Saturday, July 30, 2005

Please, Thank You, & When to Hush

Common courtesy is a lost art in much of modern society.

First of all, why do I call it an art? Please don't take this as my definitive definition of "art," but courtesy shares something with the arts as a whole because it is a communication between two people, which is made manifest by some sort of universal (or at least wide-spread) sign, and it contains an element of effortless grace (ask the perfect Renaissance man/woman about the cultivation of that skill.) Like any social or fine art, courtesy is something that requires observation of the masters, practice, practice, general adaptation of the basics as a matter of habit, and then more practice in pursuit of perfection.

Why is this art being forgotten? It's hard to pinpoint a particular "rudeness virus" but it probably has something to do with our culture's love of laziness (eg: going out of one's way to hold a door for an elderly person), lack of education (eg: it's easier for a parent to just let the kid talk with their mouth full and then leave the table without thanking the cook than to insist yet again on these rudimentary manners), and loss of respect for others (if we're all so darn equal anyways why should I recognize the presence of a lady or older person with any particular attention to my behavior).

Just yesterday, I stopped by the bank during my lunch break, only to find myself at the end of a fairly long line of people. Those around me we're cursing the line (only one was actually talking to another person on a cell--the others were just spouting), blaspheming God for no particular reason, and scowling at each other. If it wasn't for the obvious age difference, I'd think I was in a line of immature 4 year olds waiting for the icecream truck. I don't think these poor people had ever heard of self-restraint. In sharp contrast, the older man at the teller counter was all politeness and very helpful. Yes, he even smiled (so few bother to do so in public these days). When I left, he wished me a pleasant rest of the day in a cheery voice that couldn't have arisen merely from a company mandate to make customers happy.

Perhaps courtesy is not completely doomed after all, but please do remember to smile.
It makes such a difference.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Way We Are

Looking back on my weekend, it was extremely typical or at least representative of my family. Why? Because Friday, Saturday, and Sunday each had singing or dancing or both as an intrinsic part of our plans. Honestly, living with my family can be like living in a musical at times - I love it. Anyways, Friday, Bridge was in a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. They did an excellent job with the singing, acting, costumes, sets, and choreography. And of course, Fiddler is just intrinsically an awesome play and storyline. The characters and situation are very real, which for me is more important than a perfect little "Joe and Sue get together and live happily ever after" type of plot. I ended up staying out until 2am at a cast party, reconnecting with several people I hadn't seen much since graduation.
Saturday, I went to Christy's for a Mary Kay spa treatment thing that she won for herself and her girlfriends. I love chilling out with those girls and having girl time. Maybe someday I'll understand why grunting and wrestling and watching sports constitutes good guy time for . . . no I won't, but if they enjoy it, power to them I guess. And it would be a little weird to see them all getting silk hand treatments and daintily consuming tea and cakes. :) That night I tried to call about 5 people and got a hold of two, and one was Michele, so that lasted until bed time. I miss that girl!
That evening, I cantored a Mass for Daddy at the NC Feis. Dad arrived part way through, and it was lovely to sing with him again and talk to him afterwards. Even though I'm not particularly a fan of the Mass of Creation and some of the other songs we led, at least the people sang. Now if we could only get them to learn the Missa de Angelis too . . .
Sunday, I was at the feis (trans: Irish dance competition) all morning through the early afternoon. Nora was competing and so I helped her find her stages and get ready and all that type of "Mom stuff" while Mom was volunteering on the stages. Larry, ever patient with my crazy and diverse interests, showed up as well to an environment in direct opposition to his boy's camp jobs of the past. Picture over a thousand little girls running around in sparkling costumes and bouncing tube curls practicing, crying, laughing, competing, and squeezing through the crowded pathways of the music and feet filled competition room. Welcome to my world. :) Nora placed in two of her steps and headed home with mom. A little while later, Mom called to say that Nora forgot her trophies at the feis. Fortunately, Lars and I had stayed in the area to explore the park around my dance school's practice building, so I drove back to the hotel and looked around. Alas, the trophies were nowhere to be found and were not turned in to the lost and found. Can you imagine if some kid took them? "Look Mom, I uh won two more umm prizes that I forgot to tell you about." O.k. But, I talked to the prize people, mentioned that Nora was Bridget's sister and the name of our dance school (aka pulled some rather big strings) and obtained two trophies that matched the lost pair. Whew! Finally, I got a chance to go to dinner with my other sister Erin, went home, and fell asleep at 9:30. A long but lovely weekend.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Magdalen

When Mary Magdalen came to the tomb and did not find the Lord's body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: "The disciples went back home," and it adds: "but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb." We should reflect on Mary's attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: "Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved."
from a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Happy feast day of you patron to all who like me are women and/or converts! And though this picture doesn't capture it well, I still like Donatello's Magdalen statue (despite many of you Romans who were creeped out by it). The right, side profile of her face is stunning.

Saint Mary Magdalen, pray for us that we may continually rededicate our lives to Christ as you did.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Spanish Proverb

"Dime con quien andas y yo te digo qien tu eres."
(Trans: Tell me who you walk with and I'll tell you who you are.)

This is a cool proverb I stumbled upon at work today. It applies (or should apply) beautifully to our relationship with Christ too. [Rome students- think Gaudium et Spes 22.]

I hope you all enjoy a lovely day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Home Away From Home

Last weekend Dad, Nora, Lars, & I all randomly went on a whirlwind (yet relaxing somehow) 28 hour trip to my grandparents' beach house. My dad came from a large family, and since I can remember, we've all trekked up to the family beach house for a weekend or two every summer. This weekend was the first time I had been back there in two years. I always forget how every nook and cranny of that place is crammed full of memories. Of course there are all the infamous pictures of me with frizzy hair and braces or posed in frozen moments of comparably awkward stages of growth and fashion. Then there's the balcony we used to stealthily toss pillows off of (specifically because it was forbidden after a few pictures and lamps were demolished by experimental fusillades released from little hands upstairs.) One strip of wall is decorated in penciled records of our heights throughout the years. Grandma's shamrocks stretch towards the lights in every corner. There's a table made out of a slice of a huge tree that Dad made for Mom's first apartment. I still love walking down to the shoreline of the bay where Pop-Pop used to tie his crab boat and where Grandma and I took walks to feed the ducks or sit on a swing and talk. . .
However, what makes the beach house, or really any place, priceless are the people that you find there. I really treasured the time taken aside to spend with Pop-Pop, Grandma, my godparents (who were also visiting), my family, and Larry. I always feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful people!

If you'd rather a quick account of how we all spent our time check out Larry's blog.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Benedict vs. Harry Potter

Harry Potter. Many times I've heard those two words spark heated debates in Catholic & Christian circles. How far is too far when an author blends moral black and white into a relativistic grey? Are the books ok for older, informed people? Are they intrinsically bad for all children regardless of training, education, or explanation? These and many more questions fly across the table and encourage others to pick up the books to see for themselves why Rowlings seems to be able to capture the imaginations of every age, country, and philosophy. Though the pope only speaks infallibly in official statements on faith and morals that pertain to all the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI has written two letters supporting a German author of a book called Harry Potter - Good or Evil? These letters and a more detailed explanation of the pope's and the Vatican's response to this influential literature can be found at the following link: I know many Catholic parents who enjoy the Potter books along with their children, it will be interesting to see if Benedict's statements make them re-think their readiness to expose their children to these intriguing, but perhaps morally skewed, novels.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Hey ya’ll- I’m back after a very busy weekend and hope you’re all doing well. This weekend I had the privilege to visit NC with Larry, Justin, and Colin. I had a great time with Larry’s family and the guys! It was lovely to have some time to relax with wonderful people, and for once, my friends, it was actually sunny on a day that I was outside of my office cell. While there, I hiked, enjoyed good food & conversation, saw the beaver probably twice as many times as my hopeful guy friends with their traps and bows, ate real Crispy Cream donuts, and was permitted to actually hold and try to use a golf club and a pellet rifle (but not at the same time). Believe it or not, my luck with both the club and gun was a bit better than my expertise with skipping stones (ahem). I arrived back home late Sunday night tired, but happy, and completely unwilling to charge into another work week. Yet, it arrived Monday morning on schedule and so did I . . . mostly. Today though, I got to work on a larger variety of projects, and Patrick took us interns out for Chinese for lunch, so life is good. [It’s good for other reasons too, but those helped.]
However, I do have a couple of prayer intentions to ask of you guys. I have a friend that’s been having a rough time lately, so prayers for her would be greatly appreciated. Also, my cousin Becky suddenly went blind in one eye and became half paralyzed yesterday. She has a new husband and baby, so I’m sure this is all really scary for them. Pray for wisdom for the doctors that they’ll know what’s wrong and be able to help her. God bless you all and enjoy the rest of your week.

Friday, July 08, 2005

State of Alarm

Humans never cease to amaze me. They take so many precautions to ensure their own safety and then somehow abandon that precious part of rationality, common sense, when it comes to the simple things. I have called dozens of colleges the past couple of weeks and listened to their dull, automated answering messages and menu lists. Inevitably, it is something along the lines of: Hello! You have reached Nokesville University, a Catholic institution in the Franciscan tradition located in the rural outskirts of the Washington DC area. We offer understudy degrees in real estate, agricultural studies, distributivism, and traditional American dialects and linguistics. If you would like to speak to Admissions, press one. If you would like . . . . If this is an emergency and you need to contact campus security for a bigger gun than the one in your trunk, press 7.
Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "It's a good thing I'm only calling to contact the Public Relations department, which is not even on this menu, because if I had been listening all the way through and intro and seven touch-tone phone key options and was in an emergency situation, I'd be mugged, robbed, and dead by now." Honestly, who's brilliant idea was that?!

Gosh, looking at my last couple of posts, you'd think I was paranoid or something. Really, I'm fine . . . maybe.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Always Watch the Stove

You know those phrases that your Mom repeats over an over growing up? Don't touch the outlets; watch the stove when you're cooking; clean your room; don't ride on the cat's back; etc. Funny how as we grow up we find that it wasn't just some mantra that was part of the parenting programming package they received on their wedding day, rather it's really good advice designed to drill into our heads so that we'll invariably repeat it to our kids and three generations later it will advert some freak disaster or another. Well, it must have been that third generation round of repetitions in our family . . . Last night, Nora (9) was being a big girl and was cooking a meat pie all by herself (well, Mom was peeking in off an on) in the oven and keeping an eye on the pot on top of the stove. Well, fifteen minutes into cooking, the pie is burnt. She didn't do anything wrong- right oven rack, right pan, right temperature, half the time it should have taken, etc. But the oven had been watching the "Brave Little Toaster" and found a new villain to emulate or something. It just kept getting hotter and hotter and wouldn't turn off when we hit the proper button. Really weird stuff- so we hit the circuit breaker and it was fine. But, my friends, this is your reminder to always watch the stove when you're cooking and to always do all those other little things that a wise sage disguised as a broken record told you once upon a time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Why I Love Literature . . .

"Wisdom comes from profound experiences deeply pondered, and great literature is the gateway to the wisdom of the ages." Dr. Rice
And if you question the necessity of wisdom in your life (no, ignorance is not bliss) check out Sirach. :)

Never a Snail's Pace

I had a lovely weekend. Friday night, I chilled out with my family and had this great intention to go to bed early, but ended up talking to Erin (Bo is her nickname for those of you whom I’ve been confusing with nicknames on here) about her Costa Rica trip until midnight.
The next morning Larry and I headed out from Mass to a pretty waterfall hike up at Shenandoah. There were a lot of people out (including Chrissy and her family) because it was the Fourth of July weekend, but the weather was perfect, the mountain laurel was blooming still, and it was heavenly to get out in the open and stretch my legs again. Then, we drove over to Beth’s for a delicious dinner. I got to spend the night with her and spent half of it talking about the ceaselessly captivating subject of literature. I now have another five books added to my reading list and lots more motivation to commence work on my thesis (unfortunately the latter must take precedence I’m afraid . . . or rather, I’m so excited about my thesis that those incredible new books will just have to wait until Christmas! Too many books and too little time . . .)
Sunday morning, we went to Mass at St. Andrews, and then (after a nap to pretend like I had gotten more sleep) I spent the afternoon with my roomie, Ted. It was wonderful to reconnect and scheme together again.
On the Fourth, I slept in until 11! I honestly cannot remember the last time I slept in anywhere near that late. Nora and I braved the sale-seeking crowds to do some shopping in the afternoon and buy a birthday present for Bo. Then, Lars came over for dinner and to join us for fireworks in Old Town Manassas. The firework show was beautiful and I loved having the whole family there (plus Larry of course!) ;) And so my dear friends who I very much owe phone calls, that’s why I have not called you in ages. My apologies and sincere wishes & prayers for your health and happiness over this next week.

Friday, July 01, 2005

We Are Family

Mom, Dad, and Erin are all home safely- thank you to those who remembered them in your prayers. They all had great trips! Mom and Dad loved the islands and displayed dozens of pictures of their beautiful hotel, sparkling lagoons, hundreds of iguanas (apparently they were like squirrels down there), pied markets, and lots of smiles. They also brought a fun reggae CD from a guy they heard perform, t-shirts, and beautiful jewelry (Daddy has excellent taste) from a lady who sang as she sold her wares. Erin arrived home from Costa Rica last night, tired, smiling, decked out in coconut and sandalwood jewelry, and more tan than before (if that was possible). I can't wait to hear all about her jungle research and experiences! It's lovely to have everyone back together (though it reminds me how much I need to get out of a fluorescent-light-lit office and into some glorious sunshine!)

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of getting together with Anna, Christy, and Becca- three of my near and dear friends from high school. We four, we lucky four, have been through so much together and really seen and helped each other grow personally and in our relationship to God. Anyhow, Miss Anna (my "big sister" since fifth grade when I converted, we met, and she promptly declared that I was a heretic on multiple accounts--we've resolved those little problems since) is leaving for a whole year to do foreign mission work with Regnum Christi. I'm really going to miss her, but I'm so happy that she's taking this opportunity to spend a year focused fully on the Lord and what He wants to accomplish in and through her. Please join me in praying for her. And Anna, (if you ever read this thing) I love you and wish you the best of luck!