Doing Grown Up

I should be working on my applications.

I am getting ready to apply for PhD programs. This was top secret until a couple weeks ago when, realizing it was really happening, I started asking advice from everyone I knew. I feel totally unprepared for the realities that are going to come from this: probably getting several rejection letters, but even scarier, getting accepted to a program and moving—again. Making a new life, new community—again.

Lately, I have noticed how settled a lot of people in my life seem to be. It is no longer only that my friends from school are more settled than me, although that is certainly the case. Yesterday I visited a couple of friends from grad school who have bought a house—not just renting their first home, but actually bought a house. They will live in that house for a long time—it’s theirs. They can paint, remodel—do whatever they want. And, when the oven is broken (as it is right now), there’s no landlord who will come fix it. They are homeowners—at 26.  But no, this is not what overwhelms me right now. Instead it’s the fact that two of my past students are homeowners at 23 and, frankly, they are doing grown up life a hell of a lot better than me.  They have a dog that they remember to feed, budget well enough to travel well, have adventures, and just generally rock at life. Supposedly, being their campus minister for a year and given that they said I had a great impact on them, I must have had some something to do with this, but I can’t do that myself. Heck, I forget to take my own medicine and my water kefir is hibernating because I forget to feed it most of the time. And when you can't even keep a bacteria healthy, that's a problem. 

My friend who just bought the house told me yesterday that she feels like she’s playing grown up. So do I. I feel like that a lot. And then, then I have to turn around and help my students grow up and pretend I know everything when, in reality, I’m just about as clueless as they are. I might have six years of ministry experience under my belt, but I’m surrounded by people with more experience than me. I have an MA, but so does everyone else, apparently. I’m living in a house by myself and have been for four months, and I’m still utterly confused about how to do it. I keep wondering when my imaginary roommate will come home. It's terribly lonely and I am 100% responsible for everything-- everything

But, I guess in the long run, I’m doing grown up okay. I mean, it’s still playing pretend, but I’m not totally failing. I pay my bills on time and am getting far better about cooking and living on a budget that is really not big enough for my rent and electric bill. But, alas, in two months the loan payments start. 

Honestly, does this ever get any easier?

And, does writing application essays ever become simple? I mean, seriously. How many times can I come up with clever and effective ways to sell myself when I know that the next person is probably more qualified. 

And then, then when I think, well at least I can articulate how frustrated I am with decent eloquence... then, my students show me up again  (read Alaina's witness). 

At least I know that the holy spirit will take care of things. He got me into this mess, right? 

All will be well. All will be well. All manner of things shall be well. 

An update and a Prayer Request

It has been a while since I’ve written. This is mostly because I’ve been busy—I think I’ve been putting in 50-60 hour weeks instead of 40. Seriously. There were a couple days where I worked 13-hour shifts—and one was on my day off!

It’s official now that I’m staying at Butler. My new title is “Director of Campus Ministry,” and I’m actually getting kind of excited. I’ve started to re-decorate the office. Last week, S. Hannah and a couple students helped me build a couple bookshelves (okay, to be honest, Hannah basically built the whole thing the second time). I’m slowly working my way into being comfortable with staying in Indy, although I have occasional bouts of sadness about not being in Missouri or Texas, which are really the only states worth being in by my estimation!

I am fortunate in that the Woods (St. Mary of the Woods) is close to Indy and that with that comes many friends and wonderful sisters who have been my rock and strength during the last year. And, in spite of popular belief, I do actually have a few friends who live here in Indy, mostly through the Sisters or Echo Alums, plus a few friends I’ve met through Butler. I am now also working at the Humane Society, which has given me an opportunity to finally meet people (and, more importantly, fluffy, cuddly dogs!) who aren’t Catholic or who don’t expect me to be a minister 24//7. It’s kind of nice to spend 2 hours a week just being a dog walker.

At any rate, it’s late here and I want to go to sleep, but I thought I needed to write an update after being away for three months. So much good has happened in that time and I can’t believe I haven’t shared it with you. But there was so much sadness, too, and it has taken me a long time to rise up from it.

I have to ask a special request of those of you who pray. Please, please pray for a special intention for me. It’s very important and while I know to trust God, I haven’t been this anxious about something in a long time—especially not something that I have no control over, like this. I’ll post more soon. Just pray!

Emotions, Darkness, and Dreams

I have started several blogs in the last week, whether on paper, my computer, or in my head. I couldn’t finish them. There’s too much emotion bottled up inside me right now. I just need to let some of it free.

I feel as though my spirit is just weary and worn. I’m tired. I’m torn between a need to grieve for my friend, concern for another friend going through a rough time, sadness from what has happened, and just plain exhaustion from trying to do and be so much for so many. I’m confused about plans for the future and what God is really calling me to. I’m so Rome-sick that I went and bought prosciutto yesterday. My dear mentor brought in blood oranges—he’s a saint. I have taken to sitting and watching multiple hours of Rome, fast-forwarding through the bad scenes and watching the historical notes commentary. I have even been leafing through my Blue Book guide to Rome. I feel like you can tell that Kaitlyn is struggling when she’s buying Roman comfort food and reading guidebooks. That means we are dealing with things worse than Chocolate and Henry Adams or Homer or even Greek can cure. I’m not sure that I knew before that there were such things—but, apparently, there are.

To distract myself (and also to remind myself that life moves on), I have been obsessing about next year. For those of you who have had a conversation with me in the last couple months, it’s probably obvious that I’ve been doing this for a while.

At the retreat about which I have written so much recently, I re-encountered a young woman who graduated from Echo and is now working as an intern on a farm. Sound familiar? Yes, that is what I wanted to do... two years ago when God put me in Echo instead. And really, I realize more and more that it’s what I still want to do (thought I don’t regret doing Echo—I love this program more than I can explain). It’s funny because I’m quite sure that neither of my grandfathers (both of whom were farmers, both of whom encouraged me to get an education and a life away from the farm) could have begun to imagine that I, six months away from a Masters degree from Notre Dame, would say that my life’s dream is to own a farm. Not just a little farm, either. I want milk cows (yes, Larry, with the getting up to milk at 4am if need be), bees, and chickens, and possibly a goat or two (because really, how much can milk cows help the lactose intolerant??). That is my DREAM. Of course, there’s also the idea that this farm might be a working retreat center, where Molly and I will run our art retreats and where my dear David will have his sheep. Well, probably not David and the sheep, since he’s becoming a Dominican. But Molly and I are definitely having that retreat center. First, however, I need the farm. And before that, I need to learn how to farm, because somehow between the many years of piano lessons (that were utterly useless—I still can’t read music) and the poking and prodding to get good grades in ridiculous things, like Math (Really, Mom and Dad, I promise that it doesn’t matter that I can’t do calculus. I have other completely useless talents, like reading Greek.), my parents failed to pass on the farm wisdom that their parents gave to them (It’s okay, parents, I still love you). So, when I’m avoiding my comps studying (which is all the time, now that I’m back to that book by Kathryn Tanner on Christology that I just can’t read more than a paragraph of at a time), I’m reading books on farming and gardening and intentional Christian community. Because that seems like an obvious hobby for the future Director of Campus Ministry for Butler U.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m almost certain that I am staying at Butler for another couple years at least. It’s not official yet, so I’m trying not to tell students yet. I’m trying, and more or less failing, because Father and I talk about nothing else ALL THE TIME. But now, I’m looking for a house to rent in Indianapolis. Yes, a house. I don’t want an apartment. Why doesn’t Kaitlyn want an apartment, you might ask. Well, I want a house BECAUSE I WANT A DAMN GARDEN.  And these books I’m reading are giving me all these dreams of grand gardens that will NOT happen because I’m not building anything big until I am somewhere I plan to live longer than two years, which is probably not Indy (well, I might be here for four years… depending on a lot of circumstances so outside my control). But at any rate, yes, friends, I want a garden. And a dog. So, I need a house. I would like one in Indianapolis close enough to walk to Butler. Lord, help me when my students figure out where I live (which they certainly will, because those frat boys are going to be harangued into helping me move, and I don’t trust their ability to keep secrets). I want a house near Butler with a backyard big enough for a dog and a garden, which means I need a housemate to help pay rent, because the houses I’ve found are all $800-900. Anyone want to move to Indianapolis?

It’s a bit disappointing, really. Two years ago, I had a compost pile behind my condo and, until a disease devastated them, herbs growing in my kitchen window. That seemed like a semi-promising start for my farm dreams. Now, I share a house with nine other individuals and, although we have a backyard big enough for a legit urban farm (I mean, we could have a goat if we wanted, it’s that big), we cannot use the backyard because we share it with an office. A bit of a step-down, I think.

And yes, friends from Dallas, I know I promised I’d move home soon. Well, God never gives me what I ask for, so I don’t know why you’re surprised at this. I mean, look at what happened two years ago when I ended up in Echo. And, a year before that, when I had to change my major? It always seems to work out in the end.

As part of my Christmas gift, Molly sent me a picture of my patron saint, Mother Cabrini. It arrived in the mail today. It reminded me of how she had dreamed her whole life of going to China as a missionary and instead, the pope sent her to America. “Not to the East, but to the West,” he said. Well, I guess God is telling me “not to the west, but to the east.” (Because Indianapolis is really far east for someone who wants to live in Texas!) I’m trying to take comfort in reminding myself that if Mother Cabrini hadn’t been sent to the west, I might not exist because she would not have cared for and healed my great-grandmother, which would have made my grandfather a vastly different person who might not have married my grandmother. I can only hope that Providence has some sort of designs for me that might make my sacrifice equally valuable.

So, Texas friends and family, know that I am always holding you close to me through prayer and that I miss you each painfully. On the worst days, I dream of running away and living on Patty and Mark’s couch the way little kids used to dream of running away to the circus. Then, I remember that they would send me back because they love me and want me to succeed. Dang, a kid can’t even run away to her “second parents” without them doing what is best for her. Look at how blessed I am!

Non-Texas family and friends… want to move to Indy? (I know the Texans won’t give up Texas…) Seriously, though, I miss you and love you.

I ask for your continued prayers. I need them badly. Know you are in mine.


K. M. F. W. 

My other blog...

So, as you all know I am a Campus Minister at Butler U. Here's the link to our blog that I keep over there, in case you are interested:

30 September...

So, I realize that I haven’t written in quite some time. I’ve been beyond busy and I’m afraid that’s how it will be for a while.

I’m back in Indianapolis and well into my third semester at Butler as Chaplain’s Apprentice for the Butler Catholic Community. Things are going well for us at the BCC. We have a great new group of freshmen women who are very involved. Last year, my freshman women’s ministry had 1 girl on the first day. This year, we had 16. The group has varied each week since, but it’s always a good size group and the women are very involved in the discussions. I am pleasantly surprised by the level at which we can have  these discussions.

On Friday (two days ago), we had a movie night at the BCC where we watched the Lorax. I think it was the largest group we have had for a social event in a long time. It was great! The third floor was packed. It makes me happy to see that many kids who would rather come and watch a movie with the Catholic Community than go to the multiple parties I passed on my way to the movie.

The freshman girls had texted me the night before asking if we could have a sleepover after the movie night. On such late notice, I didn’t want to do a sleepover (somehow, these take more out of me than they used to—not sure if it’s because I’m older or because I’m in charge now), but we did have a “Girl’s Night” after The Lorax, which was really fun. We did nails, colored in coloring books, and all kinds of fun stuff. We did a lot of talking and bonding and it was good to have the freshmen with the upperclasswomen.

I do love my job.

Outside of work, things range from excruciatingly boring to insane depending on the week. Right now, I’m taking a well-deserved break from reading (I read 16 books in September!) to write this.

I can’t believe it’s already October. I need to write a CV and a Resume, I need to start looking for jobs, I need to do so many things! I can’t believe that Echo is almost over, it feels like it just started. But I might go on for more schooling, I’m not really sure yet. I think that the idea of being a “real person” who is done with school is just too scary… as is the idea of paying off those loans while we’re in a recession like this one.

I’m homesick for Dallas all the time, and (strangely, because this didn’t happen that much before) homesick for Rolla, too. I really don’t want to stay in Indy. Just about the only thing that would keep me here is if I could get a full time job at Butler, which looks like it’s not an option right now.

Yesterday, I went on an outing to see Downtown Indy with my roommate, Matt. Matt is in the Lalanne program and is one of my (nine) housemates. (Yes, you read that right, there are TEN of us living in this house. It’s a lot of fun most of the time.) Anyways, Matt was a doll and took me to all the places downtown that I’ve never been. For some reason, Downtown Indy gives me panic attacks as bad as Chicago, even though (logically) it shouldn’t bother me when I love Dallas so much. I think it’s just a different type of downtown—very crunched together. Dallas is so spacious. Besides, downtown Dallas usually means Molly or Kevin or Mark… and these are all comforting thoughts (I miss you guys!). Sadly, although the day was WONDERFUL (thanks, Matty Matt!!), I still don’t think I want to live here after I graduate, even though I am the Ted to Matt’s Marshall and Meg’s (his girlfriend) Lilly (HIMYM reference, anyone? – it’s a popular show in our house).

I will be going back to Dallas in October, which is ALMOST this month! I’ll be there for UDMC and I’m SOOO extremely excited just to be in the right state for once. I think I was meant to be Texan.

At any rate, I’m done with classes and will soon be preparing for comps.

Please pray for my discernment!

P.S. I've read 55 books this year. Check them out on my "100 Book Challenge" page!

Quick Update...

So, I'm aware that I haven't written in months.

However, I have been READING. I've read 50/100 of my 100 books for the year. Halfway done.

Woo hoo!!

I thought that deserved a blog post.

I'll write again updating everything else soon.


P.S. Check out my list of books!

End of May/ Beginning of June and Echo Summer II

I am sorry for how long it's taken me to write. I've been busy. I figured I’d recap a little from last time, since it was written so quickly.

First, I left Indianapolis to go to Rolla for a couple of days, then headed up to KC for Amanda's wedding.

Now, Amanda asked me to come up early, so I got there on Wednesday (the wedding was Saturday). We were pretty busy because Amanda didn't outsource anything. I'm not sure what their total wedding budget was, but it was pretty small. Brent's mom made the cake and his sister, Christina, decorated it. It looked gorgeous-- better than any professional cake I've ever seen. Amanda did the flowers (with a little help from Lisa and me). Amanda, Brent, and I  did the rest of the food-- I was in charge of the kitchen during the reception. I think I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for most of the week, trying to be the biggest help I could. The wedding got on with only a couple mishaps, one of which being that I forgot my dress at home in Rolla. It all worked out well, and the new Miller family had a beautiful wedding.

While I was in KC, I couldn't stay with Amanda because her apartment was full of bridesmaids (it's a tiny apartment, right off the plaza-- nice location, but not a great size). So, I stayed at Jerusalem Farm. Many of you probably remember the wonderful experiences I've had at Nazareth Farm and Bethlehem Farm. Well, this one is a new one. I'm loving it. Getting to stay there was one of the highlights of my week. I got to come home to people who I can only call "my type of people," which was a blessing when I was coming "home" from Latin Mass (not my type at all). We had a lot of fun and I got to know Jessie and Jordan Schiele much better. They're lovely people. All my friends in Missouri should check Jerusalem Farm out as soon as they can!

The day after the wedding, I went to breakfast and Mass with my friend, Bernie, and then headed back to Rolla. I got home just in time. I walked into my parents' house and looked at my dad. He looked absolutely awful-- pale white, breathing hard... Mom told me that she had been trying to get him to go to the hospital since the day before, but he wouldn't go. I told him he had to go and finally he agreed to. I'm not sure I really gave him an option. Mom said she was going to force him, but knew I'd be home soon and I could get him to go easier than she could (it's a baby girl thing, Daddy rarely says no to me).

So, Mom and I spent a less than awesome day and evening in the ER with Dad and they admitted him, saying that he had severe pneumonia in the lower part of his left lung. It was pretty bad. Over the next two days, I became familiar yet again with the hospital in Rolla, something I wish I could avoid for a while now. Mom was able to stay with us on Monday because it was Memorial Day, but had to go to work Tuesday. The big problem was that Mom was having surgery the Friday of the same week, so she had to get the hospital ready for her being gone.

On Tuesday, around 5pm, I finally got to bring Dad home. He was doing better, but not much. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with him, not even leaving the house. Then, Friday, my aunt and grandmother took mom in for her surgery, since we couldn't leave Dad alone. I felt bad not being with her. My aunt kept calling to tell me how things were going, but what Aunt Sharon didn't seem to understand is that the problem with my Mom and surgery is not the surgery. Mom heals really well. Mom's problem is the anasthetic, which she has almost not woken up from before. So, really, Aunt Sharon was just making me more anxious by calling me.

At any rate, Saturday I had two sickies to take care of. Sunday, I went in to Mass and brought them the Eucharist. By Monday morning, two things were apparent: 1) Mom could probably handle taking care of herself and Dad for a couple of hours on her own and 2) that was good, because if I didn't get the heck out of the house, I was going to go crazy. So, I went to the store to take care of a couple of things.

In the middle of all this, I noticed that the water was tasting funny, so we have been drinking bottled water (something I hate doing). I had to go get more water, for one thing, because I think that contaminated water was what was making Dad sick. We still haven't found out if that's the case.

But, I went into town Monday, happy to get away for a couple of hours (literally a couple of hours). Then, I came home. We spent a lot of time that week watching movies and reading. I think I read 7 books over the course of the two weeks that I was home.

Tuesday, I went to lunch with a new friend and then Mom and I got adventurous and went out to dinner with friends. Wednesday was spent at home, as was Thursday, and Friday was spent preparing to go to Notre Dame.

One thing I have to say for all this is that, even though I missed going to Texas (which was heartbreaking-- Ponikiewskis, I miss you!), I got to spend more time with my mother at once than I have EVER spent with her in my whole life. We've never gone on family trips and Mom has always worked late hours and early hours and all the hours in between. I'm sorry she was sick and had to have surgery, but it was kind of fun being together.

Friday was an adventure getting ready to leave. Mom ended up buying me a camera, since mine wasn't working very well. It's really nice and I'm trying to take as many pictures as possible, since I have a grand total of like 5 from last summer. It's my last year at Notre Dame!

I also ended up borrowing my best friend's (Hannah's) mini fridge, since the one that I took to college the first two years didn't even fit into my car.

So, last week on Saturday (the 9th?) I left for Indianapolis, where I would spend the night and then go on to Notre Dame.

Saturday, I got to Indianapolis just in time to go to Mass with my friend, Annie, and her family. It was fun being back in Indy and nice to know the roads (I was perpetually relying on my GPS in KC). After Mass, Annie and I went to a concert at The Vogue in Indy for Jon McLaughlin, who was really good. I had never heard him before, but Annie loves his music. It was fun just to be with Annie, who is such a dear friend. She is often the very embodiment of joy. I wish everyone could know her and love her. She brings such sunshine into my life!

So, Saturday night I got back to my house really late. Amy had to let me in, since I gave up my key for the summer (annoying). But it was nice to sleep in "my" bed.

Sunday morning, I got up and headed for ND, stopping at a Marsh on the way to buy fruit for breakfast. It wasn't a very long drive, and it's an easy one. I made 13/14 stoplights on a green!! (We keep score.)

I got to ND around 1, which was when we could move in. I was the first from Echo 8, and only the second to arrive. Meg Kanatzar, who was one of my BEST friends at UD, got there just a little before me, but waited for me, so I could show her where to park. Apparently, the guard told her it was confusing. At any rate, it was SOOOO good to get there and have a hug from my Meggie, who I hadn't seen since my trip to UD in October (she was the generous soul who let me sleep on her floor).

We unloaded quickly and about halfway through, Luke Slonkosky, one of our directors, showed up. Then, other Echoes started arriving. It was unnerving that there were so many people I didn't know! Now, of course, Echo 9 has not only grown on me, but wormed their way into my heart the same way that 7&8 did. Dear Echo 9, I love you. Thanks for being part of our family!

Unpacking, eating dinner in the dining hall, hanging out... it all happened so fast, I'm not sure there's much to tell. I think I've learned the names a lot more quickly this year, but I only had 9 names to memorize this year instead of 23 (I already knew three of the Echo 9 class-- 2 were my friends in college and 1 came to visit our community to get a feel for Echo back in the fall. I'm so glad they're all here!).

Orientation was great and a typical Colleen Moore experience. She's our director, and she is wonderful.

I'm rooming with my friend Meghan (different from Meg/Megan) and sharing a quad with Kathy and Pam. It's an ongoing adventure.

Classes started today and I'm in the break between classes and I thought that I would take some time to update you all before I start my homework. I hope that you are all well. My Dad is doing much better, thank you for your prayers. I'm doing okay. I'm exhausted and my plan for recharging my batteries fell apart because of my Dad's sickness, but I think I'll pull through. It's a day to day thing.

Classes are going to be interesting. This module I'm taking Theology of Prayer and Teresa of Avila. Next module will be "Contemplation and Action" and "Catholic Sacraments."

Also, my friend Annie (from the concert) is having trouble. Her external harddrive, which had everything (pictures, video, homework, stuff for comps) from the last five years, quit working. Please pray that the people she is sending it to can fix it!

And, as always, I'm praying for you, please pray for us!!


The End of May

So, since the last time I wrote, several very important things have happened.

My last weekend in Indianapolis was spent doing three things: 1) hanging out with my hoursemate, Matt; 2) packing like a crazy person; and 3) attending the wedding of two of my very dear students, Brendan and Katie Quinn.

Katie and Bren’s wedding was BEAUTIFUL! I have to say, Katie did a great job planning, organizing, decorating, etc. Also, the food was breakfast for dinner, which is brilliant. I think that will have to be featured in my own wedding, should the event ever arise.

So, I spent Sunday at their wedding and then left bright and early Monday morning for home, arriving in time to go with my mom and grandmother to the KC Ladies’ Auxiliary meeting. I love going to the Ladies Auxiliary because it’s always good to see people from home, and this time was no different. We played bingo and my table won half of the prizes (everyone else was rather jealous). And, of course, I ended up with all of them, because it was my aunts and mom and grandma. So, that was fun.

I spent Tuesday with my dad having lots of fun and then left for Kansas City on Wednesday. I was spending the rest of the week helping my friend Amanda with her wedding. Fortunately, I got to break up the stress a little bit by spending the nights at Jerusalem Farm, which was AMAZING! I’m so excited about the farm and I loved getting to see Jessie and Jordan and meeting Becca and Jeremy.

Anyways, on Wednesday we cut up fruit and went to Latin Mass. On Thursday we made bouquets and had the rehearsal dinner. Friday was for decorating and finishing the food, followed by the rehearsal and then the bachelorette party! I think Amanda enjoyed it, so that was great (I had fun, too!). Then, Saturday, was Amanda’s wedding! It’s crazy to think that one of my best friends from the last five years, with whom I often complained of being single, is now Mrs. Brent Miller! Congrats, darling.

Sunday, I had coffee and went to Mass with my friend, Bernie, and then headed home. I got home and walked in the door, took a look at my dad, and told him I was taking him to the ER. He looked awful, and he should, since he had a pretty bad case of pneumonia and a UTI to boot. We spent all night Sunday followed by Monday and Tuesday in the hospital. Unfortunately, this ruined the Memorial Day party my Aunt Linda threw especially because I was home. However, it was really important to be with my Dad.

So, I got to bring Dad home on Tuesday. I was supposed to leave Wednesday for Texas so I could see my friends and be there for Randi’s graduation, but unfortunately that was just not possible with Dad’s health. We’ve been hanging out at the house ever since.

To top it all off, today my Mom had surgery to have her gallbladder removed. So, basically, I’m taking care of sick parents. Fun, fun. It’s not that I mind so much as it is that I wish they weren’t sick. I love them and hate to see them both so puny!

Tomorrow, I’ll be watching Randi graduate via the internet, just like I did Trevor last year. It won’t win me the adopted sister of the year award, but Randi understands. I just miss my “other family!” It’ll just have to wait. I’m hoping to go to Texas in August, or to convince Travis and possibly Trevor and Randi to come visit me (but it would be immensely more practical for me to go there to see them).

Alas, I haven’t yet learned to bilocate. How handy that ability would be when seperated from the people you love!

I’ll be heading to ND late next week to begin summer #2 of Echo. I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by! And, my greatest consolation is that one of my best friends, Meggie, will be with me in Echo this year!! MEGAN, I LOVE YOU!! Sylvie, I’m excited for you, too!!

Please pray for my family, especially for my parents’ health. Also, prayers for my sanity would be nice.

Love and Sunshine,


Hello! I'm just your average grad student/ campus minister and this blog is the story of my life. I'm also trying to read 100 books in 2012, so keep up with me on that!

If you have any ideas for this blog or any questions, please email me!

A quick update

So, it’s May and I realize that I have completely let go of many of my goals for the year. I lost track of April and May has come with a vengeance, and in the midst of traveling every weekend I have barely taken time for rest, much less for reflection.

April was good. I got to see Hannah, accomplished a lot at Butler, and read a lot of books. Seriously, a lot. I read seven. Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten about blogging them… I’ll have to catch up on that.

As for May, it’s been busy. The first weekend in May, I went to visit my parents and celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of some dear friends, the Manions. That was lovely. Then, this last weekend, I had the opportunity to celebrate with Hannah her graduation from college!!! I’m so proud of my friend! She worked hard.

I don’t have time to write much, but just wanted to let you all know I’m still alive. I leave Indy on Monday and there’s so much to do before I go.

Pray for me!


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!

So, here's why I hate Theology

I’m reading the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and she is talking about finding more fun. She says that her surprise in this was that she didn’t really know what was fun for her, she was so confused with what she thought was fun but in actuality, hated doing.

Reading her contemplation of what it is that she enjoys, the posts from her readers on her blog, her confessions about what she loves—it made me think. What do I enjoy? What do I find fun?
An easy answer, of course, is found in the fact that I’m reading Rubin’s book in the first place. Isn’t that why I’m doing this 100 book challenge? Because I love reading? But then I started to think about other things, things that I don’t enjoy, the person I’ll never be. Unlike Rubin, I don’t lament the fact that I’ll never be a lawyer or businesswoman. I’m comfortable and at peace with the fact that I’ll never be wealthy, that I feel like an idiot when wearing anything resembling a business suit. No matter what I do, I’ll never find chess or strategy games enjoyable (in spite of the fact that my housemates love them). I hate video games. The auctions frequented by my family members stress me out and make me feel depressed for days. I don’t like to dance, partially because of my knee injury and partially because of my fear of looking like a fool (one exception would be dancing with someone I’m completely comfortable with—Patrick, I don’t mind you). I will never enjoy going to bars or clubs, I will always prefer staying home and watching a movie or, even better, reading a book. Even more, I love conversations over tea and art. That brings me joy. I’ll never love reading the news, never find pop culture interesting, and, most depressing and heart-wrenching of all, I will never really love theology.

There, I said it. I won’t be able to make myself love it, no matter how important I think it is. Worse even, sometimes I hate it.

Perhaps some of you reading this are asking yourselves, “Wait… isn’t Kait getting her MA in Theology?” Yes, yes I am. That’s the problem.

I love my work for the Church. I love talking about God, Jesus, and spirituality. I love leading people in prayer. Planning retreats is my greatest joy, which is why Molly and I want to start that retreat center. But when we get into the tall, ivory tower of academic theology (from which God seems curiously absent and Jesus foreign), I want to shoot myself.

Earlier in the book, Rubin was talking about how she knew she wasn’t meant to be in law when she saw her coworkers law journals and loving it and she thought it was the worse thing in the world. Well, my classmates and housemates love to read about theology, love to talk about it every chance they get. I really just want to talk about Jesus or God, read the Gospels, or, even more likely, talk about what happened in the latest episode of Dr. Who or read about natural health or a fun book. I like talking about Tolkien, not Aquinas. (Frankly, I’d rather talk about Aristotle, Plato or even Homer than Aquinas… and Aquinas just Jesusified all their stuff anyways.) I guess that’s when I knew… I’m not really meant for this whole theology thing. I mean, I’ve been suspecting it for a while, but now I’m sure.

So, what do I love to do? What do I find fun?

Greek. Greek history, Greek language, Greek culture, Greek art, Greek literature. I could enjoy reading Homer in Greek every day for the rest of my life. And then, there’s Xenephon and Plato and Pindar… I could live off them for eternity.

And there’s Spanish. Spanish music, literature, art, food. The way my best friend’s mom’s voice sounds when she’s whispering Spanish to her father in the kitchen before Hannah and I wake up in the morning after a sleepover. The way my aunt’s voice sounds when she sings Spanish in her band, so full, so alive.

I love writing. I love creating. I love painting. I love calligraphy. I love random crafts and sewing. I love shoveling manure and gardening.

And of course, there’s literature. Dostoyevsky, Austen, Tolkien, Melville. To be perfectly honest, I got more pleasure out of Moby Dick than I will ever get out of The Summa or any papal writing.

I did love The Confessions. Of course, it took me three times to love it, but I do. And I love The Catechism (which, I know, is a little weird). But all this lofty theology is above my head, and far away from my heart. I love that which relates God to real life, to the concrete, to the physical instead of just the spiritual. I love Catholic Social Teaching. I love prayer, but not the repetitive kind, the kind that actually enables conversation, conversion, change. I don’t watch Jesus movies. I didn’t really enjoy Bella. I wasn’t pleased by the ending. But movies like The Human Experience, The Way, and October Baby (thanks, Amy, for taking me) get me in my core.

I have one summer left at Notre Dame and I’m nervous about getting through it, plus getting through my comps. I know I can do it, God wouldn’t have put me here otherwise, but it’s not my passion and I have a definite need to live out my passion. I still haven’t figured out how to do that or how to get from here, in grad school and working as a campus minister, to where I want to be, at a retreat center with Molly, living out simplicity, community, prayer, and service. What I do know is that I still carry my Greek textbook with me to work and back everyday, even if I don’t open it for a week at a time. What I do know is that I can’t concentrate enough on my schoolwork to read a whole (relatively short) encyclical in one sitting without massive amounts of tea and prodding and trying to keep myself from looking at craft ideas on pinterest.

That’s where I am right now. Pray for me.

February and most of March 2012

26 March, 2012

So, I haven’t really written an actual update on my life since Lent started, and next week will be Palm Sunday! I’ve been super busy trying to keep up with everything (work, homework, community life). Lent is going good, though, and I’m enjoying the busted halo calendar (check it out if you haven’t already).

February went by fast, and March has gone by even faster.

A couple weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to take four of my students (plus Patrick, one of my community mates) with me to Nazareth Farm—the sister farm of Bethlehem Farm, which some of you might remember was one of my hopeful plans after I graduated (God, in His infinite wisdom, had other ideas that led me here to Echo, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world). I was excited but nervous, as I had never been the leader of a service trip before and was also nervous about how I would do after being turned down by the other farm when I applied to be a caretaker. That had really hurt me, but looking back now I see the hand of grace in it (using that context strength!).

Being at Nazareth Farm was the most wonderful thing that could have happened. It was the rest I needed. I love the feeling of being physically tired when I crawl into bed at the end of the day instead of just emotionally exhausted. The physical work we did was wonderful and a pleasure. I worked on many things, from helping to shovel out the creek (which was full of rocks and dirt that had washed down from the mountain in a recent flood) to building spindles and railings for stairs to helping cut wood for a roof (I’m afraid of heights and thus got nowhere near the actual roof, unlike the rest of my crew). I also loved the community and simplicity, my two favorite parts of the farm. The four cornerstones are community, simplicity, prayer and service and I feel like I want the cornerstones of my life to be the same! I’m in love with that life and I can’t wait until Molly and I have our retreat center so we can start living it.

Speaking of, we’ve agreed that our goal is to put a down payment on the center by 2023, although I’m thinking we’ll beat that by a long shot. The idea is to give ourselves ten years after grad school to start, but we’re both ready for it now. I really feel that this is where God is calling me to be, and from our conversations, I think so does Molly.

Also, Naz Farm is starting a new farm in Kansas City, MO called Jerusalem Farm. Check it out!

After Nazareth Farm, I came home and took a day to myself, doing a self-led retreat all day Monday until I went to a real retreat at the Fatima Retreat House that night. It was a wine and art retreat led by Katie Sohm, and it was wonderful. She led us in prayer and led us in painting a picture of a dogwood tree, which I loved since it’s the MO state tree. It was a great night and exactly what I needed after the exhausting drive back from the farm (and the emotional exhaustion of moving back into a fast paced life that I really wasn’t designed for). It was SOOOO GOOD!

Since then, things have continued to be busy. Last week, I threw a surprise wedding shower/sleepover for a student and our women’s group. I have spent a lot of time processing my experience at Naz Farm and will continue to do so. I have also gotten back into my normal routine, but am far behind in my class work (so much so that I’m nervous about catching up). This is the life of a campus minister.

I am also fighting homesickness for Dallas and my dear friends (I really just want to curl up on the Ponikiewski/Parent’s couch and watch tv and pet Radar…) and also homesickness for Rolla and the country after being in West Virginia.

I have also been in a domestic mood (also courtesy of Naz Farm) and made homemade peanut butter, baked some gluten free bread, and made cookies with Amy and Joe tonight (Joe also helped with the bread) while Patrick laughed at us. It was a great community night that we were blessed to share with Natalie from Lalanne (the others are on spring break) and I had a lot of fun. I’m not as content and at peace as I was a week ago, sitting and looking at the mountains of West Virginia, but I’m happy to be here. I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.

As I near the end of my first year in Echo, I’m growing nervous and excited about the future while still trying to suck every experience I can out of the present. Please pray for my future that I can find where God is calling me to go!

As part of that, I am applying to be a Providence Associate with the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods in Terre Haute. It's not like being a sister, there are no vows, I am just entering into a deeper relationship with the sisters and trying to have a deeper relationship with Providence, dedicated to love, justice, and peace. Please pray for me as I discern this new relationship with the sisters!

Happy Lent and continue to pray for me. I am praying for all of you!

Finding my Strengths

As I think I might have mentioned before, I’ve become fascinated with personality profiling, like Meyers Briggs. Therefore, my spiritual director recommended that I take the strengths finder test using the book Living Your Strengths ( This book has helped me see who I am in a different light and as a saint once said, we get to know God better by knowing ourselves better. Learning more about my strengths has really helped me to know myself and understand why I do things.

My five strengths are (in order): context, connectedness, intellection, learner, and belief. Reading the book, I have started to see how these strengths work together to make me who I am.

Here are the descriptions that are provided for my strengths (both online and in the book, I don’t know who originally wrote them):

“Context: You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a simpler time. It was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You realize what the initial intentions were. These blueprints or intentions have since become so embellished that they are almost unrecognizable, but now this Context theme reveals them again. This understanding brings you confidence. No longer disoriented, you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven’t seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.

Connectedness:Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.

Intellection:You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.

Learner: You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”

Belief: If you possess a strong Belief theme, you have certain core values that are enduring. These values vary from one person to another, but ordinarily your Belief theme causes you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual, and to value responsibility and high ethics—both in yourself and others. These core values affect your behavior in many ways. They give your life meaning and satisfaction; in your view, success is more than money and prestige. They provide you with direction, guiding you through the temptations and distractions of life toward a consistent set of priorities. This consistency is the foundation for all your relationships. Your friends call you dependable. “I know where you stand,” they say. Your Belief makes you easy to trust. It also demands that you find work that meshes with your values. Your work must be meaningful; it must matter to you. And guided by your Belief theme it will matter only if it gives you a chance to live out your values.”

I am not entirely sure that I agree with all of this, but I definitely see myself in these signature themes, as the book calls them. I am also seeing how God, by giving us each a different set of signature themes, has different plans for each of us that are tailored to the talents he has given. I think that everyone should take this test and read the book (which I’m almost finished with) to help them see where they can work better and under what circumstances.

Also, if you’ve taken the strengths finder test, send me your results! I’m always curious about everyone else. 

Getting geared up for Lent


Looking back on Lents past, I remember so many heartbroken days. I have experienced an awful lot of sadness and loss during Lent.

This year, I hope it’s different.

I’m looking forward to Lent: looking forward to an opportunity to look introspectively into my life and find the places that need to be fixed, need to be healed. Together with Fr. Jeff, I am encouraging our students to give up something other than chocolate. Instead, we are inviting them to look at their lives and see places that the Holy Spirit is working to transform them and to go along with that transformation. I’ve had beautiful conversations with the women in my women’s groups. Some are planning on writing down their prayers, some plan on fasting from judging the other girls in their dormitory when they go out and party. These women are an inspiration to me, and I’m hoping that I can live up to the challenges I have set for them.

For resources, I just have a few suggestions for you, my dear readers. I have recently fallen in love with, which features several ideas for Lent. Their video, Ash Wednesday and Lent in Two Minutes ( is really good to review the meaning of this liturgical season. Then, the articles 25 Things to do for Lent (other than Chocolate) ( and The Practical Guide to Lent ( are great resources. Finally, I invite you all to join me in participating in the Fast, Pray, Give Lenten Calendar, which will give us a challenge every day for something to fast from, pray for, and give. I think it’s a great idea.

For 2012, I have been making goals at the beginning of each month and at first I was worried I would have a hard time separating my Lenten penance from my monthly goals (one of which, as you all know, is my book challenge). But, I’ve come up with some ideas that I hope I can stick with. I will share them, not because I want to boast, but because I hope that you, my friends, might hold me accountable. The first is to keep up with that calendar I mentioned above (seriously, it’s pretty cool). The second is to fast from music while I’m getting ready in the mornings (something I truly enjoy) with the intent of using that time for reflection and prayer. One of my students talks about praying in the shower, and I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’m also giving up Netflix, except on Sundays (when I really ought to give it up altogether… I watched ten episodes of Buffy last Sunday… think of the books I could have read instead…). That time I will use either to study, read, or (most importantly) spend it with my community doing something other than watching tv (Amy’s giving it up for Lent). I’m also going to join one of my students in writing my prayers down at night, like Aibileen in The Help. I think this will help me focus and add a new dimension to my prayer life as well as going along with my 2012 goal of writing more often.

What are you all doing for Lent?

Please pray for me!

Health Update

 So, I know some of you (Justin mostly) have been a little worried about my health. Here’s the update as of right now:

Back in January, when I had the ultrasound to look at my gallbladder, there was all kinds of yucky sludge just sitting in it. This meant, according to both my Rolla doctor and the Indy doctor, that my gallbladder is not constricting enough, not emptying.

My test last Monday showed that my gallbladder is operating normally. The blood tests and biopsies show nothing. Apparently, I’m in good health. The plan now is to wait and see if I start getting sick again. If I have another attack (extreme, stabbing pain in my upper right abdomen, back pain, yucky all over feelings), I have to call the doc immediately. Otherwise, we’re going to assume that God chose to heal my gallbladder. I’m hoping that’s the case. I don’t feel like being sick.

January 2012…

I can hardly believe it’s only been a month since I was leaving my “family” in Dallas and spending the night at Emily’s apartment with her and Vanessa. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a month since I’ve been back in Indy. What a full, crazy, blessed month! To be able to see my friends in Dallas and Rolla as well as my Echo fam at the Winter Retreat all in the same month… how awesome is that?

So, I haven’t kept up with my hopes of reading 8 books each month. During January, I only read four. But I think that if you take into consideration the amount of traveling I did, plus that I spent almost a week on retreat, I think it’s acceptable.

Now, I am welcoming in February 2012 with excitement. As I write this, my friends in Dallas are celebrating Groundhog. I wish I could be there to party and go to Travis’ play, but I guess we all have to grow up and leave UD sometime. Now is apparently my chance.

I am looking forward to many things this month, including a trip up to ND, a potential visit from my parents, and finally bidding farewell do my darn gallbladder.

Please pray for me and my students!

P.S. Congrats to Amanda Mebane, who just got engaged!

23 and Resolutions for 2012

So, my birthday week is almost over. Every year, I think of my birthday (January 15, for those of you who don’t know) as a sort of New Year for me. I make New Year’s resolutions and, usually, celebrate with my parents and grandmother. This year, because my housemates were throwing a party, I couldn’t do my traditional dinner with Mom, Dad, and Grandma, but my best friend and old college roommate, Rebecca, came down from Milwaulkee to celebrate with me and Hannah, who is like a cousin and best friend all rolled into one, came too. It was great getting to celebrate with them. Then, yesterday, I celebrated with my community by going out for cupcakes.

At any rate, it’s been a long, busy, filled New Year so far. 2012 seems to be just as busy, if not busier, than 2011. Starting the new year sick from my gallbladder and tired from travel might not have been the smartest way, but the traveling was fun and the gallbladder will be taken care of eventually.

So, my resolutions? Well, to explain the first, I want to share a statistic I read in the December/January issue of Natural Health: “According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the average American only spends 12 minutes a day reading.” (It goes on to say that studies show that regular readers are more likely than non readers to engage in positive civic and individual activities.) This made me think back to the good old days of Mrs. Meusch’s reading class at St. Pats and the 30 minutes a night we were required to read (or 30 pages, since she assumed we could all read at least a page a minute—I mean, it’s not like we were reading Proust). I also thought back to the number of books I successfully completed reading last semester outside of class: 1. It was a book Fr. Jeff asked me to read because the freshmen were reading it and it took me almost the whole semester (as in, I started in August and finished in December) to read it. I mean, sure, I reread five chapters of Henry Adams, intermittently read Pride and Prejudice and The Marble Faun (neither of which have I finished), and read a ton of magazine articles (hence the article mentioned above), but I didn’t actually read books. Now, some of you might not be shocked to hear this, but I was shocked to realize it. For those of you who remember the girl who plowed through fifty to sixty books each semester in Mrs. Meusch’s class, you can see the problem. And I have felt myself getting less and less grammatically correct (truly, I feel myself growing less intelligent by the second sometimes). So, therefore, I need to read books. So my first resolution is to read 100 books in 2012. To help me in this venture, my dear community mate, Patrick, gave me a poster for my birthday that I can record books on as soon as I finish. Currently, 3 weeks into the year, I have one book on it: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (which I read on accident, by the way. I meant to read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, which is on one of my “greatest book” lists, but I downloaded it onto my ipod as a audiobook and then listened to it on the way to Texas, no realizing it was the wrong one. It was a great book, though!). So, I have a lot of reading to do. I’m supposed to be reading 2 books a week, and I’m already 3 books behind (this week isn’t over yet, and I’m almost done with The Things They Carried). Oh well, I’ll catch up. I have quite the pile of books to read and more on lists, but if you have a recommendation, please let me know. Short books that are easy to read are appreciated until I catch up (again, no Proust).

My second resolution is to read the Bible through during 2012, and I started with the Gospels (I started at Advent). I made a schedule, which of course I’m a week behind on. But it’s the thought that counts. And, I’ll catch up eventually when I have time off, or an extreme desire to read the Bible.

My third resolution is to learn how to ride a bicycle. My father bought me one for Christmas (and a bike rack for my car as an early birthday gift) and now my community is going to teach me how to ride it. So far, I’ve determined that I have horrible balance and I’ve managed to fall and bruise myself once (falling off a bike is a little harder on a 23 year old than a 10 year old, I think. I should have learned as a kid, but I didn’t).

I have other resolutions, mostly projects I want to finish (typing my travel journal from Rome, finishing my t-shirt quilt, making a cookbook from my grandmother's recipes). I also want to finally finish memorizing the speech from Henry V (Once more to the breach, dear friends, once more) which I can get halfway though before I get muddled. Unlike the first two, they probably will get done before 2012 is over, but I’m going to need help and encouragement to finish the Bible and read 100 books (by the way, I’m not counting books of the Bible as books… I will count the Old Testament and the New Testament as books).

Let’s see how it goes! 

Quick update and prayer request

Today is one of those rare days when I get to feel really domestic. I didn’t have to work late because the students aren’t back yet and when I got home I made homemade soup (, which has become a way to feed myself by making a huge pot and freezing it so I can take it to work. Then, I even washed the dishes by hand because our industrial dishwasher is on the fritz. Needless to say that now, a little after 9pm, as I drink my tea from my little teapot and sit for what seems like the first time in forever, I’m exhausted.

My to-do list seems a mile long and my to-blog list is almost as daunting. It’s only been a few weeks since I last wrote on Christmas Eve, but so much has happened since then. For example, on Christmas morning I had a gallbladder attack and was too sick to go to Mass (which breaks my heart, since Christmas Mass is so special). After Christmas was over and I had spent a lovely evening with the Mugel ladies watching The Help, I went down to Dallas for a week. It was so wonderful to be “home” again—that’s how I feel about Dallas, like it’s my second home and there are so many people there who I love. On the way down, I stopped at Molly’s, which was like heaven on earth getting to see one of my best friends. We shared gluten free food and talked about our lives. After that wonderful experience, I drove onto Dallas. I wasn’t able to see my old spiritual director, but I was able to see my friends from UD: Jill, Hunter, Mark, Patty, and Gabbi; my dear friends, the Kossuths, and, of course, my family, the Ponikiewski/Parents! Also (and perhaps most importantly), I got to see Dr. John Sommerfeldt!! That’s right, UD students, be jealous. I even got a hug! (He’s my favorite professor ever.)

I got to spend New Year’s Eve with the family. My friend, Mark, came along and we watched Randi, Patty, and Travis play guitar. Trevor ABANDONED US for one of his friends’ parties, which we gave him much grief for.

I might write more about my trip later. It was a wonderful opportunity to see people I love and to reflect on how much has changed in the seven months since I moved away from Dallas. I really want to move back there. I miss that family as much as I miss my own and I wish there was some way that I could have both with me. I’m trying to convince Mom and Dad to move to Dallas with me when I graduate ND.

On the way home, I stayed at my friend Emily’s in Springfield, MO. Emily, Vanessa, and I have made it a tradition for the past six years to spend New Years together, but this year it was a little belated and we celebrated on the fourth. We did have fun, though, until I had another gallbladder attack (my third in two weeks) and spent the whole night sick. Finally, I was feeling better in the morning and ate breakfast with Em then headed back to Rolla.

After that, nothing very exciting happened except two things: one, Aunt Melania had a super awesome concert, which I went to with Hannah, Teresa, and Mom; two: as you might have noticed, I have mentioned my gallbladder several times by now. That would be because I need to have it removed. Right now I’m trying to deal with it by eating according to what will supposedly make my gallbladder happy. A friend has recommended a few things and a website with more information for me. So, I would appreciate prayers for that.

Anyways, I’ll write more later. When I started this, I was home alone but now everyone’s home so I can’t really concentrate on conversation and writing at the same time. 

Christmas Eve Reflections

It’s been a long time since I wrote—almost a month. And like every month in this busy life, a lot has happened since I wrote. The retreat with my students went wonderfully. The semester ended well. I got to spend a day coloring and talking with students and I was reminded yet again how blessed I am to have my job, my students, my mentor, my friends.

Now it is December 24 and as I write this, I am watching the clock slink closer and closer to midnight. It has been a tradition for me as long as I can remember to stay up on Christmas Eve, writing or reading, reflecting. Of course, it is different now. I no longer wait eagerly for the mountain of presents or listen for the bells of Santa’s sleigh. And now, my room (which I had finally gotten organized when I started college) is filled with boxes of random things from my house in Dallas and I’m never really sure where things are or what they are, and I suspect the boxes are mating and multiplying (this pains the neat freak in me, who far prefers organization to chaos).

As I reflect I begin to realize that this Advent was not what I wanted it to be—that my preparation for Christ was not what he deserved. Certainly it involved some failure on my part, some sin or missing the mark, but mostly it involved my inability to slow down, to focus, to concentrate, to reflect. Winter is a time for reflection, as Mother Earth takes her long, deep rest and Persephone spends her months in the underworld with her ghastly groom, I always feel the need to look back, to ponder, and to think about the future. This year, I feel like I failed (as perhaps I have failed every year) to adequately reflect, to adequately prepare. I have long ago shed the childish notion of Christmas as a birthday party for Jesus and embraced it as an opportunity to prepare, as we should all year round, for the second coming and to reflect on the mystery of what happened that night, long ago in a stable in Bethlehem.

At the beginning of Advent this year, as I crept slowly into the cave of my heart, ready to embrace the hibernation that the world around me was entering (something I have not witnessed these last four years, as winter is a stranger most of the time in Dallas… or, perhaps not a stranger, but that annoying friend who comes in the night at some unexpected moment with no warning, and then leaves almost as quickly). I began reading a book by Jan Richardson (In Wisdom’s Path), recommended by S. Donna, SP. I fell in love not only with her writing (particularly her beautiful poetry), but also the image she presented. She presents an idea that she got from a sister from the CSAs, namely that Christ was born in a cave and that Advent is a time to enter the cave of our hearts, the space within us where Christ longs to be born. As I read about Jan’s experience of a slow Advent, I started to feel overwhelmed by my own. I feel guilty commenting on mine, when I know that my housemates were certainly busier than I. Sadly, I think that the majority of my Advent was not passed busily at work like my community’s (although things were more active than Fr. Jeff predicted), but rather that my Advent was spent aimlessly watching television with my housemates (even though I hate tv), passing time on facebook (I didn’t even have the energy for pinterest, which I enjoy much more… a sad statement on my life), and just sleeping. I suppose the sleep is in keeping with the theme of hibernation, but it was a far cry from the reflection that I was hoping to attain (my goal of reading the bible every night fell apart a week before Thanksgiving and I haven’t quite gotten back to it yet, even though I’m at the beginning of Luke, a favorite since I translated it myself).  

Now, here I am, exhausted from the preparations for the commercial celebration of Christmas (I can’t even pretend that wrapping gifts is preparing for the Christ child). Yet, I am also filled with joy after the celebration with my family tonight. I don’t know what it is, but even when I’m not participating in the conversation, just sitting and listening to Travis, Jodie, Kenna, Chris, Madison, Sara and all my other family talk about people I don’t even know or things that happened, I just feel filled with joy. Being with my family, particularly my cousins and their beautiful kids, brings new life and new joy into my heart. The babies (Trustin, Colton, JW, Westin, Bailey, and Tanner), especially, are a blessing. I love them each for their own special gifts. They are all so sweet (though they’re all capable of being what my aunt lovingly terms as “stinkers”). Then, to be with my Aunt Carol and my Aunt Marie, two women whom I have looked up to since I was a little girl, is also a blessing. To have my cousin, Christina, around as well is just wonderful. Perhaps I am channeling Richardson or have spent too much time with the SPs, but I appreciate their feminine energy. I am amazed at their ability to whip up several dishes, decorate, and watch their grandkids all at once. I long to be like that someday, even though my cooking isn’t ideal and my baking has come to almost a standstill since I got serious about the gluten free thing. I know that none of them are perfect at what they do, but I still dream of being able to do it as well as they (because I have no desire to be perfect). I am reminded of Richardson’s cave and wonder if this leaving behind of our normal lives in order to prepare a meal, in the same way my grandmother did before them, and the same way that women have for hundreds of years, is not another way of withdrawing into a cave. Perhaps the images on the wall of woman’s cave really do involve recipes for grandma’s light opera creams or the famous mac n’ cheese that Chris makes in Grandma’s honor at every holiday. It irks the feminist inside of me to admit that I want to have those on the walls of my cave, too; that I, too, long to nourish my family with the work of my hands. Of course, I have never liked Grandma’s light opera creams (sorry, Grandma, but you knew that before and now that you’re in heaven, I’m sure you don’t really care) and any pasta for me has to be gluten free, but surely there’s a way to bring it together, to participate in the feminine heritage that has been passed on from generation to generation. I am reminded of Richardson’s poem, “Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.” The poem comes with a reflection on the Jesse tree’s relationship to the male ancestors of Christ, and she thinks of another tree, forgotten, which contains the names of the female ancestors. I hope that if I ever have children that I will teach them this part of their heritage, their legacy. I love this part of Christmas and I must admit, I miss washing dishes with my aunts, a practice now obsolete since there is a dishwasher.

This has been my celebration so far, and as I write this I notice that there are five minutes left of Christmas Eve. Ready or not, he’s coming.
(Picture: The Family by John Dickson Batten, my favorite picture of the Holy Family) 

Earlier today, I can’t remember what it was that had happened, but I was reflecting on what sort of world it is that Christ is now (and perpetually) being born into. In a world where there is such a disconnect between everything—between humanity and the earth, other animals, each other, between families and friends and husband and wife, a disconnect between Christian and Christ, between the church and the believer… how do we make a connection with this god-man, this child wrapped in swaddling clothes, a God who needs his diapers changed, who dies a gory, bloody death on the cross only to have us turn his incarnation into a commercial event? How do we make sense of it? How do we welcome him in? I am nervous to welcome him in, ashamed. Couldn’t it have been made better for him by Christmas? I find myself thinking of the various stories we hear of war, when there is a cease fire at Christmas and opposing armies would gather together and sing songs before going back to killing one another the next day. I ask myself, what sense does this make? If we could stop killing for one night, why can’t we stop killing for good? What was the meaning of singing songs together, recognizing our common belief in Christ, our common dignity as humans, if we were only going to turn around and kill each other?  Sure, I know the morality behind just war, but just war be damned if we’re going to sing songs together one minute and shoot each other the next. There’s no logic that will make me understand.

And what kind of world is the Christ child being born into when we waste so much? Whenever I’m with my family I try to shut my mouth and ignore the ache that starts in my stomach when I see the piles of disposable plates, the food left on them, unwanted. At least we try to save the scraps for the dogs or the chickens, but even so, the wastefulness of plastic drains me. Yet, I cannot criticize, knowing that my Aunts, already tired, have no desire to rinse tons of dishes and then run the dishwasher the three times it would take if our dishes were real. We trade one evil for another and then invite the Christ child to enter, unsure of which was worse.

Perhaps I am rambling on. The time is late. I am now five minutes into the feast and my body is telling me it’s time to sleep. Ignoring the seasons and the sun’s path have ruined my internal clock, as it does everyone’s. I will go now, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a year filled with many blessings. If you are interested in Richardson, let me share with you one of her poems which has intrigued me today. I am trying to do a writing retreat with her next semester, if I can get it arranged.

A Woman in Winter
(from In Wisdom’s Path by Jan Richardson, page 18)

A woman in winter
is winter:
turning inward,
elemental force,
time’s reconing;
sudden frost
and fire’s warming,
depth of loss
and edge of storming.
She is avalanche,
quiet hungering,
utter stillness,
snowfall brewing;
hollowed, hallowed,
shadows casting,
field in fallow,
wisdom gathering.
Waiting, watching,
darkness craving,
reaching, laboring;
burning, carrying fire
within her,
a woman turning,
becoming winter.