

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!

My life flows on in endless song
above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul!
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth; it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close,
songs in the night it giveth

While tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
and hear their death knells ringing;
When friends rejoice both far and near,
how can I keep from singing?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Two Reasons to Watch This

1. It's a delightful rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.
2. It was sent by a friend to me and several common friends with this note:
"Makes me think of Andie. Every time. (Get to 1:56 and I think you'll understand)"

I can't deny it, I do get pretty excited when I hear this song.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My dear friend Mark says...

"Check this out and tell me it doesnt make you want to go run a marathon or something athletic."

I does, in fact, and it's finally cool enough here that I just might.


I related news, for reasons unknown to me, YouTube has decided to make it impossible for me to copy the code to embed videos. What did I do to invite your scorn, YouTube?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Missed Merton

I missed this, what with my floundering attempts to be responsible, but evidently yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the passing of Thomas Merton.

His most well-knwon prayer, and a favorite of mine:

My Lord God,I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

ACE Founder and Big-Wig Receives Presidential Award

We (ACErs) were let in on this event while in Austin for our retreat this past weekend. Later, some of us delighted in seeing Fr. Scully breakin' it down on the dance floor, and one of my good friends commented, "Give this man a presidential award!"

I love ACE.

The rest of the article is here. it has a pretty good summary of the ACE program, in case you're curious exactly what I'm up to, and short (very short) list of some of ACE's associated programs and initiatives.

At retreat, Fr. Scully emphasized that he was getting this award on behalf of all the people who do and have ever done work with the Alliance for Catholic Education. When I signed up for this thing, I thought, "Hey, grad school AND service!". I am realizing more and more that ACE is a lot bigger than that. It is, in fact, a movement unto itself, and I'm profoundly excited that I'm part of it.

Father Scully receives Presidential Citizens Medal
By: Julie Hail Flory
Date: December 10, 2008

Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., professor of political science and director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) at the University of Notre Dame, received a 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal in an Oval Office ceremony held Wednesday (Dec. 10).

One of the highest honors the president can confer upon a civilian – second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the Presidential Citizens Medal recognizes U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation. Since its establishment by executive order in 1969, some 100 people have received the award.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Houston (and everywhere else), we have a problem

Here's the deal, Dear Readers: our house's internet is down. Because of our location, we have to have satellite internet, and satellite puts a cap on our bandwidth in any consecutive thirty days. We have seven adults in our house who use the internet on a regular basis. That means, basically, that we WILL go over our quota. When that happens, we're penalized with a serious squeeze on available bandwidth (or something like that).

What that means is that while our internet is still technically there, it's useless for anything other than basic HTML e-mail checking. I can only do most internet activities from school.

While this is a good thing for the amount of work I will get done at home, it is a bad thing for the amount of blogging I am able to do. I'm sorry. This is just how it has to be. It's not you, it's me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from Louisiana!

We wild cisneri have had a divine day. I hope the same is true of you all and your families.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Sister (w/ a little update)

My sister and I are pretty tight.

It's funny, in the parental genetic roulette, we ended up very physically distinct from each other. I was never a particularly teeny child, but she has been utterly minute from day one; my dark curly hay stack of hair could hardly be more different than her well-behaved straight locks; likewise her multicolored eyes to my dark solid irises; she has her mom's nose, I have our dad's. I don't think people look at us and say, "Ah! You are sisters!"

Sadly, she does seem to have my teeth (which I eventually grew into, with the help of orthodontia, so there's hope for her yet).

I do believe that people spend time with us and see there is clearly a common root between us. I mean, really, how could two such bizarre characters exist otherwise, if they were not sprung from the same place? At her age, I was equally obsessed with the written word, as great of a dork, comparably creative, and very nearly as weird. She's gaining on me in her introspective tendencies. Every time I go home, our mom makes some comment about how she's more and more like a mini-Andie every day.

Fish Face was born about eight weeks premature. The night before she was born, I dreamed our dad came into my room, woke me up, and told me not to go to school in the morning. He was taking Mom to the hospital and would call me to check in regularly (I was nearly thirteen and quite used to being home alone with my younger brother for a while). In the morning, I told my mom about it, and she laughed and said something along the lines of, "Well, let's hope that doesn't happen. It's too soon."

The next night, I had the exact same dream, like a movie being replayed. I awoke in the morning long after I should have left for school and panicked until I found Alex blissfully chowing down on cereal and watching cartoons. And I realized the second time, the dream had not been a dream at all.

I dreamed my sister's birth a day before it happened, and two months earlier than it should have. Make of that what you will.

There is something special about my sister. And I know everyone says that about children they love, but there is truly something very particular about her. If I believed in reincarnation, I would say she is the oldest soul I've ever met, and yet also the most hopeful and searching one. She has always been so, from her earliest days spent in an incubator. My ties to her are not stronger or deeper than those to my brothers; they are thicker. They transmit more.

Mark Shea has posted a few items lately about odd occurrences that can only be explained by the Holy Spirit, which reminded me of that dream, which got me pondering Melissa herself. I am always in awe of the incredible gifts I've been given in my life when I stop to think on them, and even more so the ones that just keep growing and giving more and more. My siblings all fall under that category. Such wondrous things are not made by our kind, but by the One who made us.

Little update: Mr. Shea just posted an e-mail I sent him about my dream in response to his posts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saints in Space!

And I'm not kidding even a little bit. (Emphasis mine)

NEW CANEY, Texas, NOV. 20, 2008 ( St. Thérèse wrote that she wanted to be a missionary on every continent simultaneously and reach the most remote islands -- now her dream has extended to space flight.

The Carmelite community of New Caney, Texas, enjoys the friendship of Colonel Ron Garan, who was on the May 31-June 14 Discovery shuttle mission.

Before heading into space, Garan had called the women religious to request their prayer for the voyage, and he told them he could take some small item into space on behalf of the community.

The sisters reported that the words of St. Thérèse came to mind: "I have the vocation of an apostle. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But oh, my beloved, one mission would not be enough for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages."

The Carmelites gave the astronaut a relic of St. Thérèse for his flight.

Now, they report, she has traveled 5,735,643 miles around the earth for 14 days at 17,057 miles an hour. Meanwhile, the sisters commended the world to her intercession.
I wonder if any other saint's relic has been brought into the cold black beyond our atmosphere. Is Therese our first extraterrestrial saint?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

For my fellow Trekkers

I went to see Quantum of Solace with my housemates this past weekend, and when this preview started up I literally squealed and bounced in my seat.

I am not a movie franchise purist. I am a fan of good movies. Most of these recent series revamps/reboots (the new Batmans and the latest Bond movies, for example) have perhaps not been entirely true to the legacy of their predecessors, but they have tended to be darn good movies. I hope and suspect such is the case with J.J. Abram's treatment of my most beloved Star Trek series.

Smoke and mirrors can be pretty cool.

The Year in Pictures pointed me to Miss at la Playa, where we find an awesome series of six photographs. As far as my French translation skills get me, the title of the French Vogue piece is "From 10 to 60". All the images are of the same model, done at the same shoot. The difference is hair, make up, and lighting, and the result is both downright eerie and pretty darn cool.

I'd be very interested to find out how old she actually is.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Um. Awesome.

No comment beyond the title is needed.

In America, this doesn't qualify as news.

...but then, I don't live in America. I live in Brownsville, in the Rio Grande Valley. An in the Valley, this sure is news.

"The low temperature in Harlingen dropped to 39 degrees; which was the coldest morning since February 1st of this year. "

I don't think I need to comment on that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's a Small World After All

The first two weeks of the first ACE summer, most conversations are ruled by three topics: where did you go to undergrad, what was your major, and where are you going in ACE? As I happen to have met a lot of people from a lot of different schools during my own four years of undergrad, when I heard a college I was familiar with, I would throw names out to see if there was a common acquaintance. I actually managed to find a pretty big net of odd connections.

I knew all the people on the left in the picture below as many as four years before starting ACE; the people on the right are fellow ACErs who know the left-side folks somehow. Some of the connections aren't too surprising -- if you happen to go to the same school and both go to Mass, odds are you'll know each other at least by name -- but some are really random, like the twins going to grade school with another girl in my VIDES group. All in all, I think it's pretty nifty.

(I think the errors and squiggles make it more amusing, don't you?)

Meanwhile, I have a geographic connection to most of my roommates:
  • Andrew is from a town about 40 minutes from my family in California and went to Gonzaga in Spokane, where I spent a good chunk of my childhood.
  • Steph is from the Seattle area, where I spent an even bigger chunk of my time.
  • Savannah is from Colorado, where I also lived, and lived with her cousin in Seattle for a semester when we were in high school.
It's a small, small world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Its fall in brownsville!

the gloves and scarves are out to help combat the unseasonably cool temperature OF... 80 degrees.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Virgin's Veil and Star Gazing

I've been sitting on a couple of links for a while, and being as I have work I should be doing but don't want to... well, now is obviously the moment to do post them!

Thomas D. Jones is a Catholic who went into space. I'd like to be one of those. He writes a reflection of the experience worth reading, but this is my favorite part:

Our silent reflection was interrupted by a sudden burst of dazzling white light. The sun had risen (as it did 16 times each day) just as we finished Communion, and now its pure radiance streamed through Endeavour’s cockpit windows and bathed us in its warmth. To me, this was a beautiful sign, God’s gentle touch confirming our union with him.

I rolled away from my crewmates, unable to stem the tears evoked by that singular sunrise. My gaze turned to the overhead windows and the Pacific Ocean, the dawn lighting its surface in a rich, limitless blue.

I called out to Kevin and Sid, “Look at that ocean—what an incredible color!” They both turned and drank in hues unmatched by the palette of any human artist. After a moment, Kevin said simply, “It’s the blue of the Virgin’s veil, Tom.” He was right. There were no other words for that vision out the window.

I apologize to whoever I got that link from in the first place, because I've forgotten where exactly that was.

Meanwhile, back in the farthest reaches of space, as I understand it we have our first pictures of planets in another star system (correct me if I'm wrong). I think that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tomato, Potato

Student: What's you favorite song ever, Miss?
Me: Wonderwall, by Oasis.
S: I like that song too!  But my favorite band is AT&T.
Me:  ...What?
S: Yeah, they sing Back in Black.
M: Do you mean AC DC?
S: Ooooooh, that's what their name is.
No.  Comment.  Necessary.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

May our Lady and all the Saints pray for you,
and the holy guardian angels watch over you
and keep you in their safe protection,
and the blessing of God almighty,
the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
descend upon you and remain with you always.

Many more years of health and happiness, Dad. I love you!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Totally using this

One of my 8th graders after I "brought [his] self esteem down to -150":
Me: Listen, if I really did that, you have much bigger problems than a teacher could begin to help you with.
Student: Even worse! You took a blind man and poked him in the eye!
I.  LOVE. My job.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Brownsville Sunset

I love having a sun roof in bville in the fall! Forgive the recent utter absence of posting. There is always a lot going on but a lot of it is not bloggable. Never fear, dear readers, i live and i live well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Illegal Aliens from Outter Space

I gave my kids the in-class task of drawing a picture to help them remember the definition of one of their vocab words.  The pair who got "alien" came up with this drawing, along with this explanation:
"Alright, so an alien is something foreign or from another planet, and Mexicans get called aliens all the time, so what we drew is a Mexican sombrero abducting a person."
The student proudly indicated his sombrero-shaped UFO with abductee in a cone of blue light.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Photo Flashback 2

Acording to Dad, this is from March 2000. To my mind, it doesn't really matter when exactly it's from, it's hilarious.

Another Winner from Science, aka Captains of the Obvious

This is, it seems, the earliest known refference to Christ, which is pretty cool. The full article is here, but the best part is right at the beginning (emphasis mine):

Earliest Reference Describes Christ as 'Magician'
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Oct. 1, 2008 -- A team of scientists led by renowned French marine
archaeologist Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl,
dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., that
is engraved with what they believe could be the world's first known reference to

If the word "Christ" refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world.

What?! Get outta here! No way! No way. I'm both shocked and amazed.

Also rich: the headline seems to imply this might undermine the whole "Son of God" thing, which is just silly. That a pagan saw (or heard of) miraculous healings and such and thought, "Hm, magic!" is not at all unlikely. It also doesn't even put a dent in the Truth of the thing.

Interesting, anyway.

I'm so glad I'm an ND student now...

...because now I get to laugh heartily at things like this. It seems Domers are taking it to another level, what with the fact that we're having a winning season and all. Behold, the most awesomely ridiculous hats ever:

Recognize it? It's a wearable mini version of Notre Dame's most distinguished landmark:

I love it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Not Sure How to Take That...

I play music quietly while the kids do silent work.
Student: Miss, who sings this?
Me: The Four Tops.
Student: What's it called?
Me: I Can't Help Myself.
Student:  Me either, miss.

Warships Surround Somali Pirates

The story turns out not to be really funny at all (though it is interesting), but what a great headline!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Photo Flashback

Sorry, Dear Readers, I'm just so in love with all the old pictures Dad sent me. I need to post a few more. I'll try to space them out so as not to overwhelm you and drive you away.

Alex and I in Olympia, Washington, about thirteen years ago.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Duh, or "How St. Thomas More Pointed Out That I've Overlooked the Point"

As I have mentioned once or twice, I have grown to really loath politics, the political machine, the entire election process, and especially the exceedingly large piles, buckets, and repositories of pretentious, irrational, "me-against-you" horse manure that get stacked up, stirred up, ad paraded about. I find it frustrating, frightening, and nauseating.

So I removed myself from the entire thing. I just don't talk politics. When it comes up in conversation, I quietly leave the room.

Recently, the Catholic blogosphere has been passing around the Litany of St. Thomas More, and after seeing it on at least three different sites, it suddenly dawned on me.

Duh, Andrea. You should be praying.

Rather than simply refuse to play, I ought to be praying about this unfortunate state of affairs, and for more people like Thomas More, who was martyred for the faith and refused to compromise his integrity, to get into the game.

Litany of St. Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers

V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Spare us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Graciously hear us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

An Odd Nostalgia

Back to those pictures Dad sent me.

A long time ago, I noticed an odd phenomenon with my littlest brother and sister. However much I adore them in their present form -- and I do, my friends, roommates, students, and vague acquaintances get rather sick of hearing my endless stories of how stinkin' funny and brilliant they are -- there are times when I look at them in their ten and eight year old bodies and think, "I miss baby you".

I think parents can relate to this, and other way-bigger siblings. I am by no means as important in Melissa and Charlie's lives as our parents are, but because of our significant age gap (about thirteen and fifteen years, respectively), I have always been more of a caretaker than the typical older sister (like I was for Alex, who is only four year behind me). Along with that, I clearly and distinctly remember loving the ever-living daylights out of them from the moment I saw them, especially when they smiled at me like that or drove me up the wall by repeatedly sitting on the dishwasher when I was trying to load it and laughing at me when I yelled at them.

They were other, different individuals then. Both of them have always been busting with their own personalities, and they still blow me over daily, but when they were babies there was just something... different. Almost magical, if you'll excuse the sap. Maybe they were just unbearably cute.

And now they're big, and smart-mouthed, and clever as all get out, and I am more glad every single day I have them. But there are moments, not at all uncommon, when I wish I could rewind them and have them be the teeny little pudge balls they once were, mischief and glee and pure life flying like sparks from a sparkler from their eyes and laughs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thats my school!

And your eyes do not deceive you - it has six classrooms and is entirely baby blue.

The Secret Heart, part 2

Joe asked an excellent question about my post of yesterday: What did my students think?

It's a funny thing with middle schoolers. They are, for the most part, not even quite on the outskirts of abstract thought. Of course, that's part of why the language arts are so important. A huge part of my job is to teach them how to think abstractly; heck, that such a thing exists. I, having been out of that stage of cognitive development for almost a decade now, have a fair amount of trouble figuring out how in the blazes to get them past the concrete (this is why you do basically the same thing in English class from 6th grade up -- it's really tricky stuff, and it takes a lot of practice).

So when I show them a poem that you and I, Dear Reader, instantly recognize as an ode to that deep, unspeakable, intimate love that exists in a parent's heart for a child, 8th graders read, "The kid's dad lit a match to check on him and he had a happy look on his face."

Alright kids, let's look at this a little a little closer:
He wore, it seemed to his small son,
A bare heart on his hidden one,

A heart that gave out such a glow
No son awake could bear to know.

It showed a look upon a face
Too tender for the day to trace.
After reading these six lines very slowly with deliberate annunciation, and a lot of hinting and prodding, I got these responses:
  • "Maybe the dad is dead and he's seeing a ghost."
  • "Maybe he died but the son still feels like he's watching over him." (Give her credit for going beyond the surface.)
  • "Why doesn't he just tell his son he loves him?"
  • "Maybe the son is crazy and the dad was sad because the son is crazy." (Give him credit for making a personal connection.)
Well, it's early in the year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Secret Heart

We read this in class today, and I got to spend twenty minutes asking leading questions about, and potificating on, the meaning. I'd never read it before I found it in the textbook for the 8th graders, but I love it.

To think, in middle and high school I detested poetry.

The Secret Heart
by Robert Tristin Coffin

Across the years he could recall
His father one way best of all.

In the stillest hour of night
The boy awakened to a light.

Half in dreams, he saw his sire
With his great hands full of fire.

The man had struck a match to see
If his son slept peacefully.

He held his palms each side the spark
His love had kindled in the dark.

His two hands were curved apart
In the semblance of a heart.

He wore, it seemed to his small son,
A bare heart on his hidden one,

A heart that gave out such a glow
No son awake could bear to know.

It showed a look upon a face
Too tender for the day to trace.

One instant, it lit all about,
And then the secret heart went out.

But it shone long enough for one
To know that hands held up the sun.

Things I Miss

Dad sent me a truck full of scans of old pictures. This one makes me miss my siblings (including Charlie, my fellow bookend, though he was probably inside drooling when this was taken) very, very, very much.

This one, on the other hand, just makes me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First gift from a guadalupe student

Pecans from her grandfather's tree.

I. Want. This.

I mentioned School House Rock on Friday, and yesterday my kids came back and told me it was coming out on DVD today. Naturally, I jumped on Amazon the first chance I got and looked it up.

My kiddos got a little mixed up. The Election Collection was released today, but it turns out the 30th Anniversary edition with "Every (School House Rock) Song Ever Created" has been out for years -- since 2002! How did I not know this? What a sad vigil I've kept over the latest in instructional media. Shame on me.

Now being aware of its existance, I'm coveting it like crazy, of course.

Where Middle Schoolers Find God

Each class period begins with prayer. I think most of my colleagues go pretty basic -- intentions, thanks, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the essentials. My language arts block is twice as long as any other class (instead of switching, they stay in my class two periods, everyday), and I like to take advantage of the time to be just slightly more adventurous with prayer.

One of my experiments has been assigning a student to lead prayer once or twice a week. A few have gone "free style", some have read scripture, and one had us recite the Apostle's Creed. Most have gone the YouTube route. If they use a video, they introduce it and explain why they feel it's good for prayer, and those few sentences -- even though it's like pulling molars to get them out -- reveal an impressive understanding of the faith for 7th and 8th graders.

Some of the videos they've used so far this year:

What About Now? - Daughtry ("Embedding disabled by request")

The Lifehouse "Everything" Skit

Free Hugs

Granted, they're not winning any prizes for "videos no one's seen yet", but hey, it's middle school. We're working up to originality.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going to the Mattresses

Our school is attached to a parish, and so my classroom is used for CCD over the weekend.


Two Mondays in a row now, I have come in to find the room's AC on full blast (I turn it off before I leave for the weekend) and my desks totally out of order.

Not. Fine.

Those not in the teaching profession may not fully appreciate this, but especially in the middle grades, order is everything. Even if my lesson is abysmally ineffective (can't win 'em all), if I can keep order I consider the day a success. My desks are the way they are for a reason. Were I to let my 7th graders walk into the room as it was when I walked in, chaos and confusion would erupt. So I was obliged to spend ten minutes putting my desks back (while I lost feeling in my hands because the air was so cold).

I'm not taking this lying down. This Friday, before I leave, I will write them a note.

Yup. I mean business.

And It Begins...

It happened with spring, too: I didn't realize it had sprung until I looked at the Google homepage. The seasons just sneak up on me.

People who know me know I am not a fan of fall. It's the ever-darkening lead up to winter, of which I am even less a fan. And in some sense, it's worse than winter: in winter, at least the days are slowly lengthening again, a long wait before the rebirth you know is coming. Fall is death itself.

...Too much?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Push Ups, or "Look, Mom, I'm Irish!"

Notre Dame is rather infamous for the number of traditions it has, some reaching pretty far into the realm of minutia. Every official ND dance ends with Billy Joel's "Piano Man", for example. Every single dorm has its own formidable bucket o' traditions. Every night at the Backer, which is not even an official Notre Dame establishment, finishes with "Proud to Be an American", the Notre Dame fight song, "Oh, What a Night", and "Happy Trails". In that order. Every time. And when you sing the fight song, there's a part where girls are supposed to yell and one where boys are supposed to yell.

Here's a pacticularly unique tradtion I hadn't heard of until I got there this summer: in the stuent section at the football games -- I don't know if you knew, but Domers are pretty serious about football -- with every score, a group of people will pick up one person and do "push ups".

Here's how it looks up close.

And here's how it looks from afar when the whole lot of them are doing it.

Two of my housemates teach at St. Joe's, which has its homecoming game Friday night. The St. Joe fight song just happens to be exactly the same as the Notre Dame fight song, and three of the six housmates present were ND alum. So, when St. Joe scored and the band started playing the fight song, naturally they all decided we should do push ups. Being the smallest one present not wearing a skirt, and being totally game, I soon found myself the object of a lot of odd stares as my housemates threw me in the air nine and then twenty-five times (we missed a touchdown), counting as we went.

I am now truly and undeniably an Notre Dame student.

Bloodless Value

So I'm an English teacher, right, and that means I get the joy of being in charge of book orders. What I didn't know until now is that the book order package has deals for teachers -- class sets and such.

This month's book order offers the "Classic Goosebumps set", twenty-some of the "best of Goosebumps".

False! The set doesn't include Night of the Living Dummy, Phantom of the Auditorium, or Monster Blood. What?! You can't have ANY Goosebumps set that doesn't include Monster Blood!

That's it. I'm writing a letter to Scholastic.

Image taken from Reader Beware: The Goosebumps Blog

Friday, September 12, 2008


For those friends and family who happen to read this today and the next couple: my housemates and I are not evacuating for Ike, since it looks like the worst we're going to get are the outter bands.  Should be nasty weather for a few days, but nothing remotely dangerous.
It was pretty clear and still when we left for school two hours ago; already, it's getting grey and blustery.  The kids have a half day, but we teachers will stay until 3:30 for a faculty meeting.  After that, I intend to sit in my house and grade papers all weekend.
This is a fantastic storm traking site Dad sent me.  Great "at a glance" info, with lots more available with a click.

Back in the Game

Actually, I have been for three solid weeks now.  The new school is phenomenal, and up to this point I've been almost afraid to post anything because the kids were so eerily well behaved, I was convinced they were all going to turn on me at some point.
I teach 7th and 8th grade.  The 7th graders are still a little draggy, but the 8th graders are starting to act like... well, 8th graders.  Earlier this week, one of two ACE supervisors came by to observe.  When he left, the entire 8th grade bombarded me with questions about who he was, having already concluded he bust be my boyfriend (that a boyfriend would have no reason to come sit in my class for fifteen minutes and then leave did not occur to them).
We read Shakespearean sonnets today.  You can imagine how that went.  In response to one of the most well-studied pieces by arguably the world's greatest writer ever:
Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I got the following comments:
"How do we know he wasn't talking about a dog or a cat or something?"
"Good question.  You tell me, class."
"Well, it's romantic."
"I don't read this and think 'romance'.  I wouldn't want to be compared to a tree."
"Do 'thee' and 'thou' mean 'you'?"
"Then why didn't he just say 'you'?"
"But summer isn't nice or pretty.  It sucks."
"Yes, in Brownsville."
"Well, where was Shakespeare from?"
"Miss, was Shakespeare dyslexic or something?"
I love my job.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Little Brother

...the one who is actually smaller than I am, was in good form last night when I called the fam:
Charlie: I like the line in Spider Man 3, 'You always have a choice".
Me: That is is a good line.
Charlie: Well, in important things.  Not like race cars and stuff.
Me: What are important things?
Chucky: Weeeeeell, you know... like insurance.  All that financial stuff.
Ah, the wisdom of eight year olds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An old gift...

...Finally displayed properly.
Thanks, Se!

Peggy Noonan is Great, or "I Hate Politics, pt X"

As to the question when human life begins, the answer to which is above Mr. Obama's pay grade, oh, let's go on a little tear. You know why they call it birth control? Because it's meant to stop a birth from happening nine months later. We know when life begins. Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins.

To put it another way, with conception something begins. What do you think it is? A car? A 1948 Buick?

If you want to argue whether legal abortion is morally defensible, have at it and go to it, but Mr. Obama's answers here seemed to me strange and disturbing.

The rest.

Related but different, the DNC is a load of horse manure in at least on respect, probably others (which is not to say the RNC is a repository of truth and candor).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Yup, Still Alive

You know that saying, life intervenes? I might be making that up, but even in such case, you're clever enough to get what I mean. Anyway, that's my excuse. The last couple months of school and getting ready to leave the convent and go to Notre Dame sucked up most of my time in April and May, and ACE sucked up every waking moment in June and July.

A brief summary of my first ACE summer:

ACE has articulated the philosphy of education I've been dancing around for years: education is a social justice issue, because education is a right to all people because of their God-given dignity. Moreover, education is about the whole kid and not just their little brains. These were things I knew, but I don't think I'd articulated it, and ceetainly hadn't met so many people who agree.

My fellow ACErs are the greatest "quantity of quality" of people I've ever encountered. I have always been blessed with remarkable, incredible, astounding friends, make no mistake, but the sheer number of "wow" people I met was awesome. One rarely encounters this caliber of people, and never in such numbers.

The Church I fawn over so much is more than the mystical, mysterious body I usually focus on. It's a living, breathing institution, and I'm trying to shift my perspective to see that better, day to day.

More will come out in the wash, I'm sure.

I'll be in Brownsville with my community Tuesday night. Teaching starts August 22.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Non nobis, Domine, Domine,
non nobis, Domine
Sed nomini, sed nomini,
tuo da gloriam.

(The video happens to be pretty sweet -- Henry V rocks -- but it's really about the beautiful arrangement of Non Nobis)

Monday, July 21, 2008

From Serpants to Stallions

[I wrote this about two years ago when I was going through the roughest phase of my life thus far -- quite the spiritual, mental, and emotional battle for a while. This is one of the handful of things I wrote during that time that hold some truth, rather than pure emotional release.]

And you said i know that this will hurt,
But if i don't break your heart things will just get worse

This God thing gets more and more complicated all the time, sometimes everyday. Where once it seemed sufficient to feel joy in His presence and to be content with my life, now the notion begins to creep into my mind that the Lord of Abraham is not all about brownies and hugs. I "knew" that, we all "know" that, but it seems most of us have this concept that when hard times come, God's role is to shoo them away, to make them not so, to blink them out of existence because He is the God of all Goodness and Love. His job is to carry us through to the good times again.

A few months ago I would have said "Well... yeah, of course", but now I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't a flaw in the attitude, the thinking that that's based on. I don't doubt for a moment that God's ultimate plan for us is to be "happy" (although that's an incredibly insufficient word for the kind of freedom and joy we're promised), to be with Him in Heaven and just celestial choir our brains out. While on Earth, however, it seems everyone wants "happy" now. Which is fine, and most of us get it. The general attitude towards suffering seems to be "God will lead me through this, and after it I will be better for Him". The object is to get it over with and go on being "happy", and I'd say for 98% of our lives, that's more or less accurate.

Maybe, though, sometimes God is not in the process, He's not there getting you "over it". Perhaps once in a long while, He isn't the least bit interested in making us feel better. None of that "footprints in the sand" sentimentality; instead, God is in the suffering itself. It may be that in the time we think we most need rescue, when we feel our darkest hour yet is bearing down on us and we are most willing to be plucked from harm, that He instead stands by and says, "No. I'm not getting you out of this one. You're going to sit right there and it's going to hurt like hell, because this is what you need right now."

It's like spiritual chemo: the chemo itself yields the results, not the process of surviving it. It's excruciating and the side effects make you wonder if it's worth it at all, but somewhere in you, a cancer is slowly dying. And God never abandons us, even when we're so hurt that in prayer, we can only ponder our anger. He throws at us the raging storm or the blazing fire and makes no efforts to defend us from the pain -- but He's there. "You will fall apart," He promises, "but I will not let you fall away, and in this sorrow, you will be better."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Begging Your Pardon

...for the lack of substantial posting these last few weeks -- months, really. There's a lot going on, but a lot of it isn't anything the rest of the world would be interested in. I have and will continue to post when I can and when there's something I think you'd be interested in, Dear Readers.

I Miss My Sister

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Enjoy This Video

My reasons are several:

1) It's funny, objectively.
2) It's Notre Dame, of which I am now a student, so go Irish!
3) That kid, the leprechaun, is a year ahead of me in the ACE program and I played basketball against him yesterday. Well, let me rephrase that: I ran around the court like a headless chicken while he and his team ran circles around me and made baskets.

Why I love my sister

So, y'all know how I'm slightly obsessed with my sister?  This kind of thing is why.  She's starting 5th grade in the fall (ugh, too old...), and she wrote me an e-mail in better English than most high school sophomores would be able to (her spelling and punctuation need work, but her syntax and spelling are perfect), correctly using the phrases "rather addicting", "for instance", and "thus".  She's ten!  I love this kid!

"The button" she refers to is the chat option on Gmail, and the rest refers to my express banning of the use of this "Baby Net Yak" when she writes to me.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Melissa
Date: Mon, Jul 14, 2008 at 9:55 AM
Subject: it works!
To: Sissie

first things first, the button is by yer name. also, do not be surprised if i write the way you forbid me to. me and my friends use it and call it BABY NET YAK! BNY is rather addicting, thus i must watch myself. i know what you're thinking, why baby? because we write like babies. for instance.....
 maddie would say,
webcinz iznt uvalibl in vis hows!!!
 Translated: Webkinz isn't available in this house!!!
i would reply,
 u coodnt get 2 webkinz efer? GET A NOO COMPOOTER!
i wont translate!
see what i mean?
P.S. Do you know what movie 'okeday' is from? i read it in a book, and the the main character said it was from a movie.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

God in the Streets of New York

I first saw this short film a while ago on some other blog. It's deeply moving, and well worth four minutes of your time.

My first day here at Notre Dame, I went and sat by the tabernacle in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for a while. There was a priest across the aisle from me. Suddenly, he dropped to his knees on the ground. A sister had come in with the Blessed Sacrament to repose in the tabernacle. I followed his lead, thinking "I'm in a totally different place than I've ever been before."

Appreciation and love for the Eucharist are increasingly paramount in my mind.

C.S. Lewis on Love

Stumbled upon this quote from the good Mr. Lewis, and it struck me partly because of a conversation I recently had with a friend. That, and I love everything C.S. Lewis ever scribbled on a napkin.

"Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."
–C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 7, 2008

On Religious Articles

All of these pictures have one item in common.

Any guesses?

It should become increasingly obvious as we go along.

And no, the object is not me. I am not an object.

When I first came into the whole "Catholic" thing, I almost simultaneously developed an affection for Teresa of Avila. My mom gave me a medal of her soon after I jumped into this whole thing. For a few years, I wore it almost every single day, less often once I started teaching, still wearing it at least twice a week. I think I wore a layer off the surface, both front and back.

Last weekend, I went on a retreat in the woods of Michigan. Somewhere between being eaten alive and singing camp songs around the bonfire, Teresa took a dive and vanished into the underbrush.

A moment of silence, please.

To my St. Teresa of Avila medal, my constant companion: thanks for the memories and weird tan lines. You will be missed.

Roommate's birthday

Those balloons are attached to each hand and her hair. Its going to be a good year.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bar Songs

Yeah, I said it.

I admit it, family. I go to bars.

I go to loud, crowded, gross, stifling bars, and I flail around like a fool.

Whew. Feels good to go public. Anyway.

In undergrad, I went rather infrequently because the crowd that frequented most of the bars in Delaware was not a crowd I wanted to be jammed into a tight space with. One of the beautiful things about the social side of ACE if that we all tend to go to the same places, so I can go, insert myself in a crowd of known, trusted, and not-creepy people, and dance like a fool, carefree.

These are just a few (I have a play list of more than twenty) of the songs that make the entire mob of people scream, sing along with full off-key voices, and dance like idiots. I will provide no explanation or justification. Make your own conclusions.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Moon Jellyfish, Sea World San Antonio, April 15, 2008

From our Sea World field trip in April.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


To begin, a visual aid. You need only watch the first minute or so of both videos (but you might enjoy the background music while you read).

(The original)

(The remix)

I have a degree in secondary education, and I've had several people ask me since I got here if I feel like I'm learning anything or if I feel like I'm taking the same classes over. The answers to those questions are yes and no, respectively.

As far as I know I'm the only one in my cohort with a degree in education. My background has given me an edge here, yes, but not in the ways I thought (worried) it might -- I don't feel like I'm repeating anything. My cohorts are processing a lot more new information than I am, but honestly most of them are as good or better than I am at the method of planning and class curriculum development we use here.

It's like a remix. I know this tune and its parts, I know what the point is, but the beat and the sound are different, meaning I have to relearn the movements. In this, my cohorts have an edge over me: they're not breaking any old habits.

We've been in class for four weeks now, starting week five tomorrow, and I can safely say that I will be a smarter, better teacher when I come out of this. I like the perspective and the philosophy they work with here. We're reading different authors than the ones I got to in undergrad, and having the background allows me to compare, contrast, evaluate, and call B.S. on parts while recognizing the value in other parts.

It's like, you know, like all of a sudden I'm like a -- what's that called? -- like a thinking adult-ish like person thingy. Or at least I was until I wrote that sentence.

The Unofficial ACE 15 Song

We had a retreat in April that involved a scavenger hunt, and one of the clues was a lyric from this song. When we got here at the end of May, the same tune reared its festive head over and over during that first week -- people's cell phone ringers, karaoke, wedding receptions on campus, the dining hall, such on and so forth. It has become the unofficial anthem of the ACE 15 cohort.

New Quote in the Sidebar

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is--limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death--he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.
Dorothy Sayers

Tippage of the hat to Happy Catholic

Friday, June 13, 2008

And They're Off!

As you know, Dear Readers, the primary purpose of this nook of cyber space is to keep my family updated on my comings, going, and doings. Very soon, if it hasn't happened already, said family will be disconnected from the internet for an indefinite period of time as they commence yet another cross-country move.

My blogging purpose is temporarily squelched, but I somehow suspect I'll still find the odd item to prattle on about.

You Dear Readers who are not my immediate family, please say a prayer or six for their safety and sanity.

No Comment

This is a screen shot of a banner ad over a NY Times story about the flooding in Cedar Rapids (pray for them). It makes sense to put an ad about disaster preparedness over such a story, but...

...well, you see what I mean.