Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Retreat and Reflections on "Home"

This last week was so BEAUTIFUL! My community and I left on Wednesday for La Porte, Indiana for the Echo Winter Retreat. It was so wonderful to be back with all my friends from this summer and our wonderful and fearless leaders: Colleen, Luke, and Aimee. The theme of the retreat was “The Wounded Healer,” and we had some very helpful and wonderful reflections. It was definitely fruitful to meditate on my own wounds and to reflect on how those wounds, both the healed and the still open (and sometimes festering) affect those around me.

I’m not sure which was the most important thing for me, the retreat itself or the time spent with my wonderful friends. I got to talk to Sarah, my roommate from the summer who is so talented at keeping me grounded and whom I can always be real with without fear! I got to hug Patrick Hagan, whose hugs cure everything (seriously)! I spent time talking with several other dear friends and I wish they weren’t so far away. I wish I had more time to talk with them and I know I didn’t talk with everyone that I wanted to.

It’s funny how God plans things so well. At the BCC the weekend before I left, we did a reflection on the idea of “home.” Lately instead of Rolla, I’ve come to think of home as Dallas (or, more accurately, Irving). That’s not an insult to my parents or my family and friends in Rolla, but just an acknowledgement that I’m growing up and making my own way for myself—I have no intention of losing those roots (or those precious people) in Rolla. My students reflected that home was either their parents’ house or a place where the people they love are—that home is really people and not a place. While I agreed that when I think of home, if it’s not my parents, it is the Ponikiewski/Parent family or my friends at UD that I imagine and not really a physical place, I’m not sure I completely understood home as people until this weekend. But being at our Winter Retreat, surrounded by so much LOVE, I felt so at home and so at peace. I think I was a little surprised to realize that Echo is home, that these people are my home in a very real and tangible way, even though I’ve only been part of them for eight months. But these relationships really were forged by fire as we survived Summer session together and then built our communities, and I feel secure here.

Now, I’m a little sad to be back in Indy, even though I’m looking forward to seeing my freshmen girls tomorrow at Women’s Ministry. There’s so much to do, so much to catch up on. I’m just glad to have had such beautiful days with such beautiful people these last few days on retreat. Now, I have to come down the mountain and deal with life in the valley—which is proving to be more difficult than I thought. Pray for me!

The whole family-- Photo by John the caterer, courtesy of Annie Harton

Monday, January 23, 2012

100 Book Challenge—Book #4: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

100 Book Challenge—Book #4: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

This book is one that I read as a child, I think in Middle School at St. Pats in Mrs. Meusch’s class, if I remember correctly. I couldn’t remember the plot really, it was all jumbled in my mind. My dear friend, Kevin, was talking about it one night and I admitted that it had been a very long time since I’d read it and he said I should try it again.

I have to admit, I wasn’t as impressed this time as I remember being and I felt that it went by too fast, as though there were an entire section in the middle missing. I did like all the religious language spread throughout that was mixed with the normal sci-fi adventure story. I think it could have been better written, but reading it in one night after finishing Out of the Silent Planet probably wasn’t being fair to the poor book. Besides, it is a children’s story and I was enthralled with it as a child. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys children’s fantasy stories and particularly recommend it to budding young readers.

(Also, perhaps part of my negative reaction is related to the fact that I feel a little too close to Charles Wallace, too understanding of his arrogance in his knowledge… I will admit to that, though perhaps I shouldn’t.)

100 Book Challenge—Book #3: Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

100 Book Challenge—Book #3: Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Since I first began as a philology major at the University of Dallas, people have been telling me I need to read Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which features a philologist (based on my own dear John Ronald Reuel Tolkien) as the main character. I, of course, wanted to read the book, but as a philology major (and later a philology major in exile), I never had the time. Deacon Mike Brooks, my high school youth minister and mentor, insisted that I read it. Daddy bought it for me for Christmas in 2010, but I didn’t get a chance to crack it open until Christmas break 2011. Then, I accidentally left it at home when I came back to Indy and I couldn’t finish it until Hannah brought it to me on my birthday (thanks, Han, you’re a life saver!).

Of course, I loved it. I mean, how could I not love something Lewis wrote? I especially enjoyed the philological ramblings and I seriously would love to know more about the language on Malacandra. Lewis’ language for the book, Old Solar, was fun, though not as complex as the ones Tolkien derived for his world (although, I’m not an expert in Old Solar, so maybe it is. It’s curiously like Latin in its grammar, particularly its pluralization).

Yet, in addition to my own language-geekness, I dearly loved the myth and the story. There was a sort of implicit, not exactly spoken but talked around, explanation of original sin that reminds me greatly of what one finds in The Silmarillion. And when I came to the end and discovered that the “silent planet” was in fact our own, it was quite a revelation.

Lewis did not disappoint me in this one. It’s easy enough to read and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

100 Book Challenge—Book #2: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

100 Book Challenge—Book #2: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

I first encountered this book in Lit Trad IV with Dr. Roper. We read the chapter “How to Write a True War Story,” which I will admit was a great introduction to the novel even if it came from the middle. After reading the chapter in class, I wanted to read the whole novel last year but didn’t get a chance to. Last semester, one of my housemates mentioned something about the novel and I thought I’d pick up a copy while I was in Dallas over Christmas. I grabbed a copy at Half Price books for $6.98.

I truly loved reading this book. It was a telling narrative not only about the war and the experience of war, but also about the importance of stories: what they mean to those listening, to those telling.

Many of the stories that O’Brien told reminded me of my dad and the experiences he had in Vietnam and Okinawa. Some are sad, some are gruesome. They are very real, whether they actually took place or not.

I highly recommend this book. 

100 Book Challenge—Book #1: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

100 Book Challenge—Book #1: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I thought that I would try to write a short review or blurb about the books I'm reading for the challenge. 

As I have mentioned before, I really read this book by accident. I downloaded the audiobook from librivox, thinking that Wells’ was the one that was on my “Top 100 books” to read list (This list, and many others, are in the back of my reading journal Actually, though, I really enjoyed it. I listened to it on my way to and back from TX.

The whole premise, of course, is that there is an invisible man (imagine that) running around the countryside of Britain. We learn the story of how he became invisible around the middle of the book as things reach the climax of the story.

I find it interesting that I enjoyed the book, because there really aren’t any likable characters in the story. The invisible man, Griffin, is too snobby, too aloof, too aware of his genius and too ready to take advantage of his invisibility for an evil purpose to allow him to be really likeable. And the men who stand against him aren’t very likable either. The characters in the town at the beginning of the novel, Iping, are dense and seem unintelligent. They are the basic gossipy country folk of every great British novel. Then, when Griffin meets his old schoolmate, Dr. Kemp, Kemp is almost likable. He is intelligent and able to converse with Griffin and learn his story. Kemp can hardly be the hero of the story because Kemp is undeniably a coward when he hides in fear from Griffin. Yet, at the end, Kemp is the one to show compassion.

I think this is an interesting novel and a good introduction to Wells’ writing. I’m hoping to read his Time Machine

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book #2

As I said in my last post, I’m making it my goal to read 100 books this year. I just finished number 2: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It’s a very emotional book. I wanted to read the whole thing after reading a chapter in Roper’s Lit Trad IV, but hadn’t had the chance until now.

It’s funny how stories can get under your skin and this is one of those. I think this is one of those. I recommend reading it, and I think that at some point I’ll have to read it again in order to process it. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

23 and Resolutions for 2012

So, my birthday week is almost over. Every year, I think of my birthday (January 15, for those of you who don’t know) as a sort of New Year for me. I make New Year’s resolutions and, usually, celebrate with my parents and grandmother. This year, because my housemates were throwing a party, I couldn’t do my traditional dinner with Mom, Dad, and Grandma, but my best friend and old college roommate, Rebecca, came down from Milwaulkee to celebrate with me and Hannah, who is like a cousin and best friend all rolled into one, came too. It was great getting to celebrate with them. Then, yesterday, I celebrated with my community by going out for cupcakes.

At any rate, it’s been a long, busy, filled New Year so far. 2012 seems to be just as busy, if not busier, than 2011. Starting the new year sick from my gallbladder and tired from travel might not have been the smartest way, but the traveling was fun and the gallbladder will be taken care of eventually.

So, my resolutions? Well, to explain the first, I want to share a statistic I read in the December/January issue of Natural Health: “According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the average American only spends 12 minutes a day reading.” (It goes on to say that studies show that regular readers are more likely than non readers to engage in positive civic and individual activities.) This made me think back to the good old days of Mrs. Meusch’s reading class at St. Pats and the 30 minutes a night we were required to read (or 30 pages, since she assumed we could all read at least a page a minute—I mean, it’s not like we were reading Proust). I also thought back to the number of books I successfully completed reading last semester outside of class: 1. It was a book Fr. Jeff asked me to read because the freshmen were reading it and it took me almost the whole semester (as in, I started in August and finished in December) to read it. I mean, sure, I reread five chapters of Henry Adams, intermittently read Pride and Prejudice and The Marble Faun (neither of which have I finished), and read a ton of magazine articles (hence the article mentioned above), but I didn’t actually read books. Now, some of you might not be shocked to hear this, but I was shocked to realize it. For those of you who remember the girl who plowed through fifty to sixty books each semester in Mrs. Meusch’s class, you can see the problem. And I have felt myself getting less and less grammatically correct (truly, I feel myself growing less intelligent by the second sometimes). So, therefore, I need to read books. So my first resolution is to read 100 books in 2012. To help me in this venture, my dear community mate, Patrick, gave me a poster for my birthday that I can record books on as soon as I finish. Currently, 3 weeks into the year, I have one book on it: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (which I read on accident, by the way. I meant to read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, which is on one of my “greatest book” lists, but I downloaded it onto my ipod as a audiobook and then listened to it on the way to Texas, no realizing it was the wrong one. It was a great book, though!). So, I have a lot of reading to do. I’m supposed to be reading 2 books a week, and I’m already 3 books behind (this week isn’t over yet, and I’m almost done with The Things They Carried). Oh well, I’ll catch up. I have quite the pile of books to read and more on lists, but if you have a recommendation, please let me know. Short books that are easy to read are appreciated until I catch up (again, no Proust).

My second resolution is to read the Bible through during 2012, and I started with the Gospels (I started at Advent). I made a schedule, which of course I’m a week behind on. But it’s the thought that counts. And, I’ll catch up eventually when I have time off, or an extreme desire to read the Bible.

My third resolution is to learn how to ride a bicycle. My father bought me one for Christmas (and a bike rack for my car as an early birthday gift) and now my community is going to teach me how to ride it. So far, I’ve determined that I have horrible balance and I’ve managed to fall and bruise myself once (falling off a bike is a little harder on a 23 year old than a 10 year old, I think. I should have learned as a kid, but I didn’t).

I have other resolutions, mostly projects I want to finish (typing my travel journal from Rome, finishing my t-shirt quilt, making a cookbook from my grandmother's recipes). I also want to finally finish memorizing the speech from Henry V (Once more to the breach, dear friends, once more) which I can get halfway though before I get muddled. Unlike the first two, they probably will get done before 2012 is over, but I’m going to need help and encouragement to finish the Bible and read 100 books (by the way, I’m not counting books of the Bible as books… I will count the Old Testament and the New Testament as books).

Let’s see how it goes! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quick update and prayer request

Today is one of those rare days when I get to feel really domestic. I didn’t have to work late because the students aren’t back yet and when I got home I made homemade soup (, which has become a way to feed myself by making a huge pot and freezing it so I can take it to work. Then, I even washed the dishes by hand because our industrial dishwasher is on the fritz. Needless to say that now, a little after 9pm, as I drink my tea from my little teapot and sit for what seems like the first time in forever, I’m exhausted.

My to-do list seems a mile long and my to-blog list is almost as daunting. It’s only been a few weeks since I last wrote on Christmas Eve, but so much has happened since then. For example, on Christmas morning I had a gallbladder attack and was too sick to go to Mass (which breaks my heart, since Christmas Mass is so special). After Christmas was over and I had spent a lovely evening with the Mugel ladies watching The Help, I went down to Dallas for a week. It was so wonderful to be “home” again—that’s how I feel about Dallas, like it’s my second home and there are so many people there who I love. On the way down, I stopped at Molly’s, which was like heaven on earth getting to see one of my best friends. We shared gluten free food and talked about our lives. After that wonderful experience, I drove onto Dallas. I wasn’t able to see my old spiritual director, but I was able to see my friends from UD: Jill, Hunter, Mark, Patty, and Gabbi; my dear friends, the Kossuths, and, of course, my family, the Ponikiewski/Parents! Also (and perhaps most importantly), I got to see Dr. John Sommerfeldt!! That’s right, UD students, be jealous. I even got a hug! (He’s my favorite professor ever.)

I got to spend New Year’s Eve with the family. My friend, Mark, came along and we watched Randi, Patty, and Travis play guitar. Trevor ABANDONED US for one of his friends’ parties, which we gave him much grief for.

I might write more about my trip later. It was a wonderful opportunity to see people I love and to reflect on how much has changed in the seven months since I moved away from Dallas. I really want to move back there. I miss that family as much as I miss my own and I wish there was some way that I could have both with me. I’m trying to convince Mom and Dad to move to Dallas with me when I graduate ND.

On the way home, I stayed at my friend Emily’s in Springfield, MO. Emily, Vanessa, and I have made it a tradition for the past six years to spend New Years together, but this year it was a little belated and we celebrated on the fourth. We did have fun, though, until I had another gallbladder attack (my third in two weeks) and spent the whole night sick. Finally, I was feeling better in the morning and ate breakfast with Em then headed back to Rolla.

After that, nothing very exciting happened except two things: one, Aunt Melania had a super awesome concert, which I went to with Hannah, Teresa, and Mom; two: as you might have noticed, I have mentioned my gallbladder several times by now. That would be because I need to have it removed. Right now I’m trying to deal with it by eating according to what will supposedly make my gallbladder happy. A friend has recommended a few things and a website with more information for me. So, I would appreciate prayers for that.

Anyways, I’ll write more later. When I started this, I was home alone but now everyone’s home so I can’t really concentrate on conversation and writing at the same time.