Wednesday, December 30, 2009
From now on, you can find me at A Beaten Copper Lamp of Deplorable Design, i.e. beaten copper lamp (dot) blogspot (dot) com. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you there!
I've also had the opportunity to talk about VSC at two very different places: Villanova University's Post-Graduate Service Fair, and my high school's Religion 12 classes. Here are some observations about both.
- Why must college campuses be inherently confusing to visiting drivers?
- Villanova is indeed as "affluent, attractive, and athletic" as an STL friend once told me
- Ladies of 'nova, I salute you for actually wearing jeans, or even cute skirts and tights! All the leggings-as-pants and nasty sweats on my current campus make me want to gag.
- Villanova university, I salute you for giving your students great information about how a volunteer year works and what students can do with it. It was also cool to see monks running around in their black habits.
- Fellow volunteer programs, I salute you for display boards that were snazzier than mine, and for the great work you do all over the world. I had some great discussions with people who did radio ministry in Alaska, taught English in China, helped at Covenant House in Philly, or even ran a pregnant women's shelter.
- I'd forgotten how crowded and chaotic my school's hallways could be.
- People actually laughed at my jokes about "Improving my nun acquaintance 1000%"
- All those brightly colored VSC pens leftover from Villanova were the surest way to the teenagers' hearts.
- Baby pictures from NFNF were also a hit.
- I tried to say things that I would have found provocative at age 17: social justice is for all Catholics, not "liberals;" you don't know everything you need to know about your faith yet; if abortion were illegal tomorrow, there would still be major social problems that need fixing as well. I doubt I blew anyone's mind, but the teacher seemed to think I did a good job.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I hope all my NFNF co-workers have a joyous holiday. I know one nurse is excited to finally have her husband home from Iraq! I'm also praying for all the clients and their kids. At my new parish in Delaware I chose a name from the "Angel Tree". I thought about all the babies back in STL while I shopped for 2T clothes for a little girl I'll probably never meet.
Today Nicholas Kristof has a neat article listing lesser-known charities that would make good holiday gifts. As I read, I couldn't help wondering what an agency had to do to get on the list ;-)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
One of new goals for post-VSC life is reading the scriptures from daily Mass. I did that a lot in undergrad. Looking back, my meditations on the daily readings, especially during Advent, are what influenced me toward a service year. I became more and more convinced that social justice is not an optional part of following Christ. Here are a few verses my 2007 self marked down in a journal:
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be a band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
The LORD gives sight ot the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
And of course Mary sums it all up in the Magnificat as Christ's incarnation fulfills these promises:
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent empty away.
Friday, August 28, 2009
There are some things I missed about the "DC Metro Area" too, though. There, everyone is from somewhere else, so you don't have to rely on high school connections to find a social network. It's also a big ethnic melting pot. I love how the women in saris always take their evening walks around the neighborhood. Nobody dresses like that in St. Louis, the land of the 4th generation Midwesterner.
Brother #3's elementary school open house looked like the UN this week. His classmates are Indian, Asian, African-American, and of course Irish/Italian/Polish "European mutts" as I call us. I'm glad he has to interact with people who are a little different from him.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The other night I was at a grad student gathering and met a conservator from Missouri. It was amazing to talk with another person who knows all the St. Louis landmarks too! She went to UMSL for undergrad and even lived on The Loop for a while. We swapped stories about all the wacky characters you see on Delmar and about catching the Metrolink at Skinker and Forest Park.
Oh boy, I do miss that part of town. A few weekends back Other Sarah and I wanted to go out to eat, maybe take in some local flavor. Even with GPS and an iPhone, we ended up driving in circles, finding only office buildings and hotels. If only there was a Loop, or South Grand, or Central West End around here! We could dress up cute and then stroll the sidewalks for something to eat, and maybe some vintage clothes while we're at it.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
American Papist picked up a story about the coolest idea I have heard in a long time - Capuchin priests making Confession available in a shopping mall. Brilliant! What a great evangelization tool, reminding people about spiritual needs in the midst of so much buying and selling. Why doesn't my mall have a chapel?
And so, yet another example of Catholic architecture evolving in the 21st century. I was just reading about a church in Pittsburgh that is now a brewery and restaurant. The religious pun names for beers is cute I guess, but I was disturbed by the report that "Indeed, the huge beer vat that produces the beer that patrons are drinking is situated on the altar directly under the baldochino." Seriously?
The same article profiled my childhood parish as an example of post-Vatican II architecture. I was rather surprised to turn the page and see a photo of the Activities Center! The author's interpretation felt a bit off, though- why did she not include a picture of the current church building? Whom did she interview to get the scoop on parish outrage over the plexiglass/bronze crucifix? (Shown here in all its Christmas glory.) There are no footnotes. Curious.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
All the 18th century mirrors in the museum make me think about St. Paul.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited is my favorite book. Ever since it was on my summer reading list senior year of high school, I've re-read it about once a year. On every return visit I've changed a little, and so I notice or enjoy new things. The notes my 17 year old self made feverishly in colored pencil seem a little silly today.
I did put BR aside during my year in St. Louis, however. Around this time last year, I raced to see the new film adaptation at the Chase Park Plaza theater. The trip had an air of nostalgic melancholy, like realizing you and an old friend no longer have much in common. I realized I was coming to say goodbye. My days of Oxford Arcadian fantasies were over.
But it wasn't really goodbye, apparently. Like the Flyte family in Charles' life, whole sections of the book keep popping into my mind now that I spend my days at a "museum and country estate."Maybe my old friend and I have found a new way to connect.
"Is the dome by Inigo Jones too? It looks later."
"Oh Charles, don't be such a tourist. What does it matter when it was built, if it's pretty?"
"It's the sort of thing I like to know."
On my first visit to Winterthur, I scoffed at its opulence and seemingly redundant acres of antique furniture. Now, as I'm learning to guide tourists through those Chippendale corridors, I'm also discovering the joy of knowing about style and connoisseurship. The other day, I did some exploring one my own and was genuinely wowed by the beauty of the Blackwell Parlor. The information binder in the corner was very helpful. Historical context is the sort of thing I like to know.
It was an aesthetic education to live within those walls, to wander from room to room, from the Soanesque library to the Chinese drawing-room, adazzle with gilt pagodas and nodding mandarins, painted paper and Chippendale fret-work, from the Pompeian parlor ... to sit, hour after hour, in the pillared shade looking out over the terrace.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I just returned from seeing Julie and Julia with my roommate, Other Sarah, and I have to say that my heart has been thoroughly warmed. Slow-roasted for hours in a savory wine sauce warmed. Wrapped in a pastry crust and baked to golden brown warmed. Other Sarah and I have both declared that we can think of nothing better than to find doting husbands and then spend the rest of our lives cooking French food for them and our friends.
I could identify with Meryl Streep's Julie as she longed for "Something to do-oo" and chatted non-stop with her sister. I also identified with Amy Adams' Julie as her cubicle labor prompted her to cry "I can write a blog! I have thoughts!" Julie is also bit self-absorbed, which alarmed me. Am I like that? Yikes. At least I know my reader's lives will go on if I stop writing.
I also enjoyed analyzing the technological differences between the protagonist. Back in "the last century," Julia relies on letters to keep tabs on distant friends. On the other hand, Julie can instantly encounter her idol through the ubiquitous visual culture of the 2000's. The French Chef reruns, parody skits, and a Smithsonian exhibit all allow the protagonist to commune with Julia's creative genius. Likewise, Julie's project does not have meaning until it is validated on computer and then movie screens. It's a far cry from Julia's original cookbook draft as stacks of onion skin paper.
Although it is female-focused, the male characters in Julie and Julia are what hold it together. Both husbands are patient, encouraging, and affectionate; although sometimes exasperated by their wives' cooking hobbies. It is rare to see men get so much dignity in a chick flick - there is no reason to gripe about these guys over cosmos. Their relationships with their wives make the film realistic but deeply romantic. No one chases anyone through an airport or builds an elaborate closet or breaks up a wedding. Instead, two couples love each other, work through problems, and generally explore what this film review calls the "happily ever after" part.
A good biopic sends you running back to primary documents, and this film did that. I'm sorry to say my own memories of the real Julia Child are nothing special. When I was a child I only saw her master chef series, where guests did most of the talking. To me, Julia was some foreboding elite chef whose food was boring and complicated. I much preferred the shenanigans of Yan Can Cook or The Frugal Gourmet. Fortunately, PBS has corrected my misconceptions through the Julia Child videos posted on their website. Go check them out for yourself - the Cheese Souffle one is my favorite.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This past weekend I was able to make one of those impromptu trips home that my parents had been hoping would happen now that I'm within driving distance again. I was just in time for a family trip to the newly remodeled National Museum of American History. Besides Air and Space, this was always my favorite Smithsonian museum. When I was 5, I took home a First Ladies' gowns coloring book. It was a little frustrating since a good 25% of them were something impossible like white, cream, or "bombazine," but I loved it. I made my Mom read me the catalog entries a dozen times.
Here are my opinions of the new, somewhat improved NMAH.
- Overall, the building is brighter and easier to navigate. I was surprised, though, at how little had changed in the overall floorplan.
- Vastly improved Star Spangled Banner display keeps the flag safe, but still looks cool. The walk-through exhibits about Fort McHenry and the flag's conservation were also good.
- The extensive "America at War" exhibit was patriotic but not jingoistic. There was plenty to see and touch. My brothers spent a good hour there, not surprisingly.
- The transportation section was greatly improved. I especially liked how they used turn-of-the-century DC as a case study for emerging interstate markets and transport.
- "Within These Walls," a 200 year study of a house in Ipswich, MA. They managed to fit in abolition, Irish immigrants, and the WWII homefront, along with a healthy dose of architecture. I was able to identify Queen Anne and Chippendale chairs in the Colonial section!
- Lines for the "pop" exhibits. What is this, Disney World? Lots of people want to see the ruby slippers and First Lady dresses. Why are they then in a cramped space with a narrow entrance? I was pleased to learn that the single First Ladies' room is only temporary, though.
- Restroom entrances are also preposterously narrow. What would someone do with a stroller if there was a line backed up to the door?
- My brothers reported that the invention section was mostly hand-wringing about the dangers of the nuclear age.
- Julia Child's kitchen was fun, albeit a little fluffy. It's indicative of our culture that everyone ended up just staring at the video clips of her show.
My favorite moment was walking through the 20th century war section. Each "generation" of my family related to something different. We all chuckled at the kitchy WWII war bond cartoons and posters. Then we arrived at Vietnam, which Dad could of course remember. We gathered around the plastic-wrapped avocado sofa to watch sobering news clips of Saigon. Then on to chunks of the Berlin Wall, which is one of my earliest news footage memories. I did a double take when a teeanger said, "Mom, what's the Berlin Wall?" My middle brother and sister were most fascinated by the twisted hunks of metal from the World Trade Center. Brother #3 didn't linger there; he was still in diapers when terrorists attacked it. What memories will he associate with war?
Monday, August 3, 2009
I can't wait to receive the VSC newsletter and hear all about you!
As for me, I have moved yet again, to a lovely little apartment in Delaware. Grad school summer classes started last week. I am again in a community of 8, only this time we are all museum people. We even have not one, but two token males!
I've only been here a short time, but already it feels like home. I remain woefully ignorant about antiques, but have had little trouble getting back into a school schedule. Today I studied (and handled) trade bills from the 1880's, ate lunch in the Enchanted Woods garden, then communed with 1760's Chippendale-style chairs. Can someone pinch me?
Saturday, August 1, 2009
The new logo for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid was recently announced. Ooh, I really want to go! Spain! The Pope! Thousands of other Catholics! Spain!
World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto the biggest adventure of my teens, and remains one of my fondest memories. Going to WYD as a young adult would certainly be very different.
The Madrid event will be just after I finish my master's degree - graduation present? Or will I luck out and be already employed by then and too busy to travel? I better start thinking of a research project involving Spanish material culture.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Great article in the Washington Post today about a group of Franciscan friars on a six-week, 300 mile walking pilgrimage from southern VA to to the Franciscan Holy Land shrine in DC. Following Jesus' orders when He sent disciples out on missions, they took " no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." Their story of relying on kindness of strangers, and offering their own kindness, brought tears to my eyes.
"Dressed like we are in our habits, it's like a walking sign that says, 'Tell us your life's problems,' " explained Cliff Hennings, the youngest of the friars at 23.
In every instance, the friars made time for conversation. They shot the breeze with a gang of drunk bikers, dispensed relationship advice to the brokenhearted commuters and bore witness to one and all, yea, even to the Chik-fil-A employee dressed as a cow.
What a beautiful, and humorous, tale of living simply and relying on Providence.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
While I was killing time in San Antonio, I was able to read Pope Benedict's new social justice encyclical Caritas in Vertitate (Love in Truth). Besides making me look business-like in the hotel restaurant, this was serendipitous, as I discovered a great quotation to use in my article.
“Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that ‘becomes concern and care for the other.’” You can't get much more Vincentian than that. The Holy Father also cited a scripture verse that is the Daughters of Charity motto: The charity of Christ urges us. (2 Cor 5:14)
P.S. Fun Fact: The teacher who requested this article also got me on the road to Museum Studies. I wrote my first public history paper for his class my sophomore year of high school. He forbade any "depressing" topics, so I researched the history of the Smithsonian Institution. I liked the idea, but it turned out to be even more fun than I expected.
On my San Antonio trip, I visited the Spanish Governor's Palace, a well-preserved downtown adobe building dating to around 1749. I thought it would be fun to compare it to the reproduction Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg. Besides the contrast of Spanish and English building styles, their difference connote the difference in political clout and trade access of the two cities. CW's palace strives to be an equal with mansions in the mother country, while San Antonio's one-story, six-room home appears to be making the best of local materials.
The biggest history lesson I took away from San Antonio's palace was that people of the past were much hardier than we are! That morning was about 90 degrees. Even wearing shorts and walking past electric fans, I was ready for a break from the stuffy indoors in about 10 minutes. How did those Spanish aristocrats in ruffled shirts and high-collared jackets survive? How did business meetings not deteriorate into bickering between sweaty, cranky colonial staff? Were they just accustomed to the climate from birth?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The sights were also amazing. Besides the Alamo, downtown is dotted with dozens of fascinating historic buildings. I went to Mass at the San Fernando Cathedral, which was built in 1749. Pope John Paul II visited in 1987.
Despite its 18th century style, the magnificent retablo of Christ the and evangelists was added only during recent renovations. The original sanctuary decorations were lost in an 1820's fire. (Which makes San Fernando a survivor in the style of the Wren, for all you WM alums.)
I loved this painting in the narthex of the women at Christ's tomb.
A shrine to El Cristo Negro is decorated with prayer requests.
Monday, July 20, 2009
"How the Other Half Lives" from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie helped inspire my blog title. In it, we meet Dorothy, a socialite who wants to try being working-class; and Millie, a small-town girl who wants to find a wealthy husband in the big city. AS they journey into the unknown, the girls become friends.
The VSC was like that, since the 8 of us came from experiences and hometowns all over the country. In many ways, we took a year off from our normal lives and selves. I know that several of my old hobbies and habits went on hiatus.
Now that I am re-connecting with friends back on the East Coast, it does seem like I have been on a trek into the wild somewhere. They really have no idea what I experienced there, but I have returned a year older and, I hope, wiser.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I also found the calendar pages that decorated my walls senior year of high school - cathedrals and architectural photography of India. The more things change...
Friday, July 17, 2009
Today marks the passing of another celebrity - legendary journalist Walter Cronkite. Being young'uns, my siblings and I know him better as the voice of Benjamin Franklin in the animated TV show Liberty's Kids. We just bought the entire series on DVD - nerd party!
LK is a surprisingly good PBS production dramatizing major events of the Revolutionary War. We see Independence unfold through the eyes of Franklin and his print shop assistants- Moses, a free black man; James, an apprentice; Sarah, a British ex-pat girl ; and Henri, a mischievous French orphan. The newspaper business conveniently takes the spunky but often whiny kids around the colonies and back.
Just watched the Williamsburg episode, which was pretty well done. On an errand for a new printing press, the group attempts to rescue Moses' brother Cato from slavery. Cato instead tries for freedom by anwering Governor Dunmore's call for slave soldiers. There's still time to hear Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech at St. John's Church in Richmond. James and Henri even partake in the fine tradition of colonial wall jumping!
My one beef with LK is its' often self-righteous modernity. Any mention of the South must contain ardent denunciations of OMG SLAVERY. Did you know slavery is evil? Just in case, we'll say it a dozen more times and assure you that Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were more enlightened than bad old Virginia. James' passion for up-to-the-minute headlines also borders on laughable. He has the attitude of a frantic Twitterer releasing self-important news blasts to the world.
Oh yeah, and then there are the celebrity guest voices. Ben Stiller as Thomas Jefferson? Sylvester Stallone as Paul Revere? We nerd haven't stopped laughing about it.
Good news kids - I am still going to be poor. My "pocket money" will likely be only slightly more than in St. Louis. Good thing I like rice and beans.
Right now I'm in the midst of packing mania to prepare for the big grad school move. As usual, I have too much stuff. Today I spent much more at Wal Mart than I anticipated. I almost cried when I saw the total. Sure, I need a lot of miscellaneous things to start out in a new place, but not that much.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
These breezy stories feature a semi-retired San Francisco nun with a knack for assisting two Irish homicide cops in their investigations. Re-reading them after a year with the Daughters, I'm amazed at how much I can recognize in Sister Mary Helen's lifestyle. I also suspect that royalties from the novels fund the author's real work at a drop-inn center for homeless women. Sister Carol Anne writes about the world she knows, and makes you feel like you live there. Fun fact: she is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who were founded in - you guessed it - St. Louis.
While I was living in St. Louis, I got hooked on another set of female sleuth novels. Elaine Viets has penned two series about St. Louis detectives. Reporter Francesca Vierling and mystery-shopper single mom Josie Marcus are both no-nonsense girls from South St. Louis. You can bet that at some point in their novels, they will make a crack at residents of wealthy STL neighborhoods, and then go eat pork steak or fried ravioli. Theirs is the midwest where my parents grew up - you chat with your neighbors on their well-manicured rectangular lawns, and the kids all walk past mom-and-pop businesses on their way to school. It's a world I don't inhabit, but appreciate. Through her funny writing and her detective's investigations, Viets takes readers on a tour of STL zip codes and landmarks. Some of the information can sound dated, but overall it's a fun picture of a great city.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
President Obama met Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, and by all accounts things went very well. Besides discussing immigration, the Middle East, economics, etc, the Holy Father gave Obama a copy of his recent document "Dignitatis Personae." The President's response to this medical ethics gift? "I will have some reading to do on the plane."
Say what you will about the Obama's past faux-pas with British dignitaries, they did very well with this audience. Instead of useless DVD's, they gave a thoughtful, appropriate gift - a stole that had been placed on the body of St. John Neumann. Michelle is wearing her trademark cardigan and belted dress, but the look is understated and dignified.
On a side note, I'd like to learn more about this apparent female dress code of black dresses and mantillas for Papal audiences. Is that a rule or just a safe call? What would happen if I showed up in, say, blue or red?
The only downside of all the coverage of this happy meeting is that it gave me really, really weird dreams. Just before my alarm went off, I had a nightmare involving ponds, colonial stone walls, and a Papal visit to my hypothetical parish. Everyone got to meet the Pope except me!!
I was next in the receiving line when he wandered away with a group of well wishers. Then his SUV drove away when I was right outside the window. Why God, why???
Friday, July 10, 2009
Here are my entries, all from my Monroe Scholar project on modern Catholic architecture.
At a Chicago parish, the Brain Coral Tabernacle. (I think it's supposed to be a burning bush, which is not a bad concept in theory.)
At Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral, a tabernacle that I have heard compared to both a Weber kettle grill and the flames of Hell. This item is one of many questionable modern pieces installed in the late 1960's "renovation."
Back in a Virginia parish, here's a tabernacle that always makes me think of a Star Wars TIE fighter.
Lastly, lest tabernacles get all the attention, here's a statue from my home parish, St. Mark's. It's supposed to be the Holy Family with St. Mark's symbol, the lion. As a child, I just thought it was terrifying. Why does St. Joseph look like he's in a coma?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Walking around downtown Chicago with my cousin made me realize how truly small St. Louis' is. Still, I kind of miss how I could get downtown in less than 30 minutes. I also miss how the streets are in a reasonable grid, and how you can usually hit the speed limit on I-44 at rush hour. The past three days of northern Virginia traffic have reminded me of how insane the "National Capital Area" is.
Leaving VSC is very surreal. I may be moving on, but most of my fellow volunteers are still there. The school teachers will be busy with summer school until the end of July. My family and friends may have seen pictures of my co-workers and roommates in STL, but they don't actually know them. They don't really know what the past year has been like. At times I am not even sure if I know myself. As I fall back into the routine of my family's house, it's like my VSC year didn't happen.
But it did.
I may not feel it right this minute, but "a year of service makes a lifetime of difference." I'm going to keep blogging here for the time being, remembering experiences from St. Louis and processing what I have learned. God's will and purpose for my life still feels as mysterious as ever - what purposes for my volunteer year will I disover long after it has finished?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Here's some of what happened:
- Ate leftover fruit from the board meeting for breakfast
- Received a gift certificate and "Thank You" balloon from the Nicest Boss in the World
- Gave Nicest Boss in the World a mini statue of St. Louise de Marillac, Daughter of Charity and Patron of Social Workers. He loved it.
- Was sent out to collect the office fish fry order from the VFW post across the street, where I was whistled at twice by WWII veterans
- Returned to the office to find everyone in the office ready to serenade me with my goodbye song, to the tune of "Jingle Bells." Our CEO and a few others said such kind things that I will always appreciate.
- Received a Visa gift card from the entire office. It will be much appreciated!
- Ate the salad bar lunch our Party Planning Committee had prepared, plus GF chocolate cake made by one of the nurses.
- Headed to the Healthy Start consortium meeting, where there were adorable kids and more food.
- Learned about the Healthy Start client who performed an emergency delivery of her friend's 2lb premature baby. HS staff gave her a certificate, first aid kit, and official HS polo shirt. She was over the moon about all this recognition. "I'm tellin' you, I was scurred, but I just remembered the video Miss Gwen showed me. I was holdin' the baby in my hands and I just stared prayin.' I blew in her face and she started breathing!"
- Packed up stuff from my desk, including Aloysuis the teddy bear, (William) Blake the tiger, and Judah the Lion.
- Took pictures with everyone in the office; gave and received lots of hugs.
I want to thank all of you here today for everything you're doing to find new solutions to some of our oldest, toughest problems. I know what you do is not easy. I know that for many of you, the hours are long, the pay could be better -- let's face it. But I also know the difference that each of you make. I know the lives that you change every single day. You teach us that there's no such thing as a lost cause if you're willing to be creative, and challenge the conventional wisdom, and take some risks.In other health care news, 19 Pro-Life Congressional Democrats have told Nancy Pelosi they will not support a health care reform legislation that includes funding for abortion. Way to go!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Personally, I love summer and feel a sense of accomplishment facing down extreme heat. But for clients without air conditioning, this weather is downright dangerous. Premature babies or kids with sickle cell are especially threatened. So, I've been making a few emergency fund runs to Home Depot for window unit air conditioners.
I got to help deliver one of these, and was reminded all over again of how awesome our nurses are. They always apologize for their messy cars (like I care how many packs of diapers are lying around), and then blow you away with their tenacity. Already that morning my driver had almost needed to help deliver the baby of a client who did not realize she was in labor. Don't ask me how that is possible, but when she finally admitted she was feeling "weird" our nurse figured things out. When EMS arrived the woman was already at 9 1/2 centimeters!
After recovering from that escapade, the nurse drove me to a run-down North City townhouse where 8 kids and a few adults were languishing in the heat. We must have looked pretty funny dragging the 50 lb air conditioning unit up to the second story apartment. Luckily, the baby's father was home to help get it in the door, and had everything up and running by the time our visit was done.
Even in that crowded, dark, overheated, smelly apartment, you could see glimmers of hope. That's another thing that always amazes me when I visit our clients. The family situation was less than ideal, but at least there was a "baby daddy" to help around the house . At least his children knew who he was. At least the mom was interested in our services and not just looking for handouts. The children were the most uplifting part. A few stared shyly at us, but one toddler girl grinned, giggled, and lept in our laps for hugs. The oldest daughter cradled her baby brother, and the toddlers bent down to give him kisses. Even in the face of poverty, their innocent playfulness was inspiring.
Monday, June 22, 2009
CNVS is a membership organization of over 2oo different Catholic lay volunteer and missionary programs. If you or someone you know is interested in long-term service, definitely check out cnvs.org. Their extensive and easily searched directory is how many of us found VSC.
My mission on Sunday was to give a short spiel after Communion about CNVS, ask people to donate in the second collection, and then stay after Mass to hand out brochures and answer questions. It was actually pretty easy since CNVS had made all the arrangements with the parish, sent in the brochures, and given me a sample speech. The long day notwithstanding, it was interesting to see the different demographics of every Mass and hear three different homilies on the same readings. The Epistle mentioned a very Vincentian motto - "The love of Christ impels us."
I was also amazed at the unexpected connections I made with people, who was interested in what I had to say. For instance, I met the man who is starting a L'Arche home for the handicapped in St. Louis, and wants to get on the directory. My favorite connection was the soon-to-retire high school Spanish teacher who wants to work with immigrants for a year or two. She's also interested in getting her LPN license so she can do medical screening. Despite all these great ideas, she had no idea where to start. I hope my advice was helpful and that she really does achieve her plan.
It was random encounters such as these that inspired my own year of service. A priest on a retreat advised that I "go do something radical for God." A week later, I ran into a former dorm neighbor on my way to Mass. She told me all about her work with immigrants in New Mexico, and gave a lot of encouragement that a service year was indeed practical. I haven't had contact with those people since, but their affect on my life has been profound.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I hope all the Fathers out there - both priests and biological- have a wonderful day and know how much they are appreciated.
This is a relief sculpture in St. Francis Xavier College Church depicting St. Joseph, the patron of all fathers. It appears to be just before his death, as his foster son Jesus is pointing upward to Joseph's heavenly destiny.
I'm always touched by St. Joseph's selfless service - caring for Mary and Jesus and then humbly fading into obscurity. We don't even know the details of his death, just that he wasn't around for Jesus' public ministry.
My own Dad is another wonderful example of unselfish protection and caring. He works so hard for us, but doesn't complain or call attention to himself. After a year of working with at-risk families, and hearing so many stories of absent "baby-daddies", I am so grateful that I grew up with two parents who are married to each other and both care deeply for their children.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Cathy is not a Daughter, but she helps keep things running smoothly at their Provincial Office. Her biggest help to us VSCs is managing all the paperwork for Americorps, so we get money for student loans when we're done. It's all part of the red tape that comes with non-profit work.
I have become flat-out addicted to this song. Yesterday I listened to the last verse three times in a row.
It's just about the cutest thing ever, and reminds me of "If I Had a Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies. Both songs innocently long for wealth that will give security, and the simple things in life. Really, the singers just want to be philanthropists, giving other people houses, cars, monkeys, green dresses... All they want in return is to bask in the comfort of true love.
So give a listen, and see if it doesn't make you want to "give everybody nice sweaters and teach them how to dance."
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Luckily the California Volunteers are expert thrift store shoppers. Their creative outfits and adventurous spirits inspired me to overcome my fear of second-hand stores. Instead of dreading the ill-fitting castoffs of middle aged women, I have learned to hunt for unique, useful and interesting things. For a total of $20, I have acquired a blouse, cardigan, dress, tote bag, and skirt that are now favorites in my wardrobe.
Avoiding the clothing racks of malls and Target has been good for me. It's made me think about what I actually need and want. It has also increased my sense of personal style. Working with what I already own, I have become more confident about mixing and matching pieces or trying new color combinations. The lovely ladies of academichic and other blogs have provided great inspiration for this.
You could say that I have gotten in on the recent trend of "sustainable fashion." You could also say that NFNF is eco-friendly in the way we "recycle" hundreds of baby outfits and items every year. I don't really worry if my tshirts are organic cotton, but I like the idea of reusing what is already around.
Here's a stylish woman doing that with The Uniform Project. She's wearing 7 copies of the same dress for 365 days, to raise money and awareness for school kids in India. This isn't exactly poverty, since she's going to need an army of loaned accessories to make it all year. Still, I love the idea of the challenge and the resourcefulness it will require. It's also a great show of solidarity with As a fellow veteran of school uniforms, I agree that they are really an opportunity for self-expression.
Today I also learned that my alma mater will be offering a freshman seminar in "ethical fashion." In today's global economy, it is
"all the more necessary for design to be relevant to the communities it represents and serves. In short, sustainable communities produce sustainable clothes—and a community is sustained when its workers earn living wages."I liked the story of a village in Brazil where women formed a seamstress cooperative, selling traditional fuxico rosettes made from scraps of fabric.
“In essence, the project has helped create the antithesis of the multinational sweatshop. Today, the cooperative works with other prominent designers and labels throughout the world and truly serves as a model for what can happen when you have a greater sense of interconnectedness.”
Monday, June 15, 2009
These closing ceremonies took place in the same place as our opening Mass: the Daughters' Provincial House chapel. I love this little room in its classical simplicity. The skylight over the altar always reminds me of an impluvium in an ancient Roman atrium. Yesterday the sunlit room was full of pride, tears, and memories. Remember when we first came here? How excited and nervous we were? How we barely knew about each other? How much we had to learn about service? How long a whole year seemed?
And now, in the blink of an eye, it's almost over. We can't stay in VSC forever, and life keeps flowing on to the next stage. We only have to look to the wedding of a VSC the night before to see that Life goes on.
We also saw it in the Daughter who passed away in her sleep that same night. Sr. Mary Patrice "slipped away like she always does, like a cat," one Sister said. A petite former school principal, Patrice was an assistant and dear friend to the VSC director. It's a harsh blow to realize that we won't see her friendly face on our doorstep anymore. God willing, she's smiling up in heaven now instead, beginning her story of eternal life. Her death reminds us all of how short and precious our time on earth is.
Life goes on, and we're back where we started: the love of Jesus pressing us onward.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I also noticed that Carlson often mopped his brow with a handkerchief - I was feeling the same way! The choir balcony was a good 15 degrees warmer than below, and our long robes didn't help either. Overheating during mass: another example of the profound irony of liturgy and the Incarnation. Even during the most sublime, profound worship possible, frail human nature interrupts.
Being backstage at the Cathedral gives plenty of glances into ecclesiastical irony. The behind the scenes areas are very different from the glorious mosaics visitors always see. Here's the staircase choir members take to the balcony.
Inside a tower is the only place you'll see brick here.
Drab, cobweby archways contrast with the glittering domes beyond.
This wall is "all" I can see while playing bells. From the left we have:
The Vincentian panel, withBl. Frederic Ozanam and STL SVDP founder Brian Mullanphy.
St. Isaac Joques and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, whose upstate NY shrine I have visited
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi representing the Vatican II declaration on religious freedom
Joseph Cardinal Ritter
Sisters and schoolchildren representing the 1947 St. Louis "Racial Justice Decree" and integrations of schools
Bl. Rose Phillipine Duschene, who educated and prayed in rural Missouri
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
My dear family was there in spirit, watching EWTN coverage for footage of my bell ringing. I was on TV twice! Sadly, the Archdiocese did not include images of us ringers in their installation photo gallery. Here are some other choir members, though. Just picture me in one of these robes.
I love this stunning shot of the altar during the entrance procession. (I also wish Theodora the camera was powerful enough to do this. I'll post my own shots of the Cathedral later.)
Here is our new shepherd! I met Archbishop Carlson at the reception after Solemn Vespers last night. He graciously stood for nearly two hours to greet everyone who wanted to meet him, and did the same thing again today.
Today's brief homily was well-said and inspiring. Unity and facing challenges were some of the main themes. Here are my favorite parts (emphasis mine.)
As the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us, we come to share ever more deeply in the life and mission of Christ — and His glory becomes our glory.
But the glory of Christ is the cross!
We will never compromise our commitment to life!
(Quoting Pope Benedict)" ...the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people's hearts."
I will never ordain a man a priest that I do not know.
May your prayerful support and my hope in Jesus Christ fill my heart with compassion, allowing me to draw near to all those who suffer and allow me to bind up the wounds of the poor and build bridges with the alienated as I serve Christ as His disciple and a friend to all.
Let us never forget that, "In the Church there is a diversity of ministries, but there is only one aim — the sanctification of all.” (Blessed Escriva)
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Anchoress at First Things has a great post about JQA today, musing on his intense expressions in portraits, his penchant for skinny-dipping in the Potomac (it's true), and his impatience with being under the Presidential microscope.
“I can scarcely conceive a more harassing, teasing, wearying condition of existence.” If the foibles and nattering ankle biters were that annoying 200 years ago, imagine him being president in the day of internets, blogs, “netroots”, “wingnuts” and 24-hour-always-hungry news networks.Oh technology. So useful but so distracting. Last night when I got home the power was out on our block. For the first time, I noticed the moonlight and insect chirping that are usually drowned out by streetlights and air conditioners. Conversations by candlelight are more peaceful, too. Surrounded by the warm glow of all the random candles from the reflection room, I finished some VSC year-end paperwork and made notes on my handbell music. I couldn't help thinking that this was how Mozart, Beethoven, and even JQA did their work. Did they get more done without Facebook or 24 hour news?
Perhaps it is the technology of the age that has brought affability and a gift for hucksterism to the fore in politics, and rendered them supremely consequential. I wonder how the giants who formed our nation would fare, these days, hunkering down with Chris Matthews and Barbara Walters. Would Ben Franklin’s genius be undermined or enhanced by insta-media? Would John Adams be considered too crotchety, like Bob Dole? Would George Washington be considered too staid? Would Thomas Jefferson have to endure the wrath of Keith Olbermann for daring to play his violin while something was left unresolved in the nation? Would any of them get elected under the intense scrutiny of our age, wherein - as Don Surber notes here - so many are so easily scandalized?
Monday, June 8, 2009
Innovative Food Defense programs funded by the FDA and Dept of Agriculture cracked me up - can't you just picture an army of vegetables with spears and shields?
How about abandoned mine bat inventories in Idaho? Sounds like a horror/adventure movie waiting to happen. "I wonder how many bats are down this abandoned mine shaftOHNOoooo.."
And yet, I think it's obvious to fund maintenance of Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site by The Society of the National Shrine of the Bill of Rights. Also, who wouldn't want a $60,000 post-grad historical editing fellowship? Normal people, that's who.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I'll be at the Cathedral a lot in the next three days preparing for and performing in my last Mass with the handbell choir. I have never seen our usually cheerful director so excited and anxious. Thanks, Karen, for letting me play even though I was out of town for rehearsal last week. Installation means a lot to me.
Of course, Carlson's arrival will involve a flurry of media attention. We have been instructed to be on our best behavior since the video cameras for EWTN and the live feed will be directly across from the bells. I'll be on the right, ringing the heavy bass clef ones. Apparently AmericanPapist will be providing coverage too - I'll try to spot him.
Recent stories in the Post-Dispatch seem to confirm first impressions that Carlson is a personable, diplomatic man.
"One thing I know is that when you're coming into a community, the last thing you want to do is come in and pretend like you have all the answers," he said.One source of his compassion and humility is his history of battling cancer and diabetes.
"I always say that God has really blessed me in weakness," Carlson said. "I've learned that I am who I am, that I do some things well, and I make mistakes in other areas."
Carlson said cancer changed his priorities. His career ambitions took a backseat, he said. Instead of spending so much time as an administrator, he wanted to be out in his diocese, among his flock. "Once you almost die, you try to live life as best you can — not because you're afraid of death, but because you got a second chance," Carlson said.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thanks to Southwest layovers at Midway, I've also spent a good 4 hours in Chicago this week. Midways has a great selection of local food available, but I learned in August that no matter how deeply you love Chi-town, a fully loaded beef hot dog before takeoff is not a good idea.
I also love how Mayor Richard M Daley feels the need to personally welcome me to Chicago's airports. That man has a major ego problem, and it's become a running joke in my family. Here's his name on a trash can in the food court.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Here's a glimpse of the parent paparazzi at my little sister's graduation. It's always good to revisit the tightly-knit community of my uber-Catholic/uber-ProLife high school. Every year since my own graduation is a little different and little more weird as I settle into adulthood. Sign that I am getting old: I was verklempt with pride during my sister's valedictorian speech. My mom and I tearfully clutched each other in our church pew. Another sign that high school is long gone? Some of my classmates had also returned - with their spouses and children.
This weekend was also my sister's dance school's annual recital. We saw performances by everyone from un-coordinated 5 year olds to champion teens. Here are some cool shots I got of the team heading to Nationals. Their solo dresses and wigs were out of control.
My little sister is now officially a high school graduate, after doing a great job on her valedictorian speech. Sign that I am getting old: my mom and I both got verklempt with pride during her address. We sat in the church pew tearfully clutching each other's arm.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I usually don't post pictures of myself, but I love this one of Texas Volunteer and me with Sr. Rosalind Moss. This weekend was our first time meeting her in a while. Sadly, it was also the last since the occasion was her goodbye party. She's leaving St. Louis, too, albeit for only a year of novitiate study and training.
Expansion of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope is on hold while Sr. Ros is in her novitiate. Work renovating her convent and organizing educational materials will go on, thanks to her new administrative assistant and an army of volunteers. Hopefully next summer St. Louis will again see Sr. Ros and some new sisters out and about in full habit, evangelizing the neighborhood. (And hopefully there will soon be more information on the order's website.)
We're really going to miss Sr. Ros. Even thought we've only met her a few times, she always treats us like we are the most important and wonderful people in the world. We put in a few Saturday hours helping around her convent, but went away feeling like we had received ten times what we have given. I don't know what I would have done without her comforting advice the Saturday I messed up on the GRE and was dealing with stress in the VSC community.
Where else could one find a nun with great Jewish humor? (She is a convert, after all.) After hearing my rantings, Sr. Ros turned to Texas Vol and asked "Does she believe in God? Because the way she's talking it sure sounds like she doesn't."
Then she turned back to me. "This is what you do. Go home, write a hundred times on the chalkboard 'Jesus I trust in you. Jesus I trust in you. Even if I don't feel it, Jesus I trust in you.'"
And so I will.
This weekend a couple of us finally took advantage of our Botanical Gardens season passes. I'm so glad we did! Even after several hours of walking we still hadn't seen all the different gardens and flowers. Daylilies were done blooming, but roses were out in full force.
I really liked this statue of Juno in a formal garden. (The goddess queen, not the snarky pregnant teenager). The Victorian observatory tower is in the distance.
The English Woodland garden was more informal and organic-looking. We really appreciated the shade!