Friday, December 21, 2012

My Sisters the Saints

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir

by Colleen Carroll Campbell

I’ve finished book number 78 for 2012, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell.

This book is Campbell’s memoir of her spiritual journey and about the six women saints who have become her patronesses and closest friends. She intertwines the stories of these women saints with her own story, telling the reader how they have given her hope, guidance, and strength on her own spiritual journey.

To begin, I have to say that I think this book hit me personally very strongly, as some of her own struggles are struggles that I share—particularly a father with Alzheimers. Because of this connection, I found myself reading Campbell’s memoirs with a box of tissues sitting next to me, taking short breaks when my eyes were so filled with tears that I couldn’t see the page. For me, hearing how she found comfort in Therese of Lisieux’s similar experiences of a father with dimensia were personally helpful and I will take her thoughts and shared experiences to prayer.

I also related to much of what Campbell writes in a professional way. Her memories of college life correspond well with my experiences as a college campus minister. She writes that for her it seemed “better to be labeled shallow, stuck-up, drunk, or debauched—anything but devout” (page 22). If you have encountered this and struggled with it or been mystified by it, then I think this book is for you.

At the very beginning of the text, Campbell sets the stage by telling about an experience she had in college where she looked around her and asked the same question I see many of my students asking themselves, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” She walked away in hopes of finding a satisfactory answer. I think that this book is an answer and it is one that can help readers move forward in their own spiritual lives. I think that readers who have had similar experiences to her, whether it is an exact experience, such as a father who struggles with Alzheimer’s, or simply the wider experience of trying to determine what it means to be free in a world bound by the chains of sin or to be feminine in a society that seems to stand against femininity (both themes continued throughout the book), will find in Campbell’s memoirs a story of hope and also an idea for how to move forward in their own lives.

As a spiritual memoir, Campbell’s writing is insightful and prayerful, a good book to read when you are in your own moment of questioning. As a book, Campbell’s writing is clear and alive. She truly captures the reader, inviting them to walk with her as she tells her story and also those of the women saints—Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, and Mary, Mother of God. The parallels that she draws between her own life and those of the saints are insightful. The lessons she learns are encouraging. And throughout she brings to life for the reader the many characters of her tale—her mother and father, husband, and friends—in such a way that the reader is bound to love them as she does.

I highly recommend this book.

For more information on Colleen and her writing, visit her website:

The first chapter of the book can be found at

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

From the BCC Blog... In the Spirit of Christ, which is Love

You can find the original version of this blog at:

So, I was going to write about all the travels that I’ve been doing lately. I mean, I’ve gotten to do a lot. I spent a weekend at St. Mary of the Woods for my orientation as a Providence Associate. That was an awesome opportunity to grow closer to God. I then spent last weekend, actually 5 days, in Dallas for a Ministry Conference. I got to see cool people, family and friends that I have been missing and wanting to see. I’ve had so many blessings lately and I wanted to tell you all about that. But then, today, I was reading my facebook news feed and something else more important was re-iterated to me in a way that I feel like I have to tell you about it.

One of my good friends from college is also one of my heroes. Her name is Genevieve. I call her Genna. And Genna is a teacher in the poorest school district at the poorest grade school in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Yes, I know, we talk a lot about poverty at the BCC. We’re Catholic and part of Catholic Social Teaching is preferential option for the poor. But let me tell you about this poverty.

One of the students in the bilingual class at Gena’s school lost his shoes the other day.
Who knows where or why, he’s a five year old boy. That happens. The problem is, they were his only pair of shoes. His mother sent him to school in slippers. The school said that wasn’t appropriate footwear and he had to go home until he had real shoes. His mom can’t buy shoes until the middle of the month at payday. It’s the beginning of the month now. This kid is going to have to stay home from school for a week—in kindergarten, an important year where missing a week is like missing a month—because his mom can’t buy shoes. And that’s not to mention that he probably gets the majority of his food at school. So now, he has no shoes and he’s hungry. And the school district can’t do a thing about it, because they can’t even put paper in the classrooms. The teachers have to buy their own supplies. And let me tell you, these teachers don’t get paid much.

Guys, this is not okay.

My first instinct was to ask Genna what size shoes I need to buy this kid. I mean, I can’t do a lot to change the world, but I can get this kid shoes so he can go to school. Genna can’t do it—the school doesn’t pay her enough to keep her own kids in nice shoes, much less put shoes on her students. I’m still waiting to find out about his shoe size. I know there are several other friends of Genna who are waiting for the same thing. One of us will get him shoes. And when we do, he will go to school. And someday, I pray, he will change the world and then, maybe there won’t be any kids without shoes.

But my buying a pair of shoes doesn’t really solve the problem.

The problem is, I live in a house with nine other people. Between all of us, there are probably over hundred pairs of shoes in this house. And there are probably over a hundred kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex whose shoes are too small or too big and cause blisters or too worn to keep their feet warm. Why? Why is it that in the richest nation in the world in the 21st century this is still happening? And forget Dallas, my old home, what about Indianapolis? What about our city, the one in which we attend school and live at least 9 months out of the year? What about the kids in our schools?

I imagine it’s not much different.

We need to reevaluate our lives, people.

I have been talking about Nazareth Farm (where the BCC will be taking our Alternative Spring Break trip next semester) a lot lately. That’s because a) I love it and b) I want you to go and love it, too. One of the four cornerstones of Nazareth Farm is simplicity. Let’s talk about simplicity for a moment.

Simplicity seems to mean something different for every person. One person can say they’re living in simplicity while they have a flat screen tv and a dvr (I would question this person and their idea of need). The next person might be living in a tiny house (check out Tumbleweed Tiny Houses if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and own less than 100 items (I can’t do that—sorry, my books are really important to me). Whatever you think simplicity is, we are called to it. As we say at Naz Farm, we are called to live simply so that others may simply live.

During the month of November, I would like to both invite and challenge you to try to live more simply. Maybe that means not going out for that burger, ordering that pizza or those insomnia cookies. Maybe that means that instead of buying a new scarf, you’re going to use the one you bought last year. Same for that new coat and those new mittens. Maybe you’ll look in your closet, count the number of pairs of shoes you own and donate a dollar for every pair to the BCC Christmas Family Adoption fund. If you don’t have a lot of shoes, but find yourself buying a lot of something else, maybe you’ll match that. Maybe you’ll tell Mom and Dad that instead of yet another new blouse or new boots, you want to donate that money somewhere else. Maybe you’ll participate in the Tech Fast and see where, without the temptation of entertainment technology, you really do have enough time to volunteer, to serve, to change the world. Maybe. I can’t make that decision for you. I can only decide for me.

As we begin November, I notice a lot of Christmas stuff in the stores. It’s a little early for it, but I am starting to be in a Christmas mindset. Christmas reminds me of my Uncle Tim, who I never met. He died from cancer at the age of 18 almost three years before I was born. But my uncle had a saying and it was passed on to me. Around Christmas, when he wanted something, he would say, “In the spirit of Christmas, which is love, please ___.”

In the spirit of Christmas, which is love…. Perhaps it would be better to say, “In the spirit of CHRIST, which is love.” Because He was love. He was not just love the noun, but love the verb. Suddenly the question at Christmas becomes the same as the question we must ask ourselves every day all year round: How do I, Kaitlyn Willy, love better? How do we, the Butler Catholic Community, love better? How do you, reader, love better?

To answer that, this year, in place of buying each other gifts, my community is adopting a local family and giving them Christmas. And by Christmas, I don’t mean they’re getting a bunch of toys (though I might slip a few in). Primarily, I’m shopping for PJs, undies, socks, and bras for an elderly grandma and her daughter and clothes to keep their three babies warm. This family will be way more excited about these clothes—which won’t be all that nice and certainly won’t be name-brand items—than I have ever been about a Christmas gift. Need does that to people, it makes them find joy in the simple things.

In keeping with this spirit of love, the BCC Service Committee and Leadership Team have decided to adopt two families for Christmas. I mentioned this above, in the “maybe” paragraph. I’m serious, friends—count those shoes, those lattes, those whatever-you-spend-your-money-ons. Donate a dollar for each one you have. Or, donate five dollars, ten dollars, whatever you can muster. Ask mom or dad or grandma to give you your Christmas money early—donate it. Make a difference.

And, if you really want to keep it up, go to Nazareth Farm. Live simply so that others may simply live. Do as Christ calls us to in the reading for tomorrow: love your neighbor as yourself. Change the world.

When people ask me to describe my students, I say that they all want to save the world. Guess what, friends—this is how you change the world. You change it one person at a time. Not one poor person at a time, but one human being made in the image and likeness of God who has intrinsic dignity and who for some reason or other lives entrenched in poverty and cannot get out. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other— in the spirit of Christ, which is love. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

My other blog...

So, as you all know I am a Campus Minister at Butler U. Here's the link to our blog that I keep over there, in case you are interested:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

There are no success stories here

14 October 2012

I have been thinking a lot about the term “success” lately. As a child growing up in rural Missouri, success was something to be aspired to. In fact, it was just about the only thing that we aspired to. No one really ever explained what it meant, but it was like a blessing passed on from the older generations: “May you be successful, may you find success.” My own obsession with education and knowledge was linked to (though not merely a result of) my maternal grandfather’s insistence that the only way I could be successful was if I got an education. It was never directly stated, but I was under the impression from a young age that this being successful involved money. My maternal grandmother, who, I must say has only ever wanted the best for us kids, longed for lawyers and doctors in the family. This was not because she wanted legal or medical advice, but because those seemed the most lucrative positions (this was before the technology boom and computers became the money makers). I’m grateful that she doesn’t seem too disappointed about our failure to produce either (although, let’s not give up hope too soon, I have a cousin who would make a great lawyer if he would get through the schooling).

At any rate, looking at my life right now, I’m not sure if I can be considered successful. I certainly don’t have a lot of money. On the contrary, the only material thing I have a lot of is debt. Then there’s the question of success in my field(s) of choice. As a classicist, I must be a failure because I left the field. As a historian, same thing. As a theologian, the fact that I have already admitted to hating theology ( probably means I’m not very successful. As a writer, I’m generally too tired to write down the many thoughts in my head and heart. Instead, I lay down and read what other writers have to say.

As a Campus Minister, I’m not really sure how you can define success. Is it quantitative or qualitative? In our conversations with the Archdiocese, we’re always being asked about numbers. Honestly, sometimes there is only one person who shows up to my events. Sometimes there are thirty. But if we have a great conversation about God in which one or both of us grow closer to Him, in which Christ becomes present in a tangible way, isn’t that meeting with the only student who showed up a success?
A couple weeks ago, we had a Leadership meeting on a Saturday morning. Our leadership team is made up of about 16 students and only five showed up. For my boss, this was a failure. And really, as a leadership team meeting, it couldn’t have been much of a success because part of being a team meeting is the team showing up for the meeting. But I don’t think it was a failure, either. I had great conversations with the students, got to know them better in new ways and during our hour together I saw us grow in understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to be in communion with the other. We shared the stories of our “Eli”s (1 Sam 3:1-18), those people who challenge us and invite us to follow our calling, those spiritual leaders who have made us who we are. Sitting there, hearing the stories that these five women had to tell, two of whom are freshmen in college—I don’t think that anything which brings such powerful witnesses together and unites them in prayer could be other than a success, and it was a success brought about by the Holy Spirit.

As we are preparing for a lot of changes and transitions at the BCC, we find ourselves being asked to defend the need for campus ministers at Butler. People ask us for success stories. Fr. Jeff has many—he can tell you about the students who entered into the Catholic Church, the ones who went on to change the world in many ways and who stayed strong in their faith. He considers those to be success stories. Certainly, they are the easiest ones to tell and he tells them which such love and warmth that the hearer is satisfied in the need for ministry to continue here. 

My temptation is always to say that there are no success stories at the Butler Catholic Community. Instead, there are love stories. I’m not sure what success is, but I do know what love is and these kids teach me about it every day.

I can tell you love stories about my love for my students, about how I see God in them and how my own love grows abundantly through them. I can tell you about their love and generosity and patience with me as they teach me so many lessons about life and love. I can tell you about our mutual love for Fr. Jeff, a man with amazing wisdom and kindness and a great power and ability to love that we all benefit from every day. I can tell you about their love for each other: the strength they give each other during tragedies and heartbreak, stress and studying. I can tell you about students who say to me that they wouldn’t have gotten through their breakup, the death of their grandfather, their PCAT, their final exams, their own illnesses without the love of their friends from the BCC.

I can tell you specific stories: the girl who found the ability to love herself through being loved in a way that didn’t demand, didn’t take—only gave; the young woman who finally found a place where God made sense and became the loving creator she needed instead of the judge she had been taught about as a child, how she found this place through the dedication and love of a friend who invited and invited until she came; there’s the one about the young man who carried a girl to her dorm all the way across campus because she was sick and too weak to walk. I look at their faces and see not only college students, but I can see the face of Christ so vividly sometimes that I am perpetually amazed by them.

The most important love stories are the love stories of these college students and their Creator. There are the love stories of their love for God: their trust, their faith so strong that it makes mine pale in comparison. There is the girl who just came back from studying abroad where she had a conversion experience and now is bravely facing the knowledge that the five year plan she had so carefully crafted and protected in her heart since high school isn’t God’s plan for her. She is going forward with far more grace than I did when I had a similar experience. She is one of my heroes and I am blessed to know her, much less to serve her.

Far more beautiful are the love stories that I witness quietly, the ones of the love of a passionately loving creator who so obviously cherishes these college students in spite of anything that they might do to deter his love. I have seen Him come back again and again to pursue them, to work miracles in their lives only to be recognized after with some mystified disbelief. I have seen men and women grow into something far greater than what they were before and while some might call these “success stories,” I am painfully aware that I had nothing at all to do with it. I just sat with them at the Blue House or in Starbucks or walked around campus with them, watching the changes take place.

I have been praised before for the love that I so obviously have for these mischievous college kids, the frat boys and sorority girls, the seemingly frustrating and narcissistic kids who really just want to be loved and don’t know how to love themselves, the socially awkward kids who are still trying to figure out who they are. But really, it’s nothing to love them. I am not Mother Theresa, saving the poor of Calcutta. I’m not Fr. Greg Boyle, loving the homeboys in LA. Like Oscar Romero, I am blessed to say that it is easy to do my job well when I have such great students. The trick is not in loving them; it’s in not letting my heart break because I love them so much. I challenge any person to know these amazing men and women, to spend even a couple days with them, and not love them. It’s not possible, I promise you.

Last weekend, I went home for the Oktoberfest. It was a well-needed and wonderful rest. Going back to Rolla for things like that is like walking into a big, warm hug. I felt wrapped up in love and was reinvigorated to continue my ministry. The only downside of the trip was the immense number of people who asked what my plan is for after I graduate Notre Dame. The frustrating answer is that I don’t know, but like my student who so bravely is letting God guide her future, I am trying to trust that He has a plan and that his plan, unlike my own half-dozen batch of half baked plans for next year, will rise up and give me the answer I need.

On the drive down and part of the drive back, I listened to the audiobook of Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle. This is an awesome book and everyone should read it (thanks to Sarah Hallett and Fr. Jeff separately for the recommendations to read it). He quotes Mother Theresa saying that we are not called to success but to faithfulness. As I look forward to this next step into the great unknown, I try to hold onto this. I am not called to success, only faithfulness. So, let us all faithfully move forward out of the darkness and into the light, listening to our call. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 September...

So, I realize that I haven’t written in quite some time. I’ve been beyond busy and I’m afraid that’s how it will be for a while.

I’m back in Indianapolis and well into my third semester at Butler as Chaplain’s Apprentice for the Butler Catholic Community. Things are going well for us at the BCC. We have a great new group of freshmen women who are very involved. Last year, my freshman women’s ministry had 1 girl on the first day. This year, we had 16. The group has varied each week since, but it’s always a good size group and the women are very involved in the discussions. I am pleasantly surprised by the level at which we can have  these discussions.

On Friday (two days ago), we had a movie night at the BCC where we watched the Lorax. I think it was the largest group we have had for a social event in a long time. It was great! The third floor was packed. It makes me happy to see that many kids who would rather come and watch a movie with the Catholic Community than go to the multiple parties I passed on my way to the movie.

The freshman girls had texted me the night before asking if we could have a sleepover after the movie night. On such late notice, I didn’t want to do a sleepover (somehow, these take more out of me than they used to—not sure if it’s because I’m older or because I’m in charge now), but we did have a “Girl’s Night” after The Lorax, which was really fun. We did nails, colored in coloring books, and all kinds of fun stuff. We did a lot of talking and bonding and it was good to have the freshmen with the upperclasswomen.

I do love my job.

Outside of work, things range from excruciatingly boring to insane depending on the week. Right now, I’m taking a well-deserved break from reading (I read 16 books in September!) to write this.

I can’t believe it’s already October. I need to write a CV and a Resume, I need to start looking for jobs, I need to do so many things! I can’t believe that Echo is almost over, it feels like it just started. But I might go on for more schooling, I’m not really sure yet. I think that the idea of being a “real person” who is done with school is just too scary… as is the idea of paying off those loans while we’re in a recession like this one.

I’m homesick for Dallas all the time, and (strangely, because this didn’t happen that much before) homesick for Rolla, too. I really don’t want to stay in Indy. Just about the only thing that would keep me here is if I could get a full time job at Butler, which looks like it’s not an option right now.

Yesterday, I went on an outing to see Downtown Indy with my roommate, Matt. Matt is in the Lalanne program and is one of my (nine) housemates. (Yes, you read that right, there are TEN of us living in this house. It’s a lot of fun most of the time.) Anyways, Matt was a doll and took me to all the places downtown that I’ve never been. For some reason, Downtown Indy gives me panic attacks as bad as Chicago, even though (logically) it shouldn’t bother me when I love Dallas so much. I think it’s just a different type of downtown—very crunched together. Dallas is so spacious. Besides, downtown Dallas usually means Molly or Kevin or Mark… and these are all comforting thoughts (I miss you guys!). Sadly, although the day was WONDERFUL (thanks, Matty Matt!!), I still don’t think I want to live here after I graduate, even though I am the Ted to Matt’s Marshall and Meg’s (his girlfriend) Lilly (HIMYM reference, anyone? – it’s a popular show in our house).

I will be going back to Dallas in October, which is ALMOST this month! I’ll be there for UDMC and I’m SOOO extremely excited just to be in the right state for once. I think I was meant to be Texan.

At any rate, I’m done with classes and will soon be preparing for comps.

Please pray for my discernment!

P.S. I've read 55 books this year. Check them out on my "100 Book Challenge" page!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quick Update...

So, I'm aware that I haven't written in months.

However, I have been READING. I've read 50/100 of my 100 books for the year. Halfway done.

Woo hoo!!

I thought that deserved a blog post.

I'll write again updating everything else soon.


P.S. Check out my list of books!

Monday, June 18, 2012

End of May/ Beginning of June and Echo Summer II

I am sorry for how long it's taken me to write. I've been busy. I figured I’d recap a little from last time, since it was written so quickly.

First, I left Indianapolis to go to Rolla for a couple of days, then headed up to KC for Amanda's wedding.

Now, Amanda asked me to come up early, so I got there on Wednesday (the wedding was Saturday). We were pretty busy because Amanda didn't outsource anything. I'm not sure what their total wedding budget was, but it was pretty small. Brent's mom made the cake and his sister, Christina, decorated it. It looked gorgeous-- better than any professional cake I've ever seen. Amanda did the flowers (with a little help from Lisa and me). Amanda, Brent, and I  did the rest of the food-- I was in charge of the kitchen during the reception. I think I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for most of the week, trying to be the biggest help I could. The wedding got on with only a couple mishaps, one of which being that I forgot my dress at home in Rolla. It all worked out well, and the new Miller family had a beautiful wedding.

While I was in KC, I couldn't stay with Amanda because her apartment was full of bridesmaids (it's a tiny apartment, right off the plaza-- nice location, but not a great size). So, I stayed at Jerusalem Farm. Many of you probably remember the wonderful experiences I've had at Nazareth Farm and Bethlehem Farm. Well, this one is a new one. I'm loving it. Getting to stay there was one of the highlights of my week. I got to come home to people who I can only call "my type of people," which was a blessing when I was coming "home" from Latin Mass (not my type at all). We had a lot of fun and I got to know Jessie and Jordan Schiele much better. They're lovely people. All my friends in Missouri should check Jerusalem Farm out as soon as they can!

The day after the wedding, I went to breakfast and Mass with my friend, Bernie, and then headed back to Rolla. I got home just in time. I walked into my parents' house and looked at my dad. He looked absolutely awful-- pale white, breathing hard... Mom told me that she had been trying to get him to go to the hospital since the day before, but he wouldn't go. I told him he had to go and finally he agreed to. I'm not sure I really gave him an option. Mom said she was going to force him, but knew I'd be home soon and I could get him to go easier than she could (it's a baby girl thing, Daddy rarely says no to me).

So, Mom and I spent a less than awesome day and evening in the ER with Dad and they admitted him, saying that he had severe pneumonia in the lower part of his left lung. It was pretty bad. Over the next two days, I became familiar yet again with the hospital in Rolla, something I wish I could avoid for a while now. Mom was able to stay with us on Monday because it was Memorial Day, but had to go to work Tuesday. The big problem was that Mom was having surgery the Friday of the same week, so she had to get the hospital ready for her being gone.

On Tuesday, around 5pm, I finally got to bring Dad home. He was doing better, but not much. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with him, not even leaving the house. Then, Friday, my aunt and grandmother took mom in for her surgery, since we couldn't leave Dad alone. I felt bad not being with her. My aunt kept calling to tell me how things were going, but what Aunt Sharon didn't seem to understand is that the problem with my Mom and surgery is not the surgery. Mom heals really well. Mom's problem is the anasthetic, which she has almost not woken up from before. So, really, Aunt Sharon was just making me more anxious by calling me.

At any rate, Saturday I had two sickies to take care of. Sunday, I went in to Mass and brought them the Eucharist. By Monday morning, two things were apparent: 1) Mom could probably handle taking care of herself and Dad for a couple of hours on her own and 2) that was good, because if I didn't get the heck out of the house, I was going to go crazy. So, I went to the store to take care of a couple of things.

In the middle of all this, I noticed that the water was tasting funny, so we have been drinking bottled water (something I hate doing). I had to go get more water, for one thing, because I think that contaminated water was what was making Dad sick. We still haven't found out if that's the case.

But, I went into town Monday, happy to get away for a couple of hours (literally a couple of hours). Then, I came home. We spent a lot of time that week watching movies and reading. I think I read 7 books over the course of the two weeks that I was home.

Tuesday, I went to lunch with a new friend and then Mom and I got adventurous and went out to dinner with friends. Wednesday was spent at home, as was Thursday, and Friday was spent preparing to go to Notre Dame.

One thing I have to say for all this is that, even though I missed going to Texas (which was heartbreaking-- Ponikiewskis, I miss you!), I got to spend more time with my mother at once than I have EVER spent with her in my whole life. We've never gone on family trips and Mom has always worked late hours and early hours and all the hours in between. I'm sorry she was sick and had to have surgery, but it was kind of fun being together.

Friday was an adventure getting ready to leave. Mom ended up buying me a camera, since mine wasn't working very well. It's really nice and I'm trying to take as many pictures as possible, since I have a grand total of like 5 from last summer. It's my last year at Notre Dame!

I also ended up borrowing my best friend's (Hannah's) mini fridge, since the one that I took to college the first two years didn't even fit into my car.

So, last week on Saturday (the 9th?) I left for Indianapolis, where I would spend the night and then go on to Notre Dame.

Saturday, I got to Indianapolis just in time to go to Mass with my friend, Annie, and her family. It was fun being back in Indy and nice to know the roads (I was perpetually relying on my GPS in KC). After Mass, Annie and I went to a concert at The Vogue in Indy for Jon McLaughlin, who was really good. I had never heard him before, but Annie loves his music. It was fun just to be with Annie, who is such a dear friend. She is often the very embodiment of joy. I wish everyone could know her and love her. She brings such sunshine into my life!

So, Saturday night I got back to my house really late. Amy had to let me in, since I gave up my key for the summer (annoying). But it was nice to sleep in "my" bed.

Sunday morning, I got up and headed for ND, stopping at a Marsh on the way to buy fruit for breakfast. It wasn't a very long drive, and it's an easy one. I made 13/14 stoplights on a green!! (We keep score.)

I got to ND around 1, which was when we could move in. I was the first from Echo 8, and only the second to arrive. Meg Kanatzar, who was one of my BEST friends at UD, got there just a little before me, but waited for me, so I could show her where to park. Apparently, the guard told her it was confusing. At any rate, it was SOOOO good to get there and have a hug from my Meggie, who I hadn't seen since my trip to UD in October (she was the generous soul who let me sleep on her floor).

We unloaded quickly and about halfway through, Luke Slonkosky, one of our directors, showed up. Then, other Echoes started arriving. It was unnerving that there were so many people I didn't know! Now, of course, Echo 9 has not only grown on me, but wormed their way into my heart the same way that 7&8 did. Dear Echo 9, I love you. Thanks for being part of our family!

Unpacking, eating dinner in the dining hall, hanging out... it all happened so fast, I'm not sure there's much to tell. I think I've learned the names a lot more quickly this year, but I only had 9 names to memorize this year instead of 23 (I already knew three of the Echo 9 class-- 2 were my friends in college and 1 came to visit our community to get a feel for Echo back in the fall. I'm so glad they're all here!).

Orientation was great and a typical Colleen Moore experience. She's our director, and she is wonderful.

I'm rooming with my friend Meghan (different from Meg/Megan) and sharing a quad with Kathy and Pam. It's an ongoing adventure.

Classes started today and I'm in the break between classes and I thought that I would take some time to update you all before I start my homework. I hope that you are all well. My Dad is doing much better, thank you for your prayers. I'm doing okay. I'm exhausted and my plan for recharging my batteries fell apart because of my Dad's sickness, but I think I'll pull through. It's a day to day thing.

Classes are going to be interesting. This module I'm taking Theology of Prayer and Teresa of Avila. Next module will be "Contemplation and Action" and "Catholic Sacraments."

Also, my friend Annie (from the concert) is having trouble. Her external harddrive, which had everything (pictures, video, homework, stuff for comps) from the last five years, quit working. Please pray that the people she is sending it to can fix it!

And, as always, I'm praying for you, please pray for us!!


Friday, June 1, 2012

The End of May

So, since the last time I wrote, several very important things have happened.

My last weekend in Indianapolis was spent doing three things: 1) hanging out with my hoursemate, Matt; 2) packing like a crazy person; and 3) attending the wedding of two of my very dear students, Brendan and Katie Quinn.

Katie and Bren’s wedding was BEAUTIFUL! I have to say, Katie did a great job planning, organizing, decorating, etc. Also, the food was breakfast for dinner, which is brilliant. I think that will have to be featured in my own wedding, should the event ever arise.

So, I spent Sunday at their wedding and then left bright and early Monday morning for home, arriving in time to go with my mom and grandmother to the KC Ladies’ Auxiliary meeting. I love going to the Ladies Auxiliary because it’s always good to see people from home, and this time was no different. We played bingo and my table won half of the prizes (everyone else was rather jealous). And, of course, I ended up with all of them, because it was my aunts and mom and grandma. So, that was fun.

I spent Tuesday with my dad having lots of fun and then left for Kansas City on Wednesday. I was spending the rest of the week helping my friend Amanda with her wedding. Fortunately, I got to break up the stress a little bit by spending the nights at Jerusalem Farm, which was AMAZING! I’m so excited about the farm and I loved getting to see Jessie and Jordan and meeting Becca and Jeremy.

Anyways, on Wednesday we cut up fruit and went to Latin Mass. On Thursday we made bouquets and had the rehearsal dinner. Friday was for decorating and finishing the food, followed by the rehearsal and then the bachelorette party! I think Amanda enjoyed it, so that was great (I had fun, too!). Then, Saturday, was Amanda’s wedding! It’s crazy to think that one of my best friends from the last five years, with whom I often complained of being single, is now Mrs. Brent Miller! Congrats, darling.

Sunday, I had coffee and went to Mass with my friend, Bernie, and then headed home. I got home and walked in the door, took a look at my dad, and told him I was taking him to the ER. He looked awful, and he should, since he had a pretty bad case of pneumonia and a UTI to boot. We spent all night Sunday followed by Monday and Tuesday in the hospital. Unfortunately, this ruined the Memorial Day party my Aunt Linda threw especially because I was home. However, it was really important to be with my Dad.

So, I got to bring Dad home on Tuesday. I was supposed to leave Wednesday for Texas so I could see my friends and be there for Randi’s graduation, but unfortunately that was just not possible with Dad’s health. We’ve been hanging out at the house ever since.

To top it all off, today my Mom had surgery to have her gallbladder removed. So, basically, I’m taking care of sick parents. Fun, fun. It’s not that I mind so much as it is that I wish they weren’t sick. I love them and hate to see them both so puny!

Tomorrow, I’ll be watching Randi graduate via the internet, just like I did Trevor last year. It won’t win me the adopted sister of the year award, but Randi understands. I just miss my “other family!” It’ll just have to wait. I’m hoping to go to Texas in August, or to convince Travis and possibly Trevor and Randi to come visit me (but it would be immensely more practical for me to go there to see them).

Alas, I haven’t yet learned to bilocate. How handy that ability would be when seperated from the people you love!

I’ll be heading to ND late next week to begin summer #2 of Echo. I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by! And, my greatest consolation is that one of my best friends, Meggie, will be with me in Echo this year!! MEGAN, I LOVE YOU!! Sylvie, I’m excited for you, too!!

Please pray for my family, especially for my parents’ health. Also, prayers for my sanity would be nice.

Love and Sunshine,

100 Book Challenge—Books #19-26

I’ve fallen behind in my blogging, so I thought I’d give a quick update on my reading challenge.

100 Book Challenge—Book #19 The Dairy and Gluten Free Kitchen  by Denise Jardine

Aunt Marie bought me this cookbook for my birthday this year and I loved it! It helped me find a lot more ways to cook gluten free. I’ve marked several recipes and hope to make them soon.

Book #20—Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

How can anyone not love Little Women? I’ve never read it before, but I had seen the movie as a child. The book far outstrips anything a movie could give. I love the moral lessons and the religious nature of the novel, I hadn’t expected quite so much of it. I now see why it’s a classic book for little girls to read.

Book #21—Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Again, I hadn’t read the book before, but I’d seen the movie. It was my favorite movie as a kid (introduced to me by my Hannah) and that movie was my first introduction to Austen. I love Austen and am in a quick way of being a most devout fan. I’m now reading Pride and Prejudice.

Book #22—The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson

I had read this in high school, but the content had become fuzzy. A short novel, it’s a compilation of three short stories. It’s quite good and a fun read. A little confusing because of so many characters having code names, but I was reading it in the hospital while Dad was sick, so that might contribute to the confusion.

Book #23—One: How Many People does it take to make a difference? by Dan Zadra

Someone bought this for me for graduation and I finally got to sit down and read it through. This is a fantastic book, a good book to read when you’re down or questioning your importance in the world. It helped remind me that God made us all for a reason. I loved the book so much that I bought another book by the same author. See below.

Book #24—The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

This was a book that has been sitting on my shelf for some time and I finally got around to reading it. It’s like a precursor to Percy Jackson (really, I have to wonder if Reardon got some ideas from Ursu). It features a set of cousins who must venture into the underworld to save the world. Great book, highly recommended.

Book #25—The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I have been wanting to read this book for sometime. I started it as a kid and never finished it. Finally got around to it and LOVED it! It’s a great mystery story. I had a lot of fun figuring out the ending. Lots of twists and turns, great characters, and a good story of redemption and giving back. Well written children’s book! Recommend.

Book #26—Five: Where will you be five years from today? by Dan Zadra

I loved this one just as much as One. I recommend it for those who are currently trying to discern their future. It helps focus. Also, great inspiration for making your bucket list. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A quick update

So, it’s May and I realize that I have completely let go of many of my goals for the year. I lost track of April and May has come with a vengeance, and in the midst of traveling every weekend I have barely taken time for rest, much less for reflection.

April was good. I got to see Hannah, accomplished a lot at Butler, and read a lot of books. Seriously, a lot. I read seven. Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten about blogging them… I’ll have to catch up on that.

As for May, it’s been busy. The first weekend in May, I went to visit my parents and celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of some dear friends, the Manions. That was lovely. Then, this last weekend, I had the opportunity to celebrate with Hannah her graduation from college!!! I’m so proud of my friend! She worked hard.

I don’t have time to write much, but just wanted to let you all know I’m still alive. I leave Indy on Monday and there’s so much to do before I go.

Pray for me!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

A beautiful weekend with my best friend

So, last weekend was awesome.

First, I took a retreat day on Friday, which I have to say was much needed. I spent the day at Fatima retreat house at a retreat called “Finding God in a Garden,” an experience that was very healing for me and helped me to understand a little bit more about myself. Of course, I now want a garden more than ever. Lord knows I can’t wait to have my own place and garden! Also, chickens. I never thought I would want chickens after growing up with them, but now that I’m older I respect how useful they are.

I’ll probably write more about this experience after I’ve had time to really think it through.

So, after a great day of retreat, I went home to my community and spent some quality time with them.

On Saturday, I set out for Granville, OH where my BEAUTIFUL best friend Hannah Mugel attends Denison University. Now, Hannah and I have been friends since we were like 3 years old. We haven’t always liked each other, but we have always loved each other. Our mothers are best friends and our dads are really good friends, so even when we weren’t best friends, we have always been together. I’m so glad that we’re best friends now. She’s such an inspiration to me and I can always trust her to even me out and remind me of who I am. She’s just amazing. If you don’t know her, I’m sorry, you should. Hannah belle, I love you so much.

So, being with a friend who is so wonderful, obviously it was meant to be a wonderful weekend. I got there Saturday around noon and Hannah took me on a tour of Granville and Denison. I got to meet Margaret, a cousin I’ve never met! She’s lovely, as anyone would expect from a Mugel girl. I can’t believe I’ve never seen Granville before, but it was so far from Dallas and we were always at school at the same time.

Now, Hannah is really a big city girl. She loves cities and culture and all the beautiful opportunities that cities have to offer. She’s never been a Rolla girl, even though we both grew up there together, and most adventurous things I have done have involved Hannah (except Rome, although I did go with her notes from her visit, which was before mine). So, the fact that she chose to live five years in Granville, OH, which resembles Stars Hollow out of Gilmore Girls, is amazing to me. But she did and somehow it suits her. Of course, Hannah has found the nearest city and fallen in love with it (Columbus), but she has also found all the neat little haunts in Granville and was eager to show them to me. We ate amazing ice cream, bought some loose leaf tea at a lovely little tea shop, and ate at a really awesome little bar/restaurant. I fell in love with the town almost immediately. It’s a good thing I never visited before, because I might have been tempted to transfer! (Not really, nothing would have tempted me from Dallas… well, maybe, but definitely not after I started working at Holy Family—I could never have left that.)

The campus is beautiful, too. I love it!! I can see why Hannah chose it. It’s bigger than UD, but smaller than Butler. It’s sort of on top of a hill, making it like a town all to itself even though its really part of the town.

After our tour, we spent a lot of time talking in Hannah’s room and then went to see Titanic in 3D. I’d never seen Titanic before, which I am amazed at. But, appropriately, I went to see it with Hannah on the 100th anniversary and it was great! Hannah’s friend Sarah went with us, and it was great to meet her and get to talk with her. She’s a big Titanic buff and also a geology major, which is pretty cool.

Then, that night when we got back, we did our nails and watched the movie A Fish Called Wanda. Hannah’s dad (who is like a second father to me) is a big fan of John Cleese and has passed that trait on to us two girls. Neither of us had ever seen this one and we loved it! I was a little distracted, texting back and forth with my other favorite person, a friend from Holy Family in Dallas. But the movie was great! We watched with Hannah’s roomie and good friend, Hillary. Hillary is just wonderful and it was great to meet her. She spent most of the day Sunday with us.

We went to Mass at the local parish on Sunday and Hannah got to show me their absolutely awful mural on the back wall above the altar (seriously, I’ve seen ugly churches, but this one is beyond my ability to describe). Then, we had breakfast at the apartment and studied. We went out on the field behind the apartments and enjoyed the sun while studying (well, more talking and fun than studying, but we did get some work done). Hannah spent most of the day making a bean soup, which had been left to soak while we were outside. Once we were back inside, we studied for real (really, we did!). Then, we ran to the cafeteria to grab salads to go and ate some bean soup for dinner. It was really good! Hannah’s becoming quite the chef, it seems. In so many ways, she is so much like her mom. I love it.

At any rate, I’m sure the step by step process of our weekend isn’t that interesting to other people. But it was the best weekend in a long time and I loved getting to spend so much time with my best friend. It’s a wonderful thing to be known and loved and to be with someone who I don’t have to explain things to—she already knows my stories, my habits, my faults, and for some unknown reason chooses to stick by me anyway. I’m so grateful for her! She has a free and beautiful spirit, which is the perfect compliment to my melancholic, old soul. There are so many things that we both love but so many things that are different….

I don’t have a real sister, Hannah’s the closest thing I have to a sister. Her family has meant so much to me and to my parents. I think of her parents as second parents or my aunt and uncle. I’m often much closer to the Mugels than anyone else in the world. I have so much to thank them for. I thank Teresa for my love of languages—something that has been central to my very identity. I probably never would have known Spanish or studied philology without her. I have Doug to thank for my love of Vincent Price and of John Cleese. Teresa and Hannah introduced me to most of my favorite romantic comedies. Teresa was the one who first introduced me to my favorite foods—pineapple, mangoes, and all sorts of citrus juices.

So, it was wonderful to spend a weekend with her and to finally see her school. I’m so excited that she will be graduating here in a few weeks (on the same day as UD’s graduation). It’s so exciting. She works very hard. Look out world, here she comes!!!

This week has been good, although full. Finals are approaching and my students are stressed. This weekend was mostly uneventful. I went out with my other friend Hannah, a Sister of Providence, on Friday and spent most of yesterday with my housemate Matt and his girlfriend, Megan. It was fun, too!

And here I am, almost midnight on Earth Day, looking back at a beautiful weekend and a great week, thankful for my many blessings.

Good night! Please pray for my students and my friends (the lovely Miss Hannah included) who are facing finals. I know they’ll all do well. Study well, not hard!

100 Book Challenge—Book #17 and 18 Welcome to the Ark and The Flight of the Raven by Stephanie Tolan

100 Book Challenge—Book #17 and 18 Welcome to the Ark and The Flight of the Raven  by Stephanie Tolan

So, as a kid, Welcome to the Ark was my very favorite book. I read it so many times that my copy is kind of falling apart. Looking back, I totally understand why I loved it. I am what Steph Tolan calls an “ark kid.” The book is about a group of kids who are more or less loners, highly intelligent, awkward, and so different that others have a hard time accepting them. The only thing that makes it different from my childhood is that they actually have superpowers—they can connect with their minds to stop people with violent intentions from acting them out. There’s this whole idea of a quest and a community that I, as a kid, was so attracted to that I read and reread the book over and over, hoping that someday I would find an ark family where I could fit. While Echo is hardly that, I am incredibly blessed to have this community where I’m accepted and loved. I think in my heart of hearts, I’ll always long for the ark.

Now, given that this book is an all-time fave of mine, you would think I’d know that there was a sequel. Nope, I had no idea until I saw it on So, I searched the libraries and when I realized I had no alternative, I went ahead and bought it. I don’t regret it at all. I loved this one just as much, as it followed the story of my favorite character—who had gone missing in the last part of the first book—explaining what happened to him. Also, there’s supposed to be a third that Tolan is working on, but she’s been working on it since 2001, so I’m not holding my breath.

I love these books. I love the way that the characters grow and open up. I love the story, the idea, the way it speaks to my heart. I love that the kids—children—are able to so drastically change the world with the power of their connections to each other. It’s a great book to read in an era where people are so “I” centered and don’t want to make real connections. In a world where facebook is how people connect, the idea of something so intimate as walking in each other’s memories and dreams, communicating with thoughts, and being able to dream together… it’s just so vastly different from the world that we live in that I can’t help but feeling attracted to it.

I would recommend this book for kids, particularly those who suffer from their blessing of being different.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

100 Book Challenge—Book #16 Farming: A Handbook by Wendell Berry

100 Book Challenge—Book #16 Farming: A Handbook by Wendell Berry

Last fall, in one of their update emails, Amazon told me that this book would be coming out and I knew I wanted to read it. I almost pre-ordered it, but since I had so many other things I was trying to read, I decided not to and then lost track of it. This week, during my many library adventures, I found it on a random shelf and decided that Providence was calling me to read it.

I love Wendell Berry. I love the way he writes, the words he uses, the way that his poetry echoes the song in my heart. I love the way that reading his words make me feel like I’m laying down in the field at home or sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ old house. I love Wendell Berry.

This book is no different. It’s mostly poetry, some of which I had read before, but most of it is new to me. And then, there is a small verse play, which is beautiful in its own way.

I can’t really describe Berry’s poetry to someone who hasn’t read him. He’s wonderful. Please read him if you haven’t. Even my dad loves his work.

One of the poems that I loved was the first in the collection. I thought I would share it.

The Man Born to Farming

The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug.  He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing.  He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
That the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
Like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
Descending in the dark?


So, each month I have been giving myself a set of goals. This month, one of the big ones was to get a library card. Now, for most people this sounds simple and doesn’t seem like a big deal, but most people didn’t grow up in Rolla, Missouri. My parents’ house is outside of town and we can’t get a free library card in Rolla. When I was a kid, my dad had one and I could check out books, but usually we just bought books. So, I had to really want to read a book (enough to ask Dad to buy it, or later, to buy it myself) in order to get my hands on it. The idea of a library that isn’t connected to a school is kind of novel to me.

So, on Tuesday when I walked into the College Avenue branch of the Indianapolis city library (located right next to Joan of Arc, so pretty close to Butler), I was pretty excited. The woman behind the counter very nicely helped me fill out the application for a library card and then handed it to me right there. Unaware of the fact that she was TOTALLY CHANGING MY LIFE, she was nice, but I think she might have thought I was a little strange for being so excited. Then, I had an adventure walking around the library and found two books (a large selection of the works of WH Auden and a short fiction novel called The Writing Circle by Corinne Demas—I haven’t read it yet) to check out. The library is apparently considered small, about the size of the Barnes and Noble at the Dove Mall in St. Louis, but to me it was super exciting that I could take any book I wanted and not have to pay for it, so long as I was willing to bring it back.

I decided later that day that I would rather have a short collection of Auden instead of the huge one I had picked up (the only one they had)  because I wanted to be able to read the whole thing to count as a book. For April, part of my goals include reading Auden, Flannery O’Connor, and Samuel Johnson, so I wanted to start on Auden first. Since there are 22 branches of the Indy Library, I thought I would look up online where I could get a shorter version. Fr. Jeff had mentioned to me that I might like the Central Library, so when I noticed that they had a couple shorter collections of Auden, I decided to go by and grab a couple before community night on Wednesday.

Now, to preface all of this, it should be known that Patrick had gotten his library card last semester and mentioned that the Central Library was “nice.” Well, I sometimes forget that Patrick dear grew up on Long Island and is used to the New York City library and has no understanding of the tiny institution that is the Rolla Public Library. So, when he said “nice,” I was thinking it would be similar to the College Ave branch and I could get in and out in half an hour. I should have known when I got there and there was an underground parking garage that I was mistaken, but I’m a small town country girl and when I think library, I’m thinking small town library or College Ave. Not a SIX STORY CATHEDRAL DEVOTED TO BOOKS! I’m not kidding. I felt like I was in a Church honoring the god of literature. It is SOOOOOOOOO BEATIFUL. I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life, at least nothing that was man made. Needless to say, I have finally found one thing that I love in Indianapolis. And boy, do I love it!

I ended up coming home with seven books (two books of Auden’s poetry, one of his plays, a couple C.S. Lewis books, a book on Tolkien and Lewis’ friendship, and Farming: A Handbook by Wendell Berry), all of which were very exciting finds. I’m still trying to figure out the system for the library, because things weren’t shelved where I expected them to be. But it was fun. Of course, I was running late for community night because it took over an hour before I was willing to leave. So fun!

If you ever come to Indy, go to the Library. It’s the best place in town. I’m hoping to spend lots of time there in the future.

Oh, and I yelled at Pat for not telling me about the awesomeness sooner. He just doesn’t understand why it’s so exciting—I’ll have to take him to the Rolla Public Library if he ever visits Rolla. Then he’ll understand.

(For more information and to be impressed by the building, here’s the building page:

100 Book Challenge—Book #15 The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

100 Book Challenge—Book #15 The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

I had meant to read The Great Divorce for some time, and after prodding from our professor, Dr. Cavadini, this summer, I thought I might as well. My dad bought it for me for Christmas a couple years ago and I just hadn’t taken the time to read it yet.

The book is about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and, like Lewis’ ideas about the afterlife portrayed in The Chronicles of Narnia, the image of death and of God is unlike traditional theology, yet so fitting and so good. I love it.

If you haven’t read it yet and would like a nice, short read, go for it! It’s lovely language, as always for Lewis. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gluten Free Tortillas and some mix recommendations

So, one of my goals for March was to cook more gluten free food and to blog about it.

After my trip to Nazareth Farm, I was motivated to actually keep up with this goal.  First, I made gluten free bread. Admittedly, it was out of a bag mix—from Bob’s Red Mill—but it’s pretty good. Second was a bag mix for chocolate chip cookies, also from Bob’s Red Mill. I highly recommend both of those.

At Naz Farm, I learned how to make GF tortillas. Here’s the recipe. They are AWESOME!

Gluten-Free Flour Tortillas

Minutes to Prepare: 15
Minutes to Cook: 35
Number of Servings: 8

Ingredients You will need:
2 c. Gluten-free all purpose flour (or 2 c. White rice flour)
2 tsp. Xanthan gum or Guar gum
1 tsp. Gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp. Brown sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 c. Warm water


1) Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix the ingredients thoroughly.

2) Add the cup of warm water to the bowl and mix the dry ingredients into the water with your hand until its an even mixture.

3) Separate the dough into 8 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place all but one of the dough balls back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to work with them.

4) Sprinkle a clean, flat surface with a bit of buckwheat flour and then roll your dough ball into a roughly circular shape and get as thin as possible.

5) Throw the tortilla onto a hot griddle (I use a cast iron griddle on medium heat with just a smidge of olive oil) and let it cook approximately 1-2 minutes or until it has started puffing up and the bottom side is developing those lovely brown spots. Flip the tortilla and cook the other side until is toasty as well.

6) Slide the cooked tortilla onto a covered plate to stay warm and repeat from step 4 until you've cooked all 8 tortillas. I generally roll one tortilla out while another is cooking, so that there is always a tortilla on the griddle.

7) Serve these warm with your favorite filling!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

100 Book Challenge—Book #14 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

100 Book Challenge—Book #14 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’ve already written about the impact that reading this book has been having on me. I can’t say this enough: it is a FANTASTIC BOOK! I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I saw an article on it in Whole Living back in January 2011.  Then, last week, I saw it on the shelf at Meijer and bought it. I feel like God must have really wanted me to read it, because I’ve been trying not to buy new books (I have too many to read as it is). But this one was a blessing.

The author spent a year trying to be happier. This isn’t the story of someone who went out trying to change the rest of the world. Instead, she is trying to change herself to make herself a better friend, wife, and mother, similar to the movie If a Man Answers. And I have to say, her work is admirable.

Each month, she focuses on a different aspect of her life to work on and comes up with resolutions that she checks in a very Franklinesque manner. She does research on happiness and on each area, which I admire. She’s a true bibliophile and seems to love reading, writing, and just books in general as much as I do. I think I’ve found my literary soul mate.

Also, even though she’s agnostic, she has a deep love for St. Therese of Lisieux. So, I have to give her credit for that.

She loves quotations and lists. I have to admit, part of the reason I love this book so much is because I feel like it makes me feel more normal.

She makes a list of her “12 Commandments” (a practice I think I need to take up) and a list of “Secrets of Adulthood” that she has learned in her life.

I highly recommend this book. Please, please read it!


100 Book Challenge—Book #13 Living Your Strengths by Albert L. Wiseman

100 Book Challenge—Book #13 Living Your Strengths by Albert L. Wiseman

I’ve already written about how fascinating I find the Strengths Finder test. The book, which I had to buy in order to take the test, is very helpful as well. In addition to showing how knowing your strengths can help in ministry, it also gave stories of different people and learning to use their strengths as well as providing Bible verses for each strength to pray over.

It also gave me a deep desire to learn more about the strengths finder and look into strengths coaching to go along with spiritual direction. It might be a good idea for our retreat center.   

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So, here's why I hate Theology

I’m reading the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and she is talking about finding more fun. She says that her surprise in this was that she didn’t really know what was fun for her, she was so confused with what she thought was fun but in actuality, hated doing.

Reading her contemplation of what it is that she enjoys, the posts from her readers on her blog, her confessions about what she loves—it made me think. What do I enjoy? What do I find fun?
An easy answer, of course, is found in the fact that I’m reading Rubin’s book in the first place. Isn’t that why I’m doing this 100 book challenge? Because I love reading? But then I started to think about other things, things that I don’t enjoy, the person I’ll never be. Unlike Rubin, I don’t lament the fact that I’ll never be a lawyer or businesswoman. I’m comfortable and at peace with the fact that I’ll never be wealthy, that I feel like an idiot when wearing anything resembling a business suit. No matter what I do, I’ll never find chess or strategy games enjoyable (in spite of the fact that my housemates love them). I hate video games. The auctions frequented by my family members stress me out and make me feel depressed for days. I don’t like to dance, partially because of my knee injury and partially because of my fear of looking like a fool (one exception would be dancing with someone I’m completely comfortable with—Patrick, I don’t mind you). I will never enjoy going to bars or clubs, I will always prefer staying home and watching a movie or, even better, reading a book. Even more, I love conversations over tea and art. That brings me joy. I’ll never love reading the news, never find pop culture interesting, and, most depressing and heart-wrenching of all, I will never really love theology.

There, I said it. I won’t be able to make myself love it, no matter how important I think it is. Worse even, sometimes I hate it.

Perhaps some of you reading this are asking yourselves, “Wait… isn’t Kait getting her MA in Theology?” Yes, yes I am. That’s the problem.

I love my work for the Church. I love talking about God, Jesus, and spirituality. I love leading people in prayer. Planning retreats is my greatest joy, which is why Molly and I want to start that retreat center. But when we get into the tall, ivory tower of academic theology (from which God seems curiously absent and Jesus foreign), I want to shoot myself.

Earlier in the book, Rubin was talking about how she knew she wasn’t meant to be in law when she saw her coworkers law journals and loving it and she thought it was the worse thing in the world. Well, my classmates and housemates love to read about theology, love to talk about it every chance they get. I really just want to talk about Jesus or God, read the Gospels, or, even more likely, talk about what happened in the latest episode of Dr. Who or read about natural health or a fun book. I like talking about Tolkien, not Aquinas. (Frankly, I’d rather talk about Aristotle, Plato or even Homer than Aquinas… and Aquinas just Jesusified all their stuff anyways.) I guess that’s when I knew… I’m not really meant for this whole theology thing. I mean, I’ve been suspecting it for a while, but now I’m sure.

So, what do I love to do? What do I find fun?

Greek. Greek history, Greek language, Greek culture, Greek art, Greek literature. I could enjoy reading Homer in Greek every day for the rest of my life. And then, there’s Xenephon and Plato and Pindar… I could live off them for eternity.

And there’s Spanish. Spanish music, literature, art, food. The way my best friend’s mom’s voice sounds when she’s whispering Spanish to her father in the kitchen before Hannah and I wake up in the morning after a sleepover. The way my aunt’s voice sounds when she sings Spanish in her band, so full, so alive.

I love writing. I love creating. I love painting. I love calligraphy. I love random crafts and sewing. I love shoveling manure and gardening.

And of course, there’s literature. Dostoyevsky, Austen, Tolkien, Melville. To be perfectly honest, I got more pleasure out of Moby Dick than I will ever get out of The Summa or any papal writing.

I did love The Confessions. Of course, it took me three times to love it, but I do. And I love The Catechism (which, I know, is a little weird). But all this lofty theology is above my head, and far away from my heart. I love that which relates God to real life, to the concrete, to the physical instead of just the spiritual. I love Catholic Social Teaching. I love prayer, but not the repetitive kind, the kind that actually enables conversation, conversion, change. I don’t watch Jesus movies. I didn’t really enjoy Bella. I wasn’t pleased by the ending. But movies like The Human Experience, The Way, and October Baby (thanks, Amy, for taking me) get me in my core.

I have one summer left at Notre Dame and I’m nervous about getting through it, plus getting through my comps. I know I can do it, God wouldn’t have put me here otherwise, but it’s not my passion and I have a definite need to live out my passion. I still haven’t figured out how to do that or how to get from here, in grad school and working as a campus minister, to where I want to be, at a retreat center with Molly, living out simplicity, community, prayer, and service. What I do know is that I still carry my Greek textbook with me to work and back everyday, even if I don’t open it for a week at a time. What I do know is that I can’t concentrate enough on my schoolwork to read a whole (relatively short) encyclical in one sitting without massive amounts of tea and prodding and trying to keep myself from looking at craft ideas on pinterest.

That’s where I am right now. Pray for me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

February and most of March 2012

26 March, 2012

So, I haven’t really written an actual update on my life since Lent started, and next week will be Palm Sunday! I’ve been super busy trying to keep up with everything (work, homework, community life). Lent is going good, though, and I’m enjoying the busted halo calendar (check it out if you haven’t already).

February went by fast, and March has gone by even faster.

A couple weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to take four of my students (plus Patrick, one of my community mates) with me to Nazareth Farm—the sister farm of Bethlehem Farm, which some of you might remember was one of my hopeful plans after I graduated (God, in His infinite wisdom, had other ideas that led me here to Echo, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world). I was excited but nervous, as I had never been the leader of a service trip before and was also nervous about how I would do after being turned down by the other farm when I applied to be a caretaker. That had really hurt me, but looking back now I see the hand of grace in it (using that context strength!).

Being at Nazareth Farm was the most wonderful thing that could have happened. It was the rest I needed. I love the feeling of being physically tired when I crawl into bed at the end of the day instead of just emotionally exhausted. The physical work we did was wonderful and a pleasure. I worked on many things, from helping to shovel out the creek (which was full of rocks and dirt that had washed down from the mountain in a recent flood) to building spindles and railings for stairs to helping cut wood for a roof (I’m afraid of heights and thus got nowhere near the actual roof, unlike the rest of my crew). I also loved the community and simplicity, my two favorite parts of the farm. The four cornerstones are community, simplicity, prayer and service and I feel like I want the cornerstones of my life to be the same! I’m in love with that life and I can’t wait until Molly and I have our retreat center so we can start living it.

Speaking of, we’ve agreed that our goal is to put a down payment on the center by 2023, although I’m thinking we’ll beat that by a long shot. The idea is to give ourselves ten years after grad school to start, but we’re both ready for it now. I really feel that this is where God is calling me to be, and from our conversations, I think so does Molly.

Also, Naz Farm is starting a new farm in Kansas City, MO called Jerusalem Farm. Check it out!

After Nazareth Farm, I came home and took a day to myself, doing a self-led retreat all day Monday until I went to a real retreat at the Fatima Retreat House that night. It was a wine and art retreat led by Katie Sohm, and it was wonderful. She led us in prayer and led us in painting a picture of a dogwood tree, which I loved since it’s the MO state tree. It was a great night and exactly what I needed after the exhausting drive back from the farm (and the emotional exhaustion of moving back into a fast paced life that I really wasn’t designed for). It was SOOOO GOOD!

Since then, things have continued to be busy. Last week, I threw a surprise wedding shower/sleepover for a student and our women’s group. I have spent a lot of time processing my experience at Naz Farm and will continue to do so. I have also gotten back into my normal routine, but am far behind in my class work (so much so that I’m nervous about catching up). This is the life of a campus minister.

I am also fighting homesickness for Dallas and my dear friends (I really just want to curl up on the Ponikiewski/Parent’s couch and watch tv and pet Radar…) and also homesickness for Rolla and the country after being in West Virginia.

I have also been in a domestic mood (also courtesy of Naz Farm) and made homemade peanut butter, baked some gluten free bread, and made cookies with Amy and Joe tonight (Joe also helped with the bread) while Patrick laughed at us. It was a great community night that we were blessed to share with Natalie from Lalanne (the others are on spring break) and I had a lot of fun. I’m not as content and at peace as I was a week ago, sitting and looking at the mountains of West Virginia, but I’m happy to be here. I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.

As I near the end of my first year in Echo, I’m growing nervous and excited about the future while still trying to suck every experience I can out of the present. Please pray for my future that I can find where God is calling me to go!

As part of that, I am applying to be a Providence Associate with the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods in Terre Haute. It's not like being a sister, there are no vows, I am just entering into a deeper relationship with the sisters and trying to have a deeper relationship with Providence, dedicated to love, justice, and peace. Please pray for me as I discern this new relationship with the sisters!

Happy Lent and continue to pray for me. I am praying for all of you!

Finding my Strengths

As I think I might have mentioned before, I’ve become fascinated with personality profiling, like Meyers Briggs. Therefore, my spiritual director recommended that I take the strengths finder test using the book Living Your Strengths ( This book has helped me see who I am in a different light and as a saint once said, we get to know God better by knowing ourselves better. Learning more about my strengths has really helped me to know myself and understand why I do things.

My five strengths are (in order): context, connectedness, intellection, learner, and belief. Reading the book, I have started to see how these strengths work together to make me who I am.

Here are the descriptions that are provided for my strengths (both online and in the book, I don’t know who originally wrote them):

“Context: You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a simpler time. It was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You realize what the initial intentions were. These blueprints or intentions have since become so embellished that they are almost unrecognizable, but now this Context theme reveals them again. This understanding brings you confidence. No longer disoriented, you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven’t seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.

Connectedness:Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.

Intellection:You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.

Learner: You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”

Belief: If you possess a strong Belief theme, you have certain core values that are enduring. These values vary from one person to another, but ordinarily your Belief theme causes you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual, and to value responsibility and high ethics—both in yourself and others. These core values affect your behavior in many ways. They give your life meaning and satisfaction; in your view, success is more than money and prestige. They provide you with direction, guiding you through the temptations and distractions of life toward a consistent set of priorities. This consistency is the foundation for all your relationships. Your friends call you dependable. “I know where you stand,” they say. Your Belief makes you easy to trust. It also demands that you find work that meshes with your values. Your work must be meaningful; it must matter to you. And guided by your Belief theme it will matter only if it gives you a chance to live out your values.”

I am not entirely sure that I agree with all of this, but I definitely see myself in these signature themes, as the book calls them. I am also seeing how God, by giving us each a different set of signature themes, has different plans for each of us that are tailored to the talents he has given. I think that everyone should take this test and read the book (which I’m almost finished with) to help them see where they can work better and under what circumstances.

Also, if you’ve taken the strengths finder test, send me your results! I’m always curious about everyone else.