Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!

In honor of the holiday, you get to see the family's favorite Halloween costumes ever devised by my loving mother. My dear mother sent it to me, after reading my haikus. (She felt there was some reason I identified so deeply with sticks of butter.) She has gotten so much grief from me and my sister over the years for dressing us as a stick of butter and a peanut, respectively. (My younger brother seems not to have minded nor still mind being a jar of jelly. I personally think his costume makes him look like a small purple alien.) That Halloween, I definitely enjoyed my costume up to a certain point. After all, my sister was in constant chagrin over her peanut costume, and would much rather have been the stick of butter. Because my sister desired something I had, said possession became immediately much more indispensably precious to me.
(However, we both decided our little brother had the best costume. After tripping on my cardboard box while walking up the front porch stairs of a house, I decided my butter stick costume wasn't the best option after all.)
There's a hilarious-yet-utterly-pathetic picture of me and my preschool class on Halloween. Literally every single girl is dressed in a sparkly Princess/Angel costume. Except me.
I'm located in one of the back rows, rocking the butter yellow long johns and a foil-covered cardboard box.
I went as a stick of butter.
See, in the above picture, we look adorable, because you get the full effect:
Oh, look. Peanut...Butter...Jelly...Peanut Butter and Jelly! Oh that's just too cute.
And I'll grant you we look mighty fine all together. In retrospect, it's one of the darn cutest ideas in the world that I'm probably stealing for my kids' Halloween costumes.

But still.

There's that picture of a lone stick of butter in a sea of princesses.

Story of my life.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

set fire to the rain

Some weekends are more eventful than others. This weekend was particularly so.
I know most of you are under the impression that Halloween has yet to happen, but for college students, Halloween is a done deal. We've had our weekend of festivities (which were sadly lacking-in my humble opinion-in the candy department), and thus dressing up in costume on the actual day is an activity most students don't take part in.
Well, my weekend started out most beautifully on Thursday evening with the Disney Princess Birthday Party. It was the most beautiful of evenings. My heart was trilling as I walked over under the beautiful starry sky to pick up my party-planning friends and set-up for the party. It was a thrilling feeling-being dressed in a beautiful costume (Aurora/Sleeping Beauty), having neatly curled hair, walking with purpose, knowing that you will have an incredibly wonderful evening, no matter what happens, but desperately wanting everything to be just right. I thought to myself: "If I'm this excited for my 20th birthday party, I can't even imagine how excited I'll be for my wedding." It was a truly magical evening. With the help of a few wonderful (non-animal) friends, we had that apartment transformed into a enchantingly-lit, Princess-fied room. We danced, we laughed, we chatted, we celebrated that night away. Disney Princess style. I literally could not have imagined a happier evening.
Friday's celebrations were particularly magical. I was stymied for a costume, so I went with my eternal back-up: Disney Princess (this time I was Megara from Hercules). One of my friends dressed as an Occupy Wall Street protestor, and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard. Life was bright, adrenaline-filled, joyful, and beautiful on Friday night. The world sparkled with a thousand smiles and every single moment was filled to the brim with life-pulsing, rushing, vibrant life.
Finally, Saturday night rolled around, and instead of heading off to my friend's apartment for a post-dinner party-prepping gab sesh, I stumbled to my sister's room, doubled over in severe abdominal pain. After talking to my father via cellular phone, we determined that I should definitely visit the health center. So my sister abandoned all hope of a fun Saturday night, and headed off with me to the health center. Essentially, the nurses there informed me-"You may or may not have appendicitis. You should go to the ER."
So they called security, who escorted my loyal sister and me to the hospital. It was a fantastic ride. Both of the policemen possessed snarky senses of humor that birthed such comments as: "The appendix: an organ who's only function is to get infected and kill you. Great." And: "That skunk you're smelling? Little known fact: the smell of skunk is a cure for appendicitis." They were winners, that's for sure. We discussed Disney Princesses (I talk about them on the daily. Is that really so unusual?), and made cracks about my sister being a felon, and just in general had a great life chat. Then, at the hospital, I was escorted into a bright, happy room with muted green colors. The two nurses entered soon after, and helped me get situated.
After my CT scan, two beautiful friends of mine showed up to keep me company-in full Halloween regalia. They had gotten utterly, completely, and hopelessly lost while trying to find the hospital, but they came anyways. We wound up taking pictures, laughing, joking, and wondering at the fact that we were in a hospital on a Saturday night, and having the time of our lives. The young, energetic nurse that was my primary care-giver was just a splendid human being. She helped us take pictures, dubbed us a "slumber party," and listened to all the stories we regaled her with. She was a saint.
I don't know if it was the .007 oz of dilaudid that the nurse slipped into my IV before I stopped her, but everything that night-with the obvious exception of the abdominal pain-was making me very, very happy. Everyone I met was a beautiful specimen of humanity who made my night infinitely more beautiful just by being present. Although I spent Saturday night in the hospital, this has been the happiest of weeks. Seriously. In all honesty, Saturday night may have been the happiest of the nights. And I believe the happiness sprung from the fact that I have felt so phenomenally loved this entire week. And I have had so many wonderful people surrounding me to share these moments of love and happiness with. Love begets love, and happiness begets happiness. I despise most of Mark Twain's writings, but one quote of his I love is: "To get the full value of a joy, it must be shared." What a wise man.
Not to gush-who am I kidding, this post is an out-an-out gush-fest-but every time I think of all the gifts I have received this week, I just smile. And I'm not talking about material gifts, but rather, the real gifts. The time, love, creativity, love, friendship, conversations, memories, meals, celebrations, and love that everyone has given to me and shared with me this week have made my cup runneth over completely. life is simply marvelous. Simply incredibly marvelous. To top it off, at mass this morning, we sang Thaxtet's "Oh God Beyond all Praising." As my friend said: "There's no way it can be a bad day if we sing the Thaxtet." We'll triumph through our sorrows, and rise to bless you still, dear Lord.
Marvel at your beauty.
Glory in your ways.
The world resounds with the glory of God.
It will shine out-like shook foil.*
Every moment is exquisitely crafted in incredible beauty by the Divine Creator. And it can barely be stood, the beauty is so sublime.
I love it-I drink it in and empty it to the dregs. Life is so good right now.
Whether our tomorrows be filled with Good or Ill-
It doesn't matter.
Because God is in this moment. This moment, right now.
And this moment is all I need.

*(to paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

light a little light down here

The whirling circle of the sacred year,

Returns me to the place where we began,

Familiar sights and sighs meet eye and ear,

Road markers on a path I did not plan.

Each bench is now a home to lingering shades

Which summon smiles and memories of light

That pierced our armor, leveled our blockades.

Your flame and mine unite to face the night,

Entwining youths: two souls, two lips both meet.

But candles sizzle out, smothered by night

And winter’s cold conquered love’s tender heat.

Our story but an interlude of light-

A tale cut short- it had but just begun

Will new dawn break or has the darkness won?

Friday, October 28, 2011

haikus for the single woman

I am a
stick of butter.
I live on my own.

Not in a pack of four. The fridge is my kingdom.
My armor is strong.

Nothing will melt me.
ovens, microwaves, or sun.
All futile.

Structural integrity is not my
strong suit.
It's easy to melt.

Melting is painful and ruins
the purity
of grade A butter.

Give me the fridge.
Give me my armor
Keep cold,
am safe.

Man Week

Even better than Shark week...

Auntie Seraphic from Seraphic Singles wrote a couple of delightful and insightful articles about men.
Here is a blog post in which Seraphic states a simple, but often forgotten truth: Men are who they are-not who we would wish them to be. (This statement also applies to people in general. But Auntie Seraphic is writing to an audience of single women, many of whom are maybe-not-quite-but-almost-borderline-husband-hunters, so she's mostly focusing on the fact that you can't manipulate the opposite gender into being your personal ideal of said gender. If her audience was men, then she would say: "Women are who they are-not who we would wish them to be.")

Because her audience is made up of maybe-not-quite-but-almost-boderline-husband-hunters, she states truths like: "the truth of the matter is that all men, although they share maleness and thus tend to share certain behaviours, are unique, and that should always be taken into consideration." These truths may seem obvious, but they are très importante to remember.

This is another Seraphic post, in which she mourns the rifts and hurts that our society has created between the sexes, aptly titled compassion. There are so many times I've groaned about how "Guys are stupid," or "Meeeeennnnn" or any number of ridiculous generalizations that are radically untrue about the male sex.

I was discussing the Alice Von Hildebrand book "The Privilege of Being a Woman" with my friend. We were discussing the issues with the book, and one of them is the fact that Von Hildebrand doesn't seem to account for the universality of some feelings. Yes, there are some aspects of being a woman that are particular to woman, but my friend felt like there were a lot of statements she made that applied to human beings as a whole. She had a really good point-people are people, and men and women are a little more alike than we give them credit for. Once we realize that truth, then we can indeed be more compassionate, loving people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Eat Like a Baby Dinosaur

I watched No Strings Attached the other weeknight (when I should have been doing school. Whatevs.)
I remember seeing previews in movie theaters and having a knee-jerk reaction of: eww.
And I kind of still have the same reaction. I think the movie itself is a sweet story and has a good message. The ending shot of our two protagonists clasping hands is the epitome of all adorableness. It's a simple gesture, but very sweet. But it's so sad-the whole movie is all backwards. They jump into bed together before they're even friends, before they even really know the other person at all. meerrrggghh. It's so very frustrating, because it's such a common story. And the way in which they use each other is just so very awful and hurtful.

The whole movie is very detached from reality(okay, it's a chick-flick, I'll give you that. But STILL). The movie-makers think they're being rather clever for having the girl suggest the idea of a emotionally-detached sexual relationship, and having the guy being head over heels for her from the beginning. Think again. It's really like it's a great honor for any person--female or otherwise-- to be cast in the role of "emotionally immature stunted person who needs to learn to get a life." It's not like it's an awful role, but giving it to a woman is not necessarily a witty eschewing of gender stereotypes. 
Just sayin'.

What upsets me about this movie is that it just sort of ignores the way the world works. I mean, the obvious one, for starters: you can't use someone for sex. 
Sorry, that's not allowed. 
Whether or not you want it to be allowed or pretend that it's allowed is moot. That's simply just not the way sex works. But this is a larger conversation. On to my main point:
This is the thing about other people:
They're another person with feelings, thoughts, ideas, emotions, dreams, hopes and plans of their own. And some of them, unfortunately, may not include you, in fact may be contrary to your wishes for your own life. That's called Reality
The Reality is that we're not all independent little islands in the sea of life: we're part of a community called humanity. Ergo, fully partaking in this community necessitates that you make some sacrifices. That's what living in community requires. It means that sometimes you want to go to bed, but your roommate wants to stay up. Which means you may just have to suck it up and stay up another thirty minutes because the lights in the room are on. That's okay. It really won't kill you.
It may mean that your neighbors down the hall are trying to study while you're having a rambunctious Arrested Development-watching party with your friends. You may have to reduce your noise level. It may inconvenience you, but that's life.

You can't, despite what Burger King tries to tell us, have it your way. The real world is this: there are things you can't control. There are things you can't have. There are things you shouldn't do, because they're wrong. If the alternative is that you have to undergo suffering or discomfort, then so be it. The world is not comfortable. It is beautiful, dangerous, joyful, incredible, awe-inspiring, lovely and magnificent. But it's not comfortable. He's not a tame lion. Christianity, you see, is a bit harder than most people believe it to be.

I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

Mergh. That's not very comfortable. In fact that sounds rather awful. 
But I think Jesus is speaking realistically. This saying is hard and who can accept it? People are much more likely to believe anything but the Truth. 
Because the Truth makes you see the lies in your own life. 
The Truth is difficult, divisive, and it bursts the comfortable little bubble of our safe little islands. 
But without the Truth, we are lost. 
The Truth is what sets us free (John 8:32). 
The Truth is our only hope for living a life of purpose, beauty and passion. 
And that, despite the sweet ending and cutesy dialogue, was exactly what this movie lacked: purpose, beauty and passion. 
Because unfortunately, we come into life with strings attached, and there's no possible way for us ever to break them. You can't cut the lifelines that are holding your island to other islands, holding our islands safe to the mainland.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

all that's gold does not glitter

All the laughter, all the pain, all the birthing and living and dying and glory, all our stories, without exception, are given dignity by God's awareness and concern. --Madeliene L'Engle

It's been a beautiful birthday. It started off with a delightful little party-planning session at my friend's apartment.

[Aside: We were planning a Disney Princess Party. That's right, folks. I'm in college, and I'm celebrating my birthday princess style. Please don't make that weird. It's not. Disney Princesses are the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, they landed me my summer job. When I went into the office to turn in my acceptance paperwork, I learned that I've already been labeled as "the Disney Princess." It would be untruthful of me to say that my soul was not overflowing with utter joy.]

So, be that as it may, we finished our party-planning, and sat down to watch Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which she had to watch for a class. I love old movies, but you definitely have to be in the mental mood for them. As soon as the opening credits roll, you have to tell yourself: I am going to watch this movie, enjoy it, and appreciate the complex themes and artistry. I will! I will! But if you neglect to tell yourself that, then you'll probably fall asleep. Which I did, in record time. I wake up roughly 45 minutes later, a few minutes after midnight, and as I sleepily opened my eyes, I noted a familiar face. Then another. And another. And then a whole bunch of smiling, happy faces of friends. And then my friend who was hosting these shenanigans popped up at my elbow with a cookie cake (I adooooore cookie cake.)! And everyone laughed and talked and hugged and laughed and chatted and laughed for a good solid hour. It was finna marvelous. And definitely the absolute perfect way to start my birthday.

Furthermore, today was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out, the weather was perfect to a T. I started the morning right by skyping a dear friend from back home, then I rushed to poetry class. Poetry class was phenomenal. I closed my eyes at some points and just let the words of Shelley's Alastor soak into my skin. Then sometimes I listened to our professor talk and talk and thought: "What a blessing it is to be at this University. How lucky I am to be able to study." How ridiculously, utterly blessed I am to be able to study the beautiful poetic works of geniuses. We forget too easily that we're lucky that we know how to read, much less know algebra or calculus, or that type of thing. We're so blessed that we get to study at a University, where we can discuss thoughts and ideas and educate our hearts and our minds. We are so blessed. And I'm so blessed to be here. It's not a place for doing. It's a place for being. For being alive.

Birthdays are wonderful, because they are the days you simply celebrate the very fact that you're breathing. And every little thing that happens is a celebration. That's why birthdays are such happy days. I think it's nearly impossible to have a bad day. (Unless you're thirteen and at a highly sensitive time of the lunar cycle and your mom decides that your birthday is the perfect day to get the carpets cleaned, thus you are kicked out of the house for the afternoon. You may spend a good solid hour of that birthday sobbing your poor little eyes out in the minivan in the garage. Those are rough times. Thankfully, thirteen does not last forever. Also, thankfully teenagerhood does not last forever. It's so nice to be twenty, and have completely risen above partaking in hormonal temper tantrums. HA.)

But here are little birthday happinesses that added up to an amazing day:

First off: the weather was perfect to a t. It was my favorite kind: a little chilly, but bright and sunny and super autumnal. Secondly, our group leader from GoL accepted my friend request on Facebook. That may or may not have been a highlight of my day. I love her. Thirdly, I got birthday lunch with my dorm older/twin sister and birthday dinner with my real older/twin sister. Both meals were fantastic and marvelous and they made me so happy that I have these gorgeous and incredible women in my life. One gift I take for granted is how completely amazing all the women in my life are. Take my mom, for instance: My mom defies description. I've always taken her for granted (sorry, Mom) but when I tell people "Oh yeah, so she did ballet in NYC, then got her Masters in Engineering from Rice, and now has six kids and homeschooled them all. Runs a local ballet company's costume department and is completely BA." Their jaws drop, "So she's basically Superwoman?" I mean, yeah. She takes "stay-at-home mom" to a new level. And then there are all the beautiful ladies who have taught me what it means to be an artist, a woman of God, a fighter, a leader, a listener, a sister, a servant, a friend. So thankful for them all. Fourthly, my dorm big sister gave me a little book of Jane Austen quizzes and puzzles. Such a simple gift, but it meant worlds to me. It's so beautiful to have people who know you so well, who know your loves and your likings and your favorite things. Plus, it was Jane Austen. Anything to do with Jane Austen is great in my book. Fifthly, I got to Skype and call dear friends from back home. I was sitting by the library, talking with my little marmoset on the phone, and the wind swept up all the autumn leaves and blew them around. And it was one of those precious moments where you think: There is absolutely nowhere I would rathe be right now. And there's absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing. And there's no one else I'd like to be with. It's just such a very satisfying and cozy feeling. It's a pumpkin pie moment.

Finally, I went to Mass last night, and that concluded my birthday. I fell asleep studying studying with a friend. And that was my birthday.

It was perfect. #winning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Mwah. I love.

Check out this adorable interview.

Merrfff. More love.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumanl Breakin', Last Day

I'm sitting in Starbucks, with the other hip 20 somethings, getting "work" done. Except I'm not doing work, I'm writing a blog post. I've definitely fallen in love with not only this city, but the idea of being a student/young professional in this city. Traveling, I believe, should help you discover passions. And I definitely discovered a renewed passion for the pro-life cause. And I'm so grateful for all the discussions we had about all the issues we were dealing with.
So, one of the reasons I had spurts of posting during the trip was because Washington Seminar Center has wifi, but it's about as reliable as a chimpanzee navigating a 747 in a hurricane. So, I was not able to post this post (I had seminar reading that had to get done, ya know).
Anyhow, when we were on the train, our group sat in a circle, clogging up the aisle, and having a grand old time laughing. We'd been serious all week (kind of), and the last day all together we just laughed ourselves silly. After sharing first impressions of the group, we realized no one really liked each other during the class periods. But, after spending a week together, we all loved each other exponentially more.
Yesterday, we ran into several GoLifers outside the dining hall, and each was attacked with a big bear hug. It was phenomenal. It's phenomenal to have friends that you can glomp after traveling across the country with them. Traveling with people brings you together like nothing else. Everyone should have the experience of road-tripping with friends. Road-trippin' with families is phenomenal-there's travel BINGO, fighting, laughing, bickering, and lots and lots of family bonding. When you travel with friends, they become your family. There's lots of laughing, inside jokes, and also maybe a little bickering, but you get cemented together in this crazy way that I can't even describe. It's an incredible gift, and I'm so thankful I got my week in D.C. with a crazy group of lovely people.
I was at the grotto after our GoLifer lunch on Friday, and I knelt down in front of Mary. My first thought was: Oooh, haven't done this in a long time. Then my second thought was: but God was so present this week. He was present in the love of the group, in the people that we met, in the honest, difficult conversations we had, in all the prayers I would offer up before opening my mouth to speak. God was so present in such a unique way this week, and I'm so incredibly grateful that I got to be a part of it. After completing this seminar, I think part of our call is to continue to discuss the Gospel of Life. All of us are so passionate about this issue (maybe too much so...I went on a date yesterday and we wound up discussing abortion and abortion law. Not your standard first date conversation material by any standards, I'm afraid. But it was a marvelous conversation. #whenprolifenerdsdate #TFLM), and although all of us have slightly different ways of dealing with and looking at life issues, we all care. And that's the important thing-once people care: care about the women, children, fathers, grandmothers, and people these issues are affecting, then whether pro-life or pro-choice they can't help but want to fight for life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumnal Breakin', Day 5

Today started off with a victory and a lesson. 
Victory: I fit into my size four dress pants that I haven’t worn, I swear, since junior year. 
Definitely an “I am woman, hear me roar” moment. 

Lesson: If you don’t say “good morning” with a smile, it’s not a real good morning. 

My day got off to a great start. 
The highlights of my day were a text from my dad, which verbatim read: “Hope u r doing well, love. dad” I miss the man. 
That text made me smile so big. 
And then I got this quote from my momma: 
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is in the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Theresa 

After hearing so many people speak non-stop about their opinions, you realize that talk is so useless. Listening is so instrumental and silence-letting silence seep into your soul is important. We need silence to think and grow and flourish. 
My throat has been hurting something awful fierce these past feel days. It feels like I swallowed a cactus, in fact. Honestly, though, this has been a very good thing, because if I tried to speak, thousands of tiny cactus needles made that a difficult chore. So, I would only speak when I deemed it absolutely necessary, which cut down on a lot of extraneous “I like to hear myself talk” words. And, furthermore, when I have been speaking, I speak more softly, so I sound more gentle. This came in handy during the Catholics for Choice meeting (George Weigel later summed up our feelings about them very aptly, when he succinctly wrote them off with a one-liner “They’re not a real organization.”) when any question I put to them was asked in a low, calm voice. And also, if you can’t talk as much, you have to listen more. This week has really reinforced the value of listening. Most people just want to know that you’ve heard they’re story, truly listened and absorbed it and understood it. They often don’t care if you agree or not-they just want you to give it a fair shot.

 Speaking of George Weigel, I met him. I wrote about him previously on this blog, in this review of his book. He was hilarious-very Chestertonian, as one girl pointed out. When I entered the meeting room where everyone was sitting, he was sitting at the head of the conference table, eating chili. This simple theologian and biographer of Pope John Paul II was given deference by his two companions. And his two companions were Yuval Levin, head of George W. Bush’s council on bioethics, and Jim Capretta, who also previously hailed from a presidential council, and was a congressman in a previous life. These two incredibly powerful and intelligent man gave the place of honor to a chili-eating Catholic with a wry sense of humor. It was the most enlightening conversation we had all day. 
George Weigel made Chestertonian statements: “Sometimes you have to hit the jackass over the head with a two-by-four. Whack.” But then countered them with incredible compassion and intelligence. Dr. Levin was direct, to-the-point, and clearly enlightening, like a laser. Mr. Capretta was so contemplative and calm-he seemed like a peaceful, happy spirit. They made a fantastic team, and even though it was a post-lunch conversation, it was incredibly stimulating-definitely not soporific in the least. That was the highlight of my day. 

So, being in D.C. has awakened a dream that stirred within my soul when I last visited D.C. Here it is: I want to be First Lady. Laugh all you want, my career aspirations are to be the First Lady of the United States. Think of how much influence you have. In fact, I think it’s the most influential position you can have in which you don’t have to sell your soul to politics. I can be a fashion icon, a home decorator, and I can choose any cause I want to champion. How freaking awesome is that? My friend has been telling me about Heartbeat International, which works to help women afford pregnancy. Here’s a sad truth about our country: if a woman gets pregnant, especially a single working woman, her workplace would rather she get an abortion. A decent length of fully paid maternity, far from being the norm in the U.S. is practically non-existent. The rights of working mothers are definitely causes I can see myself advocating with passion and commitment. In fact, I’ve been getting ridiculously excited the whole trip about being a First Lady whose mission is working mother’s rights. I’m obsessed. It’s an issue. And this group is not helping me. In fact they’re aiding and abetting me. At every turn, I hear the sweet music of “when you’re the First Lady,” “if you become the First Lady,” “you’d make a great First Lady,” and my soul flip-flops with joy. 
It’s fair to point out, this is not a dream I have control over in any way whatsoever. But a girl can dream, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumanl Breakin' Day 4: Sleep Deprived Edition

Fully intending to get to bed at midnight, I ended up staying awake until 3:00 am discussing life, God, the universe and everything with a friend. It was an incredible conversation, and I learned so much. But I got approximately four hours of sleep. This resulted in three things:

Firstly, everything was really, really funny. Our Capitol tour guide who was in love with Henry Clay was really funny. Every group inside joke was really funny. The hunky, rugged, mountain man of a congressional/legislative intern was really funny. The head of a moose named Oscar that was living on the wall of Senator Ayotte’s office was down right hilarious.

Secondly, those high heels I was wearing were a struggle. Oh they were a struggle. I wore those high heels the day before, and I was fine. But today. Today they were a struggle bus to Pain-ville. Our talkative tour guide was discussing the details of a faux-frieze painting, and all I wanted was to sit down.

Thirdly, I was falling asleep during an incredible talk by a USCCB representative. It was awful. We were all nodding off at different intervals-we tag-teamed asking questions, and pretending to pay attention. I pulled the “I’m looking at this pamphlet and really intensely studying it while letting my head rest on my hand.” My notes from that session are a bunch of random scribbles. I can make out “justification,” “pro-life movement,” “support,” and “exception.” Well done. We all thanked him profusely as we left, because we felt awful for not actually paying attention to his talk.

Fourthly, I was falling asleep at the dinner party we went to that night. I also felt awful, because it was a delightful party in an adorable dream apartment, with a ton of cool Notre Dame alums. It was a little slice of real life, and I loved it. But, it was 10pm and I was tired. My body had suffered through loquacious tour guides and painful high heels and very cold marble halls of justice. It was beddy-bye time for me.

One of the most productive activities of the day, which we did while waiting in the reception room of Senator Ayotte’s office suite was identifying what animal each member of our group was. It was quite enlightening. You can always tell so much about a person’s character by what animal they would be. Our group consists of a meerkat, owl, koala, dolphin, lemur, bunny, mama cow, fawn, foal, skunk, and lamb. Our leaders were a little more difficult to pin down. One of them is definitely a gecko. And then, walking up capital hill, we finally realized that the other is a lioness. They embrace their respective animals whole-heartedly. And we love them all the more for it.

I think the quote of the day is Chesterton’s: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” I think that encapsulates my attitudes now. I think so many people are afraid to seek the Truth because it’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s a dangerous thing, staking your life on a Truth. We often fail to live our lives the way we ought to. But just because we’re going to fail at living out the Truth, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there is a definite, objective Truth that we should strive for, even when its practical application is difficult.

As Richard Doehflinger of the USCCB said, there’s an over-arching teaching of the church, which is that all life is sacred, and that we should never deliberately harm innocent human life. And when we know that to be true, then we can approach difficult ethical situations with discernment and using our judgment. It’s a mature way to approach situations.

Highlight of the day: seeing the Senate in session. It was so surreal to see the government at work. It was incredible to walk through those winding halls back to the congress galleries, file in, and watch the politicians make some government happen. All the ceremony and ritual that surrounded it were so inspiring. I absolutely loved it. And of course, we were discussing our favorite Disney Princesses the entire time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Autumnal Breakin' Day 3

Today was a full day. Full. In every single sense of the word. Our group is a beautiful mix of compassionate, scientific, intelligent, thoughtful people, and our discussions reflect that. We started off the day at the Death Penalty Info Center, which is a non-partisan group that is dedicated to exposing flaws in the public policy of the death penalty. That was generally uncontroversial. Then, we visited the Pew Forum, which was also non-controversial research center, which was in a beautiful building, with modern architecture and free coffee. Clearly, we enjoyed the Pew Forum. We looked at various statistics regarding public opinions about politicians and life issues, and religion and life issues. We discussed the importance of a politician’s religion, and his views on life issues and how the public perceives it.
Full of good coffee, interesting thoughts, and happy feelings, we trotted through downtown D.C. to find the National Right to Life office building. That meeting was in a word, unfortunate. Majorly unfortunate. After the professionalism and the stimulating intellectualism of the Pew Forum, the spokesman was rather disappointing. He came across as narrow-mindedly extremist. Very focused on dealing with the issues how he wanted to deal with them, and I think his message suffered from it. We all left with a bad taste in our mouths. It was rather embarrassing for the very solid pro-lifers in the group, because it was such an awful representation of the pro-life movement.

Our last stop of the day was the Supreme Court building. We had a meeting with Justice Scalia, which was fantastic. We were shown to a small audience chamber, and were told to wait for the justice. We were all sitting on edge, waiting for the man to walk into the room. It was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. As soon as he walked into the room, he emanated this power, and this confidence in his own power. He was blunt, and wryly funny, and very Italian. “What do I know about what the average American thinks?” said Justice Scalia, “I come from an elite group from the best law schools, stuck in a marble palace. What do I know about what the boys in the bar?” That quote really struck me. It conjured up a really Romantic image of a judge imprisoned in a beautiful cage. A sort of poor little rich man who wants to be a boy in the bar, but knows he can’t.

It was an incredibly rewarding day-we talked ourselves silly, and spent an hour discussing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the evening. What I find so incredible about this group is that they love these issues and they discuss them non-stop. We’ve exchanged so many ideas over the past few days. I’ve learned so much about how people think so differently. As in, people approach these problems with radically different mental mindsets, which accounts for the huge variety of views that exist around those life issues.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumnal Breakin, Day 2

Started the day out right with a midnight tour of the monuments. There’s nothing like seeing the WWII memorial lit up at night-the water reflects off all the pools of water and the spraying fountains, and casts a golden light over the entire monument. It was absolutely stunning.

After a good night’s rest, we headed off to Mass at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Going back to the Basilica is always a special pilgrimage. In the crypt, there is a small, inconspicuous little side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Slovenia. There, engraved on the wall in gold writing is a quote, which reads: “This is all I desire: to be where God wants me to be.” When I was college visiting, I saw that quote, and I felt such peace-I knew that all I had to find out was where God wanted me to be. Although it might seem easier to find out where I want to be, I don’t think that’s the case. Human beings are so notoriously changeable and trying to discern what we want is usually a supremely difficult chore. Asking God for guidance, and listening to His call is, in a way, much easier. Counter-intuitive, but true. And that’s how I ended up at Notre Dame. Last January, I was in D.C. for the March for Life, and I visited that quote again. Halfway through freshman year, I needed a reminder that that was all that mattered-to be where God wanted me to be. How blessed I am that Notre Dame is that place.

We had a long hard day of fun-visiting Smithsonians and exploring the city. We ended the day in Georgetown, eating dinner in the garden of an adorable little burger joint. We had dinner with some old Notre Dame friends. I was talking with one of them-also a PLS major-about life after Notre Dame. It sounded like a fairytale. She described the network of Notre Dame alumni, University of Dallas, Steubenville, CUA, all these students of different colleges and universities living together, partying together, talking about Aristotle and the Catechism together, and just in general sharing life together. It sounded too good to be true. It made me so happy. We walked back to the center, surrounded by the sounds and sights of the city at night. I love the city at night. It makes you feel so alive.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumnal Breakin', Day 1

Hola, lovely peeps! This fall break, I’m embarking on a wee little adventure to D.C. Thirteen of us (oh for a Bagginses to round out the number) are travelling together, exploring the city, and eating together. And, most importantly, we’re figuring out what it means to for humans to live with dignity. What it means to have a right to life, who determines the quality of life, and how our society- cultural morés, technology, and human development-has impacted our view of life issues.

We left ND at 9:00 yesterday, and boarded an Amtrak train. The ride was absolutely, positively glorious. You could see the twinklings of stars and patches of clouds blotted against the pitch black night. We were all huddled out on the platform, breathing the crisp fall air, waiting impatiently for the train to come. Then, out of the still night came a shrill whistle. We all perked up, looked up, and saw the train barreling towards us. Then, we piled into the last car, handed our luggage to the attendant (who made mock sounds of annoyance everytime a student handed him another “brick”), and clambered up the stairs to our seats.

I settled down into a window seat, which was absolutely perfect. My Gypsy Mermaid friend sat down next to me, and we chitter-chatted away. We discovered how to lean the seatback back, and how to pull the footrest up-little triumphs, my friends, little triumphs. [Tangent: Those moments represent too well my attitude towards technology and machinery in general. Basically, every single piece of machinery poses a challenge to me-it’s a puzzle that I have to crack. It’s laughing at you saying: “Haha, stupid human, try to figure out how to work me. You might as well just give up, because it’s nearly impossible.” And then when you do find out how it works, a thrill of triumph fills your soul, and you want to proclaim: “I am human, hear me roar! My natural intelligence, innovation and creativity can conquer any freaking challenge posed to me by man or beast! Take that, Amtrak train seat!”]

Anyhow, we were graced with an attendant by the name of Jerry. GM and I decided our goal for the 16 hour train ride was to become best friends with Jerry. I think we succeeded. Jerry gave us his “taking-care-of-business-introductory-speech.” After learning the rules of the train, we settled down for pre-sleep chit-chat. After an hour or two of soul-sharing, it was time to hit the hay. Easier said than done. I think everyone tried at least five different sleep positions that night, as we tried to make ourselves comfortable on the extremely soft and cozy but awkwardly shaped seats. The ability of the human body to doze off more easily in an uncomfortable lecture chair at 1:30 pm rather than a soft lounge chair at 11:00 pm astounds me.

Next time, I’m sleeping in the observation car.

At 7:15 am the next morning, we awoke to the melodious sounds of Jerry’s voice announcing that “breakfast is being served in the dining car and has been being served since 6:30 this morning.” [Translation: “Breakfast has been being served for over an hour. Get the h-ll into breakfast.”] After spending a few minutes gathering ourselves together and admiring the beautiful autumn Appalachian scenery, we obeyed Jerry’s commands and wandered through about four cars until we finally found the dining car. There, GM and I had a lovely breakfast with our new friends Jennifer and Katria. They were heading into D.C. for the dedication of the MLK memorial. I felt like I was in the middle of an Agatha Christie novel-there we were, eating potatoes, eggs, and buttered biscuits with jam, chatting it up with two delightful elderly women, who were full of the bustling energy of active minds and spirits. They spoke about their philanthropic works, about their sorority work, and about their university life. It was delightful-it was the camaraderie of travelling. Much to our delight, Jerry sat down for his breakfast at the table next to us, and we talked with him after our lady companions left. Although he’d only slept two hours, Jerry didn’t drink a single drop of coffee with his food. I was impressed. Although GM only drinks water, the other three breakfast-ers of us at the table had all downed cups of the awfully watery coffee. Jerry’s drug of choice was Diet Coke. “I know you’ve got a stash of it back there,” he warned us. We protested that we would never withhold diet coke from our friend Jerry. Never.

GM and I wandered downstairs to the lounge car, and met Mike the Snack Shop owner. Mike asked us why we were going to Washington, and we explained the purpose of the seminar. Mike told us the story of his best friend’s dad who died in a car accident. He was brought life by the EMTs not once, not twice, but five times. And after he was left paralyzed, the family decided to put him to death. After withdrawing medicine, then oxygen, they finally upped the morphine intake and then cut-off the nourishment supply. Mike said: “It makes my skin crawl just to think about it.” I was so humbled and honored that he shared his story with us-that he shared the story of his friend and his dad with us. It was incredible to hear from a man who is frightened by the choices that technology puts to us. That was horrified not only that his friend’s family starved his dad to death, but the medical staff did so after resuscitating him five times. He kept on saying: “It’s not natural.”

After having the “best conversation of the week” with Mike, we went upstairs and sat gaping at the breath-taking scenery of the moutains. Craggy rock fixtures, brilliant fall colors, rivulets and mini waterfalls falling through the rocks, and brilliant sunlight streaming through the clouds gave the whole trip and air of complete wonder. Jerry came back to visit the car of rowdy Golden Domers, and GM offered him a Twix from her private stash. Jerry scorned the chocolate, and we spent a good half and hour becoming best friends with Jerry. Success.

When we arrived in D.C., there was a whirlwind of activity as we hustled off the platform, into Union Station, out of Union Station, across capitol hill to our little bug-infested seminar building. There was a spider in the bathroom, a dead roach by the TV, and a cricket named Henry on the couch, but hey, it’s home. It’s a home that had to be stocked with groceries. After visiting an adorable green café/fro-yo shop, we all split up, and I ended up with the grocery-buying clan. You learn so much about people when you grocery-shop. Grocery shopping says so much about your background, where you come from, what you value, how you grew up, and your lifestyle. It’s a side of people you rarely get to see on a college campus. It was fantastic. I was sorely tempted to buy a big box of Uncrustables, but I resisted. I’d rather spend the money on more localvore fare like the SweetGreens restaurant.

Day One of a fantastic week down. 5 more to go!

Monday, October 10, 2011

take root and bloom

"...There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar.[...]

Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow with divine grace, generously and without half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness. And, in the face of our weaknesseswhich sometimes overwhelm us, we can rely on the mercy of the Lord who is always ready to help us again and who offers us pardon in the sacrament of Penance.[...]

Build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe..."

Read the full text of the beautiful homily here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

a girl who dared fight men

We should never cease to marvel at these things.
--Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate

Saturday, October 8, 2011

privilege of happy being

A Very Short Guide to Life
Rule 1: If you're too busy to go to daily mass, you're too busy.
God gave us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that's 168 hours in a week. If you go to daily mass 6 days a week, and Sunday mass, that adds up to a total of 4 hours per week. That's 2% of your week. You can spend 2% of your week at daily mass. 
I defs don't live up to this rule as I should --still a work in progress.

Rule 2: Don't do homework Friday night.
Just don't do it.
Do it Thursday, Saturday, Sunday through Thursday, Friday afternoon, whenever. But don't do it Friday night. You you can sit in your room all evening by yourself and just watch TV or read a book, or stare at a crack in the ceiling, but please, please don't do homework. You'll be a happier person.

Rule 3: If you can't wear heels without looking miserable, don't wear them.
High heels were invented so that you could glide across a room feeling graceful, 2-6 inches taller, beautiful, happy, and feminine. They were not invented so that you could look:
A) Like a lady of the night. 
B) Miserable.
If your six inch wedge heels are sending your beautiful good posture to hell, then don't wear them. They'll make you look uncomfortable and pitiful, not sassy and snazzy.

Rule 4: Don't drink to make yourself feel better; drink to feel even better.
A subtle distinction between the two, but it makes all the difference between ending the night in your cozy bed and ending the night in a pile of your own throw-up on your friend's sofa. I speak truth.

Rule 5: Sing loud, sing proud, sing often.
Preferably Disney.
When singing in the shower the other day, I found myself alternating between Palestrina and Parry's I Was Glad. And in between songs, I would break down that Nicki Minaj rap that I'm currently memorizing.

Rule 6: Make your mother proud.
Sometimes you're in social situations that call upon those classic rules that your mother pounded into your head: never show up to a party empty-handed, thank your host/hostess when you're leaving, phrase brutal truths diplomatically, and never eat the last of anything off a plate. Warm fuzzy feelings appear, and you think: "My mother raised me so well." And all the people around you think: "His mother raised him so well." And the mother thinks: "I raised him so well." 
These are the social interactions we love. Everyone's winning.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

parlez-moi seulement dans la langue de la romance

"Despite everything, Life is Good."
Mi amiga and I had a life chat last night, in which we sat in a beautiful courtyard, under the watch of our beautiful Mama Mary, reflecting on life, love, Faith, God, happiness, beauty, what it means to be human, what it means to be a college student. Marvelling at the beauty of all things, the beauty of humanity, and just plain old beauty, my friend burst out: life is good. Because it is. It is. It is so beautiful.
I was sitting in night prayer last night at the seminary. They have Lucenarium every Thursday in their indescribably beautiful chapel. There's a large stained glass mural of Christ surrounded by angels behind the altar. The light dances off the sparkly tiled ceiling, and plays with the colors in the stained glass. There's a magical, shimmery quality to the whole church. It's the most beautiful church that was built in the sixties that I've ever seen. There's a church back at home that many families have affectionately nick-named "The Fishtank Church." The seminary's church has a very similar watery, iridescent feel, that I think the Fishtank Church was trying to capture, but never quite succeeded in doing so. At the end of Lucenarium, we sing "Come Lord Jesus," and it feels as though the whole church is quivering with desire-desire for when Lord Jesus finally comes, and we burst out from underneath the water into the sunlight and the fresh air. It's the perfect way to spend Thursday night-to wash away the work-a-day dust of the week that collects on your soul, and to prepare for the weekend.

Life is very filled with beauty right now. Sometimes I just bask in the warm afternoon sun that fills my French classroom, and I listen to everyone speaking the beautiful sounds of the most beautiful of all Romance languages, and I feel my soul purr like a small cat. Something like this:

J'entends des phrases mielleuses flotter dans l'air. Ils sont tellement beaux, j'ai douleurs.

And poetry. I sit in poetry class, listen to the carillon chime a marian hymn, and delight in the fact that despite everything, life is good. In fact, listening to French and poetry does things to me. In the most beautifully hedonistic way, the very act of listening to these sounds is such a beautiful thing, a sensual pleasure. It makes your heart beat a little faster and fantastic little thrills run up and down your spine. 

Plus also, my friend and I were just discussing how singing and music in general puts you in general, in a far better mood. It really does. Music soothes the savage beast. It's pure beauty in sound form. If everyone sang all the time, we'd really be so much happier. It's so incredible not only that we recognize and respond to beauty, but that it has such intense power to heal us, calm us, better us. Human beings are rather miraculous creatures overall. Isn't it just nice being alive? 

It has been a very happy week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

immortal, all

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

--C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Monday, October 3, 2011

Perfect Weekend

This was one of those weekends that perfectly exemplified why I'm here at college.

To set the mood: Throughout this whole weekend, there was a marquee of bright red letters going through my head, pounding like the drums in the deep that said:


[break in writing blog-post to finish editing seminar paper]

I left for a fantastic adventure/retreat Friday afternoon, and on the bus, I was thinking about my paper, all throughout the weekend, I was definitely thinking about the paper. But, then we got to the beautiful lakeshore campsite, and we kayaked, and we struggled through ropes courses in the woods, and we climbed rock walls, and we prayed the rosary on the beach at night, and then we all sang and made s'mores around the campfire, and we laughed and we talked, and we ate weird camp food, and we took joy in the fact that we were alive, the sun was shining, and life is good.

And I stopped thinking about my paper.

My friend invited me to his birthday dinner. And I thought: Shoot. I simply can't spare the time! I've got so much work to do! PAPER. PAPER. PAPER. AHHHHH 
Then I thought: I can't spare the time not to.

Life is too short not to spend time with people you love. People who inspire you and uplift you. Who have beautiful conversations with you, and help you strive toward the highest goals in life.

Life is too short not to live.

So live already. Eight-six four hundred seconds in a day people. Don't waste even one.