Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Archangels and Undergrads

Happy feast of the Archangels!

Today, I returned to my observation school on the other side of town. I was up early enough to take time to pray our Lauds for the feast and even sit in reflection on a reading about Archangels from my Benedictine breviary. The morning proved to be such that I am very glad that I took the time to remember God surrounds us with His TLC via angels every day.

The commute to my observation site was fairly smooth for 8:15 AM (no one honked today, I'm proud). I even hiked up the five flights of stairs without stopping (woo-whoo)! When I reached the resource room, I learned how to continue to be flexible. Today was "star" day and not "B" day which means school ends early and all 14 or so modules are shorted down to like 14 minutes.

The first four mods I assisted with various ALGEBRA II assignments and tests; this consisted of helping some ADHD kiddos keep time on task and no actual math knowledge was required (thank God). Then I worked with an essay assignment, but backed up the kiddo from writing her introduction to reading the two articles she printed off and preaching the benefits of prewriting her ideas before starting the actual essay. Then one the aforementioned ADHD math kiddos returned with a religion assignment the needed to be read aloud or not read at all...at the same time an easily distracted freshman with a month late biology paper was placed on the other side of me.

As I headed out the door, the cooperating teacher asked if I was 'okay' from the onslaught of the fast paced morning. To her surprise (and mine), I smiled and told her I couldn't wait to be back next week. Oh, of course I was frustrated at the quick turn over and short mods that left me with only about 10 minutes once the kiddo was settled and found his/her books and a bit frazzled at helping out with math (soooo out of my comfort zone). However, the students themselves reminded me why I'm here at university... So you can decide for yourselves, who were the angels sent with a message by God (no dramatic lighting effect cues were included)? Me? (probably not) or the Kiddos? My money is on the kids.

Now to the undergrads...if there are other college folk/students/professors out there, please help me with this riddle! Why were they all in my half the library today? I do quite a bit of my reading in the book-half of the library where the only sound is the whir of the air system and the hum of the bubbler (actual Milwaukee word for water fountain). Today, there was a major influx of undergrads not only flooding into the study cubicles but also looking through (hold on to your hats) BOOKS. Hmmm...is it mid-term already?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Volunteering Step by Step


Soon I will begin some volunteering at a Catholic high school not too far from the house. I have had some of the teachers in previous courses and a couple in my courses this semester. I knew I would learn alot during my time volunteering; I just never imagined the importance of the lessons before I could even step foot in the classroom. There are many steps and hoops to jump through to be a volunteer.

The first step was to make initial contact...several times. I called to inquire, visited the school with a teacher co-student who teaches there, and e-mailed once a week. Approximately three weeks to a month later I met with Joe who fellow who coordinates these things. Now is when I realized the importance of persistence in becoming a volunteer. While I was waiting patiently for him to get back to me after discussing the possibility of me volunteering with the English Dept. folk, many events too place at school and the volunteer was forgotten (it's okay). Luckily, I was inspired by Vanessa and Mark to e-mail again (and again) to show that am still interested. Step three is predict what the office might need. Just in case, I attended the safe environment session in my parish and got the signed certificates needed to prove I had seen the videos and speakers. Ah-ha! When Joe replied to my e-mails (pestering), he asked if I would attend one of the sessions...woo-who...I even remembered to print of the diocesan code of ethics thingy. So setting up for this meeting today with the English department head and Joe actually started way back in the middle of August. This doesn't mean I get to start volunteering soon. They have to run a background check on me and set up a couple more hoops first, but then I'm set for the rest of the school year.

For a couple weeks I harbored thoughts like "this wouldn't happen at my previous school". Then I realized, I've never been on this side of the fence. It very well could take this long to get into a volunteering spot at our schools. I'm just hopeful that I can be useful to the English folk while I'm here. It will also be nice (for the first few days) to be working with students again...help me reconnect to how I can use my courses and learnin' when I return home.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Autumn Colors


I wonder if God's favorite season is Autumn? The season has begun to creep up on the city and it leaves my favorite quiet spot on campus absolutely gorgeous! The flowers are still blooming while the leaves turn due to the cool dry year they have expereinced this summer in Milwaukee. I think the autumn colors on campus are more striking than the lush green landscaping that they cultivate during the late spring and summer seasons. Once the colors hit their high point at nearby Lake Geneva, I plan to do the scenic drive and take in their fall festival. It is supposed to be one of the most colorful areas in this region of Wisconsin.


Thursday, September 24, 2009



Sr. Marcia sent this on to me via her e-mail. I love it! My family has been practicing 'yoga' for years and we never knew it! Yup, I think we should add it to our Monastic practices.

“My friend Doug Wilson has developed a potent, new spiritual practice,” writes best-selling spiritual author and the founder of Bread for the Journey, Wayne Muller, in his book, Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest (Bantam, 1999). “He calls it Slotha Yoga. It consists of one simple precept: When you wake up, don’t get up. Stay in bed. Give yourself time to review your dreams. Notice how it feels to be in your body this morning. Do not be hurried by your impending responsibilities, but rather luxuriate in the softness of the bed covers. Watch how the light comes into the room today, read a little, daydream, wonder about breakfast.
“Many couples begin their Sabbath this way,” says Muller in this beautifully simple collection of gentle solutions to the “violent enterprise that a successful life has become.”


Life in the big city has been a bit of a whirlwind lately. A good whirlwind...Sr. Julie was in town for a week! She joined the house for room and board while attending a conference and then stayed on a few days so we could spend some time together. And before you ask...I did extra homework while she was at the conference so I could play without worry later.

The highlights of our playing tourist were the museum and the university. The house has season passes to the Milwaukee Art Museum, so we set aside Sunday afternoon to enjoy the creative nature of creation. We were treated to some interesting icons from different ages, quite a bit of work from 1500-1600 in portraits, but our favorite was Georgia O'Keefe's work. I fell in love with a beautiful painting of a river fall scene. The colors and movement reminded me of our view from the Riverview porch at home. I could have sat all day to take in the painting. However, the museum also houses quite a bit of modern artwork...and I admit freely that we don't have the training to appreciate this form. There were several that made us chuckle, but two took the cake. First, there was this large, black, bulbous shape done in a stiffened netting with a circular wooden trapdoor on top. It reminded me of a half melted jelly bean on steroids. Julie discovered a triptych of color that led to several quips about the Department of Motor Vehicles. This triptych was one solid yellow canvas, one blue, and one red; you couldn't even see brush strokes! Hmmm... So, we went back to Georgia's work and sat quietly for awhile.

Tuesday, I had class in the evening, but Julie volunteered to spend the day on campus with me and then putter about the library while I was in class. The day was a comedy of errors: coffee spilling down one's white shirt (a few times), pouring rain, and lost umbrellas. However, we had a very nice time in Joan of Arc Chapel (Julie loved the historical aspects) and a quiet respite at lunch in the coffee shop in the union building. Julie also found some good materials in the library as welll...I left her there with a quick orientation to the computer system, building layout, and my ID card to make any copies she might want.

It was good to have her here and spend some time together. But now I need to get back to the pattern of my school day. I've begun my observation/tutoring hours at Pius XI that is required for my class. It has been nice to see kids in action again. The school's resource room is only for students that have been accepted into their program for students learning disabilities. And the room? Well, fifth floor of course right above the band room on the south side of the building...quite warm and toasty right now with a constant soundtrack from below. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I was glad to be up there. I'm still working on getting into Messmer for my volunteer work that could go through the whole semester and into next semester. It is much closer, the kids come from a greater diversity of backgrounds, and there are folk I know who already work there. Plus, the commute would be so easy!

Well, I need to return to my history of education reading; it seems to be multiplying if I turn my back for too long.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Exaltation of the Cross


Today, as I was reflecting on the readings for this Feast, I started to think about how we Exalt the Cross without even realizing it. In the heart of our Monastic cemetery is a large cross with the crucified Christ with the words of the Suscipe on the base. Surrounding this cross are the crosses marking each of the resting places of our sisters. Each one reflecting the hope of the Suscipe..."Uphold me oh Lord, according to your Word that I may live; and let me not be disappointed in this Hope I cherish."

We don't use the cross as a symbol of sorrow but one of hope and exaltation in Christ. Each sisters' name lovingly written into the center of the cross as they too are lifted up to Christ.

So, if today you walk along the Sorrowful Way and cemetery, say a little prayer for me; I will be thinking of home and our hope filled reflection of this Feast.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Laughter Keeps Us Close to God ; )


The show that makes me giggle, laugh, and gafaw is "Psych". Their clever combination of who-done-it mystery and humor makes it a great show to just sit back and enjoy. Two or three times a season they change the show's theme song to reflect a certain episodes character or the season. My previous favorite was the Hispanic style them when Shawn got a job on a Telemundo soap opera set...very funny...but this new reflection of an upcoming Bollywood episode may take the cake!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Feast of The Nativity of Mary

Feastday Greetings,

In honor of the Feast and in memory of Sr. Theodore, I'm writing in Blessed Virgin Blue. It was her favorite color, Theodore's--not Mary's.

I had to chuckle a bit during prayer this morning. When I was a postulant and novice, I was asked (along with the junior sisters at the time) to prepare a birthday cake for Mary. We even frosted it in Blessed Virgin Blue. However, my accomplices dressed in fuchsia while serving the cake that day. They insisted that Mary would have worn hot pink...I'm not sure why.

I love this memory. Is it theologically sound to bake Mary a birthday cake and ponder if she would have worn blue or pink? Who cares! I like the community connection. As sisters gathered for cake and coffee, they shared how the community had celebrated (or not) this day when "they were a novice". Others teased us about the clash of the cake and outfit colors. But in general it was a good practice in learning about the community.

Happy Feastday everyone! Your in my thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A "Psych" Funny

I just love the writers on "Psych"! Everyone needs a good chuckle every now and then.

Henry: Shawn, I think your getting a little too hung up on the details.
Shawn: Really? You always taught me that details are everything in life.
Henry: Your missing the point son.
Shawn: How'd they keep all the lions from eating all the zebras? Don't you think 7 lions would go through at least 7 zebras by then?

Henry: They easily could have eaten 7 zebras by then. Lions eat close to 5,000 pounds of meat a year. Why don't we break this down? What have we got here? We've got Noah, we got a boatload full of animals. What would be his M.O.?

Fr. Westley: This is not a detective case, Henry. This is -- have you two ever considered visiting the Methodist Church down the street? It's quite nice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A New School Year


I'm excited to join a local Catholic high school in their new school year! After a belated start last spring and weeks of e-mail tag this summer, I finally made my way into a meeting with the HR fellow to discuss the possible needs of the school and if my gifts would fit. My focused work with Freshmen and foundations level students caught his interest quite quickly, as did my past as a debate coach. He needed to discuss with the English department head, but I think I have a 'job' assisting remedial students.

I did express that I would like to establish two set days to volunteer (flexible if needed) and those could be in blocks of time. I gave the mornings/afternoons that I would be available and suggested that the teachers/department folk could choose which two would work best for them. If I could get these in place, I could plan the observations at other schools in the city as a part of my course requirements.

The school is not far from my current house, but is moved just far enough that the population of the neighborhood and school is very different from my suburb. The student population is almost all African American with a few Hispanic and even fewer Caucasian students. Most have experienced a lot of change in their lives, and some are near or at the poverty line. However, the city has a voucher or choice program that allows students to choose private or charter schools and the state pays the tuition. A good part of our discussion was about the similarities and differences I might experience with the students, and I openly admit I have had very limited exposure to urban youth. So, I might be tutoring them in composition or comprehension, but they will be teaching me quite a bit about life.

I can't wait!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The First Week


Well, I have survived the first week of courses at the university. I can predict it will be an interesting year...

The research course was the most average when compared to my previous experience (a whole three semesters mind you). There are only four students; the same folk that I shared class with this summer's research course. The professor spent most of that first night trying to understand what we had accomplished in the previous course so that she could build to her own course's final goals. This 'average' combination only lasted through this first course.

The differentiated education course will be quite different from what I had expected. My advisor and the professor had believed that most of the students in the course would be professionals seeking their certification in the education program. Um...the class contains 2 speech path. students, a junior undergrad. education student, approximately 20 Teach for America folk, and me. I am seriously old enough to be their mom or at least their mentor. Only the professor is older than me. The first night of class was spent sharing our names and a good/bad experience from the day. Most of the TFA folk had just finished their first day of teaching and were full of information about this experience...including what their fellow teachers need to learn about students/teaching. I shared how I was excited for my former students and teacher friends as they started the year in the new school. At the break, I spoke with the prof. to see if he thought I should remain in the course since the make up is very different than predicted. We decided I should stay; the content and opportunity to observe in other schools is not going to change. I know that I will need the lessons about reaching out to students whose needs vary in the classroom.

Insert my reflection from Mass the morning before my Diff. Edu Course:
The day of class I was still deciding if I should drop the course. I had heard it was going to be mostly TFA folk and I admit that I do struggle with its whole philosophy. However, God is sneaky and so are the Jesuits. There were only a few of us at Joan of Arc Chapel that day and I was asked to read...Paul went on about how we are children of the light and how we see Christ in all we do and need continue to support one another and be the good children of the light that we are. The gospel was Jesus expelling a demon and nobody can figure out how he did it. Fr. Jesuit connected the two in this way. Paul speaks in the positive to help us believe that Christ is active in all that surrounds our life and wants us to look and see Christ not only in our lives but in the lives of others. (See where I'm going with the sneaky God business) Then he pointed out how the gospel revealed that even those who interacted with Christ couldn't always see His active presence in their midst. So, we need to support each other in such a way that reveals the living Christ active in our lives. Ah...it isn't fair when God knows where our prejudices are leading. I sat a bit uncomfortable in my prejudgement of the kiddos I was about to meet in my course. So, I will go hopping to learn what God is wanting me to see and wondering what God is having me bring to them.

The final course is about the history of education. 25 folk (over half are doctoral students) showed up for the first night of class. There is a ton of reading assigned and recommended! Fortunately, I have a friend in this course! Erica and I chose seats next to each other and were glad for the support as the PhD and Administrative MA students pontificated on this first night of class. One of the more interesting assignments that the professor offers is a multi-generational history of education in my family. I think that will be fascinating to discover who has done what kind of education in my family's past.

I believe there will be alot to learn this year. It will be a heavy work semester between the research and history courses. However, the differentiated education course will bring in more of an opportunity to see and practice those skills. Hopefully, there will still be time to build a volunteer relationship with the nearby Catholic school I've been working to get into.