Being 25 Years Old

25 years is a quarter of a century, which makes it seem like a long time.

In reality 25 years isn’t really that long of a time span.

I thought 25 would mean being an adult, until I was 25 and then I waited to feel like an adult. Now that I’m a few years past 25 I realize how far from being an adult 25 really is, for most people.

Within the context of organized religion 25 years is basically infantile.

Within the smaller context of religious orders 25 years is nearly unheard of.

I still remember when one of my closest friends told me she was entering a convent. I was still in shock when I started to tell people myself, which was probably spurred on by the shocked look I had on my face for God only knows how long.

People mainly wanted to know two things, how old she was and what order she was going to be a part of.

Naturally skepticism followed, because how many women in their early 20s join virtually unknown religious order?

sistersoflifeprofession

I, in a desperate attempt to be a good friend, felt the need to defend her choice, even while agreeing with everyone else.

Almost 10 years later I’ve gained more prospective on the situation.

I get “it” now, or at least as much as I can without joining the Sisters myself.

I especially have a greater appreciation for what it takes to create and more importantly sustain a ministry.

Happy 25th Birthday Sisters. May God continue to bless you all & those you serve for many more years to come.

vow-019

Inspiration & The Saints

Finding inspiration in the Saints can be great, but it can be a real downer.

For a long time I was turned off to the Saints, mainly because people kept comparing me to people I knew I had nothing in common with.

Example: Persons with disabilities are not always frail and plagued with poor health (as so many of the Saints were, for some reason) so in that context its apples and oranges.

And lest we forget the seemingly endless questions about whether I’ve been to Lourdes and do I ever plan on going to receive healing.

(No & HELL NO, in case you were wondering)

I’m not saying that it’s impossible for people to find inspiration from the saints. If I said that I’d be pretty naïve. What I am saying is that people tend to think others look to the Saints more than they actually do, in my opinion. Or for different reasons than others may think.

One of the biggest issues I have with “Saintly comparisons” is during hospital stays and/or bouts of extreme pain. I understand the need for comfort but you need to look at it from another angle, when you’re that miserable being compared to other people doesn’t help matters. It makes you feel like you’re not being a good person just because you’re not handling your hardships as well as someone else.

Comparisons like that don’t really validate a person’s situation in the moment, which means so much more.

Can it help some people? Yes. But from my experience those instances are few and far between.

Plus you’re talking to a person who is alive (and possibly wishing they were dead) telling them about someone who died probably hundreds of years ago; two completely different contexts that you’re trying to compare in an effort to inspire.

It doesn’t work more often than it does work.

Where am I going with this potentially senseless rambling? It’s OK to find inspiration in the Saints; in fact I’d encourage it, for you. But tread lightly when it comes to finding saintly inspiration for others.

Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

Almost 60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on October 8, 2012 & October 22, 2014

Grad School: The Second Summer

This was my 2nd summer as a grad student.

I was looking forward to this summer because last summer was so amazing. I’ve never been a school person but the idea of spending 3 weeks immersed in school was so exciting. I wished there was a fourth week.

By the time I actually started the third week I was more than ready to go home (it was my 3rd locale in a week, who could blame me).

Truthfully I had a minor meltdown when I got to my room and realized how quiet it was. My brain just couldn’t take it, CNMC just shoved my brain into overdrive and it stayed there, I guess. I begged friends to stop by for a quick visit but they were too entrenched in coursework (as I should have been) to oblige.

Have you ever seen an introvert in desperate need of alone time when they finally get it? It’s not always pretty. I think I spent 10 minutes trying to decide what to put in the bathroom and what to leave on the dresser (and trying not to cry about it).

I also missed the blessing dinner for the graduates. This year it was a lunch which I just couldn’t fit in with my over packed schedule. The blessing of the graduates was a highlight for me last year so I was disappointed to be missing it this year. I also have a lot of friends graduating this year so I wanted to say good-bye to them. Luckily I ran into the ones leaving the next day later that night so I got my wish, just not in the way I pictured it.

I knew the 2nd week of classes was going to be the most challenging. Not only was I taking 2 classes but I was registered to fulfill the 2nd part of my formation requirements for the year.

It basically boiled down to 12+ hour days Monday & Tuesday. I wasn’t running on steam before the week was half over, but let me just take a second to publically thank God for great friends and equally great study groups.

I was feeling better about Wednesday. I think because the first two days were so packed and stressful I just let things go. I did what I could the best I could and left it at that. I didn’t worry about not getting to read Humanae vitae or whatever. If I needed to read it, I’d get around to it.

Also after living through my 1st ever tornado warning, complete with sirens and please take cover in the hall, my nerves needed a break.

Funny story behind my history with Humanae vitae, I’ve read it twice previously for fun none the less but I couldn’t remember a single thing about its contents. (Please tell me you find that funny, and not incredibly sad.)

I was also down a highlighter and a pen in spite of bringing more supplies with me this year. I’m thinking this might just become par for the course during the summer.

Wednesday night I ventured downtown with a small group of friends for Symphony Night in the park. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say they’ve heard the Chicago Symphony live, and for free?

I was feeling much better about Thursday and Friday because it meant I had survived the roughest part school wise. At the same time I was getting closer to having to say good-bye to more friends.

One of my classes many graduating friends in it, more than I realized actually, in fact when we were heading to class the first day one said, “oh we’re in the big room.” Not only were we in the biggest classroom available but we filled to maximum capacity, at least comfort wise.

I knew most people don’t stick around for the 3rd week but I was hoping to be surprised, in a good way, by the number of people who did. In the end I think 5 distance learners, my self-included, stayed for the 3rd week (one of whom I never saw so I have no idea if she was even there).

A group of us went out Friday night for one last gathering before departures began first thing the next morning. It was a wonderful time of relaxation and fellowship, and I discovered I do in fact like Thai food and it does like me (although I’m not sure it would ever be my 1st choice).

Basically week two ended with a lot of good-byes followed by self-imposed seclusion over the weekend. Not only was I tired but I needed to take the time to allow a new reality to set in. I was basically alone on campus for two days. It gave me time to reflect, which I needed in order to fulfill my retreat requirement, but it was also very lonely.

I greeted week three with guarded optimism. I was looking forward to class because I’d wanted to learn from this particular professor since I heard him speak at a conference 2 years before. (And people claim I can’t be a patient person?) But I was preparing to spend much of my free time living as a hermit (and finishing Burn N0tice), which I basically did.

The environment of week 3 was so different compared to the first two weeks it took some time to acclimate to; although I’m not sure I can say I ever fully adjusted to it. There was much less socialization between students so I spent time with the girls in the recruitment since we share some important interests.

Halfway through the week I had had my fill of the same theologians and then I realized my classes had some overlapping qualities. You’d think this would be a good thing, but when you’re not 100% of anything you’re learning it can create some worry.

I joked, although not really, that I was going to end up writing my papers all wrong, or I was going to come up with some brilliant insights that were going to change the study of Theology as we know it.

I’m not sure where I ended up with that one; maybe a little of both?

I can hope, right?

Week 3 ended with another good-bye dinner, which I coordinated. Thus making it my 3rd good-bye dinner in 3 weeks (too much, way too much) but I’m glad I got the chance to have time with such good friends, no matter how exhausted I had become.

With that my summer classes ended, but as someone said (and I happen to agree) the work was just beginning.

 

Years In The Making

10 days ago 2 dear friends professed their perpetual vows.

I knew it was a big day but it took a few days before the enormity of it set in, to the tune of,

“I have friends married to God, Whoa!”

Then I cried for a long time.

I remember the phone call telling me that it would be the last phone call because day to day life in a convent doesn’t involve regular cross-country hour long phone calls about anything.

I remember the 1st letter filling me in about what it’s like to enter religious life with the hand written “PS” at the bottom that I read over and over again.

I remember my first retreat and saying “my best friend is a Sister” to anyone who asked me what brought me to the retreat, and hoping I’d get to see her. I remember how shocking (and equally amazing) it was to see her in her habit.

I remember leaving that retreat with more one friend who happens to be a Sister and nurturing those friendships.

I remember trekking to visiting day, when every obstacle you could imagine (and some you couldn’t) was telling me it wasn’t worth the effort. And it was SO worth it on so many levels.

I remember witnessing their profession of 1st vows in the sweltering heat thinking that there’s no place I’d rather be that day.

I’ll always remember the day they professed their perpetual vows, and wishing I could change things and keep things the same at the exact same time.

I’ll remember the end of the day when we all gathered for a picture. Only a small portion of our group of friends from college we able to attend but we were one of the biggest groups there, I think.

The children helped our smallish group practically double in size; there were SEVEN of them after all. I kept having flashbacks from my days in early childhood education, but then I realized I didn’t have to be “Miss Sarah” I could be “mom and dad’s cool friend.”

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated from college (Lord, I feel old). We used to talk about what we all wanted to do after college and while I’m not sure all of us are exactly where they thought they’d be at this point in life (I know I’m not); we are all where we’re meant to be.

#CNMC15

The 1st stop of my trip was The Catholic New Media Celebration in Atlanta. Which was well over a month ago and as much as I wanted to write about it sooner but whenever I had the words I didn’t have the time and when I didn’t have the words I had the time.

At the last CNMC my recap consisted mostly of pictures. This time is different though, because I didn’t take any pictures (or tweet a thing) thankfully I’m not alone.

And if it works for Greg Willits than its good with me too, at least that what I’ve been telling people when they ask to see pictures (and then I have to explain who Greg Willits is).

Tiffany was generous enough to agree to be my roommate and companion during the weekend. We met in the airport and went to check in at the hotel (after my attempts at the damsel in distress routine to gain assistance from Billy Newton failed miserably).

You should probably read Tiffany’s account of the experience since her post was fresh in her mind when she wrote hers, unlike this one.

Our room wasn’t ready for us so we headed over to the Eucharistic Congress while we waited for a phone call from our hotel. We decided pretty quickly against attending any of the talks, mainly because we were both sleep deprived. Instead we strolled around to see if we could find anyone we knew.

One of our first stops was the SQPN booth, after a quick detour to my school’s booth) but more on that later), where we met Fr. Cory & Fr. Darryl and took our now pretty famous extreme selfie.

Once we realized it was past check in time and we still hadn’t gotten a call about our room we headed back to the hotel to check in & finally decompress for 5 minutes.

While Tiffany was at the Jubilee Dinner I did homework. And by did homework I mean I went to the gym, ate dinner, took a shower, and kept tabs on the Jubilee Dinner thanks to the #CNMC15 Tagboard Lyn Francisco created. Basically I should’ve gone to the dinner because I wasn’t I wasn’t helping myself out in any way, at all.

The next day was when all the real fun happened. Tiffany & I sat at the same table with Sr. Anne which was total Providence, in my opinion, so it was nice to talk to her in person since I’m been telling people in my life about her for a while now.

Greg Willits’ keynote was amazing and just what I needed to hear, without knowing it’s what I needed. Don’t you just love when that happens?

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur of workshops and networking, and most importantly genuine community.

I had a list of goals in my head of things I wanted to accomplish and a list of things I’d like to accomplish but it would be OK if I didn’t. I was able to cross off everything on both lists and then some. 🙂

Like cornering Capt. Jeff, The Airline Pilot Guy, at lunch and asking him all kinds of air travel type questions; such as why “closing the bridge” due to lightning means people can still get off an aircraft but anything gate checked needs to stay put. Thanks Capt. Jeff & sorry about the inquisition.

Other highlights of the day were meeting Lisa Hendy of Catholic Mom and talking to her more about how she got started as well as talking to Maria Johnson in person since I’ve been bugging her for her feedback on various things for at least the last year.

After the conference was over I headed back to the hotel with Mac & Katherine Barron, of Catholic in a Small Town, who happen to be two of the nicest people ever. I had a great time talking with them and I hope to have the chance again in the future.

Once back at the hotel I met up with Tiffany and a few friends to go to dinner, except those few friends had turned into a group of 17 (?). I’m not even sure how many of us there were but it was one of the best group dinners I’ve ever been to, and I know there are a few pictures of it floating around F@cebook. During dinner I sat next to the older sister of a college classmate which is pretty unbelievable, even considering our alma mater).

Lisa, from Of Sound Mind and Spirit, was also at my end of the table with her kids. She was great to have dinner with and now I want to visit Houston!

After dinner I had every intention of packing and going to bed but Tiffany invited me to go with her to meet a few people in the hotel bar. So we headed back out the door and downstairs (I blame my severe FOMO, in spite of my introverted-ness) where we enjoyed more socializing and met (all too briefly) Jennifer Willits.

After such a great day with everyone I really didn’t want to go to bed but one can only hold off reality for so long. Thankfully Allison, of Reconciled To You, and Tiffany had made plans for breakfast so the next morning we said our good byes to Steph (TV Rewind Podcast) & Marika (@oneeyedsmiley) in the lobby before heading to the airport for breakfast.

My CNMC experience ended, at least for now, with a final good bye to Dee, of Catholic Vitamins, before heading off on the second leg of my trip. Now that home I have one final thing to say, well Steve Nelson said it first, but I agree.

And if you want another good review of CNMC15 you should read Steve’s thoughts (and/or Maria’s link up).

3,300 Miles, 22 Days, 4 States

3 Classes
2 Conferences

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Where do I begin?

I knew this summer was going to be busy. The structure of my degree program has made that very clear until I have that diploma in hand. My summers are spoken for, even before you add (in no particular order, at all) a job that pays the bills, a still-budding career, family & friends commitments, sacrament season that occurs just before summer, and that eating and sleeping thing.

I knew in January the calendar year was full, so full that my commitment fearing- self, sat down and wrote out a calendar. I filled in what I could and left a list of “items needing to be dated” in another column.

The Catholic New Media Conference (or Celebration) was at the top of that second list. I had such a good time during the last one (essentially being baptized by fire) that I knew I had to go to the next one. I just needed a location and date.

I prayed like hell that it wouldn’t fall around my proposed course schedule, or worse, right in the middle of it.

It ended up being the Sunday before classes started. Did I really want to spend a full day learning and socializing and then go directly to class first thing the next morning? Not really, bordering on “no.” But I checked the proposed summer courses schedule again and found a slim chance to make all of this work.

Not wanting to do anything stupid, unintentionally, I emailed my academic advisor for the “OK.”

I would go to CNMC and then head to campus to fulfil my “in residence” requirement for the year.

But that left a few free days; which left me wondering what I should do with them, going home for a few days didn’t make much sense and as much as I would’ve liked to stay in Atlanta, it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I headed to my dad’s for a few days since it’s so much easier to get a direct flight from Atlanta to my dad’s than it is to get to my dad’s from the closest major airport to my home. Ironically I’d have to fly to Atlanta and then change planes to get to my dad’s.

The plan was for the rest of my books to be delivered to his house to avoid any hiccups in the delivery. The rest of the plan was to do copious amounts of reading to get ahead of myself and hopefully avoid a few late nights. I’m happy to say that plan half worked, because every other time I’m made a similar plan I’ve blown the plan to bits in the worst possible ways.

During preparation for all this travel I happened to mention that I wished I could go to the Abilities Expo this year since the dates fell just so and I would be in the area. Suddenly I wasn’t going to be traveling to Chicago alone anymore, much to the delight of my already overloaded suitcase.

As my initial departure date got closer I realized how insane this whole plan was. I’d be away from home for three whole weeks, for one thing. I’d basically be embarking on a mini national tour for another. There were so many details that I didn’t think about initially that kept driving me to fits of panic.

What if I can’t repack all of my stuff?

What if I get sick?

I’m probably not going to have time to go swimming for 3 weeks.

What if I get a flat tire?

I’m going to be sleeping without my pillow.

The last three items on this very short list were the most concerning.

I was adamant that I was going to be “carry-on only” but I let that one go fairly early & quickly once I started packing like I was preparing for the apocalypse in addition to needing to pack books (not kidding).

In the end I had to break the trip into sections ad pack according to those sections. But it all boiled down to “just manage to get to Chicago with as little trouble as possible,” and it worked, mostly.

Now that I’m back home (and back to reality) there’s decompressing to do, papers to write, items to respond to, among so many other things.

Too much travel is more disorientating than I bargained for. Now I know why celebs appear to be so high maintenance.

This Is My Vocation

At the last Catholic New Media Conference Pat Padley showed snapshots of the Vatican’s (Catholic) website in comparison to The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints’ (Mormon) website.

The Mormon’s are kicking our ass again, I thought.

My brain was well on its way of solidifying the fact that I should at least attempt to apply to grad school, whether I’d get in was doubtful (or so I thought), but I had to try anyway.

I wasn’t always that into Catholicism. In fact I wanted as little contact with anyone who called themselves Catholic as possible. It wasn’t until I tried embracing my own Catholic-ness I was willing to admit why I hated it for so long in the 1st place.

I felt like an outsider in addition to being treated like an outsider. Any scripture I read in regards to possible disability is always accompanied with ideas of sins of the parents or bad spirits and what have you. Combined that with the fact that I was treated like a leper by both students and teachers during my 1st experience in Catholic schooling, well I think you get the idea. Clearly they didn’t see a place for me, so why should I expect there to be a place for me?

The wounds are still there. I’m not sure they’ll ever heal. However I’ve come to the realization that if I want the Catholic Church to do better, and in my opinion it needs to, it’s better to be a part of it than sit on the sidelines and make comments about what should be done & how.

A few weeks ago I was reminded of another reason why I needed to part of the solution.

I’m not the biggest fan of awareness months (1) because there’s so many to remember, (2) who decides what gets what month, (3) if it’s really worthy of awareness than it shouldn’t be limited to 28-31 days. However when one community decides to dedicate a month that’s something truly unique and similar communities should take note (and maybe follow suit).

I’m tired of the Catholic Church not leading the way when it comes to matters that effect major minorities, like the disability community (obviously). Whenever I’ve asked why parishes aren’t accessible (and I’m not just talking physically) the answers don’t really surprise me anymore.

“We don’t have anyone with a disability that comes here.”

“We’re exempt from the ADA.”

“We can’t afford it.”

“Making the building accessible will ruin the history of the building.”

No offence to anyone who genuinely believes these reasons but they’re pretty shallow.

Maybe people have stopped coming because you’re not accessible. Or maybe they don’t bother coming because they know they’ll have problems.

You don’t have to comply with the ADA however; don’t you want to do better than the bare minimum of the law? You may be exempt, but you’re still encouraged to comply.

If you ask for specific funds you just might get them.

You can make modifications without needing to dismantle and entire building.

It’s time to stop making excuses and be inclusive to all. That’s what Jesus would do, don’t you think?

Long story short, this is my vocation, it chose me. (Aren’t I lucky?)

Another Year

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Every year I say if you asked me a year ago if I thought my life would look like this a year from now I’d say no. And this year is no different, at all.

Last year practically everyone I knew had some story about how they lived the year I was about to enter. No matter how many stories I heard from whomever they fell into one of two categories.

It was the best year of their lives
or
it was the worst year of their lives.

I started to ask why that was after the 5th story, for no other reason than people were adamant about the way they felt, but never once provided a reason.

Once I asked “why” some people did provide their reasoning, but very few. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to talk about it or because they couldn’t remember why, they honestly didn’t know why. I then adopted the policy of, “don’t tell me how you felt at my age, unless you can tell me why,” because I just couldn’t stand hearing another story, especially from people who enjoy butting into business that isn’t their own.

Interestingly enough my eye doctor had the most in-depth and straight forward answer (because even he had an opinion). I understand his reasoning and if I were in his position I think I’d agree with him (because being a student for most of your life doesn’t sound like fun) but as his long time patient I’m thankful he spend all that time learning.

As I look back on this past year I’m going to tell you my conclusion of such an infamous year.

It wasn’t the best year of my life
but
it wasn’t the worst year of my life.

And I can tell you why, because I’m saving my ten (to borrow a line from The Fault In Our Stars) and I’m saving my zero.

Why?

While it’s true that I don’t think I’ll live as long as some of my peers I’m not ready to cash in my chips yet and call one year the best or the worst of my life just yet.

There’s also the matter of this past year has been so drastically different from the last few it really impossible to do a valuable compare and contrast.

For example:
Last year I traveled every few months. This year I’ve barely moved from sitting in front of my laptop (even though my laptop is fully capable of being taken on the go).

Last year I worked a lot, sometimes more than I should have, and wondered if I should really go back to school. This year my hours were cut back and I’m learning to balance working and studying (and passing classes).

Last year I read whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. This year I’ve read required and recommended course reading. I think I’ve read one book for fun, thanks to Arleen Spenceley.

Last year I made countless connections on the speaking circuit but very little came to light. This year I gave my 1st of (hopefully) many talks and was considered “Faculty” at a continuing education conference.

Last year I asked for things, as gifts, that I didn’t want to spend the money on myself. This year I asked for textbooks and anything of direct monetary value to help pay tuition.

Last year I watched more friends “finally” (their word not mine) embark on their true vocations while I was secretly hoping to do the same very soon. This year I’m “finally” (again, not my word) knee deep in the ongoing discernment/vocation process and wondering if it’s possible for one’s head to spontaneously combust.