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.