Saturday, July 30, 2016

Where Does the Idealism Go?

When I was a freshwomen in college, my favorite show was Grey's Anatomy. I especially loved the music they wove into each episode. In one particular episode, they used a song called "Where Does the Good Go?" I loved the show, just loved it.

I don't watch so much television anymore; in fact, I thought that Grey's Anatomy may have even ended by now (a quick Wikipedia check tells me it hasn't), but this past week I stayed up past my bedtime a few nights to watch the Democratic National Convention. As I listened to some pretty incredible speeches, I felt inspired on many occasions. Even though every change in Hillary's platform will most likely not come to fruition, I appreciated that both the current president and the hopeful next president were open about that reality, open to the idea that we can consider even just small change progress.

The thing that inspired me most was the idealism that I felt conveyed in the speeches, in those delivering them, and in myself watching them. I can't remember the last time that I felt this way about the promise of this country. But, while trying to stay awake before Hillary's speech on Thursday, I read some old words that I had written a decade ago now, right before I became a freshwomen in college in August 2006, right before I started watching Grey's Anatomy. It gave me pause to read some of things that I had written:

"Happiness is a future of unknowns and would-like-to's, and seeing them actualize before my eyes. I need that. I need exploration into unknown."

"I kinda realized that I don't care much about anything but just being in the moment and enjoying what I am doing."

I don't remember those parts of myself from that time, and I certainly don't feel as idealistic now as I did then or when I entered the classroom for the first time right after college. But I do wonder how we hold onto that idealism as we encounter reality. I wonder how we renew it over time as we add more and more real experiences to our journeys.

I just finished reading Becoming Wise this weekend. In it, Krista Tippett saves the topic of hope for last. This section, along with the rest of book, reignited some of that idealism in me, that idealism that allows me to not only dream, but also to envision a future where we write our story with hope, not with fear or cynicism. I love what Krista has to say about this:

My mind inclines now, more than ever, towards hope. I'm consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy. It's never proven wrong by the corruption or the catastrophe. It's not generative. It judges things as they are, but does not lift a finger to try to shift them.

Idealism and hope mix well with together, and when we are able to combine them with a groundedness in reality, the new story starts to write itself. I heard it in the speeches, and I hope I am listening well enough to hear how I might effect that combination in my own journey. As I pondered where some of that idealism that I had in the summer of 2006 went, I realized it just might be in exactly the places where I feel I lost it. It might be in the students of those tough classrooms where I taught because even though the situations were challenging, I had such hopes for those kids. Hope, I do believe, is generative, and happiness for me would be sharing some of my idealism with the next generation.

Between Krista's book and the convention speeches, I am quite grateful for the feeling of reconnection with the idealism deep within me, the idealism that has always been there, the idealism that gives me hope and allows me to imagine how the new story might read. Ten years from now, if I come back and read these words, I wonder if I will be surprised by how much idealism I have at this moment, but I must hope it's not the reality I will encounter. I must hope that I am still dreaming of a vision of oneness and love, but that we've made even just a little progress toward it. Because if we can't dream about the reality that we want, then we have already begun our new story not with a blank page, but with a bleak page.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Different Defintions of Productivity

It surprised me a bit that I was ready to go back to work after vacation. Because, really, who ever is? But, I was excited to go see the kids on Monday and get back into the groove.

I think this is because I was totally refreshed by my time away. It was just the right break and change of pace. While there, I used this phrase a few times: different kinds of productivity. We were rather busy the entire time, but in the best sense of the word busy.

This is what productivity looked like for me last week:

Morning kayaking

Late morning sea glass, shell, and stone collecting

Evening boat riding to see the site of one of the first Catholic liturgies in North America

Lots of nature watching (especially a family of ospreys)

While there I also started reading Krista Tippett's new book, Becoming Wise. It seems to me that part of becoming wise is learning the balance between the different productivities of our lives. Here are a few words from the book (which I highly recommend!):

There are superstar virtues that come most readily to mind and can be the work of a day or a lifetime - love, compassion, forgiveness. And there are gentle shifts of mind and habit that make those possible, working patiently through the raw materials of our lives.

Last week was a most welcome gentle shift from the norm. May we all have opportunities to experience this definition of productivity in our lives.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Livin' Off the Land

For a few days, I am embracing life through the gift of rejuvenation and encounter. In other words, I am on vacation.

So, after a peanut butter hamburger this past weekend, I am going a bit more natural. A feast awaits!





Let us walk in the holy presence. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016


As I posted my last entry, I looked at the sidebar and found that I had posted 44 times in 2015 and 55 times in 2016. Using my fourth-grade-math-teacher-place-value skills, I added the ones column and the tens column only to find the value equal to 9 in both places.

This means that you are reading my 100th post!

But, I also came on here to post tonight only to find that this is the first time that my thousands place has a value of 9, which means I have reached over 9,000 posts!

Thank you all for reading about my journey, as well as your kinds words of encouragement since I began writing here.

I reached another milestone this weekend as I visited Penn State. We ate lunch at a restaurant called The Corner Room. Word on the street was that the burgers were good, which was not a problem for me. So, I glanced at the options on the menu:

It was basically telling me what I should order!

So I did...

And here is the proof that I consumed my first PB burger!

And, was it delicious?


Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Synchronous Poetry

Today someone gave me a book of poetry by David Budbill. I knew the name sounded familiar, so I started browsing through the Table of Contents for an equally familiar title. I found it. This moment of synchronous poetry seemed worth sharing.

          What We Need

          The Emperor,
          his bullies
          and henchmen
          terrorize the world
          every day,

          which is why
          every day

          we need

          a little poem
          of kindness,

          a small song
          of peace

          a brief moment
          of joy.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(A brief moment of joy: baby animals! c/o

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Following the Path

The Way It Is
William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

This weekend I participated in a retreat with a group of women called "Following the Path" here at the Mount. We used Joan Chittister's book by the same name, and guided by Joan, engaged in conversation about happiness and the pursuit of our passions.

I had participated in this same retreat two years ago, and that was the moment when I knew it was time to start seeking with this Erie Benedictine community. So, I was looking forward to reflecting on the same material at a different point in my journey. When I went back into my journal from July 2014, I found that the big moment on that retreat was the clarification between a job and a life. Our society isn't necessarily good at knowing the difference.

This time a big takeaway for me was another insight into society. First though, I need to mention the fact that we spent a lot of time reinforcing the truth that we have responsibility for our own journeys; no one and nothing hold that responsibility for us. Yes, community will support us on the way, but like Søren Kierkegaard says, "We create ourselves by our choices." The question then becomes: How much of what society says my happiness and passions should be can I shed in order to feel my own happiness and follow my own passions?

The thread about which William Stafford writes, it seems, is the most essential thing. God gives each of us a thread to follow in our lives; that thread is our passion that will guide us on the path to full happiness. The thread will not be God, but it will point us in the direction of the Divine; it will give us a taste of the Divine here on Earth; it will call us into a life lived in union with the Divine.

So, when I follow my path, I have to listen very closely because society often tries to tell me what my thread ought to be. But what my path ought to be is my own, my own unique journey. Yes, it is a challenging, beautiful, growing, evolving, imperfect journey, but it's my mine, and I don't want to let go of it.

Let us walk in the holy presence. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Walk in the Garden, continued

Now, we will move onto the "floral portion" of our visit to the botanical gardens in Cleveland last weekend.

Who doesn't appreciate the intricacies of orchids?

Here is a variety of Clematis that I had never seen before.

I don't particularly care for this picture, but I was mesmerized by just how blue the Delphinium were. 

The lilies were out in full force! 


And lily pads, too! 

This is called a Toothache Plant. And according to Wikipedia, it really works!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Walk in the Garden

With my mother and grandmother visiting this holiday weekend, we decided to journey to the botanical gardens in Cleveland. Anyone, even if you've already been there, must go! It was incredible! Here are some of my favorite photos. This time I will focus on the trees and other odds and ends. Next time I will post the flowers.

These first pictures were taken inside the Glasshouse, which recreated the environments of the desert in Madagascar and the rainforest of Costa Rica.

 Even though they are perfectly aligned and in lovely form, spores have always grossed me out for some reason!

I loved the interconnectedness of the trees with the surrounding life. 

The leaves of this banana tree are bigger than I am!

 A perfectly content butterfly - there were so many beautiful butterflies flying around the "rainforest." This one stayed put for at least a minute, which is even longer than I can sit still.

In the herb garden, they used chamomile as ground cover in some places, so I rubbed my hands all over it, and I sure slept well last night. Also, a close-up of web dew.

Many trees had signs which told you how much money they help save each year...

 ...which is why we must hug trees! But, really, I simply wanted to show the size of this Black Oak.

Okay, until next time --

Let us walk in the holy presence.

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

Here are three things currently on my "love list." 1. This photo that Jen, a postulant in our community, took of a snowy tree...