Friday, October 31, 2008



Halloween has finally arrived. My favorite holiday for classroom decoration and fun bonus games with students! Plus it gave me a chance to wear my tiara at school...hmmm, maybe I should wear it while I cook supper tonight? Who knows it could inspire some abstract writing this afternoon as well...back to Halloween. I love how kids (and parents) delve into their imagination and play dress up for a night. I also find it a great neighborhood celebration when I've gone door to door with my neices and nephews. Here in the city the neighborhoods did their trick-or-treating last Sunday afternoon. So, there will be no little goblins at our door tonight.

However, this Halloween is not quite as festive...I'll be doing homework...Scary isn't it! I do plan on watching a scary movie or two while I answer classmates in my on-line class. But the really spooky part of the semester is sneaking up on me.

I have final papers starting to loom in the distance. Foundations of Curriculum wants me to evaluate a curriculum I know and have used through showing examples of the curriculum, student work, interviews, and a 10 page paper (not too bad); Thories of Learning wants a 20 minute presentation advocating a school wide change based on a learning theory researched in 12 articles (I'm supposed to write a one page abstract for each) and explained in a 6 page paper; and Learning in a Diverse Society would like a 15 page paper explaining a current bias against a segment of the diverse population and suggestions on how to overcome the bias.

A month ago I was more worried about these all landing within the same week of each other for final assignments. Then I finally received some grades for my earlier papers. Apparently, I do have a clue about some of the writing and research. My teachers have been positive about what I have written as well as how I write for class...this is a huge relief to me and makes these next assignments alittle less daunting. It also helps that I realized I can use the same topic for the two bigger assignments! Culturally Relevant education can fit both as a learning theory and as a change in how teachers overcome bias! Yippee!

I hope everyone has a great Halloween! Celebrate a little...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Franciscan Halloween


Happy early Halloween! Tonight Maricia and I went to the Motherhouse for an early Halloween celebration with their older sisters. There were around 90 sisters gathered for the 23rd annual halloween party! Supper was held in a festive hall complete with table decorations and flower arrangements. Many of the sisters were in costume too...bakers, witches, clowns, and even a moose hunter from Alaska! As I sat down to join a group, another sister tapped me on the shoulder--"Will you help carry plates to the table?"--I guess it doesn' t matter where you go sisters will put the youngest to work!

After supper a four part band struck up a lively set of polka music. This group of older gents had quite the combo with a tenor sax, drums, guitar, and an accordian. Suddenly, there were groups of franciscans polka-ing around the room. Some of the sisters wheeled some of the 90 to 100-year-old (and plus) sisters around the dance floor and others danced in their chairs. Then nearly the whole room got up for the chicken dance! I would like to remind you all that this was and is an international order...the sisters from Milwaukee were chicken dancing right along with sisters from Taiwan, China, and Africa. By now I had been asked to help clear chicken dancing for me. After the chicken dance, small gamming groups started to gather...the hand and foot group in one corner, poker in another, garbage players by the stage, and rummy cube near the door. I can assure you all that these Franciscans know how to enjoy a celebration.

The news that a sister from South Dakota spread through the gathering. Sr. Noreen from Parkston called me over to ask about sisters from the old academy. She remembers Sr. Jane, Radagund, and Leonarda in particular. Our Sr. Mary Kay's "aunt" Sr. Francella called me over to hear what her niece had been up to lately (I reported only good things). They have good memories of our sisters in school. It will be a few weeks before I go again, but they are very welcoming at the Motherhouse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Room with a View


I moved my laptop upstairs today. I've seen searching the universtiy library systems for journals and books about the analysis and improvement of writing by the African American right! Actually, it is interesting, but the basement office was a bit dreary.

So there I was, sitting by a lovely south bay window, researching quite diligently when a sudden movement caught my eye. A fluffy squirrel peaked from under my car. They are quite cute here...a light gray cast to their coats with only a slight hint of brown beneath. This little gal was also quite busy with her winter preparations. She darted from under my car to the front flower bed of the house, then she crept to the corner by the stair and burried her cache. Suddenly she was off again! This process has been going on about 15 minutes now...there must be a walnut tree nearby. No matter where she is coming from, the approach to the house is the same. She is so cautious with her fluffy gray tail flitting. It has been a good break from the computer screen.

Also outside the south window is a whole neighborhood of color! Many of the trees have kept their leaves through the recent wind and rain. Now they are even brighter golds, reds, and oranges. The family across the street has a whole row of neat little burning bushes all bright red. And for today, the streets are clear of leaves and debries. A truck with a huge hose came along and sucked them up like some great vaccuum cleaner! So the area is quite picturesque.


Monday, October 20, 2008



Well, my luck has run off with the rain. A week ago I dashed to school to
meet with a librarian. It was cloudy but I foolishly left my umbrella in the car. By the time I left the library the rain was coming down steadily...not pouring, but I was not going to make it to my car dry. I was moving along quickly and doing fine, until I started to cross Wisconsin Ave.

The four lanes of traffic stop for students and I wasn't worried about being run over. I was worried about the rain and the laptop in my backpack! As I crossed the street, my shoe slipped and I ended up on my knees with my coffee tumbler rolling away from me. Apparently, the paint used to mark the road with lines and other traffic symbols is slippery when wet. Fortunately or Not, I was surrounded by a whole gaggle of helpful kiddos on their way to class. One young man, seriously he looked all of 12, was worried as he helped me up, "Ma'am are you okay? Do you need anything?" I assured him that the only wound was my pride. Another guy returned my coffee cup and asked if I had lost anything else. I thanked everyone and ran (more carefully) for the parking structure that was only a block away!

That was last was raining again today as I ran a few morning errands on campus. Ahem, I don't know if I was born with no luck or if it has washed off in the Milwaukee rain, but I slipped again. This time I righted myself before I met the pavement! Then I headed right home...I don't plan on leaving until it is dry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Autumn's Beauty & Oddity

Autumn is amazing here in Milwaukee! Just walking around my suburb in the mornings is meditation in fall colors. The neighborhood is filled with bright yellows, deep golds and oranges, and a few rusty reds. I hope to go to Holy Hill (see left) before all the leaves drop. I've heard it is absolutely breathtaking.
The oddity with Milwaukee is how they take care of all these leaves as they rake them into the street. No Really, you rake your leaves and pile the tree and bush trimmings to the edge of your property right into the gutter and the city will eventually drive by and pick it all up. You don't even have to bag this stuff! Just pile it up! In my neighborhood, parts of the street look like they have fences made of leaf and branch.

Friday, October 10, 2008



Before I left O'G, one of my freshman boys came to the brilliant realization that Sr. Carol Jean was going to be a freshman when she went to school. I debated this idea fiercely--I inisisted I was a first year student and NOT a freshman. However, I have just turned in my first of many papers due this second half of my first semester back at school, and now I am willing to admit. I am a freshman.

Pray folks, pray.

On the up-side, the small group presentations I'm working with have great senses of humor! One of the groups has chosen to hold meetings at the campus Starbucks! Those who know me know this is a coffee haven! Even of the members works at another Starbucks and buys the beverages for a cool 30% off :) As we plan our "Multicultural Curriculum" presentation, we sip our coffees, laugh about events of the week, and every now and then talk about the online discussions of the class (this whole class is conducted online). I try to remind them that my karma is not good and that one of those folk could be in the building at any time. They don't believe me--yet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Franciscan for a Day

I am Franciscan for a day! The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, AKA the Lake Franciscans, held their celebration for St. Francis today. The sisters are scattered all about the city and surrounding areas, but they came to the lakeside motherhouse to remember Francis.
I didn't quite feel like a Benedictine fish out of water; the presider at Mass was none other than Archbishop & Abbot Primate Weakland! He started Mass with a bit of humor. The sisters had set up a lovely environment to the side of the sanctuary--a statue of St. Francis surrounded by pots of fall mums. Weakland looked to the statue and quipped, "Well, he tries to look like Ben, but he doesn't quite pull it off." As I chuckled, one of the sisters I lived with elbowed me with a grin.
His homily felt more like a kindly grandpa sharing with his family and friends. He spoke of Francis being one of the great saints who lived a synthesis of all that it means to be Catholic. He spoke of the few who had been able to do such a thing, Benedict was another of his examples. Then he looked out at all the sisters and associates (oblates) and asked them, "Who among you is going to take the lead next?" The assumption is not if there will be another saint to live the call to life so that others can follow, but who will it be and when.
As we moved to lunch to continue the celebration, I assumed I would follow one of my house mates to a table of Franciscan folk. Nope, Apparently the Archbishop is like one of the family here at the motherhouse and he was joining them in the dinning room...since I was the only other Benedictine, I was to sit at the table with him, Linda (house mate) and some other folk. Now, take a guess a what deep theological issues could be discussed at table...Franciscan peace, Benedicitne stability? The hot issues were the Brewers playing game four today for the playoffs! He was rooting for them and Linda for the Phillys. Other conversation centered around his new cooking skills. Apparently, Weakland now lives alone and is learning how to use his slow cooker in a variety of recipies! He shared the fixings for his favorite apple dessert, I recommended adding cranberries for a bit more fall flavor...he thought it was a good idea. Finally the table talk moved to politics, sort of, he had seen the Saturday Night Live impersonations of Palin and wanted to know if we thought they were funny too! Not quite what I expected today!
We did follow some fairly Franciscan protocol throughout the celebration of Mass and meal. The responses and prayers were all tied to a deep awareness of the poor in their midst and a call to humble service. The Francis' peace prayer and celebration of nature were also found throughout the Mass. The meal was simple but wonderful. There were recycling bins for pop/beer cans, bottles, and the paper placemats.
I was also introduced to more sisters than I can count. Many of them had heard tell of me through Sr. Jane who works with the sisters at Claire Hall (our two west) and the care center. I also met a few of those who had entered out of Farmer and Salem, South Dakota. They were quite chatty once I explained who I was and where I was from. One even had the cheek to suggest I just move in and stay there after school.
I hope this Franciscan Festival finds you all well!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

High School Daze

Today I toured two very different high schools! First, I drove across town to Piux Xi to observe a couple classes and tour the building. The 1950-60 six-floor building...I declined the need to go all the way up to the sixth floor to see the art department. The school runs on 14 20+ minute modules a day, a different pattern of these mods every day of the week. Not confused enough? They also have a shortened day each week to allow for staff development. They have a very diverse school with about 1,100 students freshman through senior.
This was in great contrast to Dominican, the second school I attended today. This school is in the same suburb as me and feels a bit like O'G. I spent a great deal of my time meeting with the principal--very energetic man. The school is also highly diverse, but also extremely demanding. They are working toward attaining an international level endorsement. While I'm not quite sure what that means, it sounds fairly intensive to me. It requires the staff to attend training workshops (nation wide) and the adjustment of curriculum format and assessment.
I loved seeing the students in both schools. While watching classes at Pius, I was quite homesick for my little O-14 classroom at O'Gorman. Then I remembered that my classroom was the first to be struck down by the wrecking ball last spring! Sad. I did love being around students again. There is an energy and zest for being that seems to seep right out of high schoolers...especially those freshmen and sophomores. I am considering tutoring a little at one of the schools after I get my feet on the ground. Don't worry--I won't do too much or even start until I have myself in the academic mindset.