Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Not-Totally-Out-of-Place Post About Language

I downloaded some music from Walmart.com with a gift card I got for Christmas, including Shakira's "La Tortura", which I loved when I first heard it but never acquired. Much to my dismay, I managed to get the "Spanglish" version, which I didn't even know existed. About four lines are translated from Spanish to English, and I can't fathom why because it sounded great in Spanish and the English translation is... well, it's dumb (sometimes you don't need SAT vocabulary to make a point).

Here's what I mean. The original Spanish of the chorus:
[Alejandro Sanz, the dude collaborating on the song:]
Yo sé que no he sido un santo
Pero lo puedo arreglar, amor

[Shakira:]
No sólo de pan vive el hombre
Y no de excusas vivo yo

[dude:]
Sólo de errores se aprende
Y hoy sé que es tuyo mi corazón

[Shakira:]
Mejor te guardas todo eso
A otro perro con ese hueso
Y nos decimos adios

Which translates, literally, to (Dad, jump in if I foul something up):
I know I haven't been a saint,
But I can make it better, love

Man doesn't live on bread alone,
And I don't live by excuses.

We only learn through mistakes
And I know your heart is mine

You'd better save all of that.
To another dog with that bone,
And we say goodbye
Which has already lost a lot. The Spanglish version forces this all into a meter and in the process further butchers it into:
(Dude, still Spanish)

You say you love me like no other,
But you can't live on bread alone

(Dude, still in Spanish)

Don't even try it, don't even bother
I won't take it, I don't want it, I don't buy it, so long.
Lame!

I have always liked Shakira's stuff much better in Spanish, probably because it's her first language and she's good with it. More over, Spanish really does lose a lot of magic in translation. Unfortunately, because people have this silly thing about understanding the music they listen to, things like the above happen, or this line from "Suerte":
La felicidad tiene tu nombre y tu piel (Happiness has your name and your skin)
which I've always loved, becomes this line in "Whenever, Wherever":
Tell me one more time that you'll live lost in my eyes
Cliche high school love note, anyone? Because I know what both version are saying, I can be picky about nuance and poetry, whereas a non-Spanish speaker just hears a catchy pop tune.

Now, this is where I get to my point: Language is, from my nerdy perspective, the most powerful single force on Earth in its ability to change the circumstances under which everything else happens, and to even change the meaning of what is happening, what will happen, and occasionally what has already happened. There's a reason we like to quote other people: someone else has already taken our ideas and feelings and finessed them into a few smooth words for us.

There's also a reason people get bent out of shape over single phrases or words in documents and things like (here's the part where I remind you all I'm obsessively Catholic) the new English translation of the Mass, which has already been in the works for years and which isn't expected to be ready until 2010. This is why it makes a difference to some people if we call God "He", and the chasm between attitudes in saying we "worship" saints or we "venerate" them. Where communication is concerned, including and especially communication about and to God, everything hinges on our language.

Which is, more or less, what I spend eight hours a day trying to communicate to my middle schoolers. Their language (example: "This is boring") tells me I've yet to really make my point, but daggonnit, there's still two quarters left, and I've got some good music to inspire me.

Two Days Before the Science Fair

January 22, 2008

Since we require all our kids to participate in the science fair, we give them some of the materials. Last Tuesday, we handed the display boards out, making dismissal a box-building and peer-beating bacchanalian. You would be amazed at the ways 6th grade boys can invent to knock the wind out of each other and then laugh about it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Little Altar

November 2007

Dear Reader, are we liking the sort-of-daily posting of mediocre photography?

What a Mango Did, or Why I Will Never Steal a Picture Again

So I have traffic tracking on my site because I'm vain and I like to know these kinds of things. In general, there's been an upward trend in my readership, even as my visits will plummet from one month to another then rocket back up. I've learned to treat my visit-o-meter like a bathroom scale: don't judge your vale by it.

I broke 400 visits for the first time this month, sometime last week -- bully for me. Then I noticed, suddenly, my visits for the month have cleared 500 (see below; note I added the tracking in May, hence the zero in April). Huh??

So I dug a little more: I've had over 160 visits in four days, almost ninety visitors between yesterday and today. This is utterly unheard of. My average is, as you can see, about a dozen, upwards of twenty on a good day. I don't even know who those dozen are. Probably people looking for Catholic churches in San Antonio, and Google brings the poor suckers here. I was blown away, and more than a little confused.


SiteMeter, bless 'em, also lets you track what links are referring folks to your site. Based on what I could decipher from that chart, about half my visitors are being brought here after a Google image search... for "mango".

What?!

You my recall, or have noticed, I started a tag called "...o mango" as a catch-all for the flotsam I throw about now and then. In the first "...o mango" post, I explained the origin of the term and included a picture of a mango that I found on (ready for the irony here?) Google images. Typically, when I steal pictures from someone else I save them to my hard drive and post them from there to avoid stealing bandwidth from the sites from which I have already stolen pictures. Except this time, apparently. So in some internet quirk, all the image hits that used to go to this site, from which I stole the mango picture, directed to me, flooding me with a tsunami of meaningless numbers that crested these last few days and scared the unknown/peepin'-tom-fearing bejezzus out of me.

So I deleted the mango picture.

And I will never steal a mango picture, or any other picture, or any other breed of intellectual property, ever again. Ever.

I promise.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Overheard at drama club

Who's going to be the retarded chipmunk?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hugs

(This is, literally, the most touchy-feelly post you will ever get out of me.)

(Watch the whole thing, but my favorite part of the whole video is right after the 1:40 mark. FYI)


On one particular occasion, when I was little, I was being willfully petulant and angry with my dad about something (also known as absolutely nothing of importance). He tried to hug me and I yanked away, as moody children are apt to do, and he grabbed me and pulled me back, quite against my will. "Shut up and hug me," he said, which I did, and was suddenly not angry with him anymore.

When Melissa and Charlie were no longer infants but still little, one of my favorite things to do was to ball them up and engulf them as much as I could in my arms. There was the sense that I was making my love of them manifest in a silly little gesture, and I liked to think they enjoyed it even if they didn't understand the depth of feeling behind it. There has yet to be an end to my quiet sadness over the fact that Melissa's spindley length and Charlie's hulking mass now prevent me from doing this.

After a break up, I didn't see Mark until a couple weeks after the fact, when I drafted him into helping me move out of my dorm. He asked where the fellow was. Up to this point, everyone I'd told had reacted with shock and stunned silence. Upon hearing the news, Mark jumped out of the chair he'd been sitting in, dashed across the room, and hugged me. Two years later, that memory still sticks and sticks out.

This past year, I had a bit of a falling out with someone who had been a pretty good friend. I was annoyed but not upset, until I saw this person for the first time in a while and the hug exchanged was chilled and obligatory, without a trace of warmth. It was only then I realized whatever friendship had been between us really lost, and it was then I felt sadness over the whole thing.

When I first arrived here, one of the things I missed the most was simple physical contact, the kind my friends and family are rather lavish about -- pats on the head, on the back, on the shoulder, on the hand; pokes and punches; tickles; hugs. I didn't realize how badly I missed this until one day, after I'd been here at least three weeks, one of the sisters gave my shoulder a pat and I felt as though I'd been given water in the desert.

I look forward to seeing some of my clingy students, because they always hug me. One day early in the year, when being new and frazzled all the time was getting to me, one of those clingy girls passed my room on her way to another class, glanced at me, and stepped out of line. "You look like you need a hug, Miss Cisneros," she said, and hugged me, and went on her way. I went on with my day considerably more relaxed.

When I came home for Thanksgiving this past year, several of my nearest and dearest came to see me. I met Mark and Becca at a shopping center that was on their way to my house because I needed to go anyway. Bec called me when they got there and told me they were in the mega pet store. I kept her on the line until I walked through the doors and she suddenly hung up on me, then appeared before my wondering eyes charging at me like a very friendly bull, and we hugged each other like we hadn't seen each other in years (which made the clerks at the counters six feet away feel a little out of place, I suspect), and it was one of the best hugs I've ever had in my life.

Now, why am I thinking about all these things? I haven't the foggiest, but that's the beauty of blogging: I don't need a reason! I can reflect on the blessing and importance of hugs simply because I feel like it, darn it, and you, Dear Reader, can read or not read, respond or not. Loverly, isn't it?

San Fernando Cathedral at Sunset

January 26, 2008

There was a street that ran right in front of the cathedral. All that construction you see will eventually close that street off and leave (what I presume will be) a lovely square in front of the church in place of traffic. Not being a San Antonio driver who has to deal with the closed roads, I think it's a great idea.

Can i get change for two quarters?

When did we start pricing cheap mexican food like gasoline?

I Love the Sisters Because...

I materialize downstairs right after breakfast, grumbling.

Me: I set my alarm for p.m. instead of a.m.
Sister #2: Good! Sleep more!
Sister #3: Happy mistake! Yay!

I'm off now to catch a bus to mass at a church I haven't been to yet. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You know youre a crazy Catholic when...

...You put the pope`s arrival in the United States in you planner.

Selective Memory

During a spelling quiz.
 
Me: Illegal.  It is illegal to sell stolen goods.
Student: Or moonshine.
Me: (look of bewilderment)
Student:  You know, that high-grade whiskey.
 
Why do they know this and not the how to spell illegal?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Priorities

Today, upwards of 200,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. to protest what is very likely the greatest single evil ever on American soil on the 35th anniversary of its legalization. Abortion is without serious contest as THE issue to face my generation. Somehow, this is Yahoo News's front page.


If you scroll down, there's nothing anywhere on the front page about the march. Likewise on CNN, NBC News, and even Fox News, that supposed stronghold of conservative coverage. MSNBC mentions it under Health -- with pictures of pro-abortion counter-demonstrators. Instead we have stories about the Oscar nominations, Britney's refusal to undergo a psych evaluation, and Heath Ledger's sudden death (which is, of course, really tragic). There is not a mention of the hundreds of thousand who have marched over the weekend and today in defense of life, especially the life of the unborn.

This, frankly, simply, makes me angry. As Michele Malkin points out, if those marchers had been protesting the war or immigration policy, they'd probably be getting more prominent coverage. This, as one of my students put it today, is "seriously wrong and messed up". I can't help but wonder if it is the strong presence of silly simple minded Christians praying all over the place that makes the pro-live movement, and the March for Life, unworthy of the news.

I said in my post of this morning that my kids would hate me for making them sit still long enough to say ten Hail Marys. I would like to publicly retract that statement and slap myself 'cross the mouth. I was so wrong. All I had to do was mention the March for Life and what it's about, and my kids took over. They wanted to know why abortion is legal and why people get them because they're "so bad". I tried to explain that women who get abortions are rarely, if ever, fully aware of what they're doing or of the implications of that choice, and most of them seemed to kind of get it, even if their juvenile little brains can't quite wrap around that gray area yet. Nearly all of them expressed some degree of bewilderment and/or horror at the concept, all because of what they already knew, nothing I told them. "They cut the baby up," one girl informed me, "That's seriously wrong and messed up." Her classmate added, "On many, many levels." When I said I wanted them to pray with me, a lot of them clapped their hands together and waited intently for my cue. One boy jumped right out of his seat, ready to pray like we do at morning assembly. I was, to understate it, moved.

There was one girl who looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, "But Miss, that's just your opinion." This is one of the joys of working in a Catholic school. I said, "Some things just are right, or just are wrong, and there's no opinion about it. Abortion is one of those things." I explained a little more, but she didn't look like she bought it. This student of mine appears to have already been sold on the "What's right for me is what's right, period" relativism mentality that is such a big part of the reason we have this scourge in our society in the first place. The convenience, but flimsiness, of the counter arguments and the vehemence of the pro-choice camp is what tells me real evil is at work here.

The 200,000 plus people who marched in Washington (and Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, and others) and the eighty plus children who today readily and gladly prayed with me is what tells me not only are we in the right, but by God's grace we will eventually triumph over it.

You Know You're in Texas When...

One of our spelling words is antifreeze.
 
Student: Miss, what's antifreeze?
Me: Stuff to keep your engine from freezing.
Student: (confused) ...why would your car freeze?
 

March for Life


Today is the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

This, as it is every year, is a big deal.

EWTN is covering the whole thing live. You can stream it here.

Tom at AmericanPapist is blogging his brains out about it.

**Please, please, please, whoever you are, however you have happened upon this little corner of the internet, pray for the marchers and for all the members of the pro-life movement today. I intend to force my children to say a decade of the Rosary each class period. They will hate me, but their prayers will count anyway.

(Picture ripped off from Whispers in the Loggia.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Warren Easton High School Color Guard

January 2007
Plus one.

A Thought on Freedom

I mentioned my kids watched a video of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Having been educated in the United States, I've heard that speech more times than I can count. This time, one point struck me -- nay, whacked me over the head, like I can't believe I didn't notice this before.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Of course, he was talking about a tangible freedom, about all Americans having equal access to their rights. This sort of "physical" freedom is necessary because, as we've all heard over and over, all men are created equal. We are all God's children and every human being carries an immutable dignity that must be respected. The sin of prejudice comes in denying this, and the commission of this sin imprisons us in pride, hostility, and anger.

My brain kind of exploded when I realized that the sin of racism is very similar to the sin we commit anytime we create an "us" and a "them", when we invent a division that tricks us into thinking we're somehow separate from that segment of humanity.

Real freedom is the freedom to love without fear or thought of self, and this is the freedom we should be working towards. This is the freedom of heaven that begins here on Earth when we acknowledge our kinship in Christ.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Monster Movie?

In an attempt to stay "with it" and simultaneously get out for a while, I took the bus downtown today to see Cloverfield. The first preview (scroll down), which everyone who saw Transformers this summer was talking about, showed snippets of the first few minutes of the movie: a party, the beginnings of some kind of attack, and the head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street, then cut out with a release date and no title or stars. Even the movie's website gives us nothing more than a trailer and a vague summary of the concept. The ploy evidently worked, because the movie brought in an estimated $41 million this weekend (of which $4 was mine. If you like going into movies blind, read no further, for while I won't say what happens, what follows is nonetheless information I didn't want.)

Cloverfield is definitely not the average monster movie. The whole movie is "filmed" on a young man's camcorder as he and his friends try to survive the whole mess. We know exactly what they know about the situation and the monster, which is close to nothing. Some find this frustrating. I can't tell you exactly what the monster was, where it came from, what it did, how it did it, or why it did it. I think that was kind of the point, actually, because instead of cringing at relentless bloody horror, I focused on the characters and their relationships with each other.

This movie isn't going to win any Oscars and I don't see myself re-watching it time and time again, but I was gratified to see a movie that put us humans in a positive light. All the characters were risking their lives, when they each had multiple chances to escape, to help each other and do the right thing. There was not a scum bag among them, no backstabbing-to-save-myself, and lot of selfless sticking together. In between the running and screaming, there were a lot of little portraits of the people in the movie and their relationships with each other. Ultimately, this was less a monster movie and more a movie about humanity set against a monster attack.

Which is not to suggest that monster isn't going to keep me up a little tonight.

Anyway, go see it. It's exciting and kinda-sorta heart warming at the same time, in a horrific death way. One word of advice: sit further back in the theater, as the Blair-Witch style camera work got to even my iron stomach after a while.

UPDATE: A few pros seem to agree with me.

Church-aversary

Five years ago tonight (January 19, 2003), I went to my first mass at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dover, which eventually lead to me really diving into this Church business, getting confirmed, trading all my free time for the joy of the Lord, learning more Latin than the average person needs, living in a convent, and all-in-all being a rabid Catholic.

I often talk as though God had been utterly absent from my life before that evening, but of course he was not. That night is a big deal to me now because it was one of a handful of moments in my short time on Earth that I can pin down as life-altering. I can point to it and say, "That's where it started." Spiritual growth and the deepening of faith are like a seed: it's difficult to name a moment when the seed becomes a sprout, or when the sprout becomes a sapling, or when the sapling becomes a tree. You just look one day and realize it's been that way for a while.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kiling Time

(This is long, but not terribly long, and not heavy or bloviating either. Tolerable, in other words, and also true.)

This is exactly what I moved away from, I think as another blast of cold wet air pushes into the back of my legs, trying to move my umbrella up away from the tense torso it shields. The rain has dwindled to a drizzle as the grey sky darkens. For the tenth time in three minutes, I stretch my neck out like a giraffe to look down the street, as if looking for the bus will make it come sooner. I am thankful for the shelter, even if it isn’t solid, because of the positive psychological effect of being underneath something. The bus stop and I stand in front of a Valero, for which I am also thankful, because its existence gave me the opportunity to break a five for bus fare and buy a hot chocolate. Said beverage is presently my greatest ally in fending off the cold.

A bus comes from way down the road and my soul rejoices until it turns down a side street a mere 200 feet from me. That’s just mean, says my cold-averse little heart, and my shoulders slump some more. Must reduce surface area, I think. If I could sit in the fetal position without looking totally mental and, worse, getting all wet, I would. A car with a trash bag tapped around the back window passes and honks at me, and I roll my eyes. It’s almost dinner time at the convent. C’mon, bus.

Down the street, I notice a fellow wearing two coats with his hands shoved in his pockets heading my way. He has a yellow plastic shopping bag over his head like a bulbous do-rag, covered again with a ball cap. He stops walking and jumps up and down in place, shaking his shoulders and head around trying to warm up, then continues. I begin to suspect I will have company. Sure enough, Yellow Plastic Bag Head veers off the sidewalk and under my pseudo-shelter.

“Man! It is freezing, man, I am serious!” he says with a laugh, shaking his head the way we all do when we’d like to scold things that are not sentient beings, like the weather. At this point I make that split-second decision we all make when we encounter potentially odd strangers: make conversation, or avoid eye contact and hope the situation will go away. I go for a middle ground: leave my ear phones in, laugh with him, and agree.

“This is legitimately cold,” I say, which it is, San Antonio weenies or not. Meanwhile, I look for any clues that Yellow Plastic Bag Head is disturbing-odd and not just odd. He laughs, a very friendly, simple-hearted chuckle.

“It’s not supposed to get like this here, you know what I mean?” he says, and I decide I might as well take the plunge while I wait for the 524. I’ve gotten into this new thing where I make a concerted effort to be really focused on whoever is in front of me, without being distracted by other things or people. I figure this is a chance to forge my new virtue. I take out my ear phones.

“I know, this is exactly what I moved away from.”

“Where’re you from?”

A question I hate, because I never know how to respond without either talking too much or feeling like a liar. “Uh… before this, I lived in Maryland.” Even that is only half true. He squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head, the yellow bag flitting in the wind, scolding Maryland weather, and begins to dispel any concern I have that I will talk too much.

“Wooooo, man, you’re not kidding. It is cold up there! I been there, we passed through there when we were laying lines, and man it was cold. I been to New Jersey, too, man, I will not ever go back there. It was so cold, man, and I’ve been in some cold places, New Jersey is cold!” I would guess he’s in his late thirties or early forties. His face has the worn look of a paper bag that’s been used a few times.

“Yup. I went to school near there. I just keep reminding myself, ‘It’s colder up there, it’s colder up there’.”

“You’re not lying, that’s right. You know what else, the cost of living up there is crazy! I mean I was up there fifteen years ago, I’m a contractor, and we went for lunch, and a Big Mac, fries, and a soda, you know, a meal, was five bucks, and this was fifteen years ago, you know, so man. It was devastating.” He chuckles and shakes his head at New Jersey prices. A lot of San Antonians speak with a quasi-Spanish accent, even if English is their first language. Yellow Plastic Bag Head has a weird mix of that accent and the more stereotypical Texas drawl. He’s definitely odd, but not in a mentally-unbalanced way. He is eager just to chat.

“That’s crazy,” I say about the top-shelf Big Mac, and realize when I try to remember how much value meals are now that I’ve never paid attention to that particular detail of the universe.

“It is! You know what I’m talking about, you lived up there. I mean they gave us money depending on where we were, you know, what they call a per diem, but things were so expensive, we couldn’t make any money up there. It was devastating. This was fifteen years ago, I don’t know what it’s like now. And the drivers were terrible. You know what really tripped me out was the way we had to make left turns, the uh, what’s it called…”

“Jug handles.”

“Yeah! I mean, you gotta go left to go right? That really tripped me out. That doesn’t make any sense, you know?”

“No, it doesn’t.” I laugh because he’s echoing every “New Jersey is the dumbest state” conversation I heard in college. “I like it a lot better here. The weather is great -- usually, you know. And the people are nicer.”

“That’s another thing, man, the people in New Jersey sucked. I never been flicked off so many times in my life! They’re real cold, they’re real hard up there, not just in New Jersey, I noticed it in Maryland, too. People here are a lot friendlier. They’ll help you out. And another thing in New Jersey, if you can believe this, you know what really tripped me out, was they don’t allow black people.”

“What?!” After the fact, I hope my tone sounded good, if that can sound good.

“Yeah, they get arrested just for walking on the sidewalk, just like you and I are right now, you know? They get arrested. We were working long the tracks laying fiber optic cable, along side the tracks you know, and our flagger – she would let us know when the trains were coming so we could get out of the way you know – well she was black and when we went anywhere she would get hassled by the police.”

“Really?” This, or something close to this, I can believe. I think he must be leaving out some details somewhere, but this is plausible. I have stopped noticing how cold I am.

“Yeah, and like I told you, we went to McDonald’s, and when we went she had to duck down in the truck. I mean that’s crazy, right…”

“That’s insane.”

“…and we just couldn’t believe it. It was devastating.” Yellow Plastic Bag Head grins as the bus finally comes into sight behind him and doesn’t turn down the side street. I’m wonder if he’ll keep talking to me once we get on the bus. Having spent so much time lately in a continuous reverie, I kind of hope he does. The bus’s brakes whine as it approaches. “Oh well here’s your bus. I’m just killing time,” he says as I fumble with my umbrella and purse, trying to dig out my fare. “I mean you go ahead and get on, I’m just killing time. My wife passed away, I just like to get out of the apartment sometimes or I go crazy. I’m just killing time. It was nice talking to you.” He smiles one more friendly smile, genuine and kind and really thankful, and I’m stuck in my spot for a split second while I try to think of something to say, but the bus driver is staring at me. I scurry onboard, yelling over my shoulder.

“You too.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Kids Are Simple, but Smart

8th graders, also after watching the MLK Jr. video.
 
Me: Do you think there's still racism in America?
Class: Yes.
Me: Do you think it'll go away?
Student: No, it won't.
Me: (bewildered, because this kid is not a cynic) Why not?
Student: Well, because evil won't ever go away while we're here.  And racism is evil.  So... I dunno, I just think it'll be around for a while.

Best Crack Anyone Ever Made At Me

My 6th graders watched a video about Martin Luther King Jr. today and then got into a conversation about non-violence and how holding in hate isn't good for you.  One boy mentions he thinks that if someone hit him, he would hit back.
 
Me: I can understand that.
Student 1: What would you do?
Me: I really don't know.  (smirk) Probably knock 'em out.
Student 2: Yeah right, you're too nice!  They'd hit you and you'd go (makes sign of the Cross, like in a blessing) "Bless you, my child!"

Royal Street, New Orleans

January 2007

Yes, Dear Reader, I'm alive. At the beginning of the week I was drowning under a pile of work, which I cleverly avoided by continuing to post, and then did the work when I ought to have been sleeping. The sleep thing is getting back at me, evidently, as I have passed out without meaning to the last two nights.

Three day weekend? Sweet.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Read This Article.

A fantastic commentary on how intricately connected the culture of divorce is to the culture of death, well written and a good kick in the pants to all, including to an utterly not married girl such as myself. It's a wee bit on the long side, but not bad at all, and every word is worth it.
"Do not dare mull over your "quality of life" and your "fulfillment" -- wrapped in a shroud of deadly self-regard, while the Lord of life, who dies to bring you to life, gasps for His last breath on the cross above. If anyone had grounds for divorce, He had; no one ever loved as deeply as He, and no one was ever betrayed as He. You, reader, have betrayed Him shamelessly, as have I. Yet He remains faithful, and waits for us, to bring us life."

The Other House and Wilson


Mark has been griping about the disproportionately small number of pictures of him that ended up in the retrospective. This is first and foremost another proof of the fact that, despite his perennial lumberjack beard, he is actually a small child.

However, I noted the same thing. Considering his high status in the people-whose-calls-I-return pecking order and how much time we spent together last year, there really should be more pictures of him/us. Why aren't there? Probably for the same reason there aren't more rational people walking the streets: the world is imperfect. So, to kinda make up for it, today's sorta-daily photo is this gem from a salsa night at the end of 2006 (hence why it wasn't in the 2007 montage), which definitely ranks in my top ten favorite pictures from all of college.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My 2007 Retrospective

When Dad did his year in review, he carefully strung images and music together and added titles and effects to produce a lovely, relaxed, balanced, enjoyable piece. Well done, Dad.

Me? Due to my utter lack of good-decision-making ability and the ludicrous volume of pictures I took in 2007, I opted to go for complete sensory overload.

Here, in 362 pictures, is my year.

The Feast of the Theophany

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Roman Catholic church. In Orthodox churches, this event is celebrated on January 6th, when we have our Epiphany celebrations of the magi finding the Christ child, and is called the Feast of the Theophany because it was at the Baptism that the three persons of the Trinity were manifested.

I wonder if it is kosher to borrow feast days from a church one is not a member of (or to use the work "kosher" when talking about Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy). It doesn't make much difference now, being as the Feast of the Theophany has passed. Perhaps next year. For now, we await the feast of Saint Theophanes, which falls on quite the coincidental date, given I didn't know the fellow existed when I named this blog (only my close friends an family will understand the connection). There are no coincidences.

Happy Birthday, Cousin!

This is the original Miss Cisneros, at least as far as our tier on the family tree is concerned. She also happens to be my soul mate. She's like the sister I always had... who lived somewhere between and eight hour drive and an eight hour flight away. She's my partner in crime, comrade in insanity, and purveyor of all things awesome. As of today, this planet has been graced with her presence for 25 years.

We will not touch upon how weird it is to me that the main character in my childhood is now a quarter of a century old. That would be selfish.

Lima, Peru, July 2001

Ana and I have brought madness, soundtracks, an utter absence of logic, and high-quality, type-written, pre-pubescent smut to most of the United States and parts of South America, including one median, one balcony, one castle, and one hovel. We're just that awesome.

Well, Ana is that awesome. I mostly try to emulate her.

Sea World San Diego, July 2007

Happy and blessed birthday to my oldest and bestest friend!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Test

Allegedly, I can post to my life-consuming blog via e-mail. This would be convenient, since I do occasionally want to post something little during the day but cannot thanks to the filter that exists to prevent exactly that.

This could really be the end of all productivity...

Sister gloria

To whom i am demonstrating mobile posting.

No, Really, I'm a Missionary

Most VIDES missionaries go to Africa or Latin America for their mission. Some will stay here in San Antonio for a little while before they move on, but there's been just a handful of us (six that I know of in the last five years out of about eighty missionaries) who serve in the states, period.

When people familiar with VIDES meet me, invariably, the first or second question asked is, "Where will you go for your mission?" Which always bugs me. It's not the question itself, since the vast majority of VIDES volunteers who spend any time in San Antonio are in fact going somewhere else eventually. It's the reaction when I firmly and proudly reply, "This is my mission." They seem surprised.

That shouldn't bother me. I didn't really think of anything involving indoor pluming as a "mission" when I was looking into it. I wasn't really thinking about being a missionary. I had a firm grasp on what service is, as distinct from volunteering or rescuing, and that was what I was after. I didn't come to Texas thinking I was doing missionary work.

Having been here for exactly five months (which means I am slightly more than halfway through this thing), I've changed my mind. Last Saturday, I gave a presentation on my work at St John Bosco School to the new group of VIDES volunteers who were here being trained. The process of putting it together let me put a lot of my meandering notions into words. Some of it I've mentioned here before, a lot of it I haven't.

Rather unfortunately, I don't think I can replicate it all here. Some of it is on the power point. A lot of it came spilling out of my hyper-speed mouth as I was giving the presentation and is lost forever -- or until I get that particular inspiration again.

This is a video version of the aforementioned presentation, which I hope gives some insight. Please keep in mind:

This was originally a power point, so there was a lot of talking over and between slides, and the text on the slides was designed to be sen on a big ol' projector.

Also, I pretty much re-did the entire thing the night before I gave it, so there's a few really dumb goofs, including a reference to second Corinthians that should have been a reference to first Corinthians. Woops!


Somewhere in the French Quarter


I do have a logic for this series of New Orleans pictures, that being that I was there a year ago taking millions and millions of pictures.

This picture happens to be one of two pictures published in the University of Delaware Alumni magazine, making them my first two published photographs. I also took the first, third, and fourth pictures in this article. Much to my jaw-dropping, pouting dismay, they are all uncredited.

Oh well. I knew, and now so do you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Midterm essays

... Which are going to ruin my life for the next five days.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bourbon Street

December 2006

During a Second Line. My last, and arguably best, NCSC conference.

Scratch that. They were all monumental in their own way. Each one was a milestone in my college life. Looking back, I see how what they meant to me depended greatly on where I was in my spiritual growth (if I may be so presumptuous as to call it growth. In reality it's a lot more like morphing with occasional swelling. Man, I'm a poet), and seeing as that changed enormously from year to year, all three have their own unique and critical significance.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Compliment...?

After school, Sr Josie sells snacks outside the cafeteria. I have escorted some students there and am eying a hot dog.

Me: Do I want a hot dog?
5th grade girl who could be Melissa's crazy-twin: I don't know.
Me: Do I look like I want a hot dog?
5ggwcbMct: No. (With look of disgust at my waist line) But you look like you could use one.

...Which is extra ridiculous because she's almost as tiny as Melissa, too.

Caught in the Act


Sr. Rosann, our principal (living with my boss is not something I ever imagined I would do, but it's worked out quite well), catching me photographing her after I'd been at it for at least ten frames.

I stopped after this.

It's Dragon Fruit!

In response to the comments on my previous post, I did a little Google research and found out that dragon fruit isn't just a kids shampoo scent that I don't care for (side note: did you know you can buy shampoo on Amazon? What?!) .


It is a prickly, purple-rinded, gray-fleshed fruit. It's pretty good, very mild, not particularly sweet. Apparently some Whole Food stores have it for around $12 a pound. Here's a pretty professional image, much better than the one my cell phone took. Here, the flesh is less gray and the rind is more pink than purple, but the one I ate looked just as it does in my picture.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Things sisters eat

And then coerce me into sharing.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Can Chuck Norris Survive?

This has been around for a while, actually, but I just discovered it. It is more or less exactly what the name implies.

Will It Blend?

School I Will Never Attend

Not that there was much chance anyway, but to squash any consideration it might have gotten, I today discovered that Lake Superior State University publishes an annual list of words that ought to be banished. Not such a bad thing in and of itself, but their tone and the words they want to obliterate reveal them (whoever "them" is in this case) to be snooty, linguistically close minded sticks in the mud. For example:

IT IS WHAT IT IS -- "This pointless phrase, uttered initially by athletes on the losing side of a contest, is making its way into general use. It accomplishes the dual feat of adding nothing to the conversation while also being phonetically and thematically redundant." -- Jeffrey Skrenes, St. Paul, Minnesota.

BACK IN THE DAY -- "Back in the day, we used 'back-in-the-day' to mean something really historical. Now you hear ridiculous statements such as 'Back in the day, people used Blackberries without Blue Tooth.'" -- Liz Jameson, Tallahassee, Florida.

"This one might've already made the list back in the day, which was a Wednesday, I think." -- Tim Bradley, Los Angeles, California.

GIVE BACK -- "This oleaginous phrase is an emergency submission to the 2008 list. The notion has arisen that as one's life progresses, one accumulates a sort of deficit balance with society which must be neutralized by charitable works or financial outlays. Are one's daily transactions throughout life a form of theft?" -- Richard Ong, Carthage, Missouri.

"Various media have been featuring a large number of people who 'just want to give back.' Give back to whom? For what?" -- Curtis Cooper, Hazel Park, Michigan.


Perhaps my teeny brain missed what is so distasteful about any of these. Actually, that last one is a bit disturbing. Sure, you got where you are through your own tenacity, talent, and utter refusal to take anything from anyone. Obviously, you've never been given anything, it's just silly to want to give anything yourself.

Silly people.

Sr. Anna is Not Camera Shy

San Antonio, Texas, September 2007

Most of the sisters either ignore me or cover up when I bandy the camera about. Sr. Anna invariably jumps into the shot and poses for me, comic-like.

I love Sr. Anna.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Why hasn't this already happened?

**UPDATE** It comes to my attention that Bishop Yanta was this very day replaced as the bishop of Amarillo by San Antonio's own Bishop Zurek (the auxiliary bishop), whom I have actually met and like very much. The change over, I'm sure, won't happen until after the 22nd.

I was going to stop shirking responsibility, I swear, but I happened to check my news feeds before trotting off to be productive and came across this story. A snippet:

AMARILLO, Texas(LifeSiteNews.com)- A Catholic bishop has declared his diocese will observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the United States, as a day of penance for Catholics.

Bishop John W. Yanta of the diocese of Amarillo said that Tuesday January 22 will be observed in his diocese as a "Day of Fast and Abstinence."

The bishop said that day is a particular day of penance in the United States for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.

"I encourage all the people of God to attend Mass that day, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, pray the rosary and witness to life," Bishop Yanta wrote.


The thought of something like this happening had never occurred to me before, even though I have heard of individuals doing similar things on their own, but it seems an obvious step now that it's been done. I confess to a little trepidation about making it an obligatory day of fast and abstinence, which to my understanding means that residents of the diocese will be in need of confession if they don't participate, but I haven't really thought this out yet.

Jescenia (and Fish)

Asherton, TX, June 2007

I was doing alright with the one picture a day thing, and then I went back to, you know, responsibility (which, as I almost always am when I blog, I am presently shirking). I guess we'll shoot for "once in a while", as we do most things on this blog... slash in my life.

The next "crop" of VIDES volunteers is here for their formation before they venture forth to save the world (in a manner of speaking). It's delightful having them, primarily because they themselves are delightful, and secondarily because it's nice to be able to have someone respond when I quote words to rap songs. Surprisingly, the sisters don't do that much.

Today was the first day of their mission, putting on a mini vacation Bible school for the kids of a nearby apartment complex. They did a fantastic job today. The aforementioned delightfulness evidently extends beyond their senses of humor.

This photo is of one of my favorite girls from our training camp in Asherton this summer. She was cute and sweet and a little mischievous.

Sound familiar?


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My New Mantra

Alright, it's a little long to be a mantra, but I am contemplating memorizing it to recite before work each day.

It's also not quite little ear friendly.




What's sad about this is that school starts tomorrow, and rather than devoting myself to preparing for it, I'm being distracted by things like this that tell me what kind of teacher I should be. The upside (see how I did that balance thing there? "The sad thing" followed by "the upside". Rather clever, eh?) is that I am now motivated to get back to work, and moreover to jump back in with my A-game tomorrow when the little buggers come back.

Stephen Colbert Makes My Day, Again

This has happened more than once, which is odd since I have never once actually watched his show.

But this is hilarious, and exactly the right treatment of this pretty silly song that is sung in far too many churches.



**UPDATE** As of January 4th, I have watched this video at least fifteen times, and find myself laughing harder ever time.