Thursday, January 31, 2008

Creeped out

I call a moratorium on the word "Creepy". If there's one word I hear more often than others from teenagers it's "creepy". Anyone older than they are, who looks at them, is immediately Creepy. A summer ago or so, driving a van full of teenagers home from workcamp, I heard a girl behind me say "Ewwww!!! Creeeeeeeeepy!!!" I asked her what had happened, and she said that a man in a passing car had looked at her.
I reminded her that we had a sign on our van that identified us as a Catholic youth group, and that the van was rocking with 10 kids singing along to the radio. I told her that I would definitely look at a van like that, and it would make me happy to see it- without being creepy. She seemed surprised, faced with a concept that she'd never considered. Not all adults are creepy.
Kids these days have a filter of creepy that they use first in many, many situations. I'm not saying that kids shouldn't be taught to listen to their guts- but I feel like there's a difference between a kid being able to say "I feel uncomfortable when that person does that..." and "he's creepy". And I think that we're doing just the opposite- not helping kids recognize danger signals, but instead assuming the worst in every situation. I think it's a dangerous to raise a generation of kids who are afraid of all adults.
So, I'm not going to use the word "creepy" from now on, unless I'm describing something that actually creeps... like a spider. And I'm going to challenge kids who I hear using the word, to do a better job at identifying what their feelings really are, and what they're reacting to.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This morning my brother the pilot, was here, and Scott was asking him some leftover questions from our flights to and from Florida. He had noticed that the dials in the cockpit aren't dials anymore, but displays. One big "glass cockpit" as the flight attendant told him. Scott was concerned that if there was a power failure, all those dials would blink out, and then where would one be?
Bruce's answer was fascinating, not only because of the detail in which he described the various wirings and power sources of the cockpit, but because of the words he used. He said "in order for all the dials to fail, there would have to be "Multiple Failures of Redundant Systems". Isn't that a gorgeous hunk of words?
Yesterday at staff meeting we heard that the Archdiocese of Boston has sent out an email that St. Patrick's day will be recognized on March 14th this year... and that there will be no liturgical recognition of the saint's feast day. That's because the 17th is during Holy Week this year. So, they've moved the feast to the Friday before (which is of course a Lenten Friday and therefore, no corned beef and cabbage for you my friend).
I smell Multiple Failures of Redundant Systems. St. Patrick's is one of the few days that the world relates fairly positively to the Catholic Church in these parts, these days. Now, though, not only does the RCAB create questions and confusion among the once-a-year-Catholics, but they move the local's favorite feast to a Lenten Friday. To top things off (this is where the Multiple comes in), St. Patrick is the patron saint of the RCAB... and this is our Archdiocese's 200th year. Way to piss off your patron!!
Fortunately for me, I don't like corned beef. But I like St. Patrick, and this Archdiocese can use all the help it can get. He's got his work cut out for him!

twas great!

Well you know, I really had a great weekend on retreat. It was a blessing and an honor to be there, and fun too! Even though I'm currently not wearing the YM hat and didn't do much "direct ministry", I saw signs that I am being effective as a minister of whatever-type-I-am... and that's pretty cool. And I'm just as tired as I was when I was a director.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Big Girl School (two new posts)

It's been 17 years since I wrote my last paper. Yeesh.
Yesterday I went to the open house at the Boston College Masters program (the IREPM, soon to be the BCSTM... That is, Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, soon to become the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. I hope I got that right...)
Anyhoo, they have a MEd in Religious Education with a concentration in Total Community Catechesis. Doesn't that sound impressive? It's exactly what I'm interested in, believe that or not. And the bonus is, they have a bunch of grant money for this particular concentration, so it's all good news for the prospective student that I am.
I attended a two hour class on Theology and Spirituality of the Body, and learned a lot. I learned about the topic but I also learned a lot about the kinds of students that take such a class. I knew one person there (an actual student), and got to pepper her with questions during the break, which was helpful. I couldn't help but check out the other virtual students, and wonder if Mister Overcompensator (with the wicked knowledgeable braggy answers to prove his brilliance) and Miss MmmmmhmmmmYes!! (She would nod and smile at the professor's points, agreeing and relating personally to each utterance) would be in my future classes. I looked around to see how many people used laptops to take their notes (two) and who wrote theirs (everyone else)- who wore jeans (about a third of the students, which to me says it's O-Kay) and who brought coffee in a travel mug (a couple of people). I took four pages of notes, reviving my rusty note-taking skills, and understood what the prof. was saying, which I took as a good sign.
We went to Mass, which was truly Jesuit. Nice, and interesting, but definitely different from yer average diocesan type.
After lunch we had a Q&A panel discussion, where I got the goods on the TCC program's financial aid goodness, and got a few more questions answered. Oh and found out that Miss MmmmYes will be in another concentration. Good news!
So now it's a matter of applying myself. Literally. Gotta fill out the application. It's been 21 years since I've filled out a college application!

How to NOT be a youth minister

I'm going on a Sophomore retreat this weekend. But this year, I'm a mere adult team member, rather than the Director. It's a weird feeling. I guess I should be celebrating that I don't have to worry over the usual retreat worry stuff like cancellations, weather, parent freak-outs, etc. etc. etc... but you know, I'm feeling sad.
It's weird to sit in the planning meetings and not be in charge- weird to curb my reflex to jump in and, well... direct. I have so many great suggestions and loads of feedback and ideas to give. But I'm not the director. This retreat already has a great couple of directors and they don't need me to jump in. In fact, I'm not even really needed on this retreat. So not only am I not the director, I'm not, specifically, anything. (Okay I will be taking the photos for the weekend. There.)
So, for me, this weekend will be yet another exercise in how to not be a Youth Minister, the very thing that I am at heart, the thing I'm most qualified to be, the place where I am most comfortable. I know I'll have a fun weekend, and I am looking forward to it, and you know, maybe I'll end up enjoying that non-stress after all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

band logic

When I was in middle school I played flute in the band. I was actually pretty good, probably could have had a "higher seat" if I had the nerve to challenge any of my friends. I can still see my music folder with the blue design across the front, which I carried home every day in my bag, along with my flute, on the pretense that I might practice.
On the inner flap of the folder was a list of helpful band/music vocabulary words, including "piano" and "forte". I remember clearly the definitions of these two, in particular. For piano, they recommended that one play so softly that one could only hear the players to their left and right. For forte, it was the opposite- play so loudly that one could no longer hear the players at their sides.
In my life I have lived piano, and I have lived forte. I didn't take to either one, really, and prefer to stay in the middle of the two- taking care of my own needs and still seeing and hearing the needs of those around me. I'm not sure what the musical term for this middle volume is, but that's the way I want to play.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Here comes Lent

Tonight at our Faith Festival we study the upcoming (and soon!) seasons of Lent and Easter. This year Lent could be a completely different experience for me. I've been in a Lent rut for the past several years, identifying closely with Jesus' suffering because I was suffering for my ministry, too. I have, as my Lenten practice, walked to daily Mass, and changed some dietary something. My Lenten Slogan each year was "He DIED for me, I'll DIET for him".
But this year, I'm not so much suffering. How are you supposed to do Lent while being all happy and stuff? My new schedule means going in to work earlier, which means my walk to church is out. I will miss that discipline- I liked walking through the snow and ice at the beginning of the season and knowing that by Easter, grass would be greening. Of course, this year with Lent starting so early, it probably won't be very spring-like when Easter rolls around anyway. I do want to continue with daily Mass, but going to my parish at 9 means leaving by 8:30 and with morning traffic, that really should be 8:00. That's out. There's a 12:15 Mass down the street from my parish, but I've been once and it was pretty dreadful. Maybe that'll just have to be my penance. Maybe I'll drive to the 9:00 here in town, then keep on driving to work. Yeah, that'll work...
But I do want to do something dietary, and not just because I'm feeling a bit blimpy (as I always do this time of year) but because I feel so joyful and thankful, I want to show my gratitude by being a better steward of the life and body God has given me. We'll see.
When I was young I used to give up obscure things like Orange American Cheese, or Macadamia Nuts, or something like that- easily avoidable. In college I tried giving up soda every year, and failed miserably every year. Later on in life, I gave up fried foods and found Fridays to be fairly tricky- unfried fish at that time was a bit out of my price range and too much tuna fish is just... too much.
So, we'll see. And, we'll see how it feels to sacrifice from a place of non-suffering. Should be interesting...

Thursday, January 17, 2008


A couple of times a year, and always after a big trip, my life gets away from me a bit. I notice it because my desk is a mess, with piles of paper on and around it, and vestiges of past events can be seen stowed in the corners of my office. My car is embarrassing, with (yes, fast food wrappers) trash and junk and bags and stuff in every seat and floor space. My kitchen counter is piled high with dirty dishes and my dining room table is un-see-able under the piles of stuff on it.
The thing about going away on a trip is that no matter how restful it is, I need a day off when I get back, just to catch up with the real life that has been going on as usual while I was gone.
What's worse at this point is that looking ahead, there aren't many days in my calendar that are open enough for me to do any substantial organizing/cleaning/laundry/dishes/etc. That makes me feel even farther behind. In advance.
At Bible Study we worked on the Christian Practice of Honoring the Sabbath- I need a good sabbath to honor right now. However I have to say that it's different now than it's been before, because I'm happy. When I was unhappy, the clutter overwhelmed me into more unhappiness. Now, it just makes me a little... jittery. But it doesn't mess with my joy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Oh geez. I grabbed my favorite dinner and came home to a Scott-less evening (he's at a meeting) in front of the tv (I've got Grey's on DVR- do NOT tell me what happened!) and lo and behold, the cable's all messed up! In the living room the tv shows a sign that says
ONE MOMENT PLEASE- This channel should be available shortly.
I tried rebooting it, twice. But still, the sign. (It's a lie. It does not become available shortly.)
In the bedroom, there's just fuzz.

But in the KITCHEN, where the tv is tiny and on the door shelves in the corner, it works fine! WEIRD!
Question is, what am I to do with my life? Am I that much of a tv drone that I can't take a night off? What would it say about me if I was willing to uproot to the kitchen to watch a 3 inch tv screen from a wooden stool?

Ohhhh, maybe I can watch something ONLINE! Better living through technology!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Conference notes (2 new posts)

One thing that a conference-goer must bear, at least at ministry conferences, is the "now, let's stand and find someone you don't know, and ________________ them" activity. At Fashion Me a People, the conf. I attended last week on lifelong faith formation, we hugged each other, named ourselves after countries and found each other, shared our stories with each other, and made the sign of the cross on each other's forehead. I am not a fan of this activity, the find and ________ activity, but I have to admit that every once in a while, some neat nugget comes up.
This time around, I heard a great idea about teaching the concept of Welcome, as part of the Mass (that's the first part, if you're taking notes). Here's what she did. (it's okay, I told her I'd be stealing it, and she said "Do!")
She sent the kids out of the church, and told the parents the plan. She said "when the kids come back in, we're going to welcome them like they've never been welcomed before. Big round of applause! Open arms! Cheers and smiles!" They sang the first verse of "Gather Us In" and then, during the next (instrumental) verse, the doors were opened, and the kids came in to their wonderful welcome. Now here's the kicker: she told them, "this is how God feels about you coming to Mass every week! It's supposed to feel this good, and you're supposed to feel this welcomed, at every Mass. And it is our responsibility to make other people feel this welcome when they enter our doors."
How cool is that?? Imagine a place that celebrates your attendance at Mass. At my first parish there were stories about a former pastor who would call people if they didn't show up at Mass, in order to make them cower their way back the next week. In contrast, my Mom told me recently that Dad dropped her off at the door and went to park a few weeks ago, and when she walked in the narthex alone, people asked her if everything was okay- they noticed Dad's absence, and asked out of concern. She felt welcomed. Makes me want to work hard to make Mass at my parish a place of welcome and hospitality.


Cancel that call to the National Guard, we're home safe. It turns out that internet access was about the only thing we couldn't get from the beautiful Wyndham resort in Orlando. As Scott wonders, why is it that free wi-fi is offered at the cheap places (Panera! McFreakingDonalds!) but not at the fanciest, most expensive spots? It's a poser. So, sorry about my frequent-blogging promise. Anyway, onwards.
So, the conference was great, actually! It was smaller than the conferences I’m used to attending, like the NFCYM and NCEA. I was a little worried that there would be limited good stuff for me there because of the size, but I actually liked the intimacy of it. I went to some great workshops and the keynotes and worship were as good as I had hoped they would be. Best of all was the down-time spent with my staff and colleagues.
We met up with friends from Kansas with whom we are simpatico- we mugged through the hand-motions at prayer (we shall waaaaaalk and never tire!!!) and hit the "tiki bar" as often as possible. It's so fun to meet up with them everywhere, and we parted making promises of future conference time together. And I think we'll even finagle a trip down there for the dedication of their new church. (Hey, did you know some dioceses are building new churches?)
As I start to unpack my bags and peek at the notes I took, I'll blog some more. But for now we've changed from our summer clothes and flip flops to our winter pajamas and slippers to settle in for a snow day. We've gotten about 8 inches from what I can tell, not having ventured outside yet today. Somebody really ought to shovel that porch.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


We're on our way to the Lifelong Faith Formation conference in Orlando FL... I'm so excited! NOT just because it's 80 degrees in Orlando, and not just because I adore the people I'm traveling with, but also because (you prob. know this if you're a long-time reader here, aka a relative of mine) I believe in the power of conferences. There's something about all that learning, and networking, and rubbing elbows with Catholic stars big and small... and you know, the music and prayer are always great at conferences. It's my first time to this one so I'm pretty psyched to see how it will unfold!
We reported for the 9:15 flight as standby passengers but didn't get on, which was fine because we moved 3 gates over and got on the 9:45. Only difference is, we get to stop here in beautiful New York. Free Wi-Fi!

I will surely keep you posted, dear reader(s) on the wild and exciting things I encounter once we hit the warm ground in FLA!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

two thousand eightion!!!

One of my new year's resolutions was to blog every day. I think I'm doing pretty good so far, I only made the resolution very recently, and I've posted twice, so I'm feeling pretty good about myself. (Hey, this makes three! SUCCESS!!!)
But I do have a kind of a resolution for this year. I want to respond to God's graces and blessings by being a better person, and I want to transform myself physically to reflect that. I don't mean that I'm going to get all thin and ravishing (it'd take more than a year for that and I'm already starting late) but I just want to honor God better by the way I treat myself. I feel so good in my soul right now, so that seems like a good jumping-off point.
At work, I'm being bold and trying new things- last night was the first meeting of our new theater team. THEATER TEAM! I don't know how to start a theater team!! Seriously, NO idea. But, here's the thing. Somehow the staff at this parish, and specifically the pastor, seem to think that I can do just about anything. So, I'm going with that unfounded belief, and giving everything a shot. The meeting went really well and the people who showed up are excited about it! How cool is that?
Anyway, I just want to be better so I can feel more deserving of all these blessings. I got my teeth fixed, (two cavities!) and I'm taking a bit more care about how I look every day now (I actually DO my hair now...) and you know, who knows? At some point maybe I'll start doing some sort of exercise or something, or maybe even stop eating like a hog. No promises there.
So, my theme for this year is TRANSFORMATION IN 2008-TION. (If you say it out loud it's pretty catchy).
Let's meet back here a year from now and see how it all went.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Oh dear. I love beer.

My parents never drank. Ever. They wouldn't even take communion from the cup at Mass, because "there's just no need of it". I understand why they don't drink, or at least why my Mom doesn't. I know, too, that everyone knows at least someone with a drinking problem.
When I was in high school, a cousin of mine was deemed an alcoholic, and the whole extended family reeled. I remember accompanying my aunt to an Al-Anon meeting, where we watched a video about a man who came home from work and every night, (every night!) he would have an alcoholic drink with his dinner. The movie asked, was this man an alcoholic? The movie answered, "YES". In fact, the movie said, someone who never drinks at all could be an alcoholic. The idea that I came away from that meeting with was that anyone who ever showed any interest at all in drinking was already a candidate for rehab.
When I moved in with my first roommate as an adult, I was horrified to see that she would often come home from work and have a glass of wine. ALCOHOLIC!!!!!!!!!!!! I'd certainly tried out drinking by that point in my life, had done the college drinking thing and all that. But here was that man from the movie, right in my own home. But somehow I had gotten the idea that drinking was really for college students, and that any adult who drinks must be... well, you know.
So it's been quite a process of trying to pick through this imprinting on alcohol and not feel too terribly guilty when I thought "mm, a glass of wine would be good right now!" But still, whenever I go to the fridge for second beer, I hear myself asking Scott "am I an alcoholic if I have another beer?" and he says "NOOOOOOOO...." in a voice that says my question is silly and of course not.
And now here I am at almost-40 and you know what? I love beer! My mother would be absolutely HORRIFIED to read that sentence, but it's true. I love good, cold, wheaty, sparkly, delicious beer.
There, I've said it. All this writing is making me... kinda thirsty! Hmmmm.... I wonder if we have any pretzels? Oh, I do love pretzels.

Home alone

Scott's away this weekend on retreat, and I'm home with the cats. The plan is for me to live a little (for instance, I leave the bed unmade, and the toilet lid up... fun! Wooo!) and to get a LOT done. Take the tree down, sort through the gifts and put them away, do some work that I have to get done, and some sewing. I'm running the dishwasher, I took my clothing donations to the St. VdeP box, and cleaned the back window of my car, and did some shopping. But now, I'm stalled. I'm reading about bad celebrity plastic surgery online, and watching DVR'd Pioneers of Television on tv. I might have a snack, or a nap... you know, to rev up my energy for the rest of the chores on my list. You know.