Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hitting the road

I'm going to be on blog hiatus for a few days as I visit my family for my sister's graduation and hunt for grad school housing. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of some fun cars. There was a whole crowd of them around Soulard Market a few Saturdays ago. The drivers were all really friendly and waved at me. How could you not be in a good mood on such a gorgeous spring day?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Godspeed, Sr. Ros!

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.

Botanical Gardens

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!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bizarre Item of the Day

Last week when I posted pictures of Papa Benny with adorable kids, I did a Google image search for "Pope Benedict baby." This is what I found.

This is El Colacho, Spanish a baby-jumping festival that has been happening in Castillo de Murcia since 1620.The guy leaping over the infants represents the devil. Supposedly this Knieval-esque stunt helps cleanse the babies of original sin and guarantee them safety in life.

Pope Benedict has advised Spanish priests to stay away from this dubious and obviously dangerous festival. Good call.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Abortion, Slavery and Obama

Continuing my week-long reflection on pro-life issues, I'd like to make some historical analogies. Considering abortion in American often sends my brain running for context from the past.

Abortion is the slavery of our times. Consider the similarities: a moral evil opposed by much of the population, but still supported as a right by many and protected by law. The lives and fate of one section of humanity (African-Americans, fetuses) fall under the authority of others.
Debates over this issue sharply divide the political sphere. Some people live close to the issue and feel passionately about it. For those who don't encounter it everyday, it's not as big a deal.

For instance, a Southern planter might have defended slavery as part of his right to property and prosperity, but a Northern factory worker would have been more concerned with his own family than whatever happens in other states. Similarly, I think abortion is not a part of daily life for most Americans. Women don't normally go around telling all their friends that they terminated a pregnancy last weekend. Sometimes the staggeringly large abortion statistics seem as far away as genocide in Darfur. Sometimes the really intense pro-lifers with bloody fetus posters seem too extreme, but that's when I remember that the abolitionist movement housed some pretty intense members as well. (See: John Brown and his military raids.)

All this talk about Obama at ND and the importance of dialogue, not demonizing, also turns me to slavery. When I took a course on "Museums and Slavery," I again learned the importance of words. Call them "enslavers", not "masters," or "owners." Don't use the passive voice about plantation chores - "the cotton was picked" by whom?? Enslaved people, who deserve as much attention as their wealthy enslavers. Our racially mixed-class had some fantastic discussions. Even though we had different backgrounds, we kept a respectful tone and learned a lot about each other. I still don't mind Confederate flag bumper stickers on pickup trucks, but I'm more sensitive now to how people can find them offensive.

Of course, our discussions were helped by the fact that we all agreed slavery was wrong. What about dialogue with enslavers? A constant dilemma for American historians is the fact that most of our country's founders indeed held other persons as property. Dealing with this again requires some respect. Instead of writing them all off as irrelevant bigoted white men, we honor their achievements while critiquing their personal practices. We also find comfort in the "good" ones who didn't treat enslaved workers cruelly. (See: George Washington freeing his slaves in his will)

This paradox is most evident in my pal Thomas Jefferson. Here we have a very intelligent, accomplished man who crafted beautiful words about our country, but also enslaved many of his fellow Americans. Monticello has embraced this paradox since Sally Hemings became a household name. Visitors to Jefferson's estate today are urged to ponder how one could write about liberty yet deny it to others.

In some ways Obama reminds me of Jefferson - they are both intelligent, well spoken champions of religious pluralism. How can our current President speak eloquently about protecting the weak and defenseless and yet condone the murder of our most vulnerable Americans? Maybe because, like Jefferson, he grew up in a culture where a moral evil was widely accepted.

Bizarre item of the day

Every so often Nicest Boss in the World asks me to sort through notification emails of recently announced federal grants. Today's didn't have anything related to what NFNF does, but it did offer some interesting science opportunities.

$90,000 for "a cooperative agreement with the University of Wyoming to conduct Wyoming pocket gopher surveys and to refine the current potential distribution map for the species."

up to $380,000 for "collection of data to describe long-term trends in densities of the Mojave population of the desert tortoise where it occurs in Nevada and California."

These sound ridiculous to me, but then I remember one of my bio major friends in college. Her senior thesis was the result of 2 years in a lab studying the fertility of fruit flies. Now she's in graduate school, where her future career depends on crayfish. So somewhere out there, gopher and tortoise experts are high-fiving each other and dreaming of new equipment to take out in the field.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vigil for Justice

Last night was a sad one for Missouri - Governor Jay Nixon approved the first state execution since 2005, ending the life of Dennis Skillicorn. Skillicorn earned the death sentence for being an accessory in a murder he did not know his friend was about to commit. What is truly tragic about this decision is that Dennis was worth more to Missouri alive than dead. Since his conviction, he turned from his "first life" of drugs and crime to a "second life" of faith and community activism. In the Potosi prison, Skillicorn organized a hospice care system for terminally-ill prisioners, created educational and visiting programs for children of inmates, and authored a book admonishing juveniles to make good choices in life. Skillicorn was a shining example of how the prison system can make rehabilitation possible, but that same system has killed off its model product.

All of us VSC girls have become concerned about the unfairness of the death penalty thanks to Pittsburgh Volunteer's work in the SVDP Criminal Justice Ministry. So, we headed to the prayer vigil happening on the steps of SLU's College Church last night.

My high school self would have thought this a hippie activity, but hey, when else can you be a hippie except when you are young and living in an convent commune. Those attending included the Jesuit Volunteers, some Daughters of Charity, and some people who indeed looked like aging hippies. But there were also people whose own lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system going awry. For instance, this man being interviewed by a reporter was recently exonerated of a false murder charge.

Current criticism of the death penalty is another example of how defending human life requires you to address social problems. Are innocent people sentenced to death? It does happen. People on death row are not necessarily the worst criminals, they just couldn't afford a lawyer good enough to finagle an easier sentence. Why isn't life in a high-security prison enough to protect the public? Do executions solve the problem of murder?

I don't think so. Skillicorn's death doesn't remove the pain of those people his friend killed, or bring back the innocent victims. I'll never forget seeing chilling news coverage of Timothy McVeigh's execution for the Oklahoma City bombing. The victim's families were still sad and still hurting. A few other people were out for vengeance, but just once death wasn't satisfying enough. "Next we need to get Terry Nichols!" one guy told the cameras. He seemed thrilled by the idea of deciding who dies.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Notre Dame and the power of words

Well, it's finally over. President Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame, where the administration welcomed, coddled, and lauded him despite his pro-abortion voting record. Personally, I'm rather sick of the story. My immediate impulse is sympathy with the student body whose special day has been tainted by controversy. I know what it is like when your college president invites a media firestorm by messing with religious identity.

Of course I am also dismayed that a Catholic University's president make a decision protested by 70+ of the country's bishops. Mary Ann Glendon gets major points in my book for turning down the Latare Medal, thereby refusing to be a pawn in ND President Fr. Jenkins' Catholic identity fiasco. Being the token pro-lifer on the dais, responsible for balancing out whatever the President said, would have been a burden, not an honor.

By and large, President Obama did what he does best - he said lots of pretty, comforting, even inspiring things in the hopes that people would like him. He plugged his usual agenda of "Let's all lend a hand and be one big happy family." Literally: "In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family. " I find it patronizing that he calls embryonic stem-cell research opponents "admirable," not daring to clarify that he also thinks we are "wrong."

His arguements reinforced my impression that pandering is what Obama does best. Even if he disagrees with you, he'll reword his campaign website to make it seem better. He'll promise NARAL he'll sign FOCA the minute he's in office, and then put that bill on the back burner. (If a politician did that to the Pro-Life movement he'd never hear the end of it.) I was reminded of what good old Professor Tiefel's catch-phrase: "No one gives up a good word!" Obama know this, too. That's why he called for "Open hearts. Open minds. Fair minded words." Who could disagree with such pretty, comforting statements? You don't know exactly what they mean, but they sure sound better than "hard-hearted" and "unfair."

People on both sides of the ND controversy chose their words carefully, too. The NYT's icky commencement article decided that "heckler" was the best word for those who disagreed with our pretty, comforting leader. Those bloody images of mutilated infants outside campus? They were only "fetus pictures." Sounds nearly sterile.
A few of these "hecklers" opted for forceful words, telling Obama exactly what they thought of him. "Stop killing our children!" Did calling a spade a spade rattle the President's conscience? Maybe. I liked American Papist's Twitter observation that he has never seen Obama look less happy than when giving that speech.

At times I wonder if such forceful moral condemnation is effective. Moral outrage at abortion is so often repeated, it has become commonplace. To most Americans, abortion is something they rarely encounter directly, so cries of "baby killer" do seem like hysterical caricatures. I don't know how someone could see one of those bloody baby pictures and not be disgusted by abortion, but apparently they can. Does the Pro-Life movement need to expand its vocabulary?

The way I see it, revulsion at President Obama's fluffy doublespeak about the Golden Rule and fairness is blinding Pro-Lifers to potential progress. Obama's proposals are not all junk; what's wrong with "making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term"? If Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, the cultural, moral, and economic issues that lead women to abortion would still exist. If we want women to choose life, we need to make adopting a child or obtaining maternal medical care less difficult. Let's encourage America to embrace loving solutions to the challenges of pregnancy. We are Pro-Life, not just anti-death.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Faces in time

Photographing a great candid action shot is so hard. I like architectural photography because your subjects will hold still! Theodora the camera often can't keep up with fast motion in dim lighting.
Still, I love seeing what other, more skilled photographers can do. News coverage of public figures has great potential for fun images, producing an historical record that is more detailed and more accessible with each passing year.

The White House now has a Flickr photostream, with a new set of the President's First 100 Days in office. Photographer Pete Souza has done marvelous work capturing moments in history that are full of personality. Such as:

A sweet but also awkward "private moment in a freight elevator."

A lovely shot of the White House in the snow

And this candid shot of a budget session that just cracks me up. Was there a memo to coordinate the orange ties? Did someone forget to bring an important document? Do they realize FDR is grinning over their shoulders?

Ok, that's enough Obama, even if he is terribly photogenic. I've also been enjoying Whispers in the Loggia's full coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's trip to the Middle East. I may not have read all the Holy Father's speeches yet (they pile up like New Yorker back issues or online TV episodes), but I have relished all the pictures.

Here's my favorite - Papa Benny with medically fragile babies! His statements at Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem could have been about NFNF as well.
"this institution has remained a quiet oasis for the most vulnerable, and has shone as a beacon of hope that love can prevail over hatred and peace over violence...Mary, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Mother of the Redeemer: we join the many generations who have called you “Blessed”. Listen to your children as we call upon your name...We ask your Son Jesus to bless these children and all children who suffer throughout the world. May they receive health of body, strength of mind, and peace of soul. But most of all, may they know that they are loved with a love which knows no bounds or limits: the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding (cf. Eph 3:19). Amen."

There are also some darling pictures of the lucky children in Amman who received their first Holy Communion from the Pope. I love how tiny this fellow looks compared with the kneeler.

And this girl is a portrait of happy peace.

In which God is patient with my grumpiness

I have a confession to make - sometimes I don't love serving the poor. Sometimes it's frustrating and boring.
For instance, the least favorite parts of my job are furniture requests. Sometimes we have a client fleeing a bad home situation or moving on from a shelter who desperately needs a bed to sleep on. Hoping to give me more direct interaction with clients, Nicest Boss in the World gives these jobs to me. Unfortunately, finding a free couch or bed is not fun times. Most charities are limited to food pantries and utility assistance. Just last week, one of my reliable referrals was decidedly not nice, telling a client that they were sick of us referring to them.
So today, when I got an email from a nurse about a 17-year old mother of a toddler who is trying to flee a home plagued with drugs and possible sexual abuse, I cringed. I knew Nicest Boss in the World would tell me to help, but I didn't know where to turn. I was out of ideas.

Naturally, I turned to the cubicle next door to whine to Intern #2. "I can help you," she said. It turns out that since she got married, she has a bunch of extra kitchen stuff. Her parents have extra furniture they are about to send to Goodwill.
Then a light bulb went off in my head - Craiglist! That's another place where people get rid of old couches. Sure enough, there are couple people around STL looking to get rid of furniture. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

Again, Divine Providence has patiently heard my griping and turned it into inspiration. I've often quipped that if started a non-profit, it would collect furniture donations. Seriously, why couldn't I? Renting a garage or storage unit would be the hardest start-up cost. I'd probably have to befriend someone with a truck, too. Then I could put ads in church bulletins, respond to Craigslist postings and network with homeless shelters. This time of year would be prime season, since college grads are about to start throwing out futons with wild abandon.

What do you think, 2.5 readers? Would this work?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"And so what we have learned applies to our lives today" - Veggie Tales

The VSC house has been entertaining several prospective volunteers lately. I'm excited to see next year's VSC roster slowly accumulate. I also enjoy how talking with these girls makes us reflect on our own expereinces.

Our most recent guest asked a rather random question: "Have you changed after doing a volunteer year?"
My first reaction was "Yeah, I actually hate poor people now....what do you think we'd say??"
How could we leave college, move to a new city, start full time jobs, and not change?

But seriously, how we have changed is the interesting answer. There are little ways, like my new obsession with brown rice and the fact that I have actually thought owning a dog would be fun. All of us now know tons of Vincentian Saint trivia, and some of the volunteers want to continue careers in their work now. Others, myself included, are drawn to another life calling.

In many ways, this year has paid off as I hoped. I have seen a new part of the country, lived in a city, and learned about how the poor live there. The result is a greater solidarity with and awareness of the people around me. It wasn't until I met teenage mothers, entered their homes, and drove their streets that I comprehended some of the complexity of their lives. I didn't truly appreciate my loving, nuturing parents until I saw the results of neglect and abuse. Leaving my bubble has changed me.

This change can go both ways, though. A while back some clients in NFNF's Healthy Start, a federally-funded project, got to accompany the program directors on a trip to DC. Healthy Start staff are still talking about how exciting it was to see these moms explore the new world of politics in a new city. Clients attended workshops, shook hands with congressmen, and took pictures in front of the Capitol building. They told lawmakers about the changes Healthy Start had brought to their lives, and the future changes (school, jobs,) that they hoped to make.

I hope these women and I continue to benefit from seeing the world outside our neighborhood bubble.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Looking for the best of both worlds

This past Saturday I went on a mission to find Confession available in the morning, and my ensuing adventure ended up symbolizing my current feelings on the Liturgy and church architecture. Here's what happened.

Act I: Knowing that I had two Tower Grove kickball games in the afternoon, I perused the Archdiocesan website for AM Confession. You would think in a town with Catholic churches every mile or so there would be plenty, but that was not the case. Interestingly, the only parishes offering Absolution before lunch were housed in very mid-century modern buildings. There has to be some symbolism there.

Act II: At 9AM I drove down unexplored South City streets to St. Stephen the Protomartyr in Holly Hills. (10 points for the multi-syllabic name.) Upon arriving, I found many parishioners - Knights of Columbus?- hard at work landscaping. The church appeared to be one of those "Chicago Style" places where the school came first (1931). After decades of Mass in the school basement or auditorium, the "real" church was completed in 1962.

I'm always fascinated by these barely Pre-Vatican II churches. They retain the bare bones of a traditional structure, but also try hard to be hip with the times. The floorplan is still cruciform and confessionals are still booths, but everything is very simple and streamlined. Artwork is present, but minimalist or stylized.

My new Protomartyr friend certainly delivered on the geometric shapes and non-traditional stained-glass. I think the window depicts St. Stephen having his heavenly vision.

I felt right at home in this modernist place, but I was a little put off by the commotion of altar guild ladies watering plants and whatnot. (I was also afraid they would yell at me for taking pictures.) Confession was also, um, interesting. The priest curtly rushed through his advice, like he was annoyed to be in a penitential box at this hour of the morning. It was rather ironic to have someone bark at me to trust in God and go "get to know Jesus better" in prayer. Something must have been bothering this impatient man. Maybe the altar guild ladies had been nagging him.

So I went to a pew for my reflective penance... and I could. not. pray. Between the plant-watering and chatting in the sacristy and lurking tabernacle in the back corner, I couldn't really concentrate on Jesus. So I took a few pictures and left.

Act III: I had been planning to photograph the Old Cathedral anyway, so I went up the highway to the riverfront. The Basilica of St. Louis the King is the oldest cathedral west of the Mississippi, completed in 1834. Its elegant neo-classical interior is unusual in this city.

Ahh, much better. It was easy to spot Jesus here.

Some tourists milled about, but they paid heed to the sign requesting "reverent silence." We smiled at each other as we walked by the statues and other artwork. Two women arranged flowers for a wedding later in the day, but they spoke in hushed tones.

Kneeling in the warm sunshine that poured in the west windows, I spent longer than my required 10 minutes of "get to know Jesus time."

Finis: So there you have my current Eucharistic mental dilemma. Respect and appreciation, but also skepticism for the spare modern buildings and cheesy guitar hymns that formed me as a Christian. A longing for reverent silence and beauty that is welcoming, not intimidating.

What do you think? Which church do you like better?

We got your Pampers right here, ma'am.

Via LoLSaints.

Yes, Mary, Nurses for Newborns could hook you up with some free diapers, and maybe even some housing referrals while we're at it.
Of course, as we all learned at the Vincentian Family Gathering, free stuff is not enough! Engagement and relationships are crucial to helping people learn to improve their lives. Luckily, Joseph had an angelic case worker who would appear when needed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Many thanks and hugs to all mothers today, especially to my own Mom who has been so encouraging during my volunteering adventures. I'm a little sad I can't be with her back home today.

Mother's Day reminds me of all the moms my grant-writing helps, who are often struggling to raise their children. It also makes me think about how working in an office full of women who constantly deal with pregnancies has taught me a lot about the *ahem* more graphic parts of motherhood. When this year is done, I'm going to have to remind myself that childbirth and breast feeding are not normally lunchroom topics of conversation.

Mother's Day is also a time to remember the great example of selfless love we have in Mary, the Blessed Mother. Here are some images of her from my church photography binge this weekend.
First, here's the side altar to Mary at the Old Cathedral of St. Louis the King near the riverfront. The scene in the center depicts Mary's coronation as Queen of Heaven, and the

A side altar to Mary at the Cathedral Basilica on Lindell.

Finally, a statue of St. Anne, mother of Mary and my Mom's Confirmation Saint

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"I was in prison, and you visited me." - Matthew 25

This year I have learned a lot about how criminalization of the poor does little to solve crime or poverty. Immigrants or teenagers turn to selling drugs or prostitution because they see no other options for survival. If they get caught and sent to jail, they'll have trouble affording or even understanding the legal system. Once they are released, they are again penniless and homeless. This time, though, they are branded with a criminal record that scares employers away. So what are their options for survival? Crime again.

There are no easy solutions to this cycle of poverty, but understanding how it works is the first step. A NYT Op-Ed today by Nicholas Kristoff shines some light on the tragic teen prostitution in our own country.
If a middle-class white girl goes missing, radio stations broadcast amber alerts, and cable TV fills the air with “missing beauty” updates. But 13-year-old black or Latina girls from poor neighborhoods vanish all the time, and the pimps are among the few people who show any interest.
Kristoff cites the example of Jasmine, a young woman who was a prostitute at age 14. She was abused by her pimp and even had undercover cops extort sex from her.

Today Jasmine is 21 and changing her life thanks to...Covenant House! (Texas Volunteer works at their St. Louis location.) Jasmine's story of a broken home and search for love and security reminded me of the Let's Start women. Last month we heard these ladies share their journeys out of addiction, crime, and poverty. Yes, they needed to stop their illegal activities. What they needed more, though, was a sense that they had value, dignity, and the ability to change their own lives.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Price Tags

I've been doing a bit of research for financial data lately, and of course loving the quest for journal articles and accurate footnotes. (Or is it feetnote?) Medical topics are still a new area for me, so it's a learning process.

Prenatal care is an issue that makes me feel good - what's more pro-life than encouraging women to care for the children in their wombs? Nutrition and regular checkups prevent low birth weights, medical complications, and even infant death. They even help save money in the long run:
1998 RAND study determined that first year care for a very low birth weight baby costs an additional $59,700. A birth weight increase of 250 grams saves an average of $12,000-$16,000.
This statistic is great for grant writing. It shows that our foundation's prenatal education is cost-effective and good for the community. It can convince a potential donor that their money will be well spent.
This statistic is also dangerous. Without the proper perspective, it can evaluate fragile lives in terms of dollar signs. Reading more of that RAND study, you can learn that "The costliest treatment was incurred by infants who survived their initial hospitalization but died before their first birthday: Those infants cost an average of $112,120." Should we infer that those 112,000 dollars were wasted? Or should we be proud that the American medical system can care for the most vulnerable among us?

Taken to extremes, a pragmatic view of medical costs and human lives leads to government ordered slaughter. Just look at China. I've heard their one-child policy called practical, necessary, and realistic.
It also is not without consequences. I'm terribly impressed with left-leaning Slate for addressing the sixteen million girls missing from China's population. These babies were aborted because they were not boys. As their generation enters adulthood - big surprise- parents are having trouble finding wives for precious sons. What once seemed practical for Chinese society is now kicking them in the butt.

Even more chilling was the Slate story on"The terrible things that happen to surrogate mothers in China."
In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, three young surrogate first-time mothers were discovered by authorities hiding in a communal flat. Soon afterwards, district family planning and security officers broke into the flat, bundled them into a van and drove them to a district hospital where they were manhandled into a maternity ward, the mothers recounted to Reuters. "I was crying 'I don't want to do this'," said a young woman called Xiao Hong, who was pregnant with four-month-old twins. "But they still dragged me in and injected my belly with a needle," the 20-year-old told Reuters. ... Another of the surrogates, who said she'd come from a village in Sichuan province, recounted how officers made her take pills then surgically removed her three-month-old fetus while she was unconscious.
This is what can happen when order and efficiency are valued over human beings. Babies can be bought and sold through the surrogate system, but the government only sees regulation of commerce. To them, the fetuses (aka desperately wanted children) are merely contraband goods to be destroyed.
That's why this grant research number-crunching only goes so far. Overall, NFNF measures success in saved lives, healthy babies, and empowered parents. Human capital is the most important kind.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Craigslist and material culture

I just finished a much-needed long phone conversation with my Mom, in which we discussed my immunization records, Latin Mass, and what dresses I should wear for my sister's graduation weekend, among other things.

St. Joseph was another topic of conversation. Mom often entrusts our family's needs to him, including the funds she keeps under his statue in the living room. (It really is handy when you are looking for gas money or your birthday check from Grandma.) Anyway, Friday was the feast of St. Joseph the worker, and he brought our family two blessings that day. My sister got enough financial aid to go to college, and some money turned up to buy a larger dresser for Brothers #2 and #3.

The dresser came from Craigslist through the daughter of its deceased former owner. As my brothers filled it with tshirts and socks, they discovered the artifacts of this woman's life - mostly prayer cards. One, "Prayer for those living alone," clued them in that she was a widow. They know her name from her BJ's Club shopping card. The dresser even smells like her because sachets and baby powder line the drawers.
Just another reminder of how the stuff we leave behind gives clues about the lives we lived.

Vote for me!

Shameless self-promotion time here. I entered myself in the Cannonball Awards competition on The Crescat. (I also nominated some other people so I am not completely self-centered. Phew.)

This is an offbeat contest created to honor the lesser-known Catholic blogs out there. If you are one of my 2.5 regular readers, or even if you randomly stumbled across this post, please head over to the "Best New Kid on the Block" category and vote for me in the poll!

"The branches are green and the fields are muddy" - Easter song from my childhood

So now I can Arkansas to the list of "Places I Have Been"And I understand why they call it "God's Country." The was the view at the top of our hike.

The weather was too unpredictable for us to venture on the water like these hard-core fishermen.

So this was our posture most of the weekend. There was even cable TV! It doesn't take much to entertain you when have been "living simply" all year.

At least all that rain makes things grow.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"How far away, Little Rock, ARK." - South Pacific

Thanks to the fact that gas no longer costs $4 a gallon, the VSC has been able to save a lot of our transportation stipends this year. It's tradition for this communal surplus to go toward road trips or other fun activities.

This weekend we're using some of the slush fund to head down to Arkansas, aka "God's Country" or "The Middle of Nowhere" depending on how you view it. On of the California Volunteers' parents operate a fishing resort on two rivers there, and they are letting us use one of their cabins. VSC has a long tradition of Razorback volunteers, but I have never been to Arkansas before.

It should be a good time of VSC bonding. We had visions of lying out in the sun and canoing, but the forecast looks like this weekend will be more like Thunderstorm Fest 2009. (Free admission for kids on Sunday, $1 hot dogs, thrilling monster truck show!) I'm bringing 3 books just in case things get super-soggy and we stay cooped-up.