Friday, May 30, 2008

My Letter to the Sisters

[On the occasion of my departure at the end of my term of service, read to them last night after supper.]

“These desires are supernatural. They arise in a soul on fire with love. Such souls want the Lord to see that they aren’t serving him for pay. They try never to motivate themselves to serve God with the thought that they will be compensated with glory for anything they do. Their only desire is to satisfy their thirsty love. It is love’s nature to express itself through service in a thousand ways.”

-St Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

My Dear Sisters,

These last few weeks, as they ripped right past me, I realized that I feel no (alright, almost no) apprehension about graduate school, not even at an institution like Notre Dame – actually, I enjoy bragging about that a wee bit. Rather than having nerves about opening the next chapter, I am quite preoccupied by the pangs of closing this one.

Ever since I arrived here in August, my abilities as a word smith, meager as they were to begin with, have failed me. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve tried to put into words all the remarkable things I have witnessed and lived here in the St. John Bosco community, indeed within the Salesian community, but nothing I produce begins to do it justice. The quiet, miraculous wonders I’ve seen in the last nine and a half months are far too subtle and too extraordinary for my linguistic bumbling – I might as well be trying to recreate the Rocky Mountains with mashed potatoes.

There is something sublime about the life you sisters lead. The world is sliding further and further into a mode of thinking where selfishness if the norm. The idea that life not only can be lived for the good of others, but should be lived so, is increasingly foreign. The suggestion that there is right and wrong, even good and evil, is scoffed at. God is not ignored, he is exiled from our history. In the midst of this, you, my dear sisters, quietly love. In place of self-interest, you have self-sacrifice. Instead of material gain, you seek souls. Rather than hold grudges, you give pardon. In short, you love, truly.

I think I figured out why I’ve been having so much trouble putting words to the things I’ve seen and the lessons you’ve all taught me. It’s because what I’m seeing is no human feat. What I am seeing is Jesus, Himself, living, walking, and acting on this Earth. You are, in some sense, the Word made flesh. By your life, your vows, and your sacrifice, you make the Incarnation present and felt over and over for incalculable numbers of people. Words cannot begin to capture something so near to God’s heart.

So, finally, I get to the point of this letter. Before I fling my things into boxes and bags and move forward from this chapter of my story, I must thank you for letting me take part in your story. It’s a cliché for a volunteer to say she got much more from her experience than she gave, but it’s also a truth. I am so grateful to you all for the life you’ve chosen, and for letting punks like me join you in your work. Words, once again, fail me as I try to explain all I’ve learned and gained in my time among you. I am thoroughly and deeply changed, and equally as thankful for your support and friendship. Although I’ll be leaving you soon, it will be a long time before you leave me.

Thank you.
Love and God’s peace,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Have Kelp in My Face

My cousins and I go to the same beach in Newport every summer and stake out the same spot about one hundred feet from the pier.  We always seem to go as the tide is rising, which means the waves get bigger and meaner as the minutes pass.
When we're feeling adventurous, we'll swim out a little and bob in the waves, or body surf, or sometimes be pummeled mercilessly by a particularly solid wall of water.  When that happens, to me anyway, I usually loose track of how far below me the ground is, or where "below me" is in the first place, and when my feet happen to bring me to standing again it takes a minute of blinking, wiping sand from my face, and prying hair and kelp out of my eyes before I can look around and see where on Earth I am and how far I've been pulled from our family's collection of beach chairs.
At the end of our half day, my kids scattered one by one in all directions.  Some took a moment to hug me and say they'll miss me, and others had their friends take a picture of us.  Odds are fifty to one they have no idea how comforting that was, what with me leaving and all, and especially after some of the days I've had this year.  I came back to my classroom, looked over our checklist of end-of-year formalities, and carted a couple boxes of stuff up to my room in the convent.
I walked back into an empty classroom.  It was almost startling after nine and a half months of this room being stuffed with my kids' junk and the walls covered in colored butcher paper.  The sound of the keys as I type echos slightly, which I suddenly remember it did at the very beginning of the year before I put up posters and filled my desk with paper trays and pen holders, back when there weren't squirmy junior high bodies of various sizes in here almost all the time.  My first year of teaching is over, my first students are gone, and I suddenly feel much the same as I do standing on Balboa Beach with sand and salt in my nose.
What the heck just happened?  Where am I?  Where'd everybody go?
I suspect it will be a little while before I really wrap my head around this last school year, but some things are certain: I am so, so glad and thankful I got to work with these kids, got to know them, had the chance to teach them.  As often as I would have loved to eject them from my classroom (with a rocket, preferably), more often I wanted to laugh with them and hug them.  They did a lot more for me than I did for them, that's for sure (including giving me at least three new grey hairs).
As they each scampered away from me (can an almost-six-foot seventh grader scamper?  Sure.), I felt a little pull at the heart, but no sadness or loss.  One thing I've learned this year is that 90% of the time, "goodbye" doesn't mean anything.  My kids left something with me, and whether they like it or not I left a little with them, and that web will last for years and years, and stretch longer than we'll even realize.
To say anymore, I'll need to start seeing straight first.

"It's over!"

One of my colleagues yelled that as the last student drove off.
I have officially finished my first year of teaching, I'm still alive, and I have retained all my limbs and faculties.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Check It Out

It's good.

There is nothing we can say that equals the sacrifice made by some of our soldiers and their families, but something is better than nothing at all.

Thank you.

Memorial Day

One of the greatest gifts my dad has given me is a deep appreciation for what I have and heartfelt gratitude to those who have given it to me.

I described the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to my students, and one responded, "Who cares if they can walk a certain number of steps?" (I know, don't get me started). I replied that it had nothing to do with who cared if they could do it. They do it because they care.

As we all should.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008


One year ago today. Newark, Delaware.

My roomie is all grown up and graduating soon!

Good job, Becky Face.

A Confession, or "I'm a Big Fat Fallen Hypocrite"

I've been reading this young man's blog for a couple of months now, since right after his wife received a double lung transplant in April. He's the fellow in the video giving the summary of their whole story up to the transplant. The very, very short version: his wife, Tricia, was born with cystic fibrosis. About a year ago, she was placed on the transplant list, which was when they unexpectedly found out she was pregnant. Given less than a 50% chance for either of their survival, Tricia carried the baby as long as she could before an emergency c-section (about 4or 5 months ago).

Last week, both mother and baby were discharged.

Now, what does all this have to do with me being a hypocrite?

I've mentioned that I was accepted to a graduate school program at Notre Dame. During the application process, I kept saying "I'm okay with it either way, I just wanna know!" Very at peace with the whole thing. Sure, I was anxious to know what was going to be next on my winding road, but I was leaving the direction of that path in God's hands. I was quite impressed with myself and my trust in God's plan.

Well, big fat fibber I was.

What I haven't mentioned is that I was on the waiting list for about two days. I opened my e-mail, saw "Status of ACE Application", and immediately frowned. If I was in, it would have just said "Welp, You Don't Smell Too Bad. You're In!", or something. The e-mail was very positively worded and encouraging, but it wasn't an acceptance.

After all my prattling on about accepting God's providence, my response to this was consuming adolescent annoyance. I was mad, not at any particular entity, but just because not only had I not gotten what I wanted, I didn't even know what I'd gotten. In essence, I spent two days pouting.

Compare this with Nathan's prayer as he faced down the very real possibility of loosing both his wife and daughter, and I'm a big ol' weenie.

My reaction to being wait-listed surprised me. Truly, I would have been fine with not being accepted. Evidently, I would not have been entirely okay with it, at least not to start. Is that normal? Of course, but as I sulked in the chapel the morning of the second wait-list day, I swear I could almost hear God laughing at me.

Alright, God, point taken. You're right and I'm a weenie. As usual.

In the cosmic scheme of things, neither being wait-listed nor my reaction really matter. Perhaps I needed to be reminded that I'm flawed and fallen. Many have observed how easy it is to rely on God when the going gets tough, if only because we feel we have no other option, but in every day life we want to think we're in charge. While I don't believe in a control-freak God who controls our every motion, I do think He's in every moment, and every moment works towards His big plan. I believe that, but will be the first to admit that in practice, that doesn't always show.

And so, class, what do we take away from this lesson? Well, you take whatever you want, Dear Reader. A chuckle at my weenieness, or a pensive "Hmm..", or a deep thought, it's fine with me. I would request, though, that the next time you see me pouting you feel free take the liberty of smacking me up-side the head.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Show!

I suddenly realize that, although I've written about the flowers I got following the show, I never wrote about the show itself.  In short, it was fantastic.  Rehearsals were touch and go for a while, and the day of the show they still didn't have everything memorized, but they turned "it" on, whatever "it" was, and pulled off a wonderful performance. 
After the curtain call, the kids dragged me out from backstage and clapped for me.  I laughed and theatrically flicked a tear from my eye, but I really was within an inch of crying.  I've scarcely been prouder -- not of myself, mind you, of the kids.
The pictures were taken by one of our awesome parents.  I'll post a few of my own when I have a break.  Which will be... well, not in the foreseeable future (Most of the last ten entries have been via either cell phone or e-mail), but I've not given up faith in the existence of free time!

The Aforementioned Flowers

...were thrust in my face this morning by a 5th grader who, on an almost daily basis, drives me to the edge of my endurance (twice a day since he joined drama).  The problem with this kid is he's too darn funny and he knows it.  Most of the time when he should be in his seat, he's running around making it terribly difficult for me not to laugh.  I think he has a Napoleon complex -- he's a year older and two inches shorter than my teeny sister.
So, this morning, when those delightful sunflowers and daisies abruptly blotted out my field of vision, I was both taken aback and not at all surprised to find his arm at the end of the stems.
"Here, Miss."
"These are beautiful!  Thank you so much."
"Miss, on the card, what I wrote, my mom made me put 'love'.  She said it would be cute."  Clearly, he did not think it was cute.  "Just so you know."
I sighed, and laughed, as I usually do with this boy.  "Alright."  He skittered away.
Ms. C.,
Thank you for helping me practice my lines and do good in the show.  I know I give you headahces sometimes, but we alays have fun.  You are a great teacher and I'll miss you.
White King
I showed my partner teacher, who laughed out loud.  "Ain't that the truth."  She picked a petal off a sunflower.  "That's why they pay us the big bucks."

I will not deny i needed something like this right now.

One of my cast kids gave me there this morning. They may be my favorite of all the flowers ive ever been given.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Am I... Old?

It can't be.

I'm only twenty-three.
But I'm showing my 6th graders School House Rock, and...
They don't love it! They think it's dumb!
Oh, what a world...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Becca Needs Your Help!

This is Becca.

Becca is many things to many people. To me, she is sometimes called Donut, sometimes Gabe. She was with me this one time when a portent-of-death SUV almost killed us. She is my godmother (I adopted her as such when I was confirmed, since my baptismal godmother is M.I.A), she was the only person I've ever chosen to live with, and she's my best not-blood-related friend.

This is also Becca. Aside from being all of the above, Becster is also a source of much amusement when I get punchy.

Now, in addition to all these things, Becca will be a marathon runner. But she's not running for the sheer human achievement factor or for her own glory, oh no. My Becky is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to raise awareness of and money for research of blood cancers.

This is where you come in.

Her fund raising goal is $4,000. If enough people pitch a little bit in the pot, she can totally make that goal. Here's her fund raising page. If you have two minutes time and a few bucks you can spare, go help the girl out. Every little bit helps, even a dollar!

I think with our collective pocket change, we can help Becca make a difference in the fight against blood cancers.

Thank you kindly!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Zefram Cochrane Sings to a Pig

Actually, when I watch First Contact, I have to work at not thinking, "Hello, Farmer Hoggett!". Babe came first.

And if you want to get really technical, it's James Cromwell.

This song has been stuck in my head for days. The video is a little quiet, turn it up.

Food for Thought

...from Drew Carey, of all people.

Hat tippage to Fr. Steve

Friday, May 16, 2008

We're All. Going. Crazy.

During a class two and a half hours after recess.
6th grade student: Can I go to the nurse?  My tooth fell out.
Me: What?? When, just now?
Student: No, recess.
Me: What?!  Why are you just now asking to go to the nurse?
Student #2: He lost it.
Student #1: Yeah, and I just found it.
Me: Where?
Student #1: In my sock.
At that point, I just stopped asking questions and let him go.

Is That a Freight Train...?*

I just turned in my last set of lesson plans for the year.  This is a very flat coin with two distinct sides:
Heads: Wooooooo hoooooo!! We're almost done!! It's almost summer!!  Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!! (Dance)
Tails: (sniffle) I won't be here next year.  I won't teach this kids.  I won't live with these sisters anymore.  (sniffle)  (Cry)
It's more or less the emotional equivalent of Red Bull and vodka, which I have never tried because I would like my heart to continue to function normally, but i hear it's a trip.
*The title, by the way, is suposed to be a clever play on the "light at the end of the tunnel", referring to the fact that for me the end of the tunnel may involve a meeting with a metal/emotional train

Thursday, May 15, 2008


We had to cut play practice short because the gym was booked for the sports banquet, but i didnt warn the kids parents so ive been hanging out with them for the last half hour. Included in no particular order are alice, the red queen, the red knight, and the unicorn. And me of course. After they get picked up i have to RUN and change so i can attend said sports banquet. yup. still busy.


With both his wife and daughter teetering bewteen this world and the next, if you'll allow the phrase, a young man prays:
I prayed this morning at Tricia's bed, holding her left hand with tears in my eyes. I expressed to God that I will accept anything He chooses for Tricia in the next few hours and days if He would allow just one person to understand and accept Him as their Savior. I don't like the idea of making deals with God, but I needed a sign that He is God.

Less than two hours later, a woman posted on Andy's Blog that she was finally "understanding" and "accepting" Jesus as her Savior.

My God is the awesome God.

Nate, January 10th

Trapped Under My Schedule. Send Help.

(Alright, I don't really need help. Not more than usual, anyway. I mean, prayers are always appreciated.)

Dear Family and Friends,

I miss you.

Dear Everyone-Outside-of-SJB

Yup, I'm still here.

My routine used to involve about two hours of "free time" after school, which I usually spent taking care of stuff both personal and professional. That left me with a couple hours after dinner to more or less putz around and do things like maintain contact with the outside world.

That was before this crazy idea of starting a drama club began to approach it's zany and somewhat frightening conclusion. We've had practice after school for a while, and with the show less than a week away the practices are longer and more frequent. Theater takes time, people.

Meanwhile, on the community life side of things, every weekend has brought with it some huge event (parades, people visiting from Rome, etc.). It's been terribly exciting, but the side effect is I pretty much have no free time, at all, and won't for a while.

Basically, I'm still alive, but my time and mental energy are totally sapped. By the time I have a moment to read or write anything, all I want to do is sit on my bed like a professionally-attired puddle of protoplasm.

Which is what I'm going to go do now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Punch Drunk, Reprise

Me: I am slowly going crazy, 1-2-3-4-5-6, switch! Crazy going slowly am I, 6-5-4-3-2-1, switch!
6th grader: ...I'm gonna go call the nurse.  You need help.
Not gonna deny that.
We're fast approaching the, "Eh, let's watch movies" phase of the year.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Further Signs We're Ready to be Done

During drama practice...
5th grade student #1: She ate glue!
Me: (Incredulous, dismayed stare)
5th grade student #2, aka Paste Eater, with a perfectly unaffected gaze: It's not bad.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

“The loveliest masterpiece
Of the heart of God
Is the heart of a mother.”

—Thérèse of Lisieux

As I told my mum, I think it's appropriate today coincides with the Descent of the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit is the only way anyone could raise my siblings and I into anything resembling normal. Well, normal-ish. Kind of.

Eh, who are we kidding?

Really, though, our dad's influence could have been much worse. Not bad at all!

Happy and blessed Mother's Day to all the mothers and grandmothers out there, especially mine.

Happy Pentecost!

I love Pentecost. I would go into it, but I lack the time, eloquence, and education to do it justice.

I will mention I was confirmed on Pentecost four years ago, and May 3oth, 2004, holds the #1 spot on my "List of Big Important Days in My Life", and will hold it for a long time.

Father told this story at mass this morning (paraphrased as nearly as I can recall):
"I was at my second assignment, as pastor of a church in Indiana, and one day I looked out the window of the rectory and the church was on fire. I ran out, I was going to get the Blessed Sacrament, and right as I got to the door the first two rows of windows blew out. The sound, it was incredible, this great whoosh, and I thought, 'Wow.' And this might sound odd, but I think the Holy Spirit burned that church down, because that parish was divided but that fire forced them together. They rebuilt the church and were stronger than ever."
The Holy Spirit is awesome.

Happy Birthday, Church!




But I've stolen five minutes of time to bring you the following posts. Because I'm dedicated.


Saturday, May 10, 2008


The real magic of the world ... is not found on tv or in the movies, the real magic of the world is found in the pages of books.
- Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis's stepson

Something my sister and I have always known. In the same clip, he says "Struggle is worth it." Something my students don't seem to quite get (yet).

I'm increasingly excited about this movie.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Two Conversations

A 5th grader has taken to calling me "mom".  I pull hims aside during lunch.
Me: Listen, you can't call me mom.  It's inappropriate for a number of reasons.
5th grader: Like what?
Me: Well, I'm not your mom, for one.  More important, my name, as far as you're concerned, is Miss Cinseors.  That's it.
5th grader: How about aunt?
Me: No.
5th grader: Cuz?
Me: even more no.
5th grader: Aw, come on, chief.
An 8th grader is drumming on his desk.  I stare at him until he realizes I'm staring at him.
Other 8th grader: Why are you making African music?
Drummer: That's what I do when I have to pee.
Is it May 28th yet?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Still Alive, but Missing the Good Stuff

School and community life (I'm not a sister, but I do live in their community, so their activities and events are my activities and events) are still keeping me running crazy, but I felt I should reassure everyone that I continue to draw breath.  I've had several people, each via a different mode of communication, express their concern for my well being because I haven't posted here in, what, almost two weeks?  This compared to my three-post-a-day average, it's understandable people wondered if I'd slipped into a coma.
One of the things I haven't written about as a result of my having priorities at least kind of in right order is my little brother's first communion.  Dad sent me this picture of the sharp-dressed little punk, which, if you know my brother, is hilarious.  Charlie's envelope-pushing behavior aside, I don't doubt at all that he was very excited and proud, as I was.
Congratulations, Twin!  I wish I could have been there!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Let me eat cake!

Were having our huge spring festival and one of my kids won a cake for me at the cake walk! Ill be honest - i have favorites. :-) (new paragraph) also, i realize its been a LONG time since i posted. you know how life occasionally attacks from all sides at once? yeah. hopefully ill be back soon, and not from a cell phone with all this gobbledeegook following.

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